Finding the middle ground

By Nelson Lebo


Many renovations are heavy on kitchens and bathrooms and light on everything else. It appears that there is a belief that these improvements will increase the resale value of a home while also improving functionality and/or style for the current occupants.

That thinking is hard to argue with, except that new kitchens and bathrooms can cost tens of thousands of dollars each, and that the housing market appears to be stalled in Wanganui. So it could take quite a while for dwellings to appreciate enough to "pay" for the renovations when ultimately sold.

Large expenditures on new kitchens and bathrooms may exhaust a homeowner's funds available for renovation, and preclude them from investing in strategies that will definitely pay for themselves in a matter of years, such as insulation and solar hot water. But let's face it: insulation is not sexy. A new bathroom or kitchen is.

Eco-thrifty renovation is about finding the middle ground between serving the needs of a home's occupants, keeping expenses reasonable, and putting less pressure on the planet. Instead of, say, spending $10,000 on a flash new bathroom and another $10,000 on a flash new kitchen, we were able to get functional and attractive versions of each, plus insulate our home and install solar hot water for under $20,000.

Terry Lobb wrote a guest column here on our kitchen a couple of months ago, highlighting some of the unique design elements made possible by shopping for second-hand, quality items, such as our antique leadlight cabinet doors purchased at Hayward's Auctions and our Shacklock 501 coal range purchased on Trade Me. We used both of these sources, along with Wanganui's Renovators' Centre, when outfitting our $2000 bathroom. Purchases included a claw-foot bathtub, a toilet, a pedestal sink, a laundry tub, and a wall cabinet.

But quality, second-hand goods are just part of eco-thrifty renovation, which also includes efforts to improve thermal comfort and energy efficiency. Our bathroom has a large, northwest-facing window that receives a lot of winter afternoon sun that could raise the temperature of the room to the high 20s, unless heat-tempering strategies were used.

We "capture" some of the sun's heat in thermal mass that takes the forms of a heavy iron tub, and two layers of plasterboard on the wall opposite the window. Thermal mass absorbs excess heat in the afternoon, "stores" it, and then releases it when the temperature of the room drops overnight. We insulated the ceiling and the two external walls. We also installed a pelmet over the window, and use thermal curtains and window blankets during cold weather.

This combination of materials and design strategies has provided us with an attractive bathroom in which we can take an evening shower in the middle of winter using free solar hot water, and then step into a 23C room also heated free of charge by the sun. All this was done in an old villa. Imagine what one could accomplish if starting from scratch?

The ECO School celebrates 50,000 page views to its blog: www.ecothriftydoup.blogspot.com. Check it out for 280 posts over the last 28 months.


 


March 4: 7-8.30pm Josephite Retreat Centre, Saint John's Hill.

March 7: 7-8.30pm Wai Ora Christian Community Trust, Aramoho.

March 14: 7-8.30pm YMCA Dining Room, Springvale. (London St entrance)

March 18: 7-8.30pm Gonville Cafe Library, Gonville.

March 19: 7-8.30pm Duncan Pavilion, Castlecliff.

March 23: 10.30-12 noon Wanganui Community Arts Centre, City. (Taupo Quay)

March 30: 1-2.30pm Wanganui Community Arts Centre, City. (Taupo Quay)FINISHED: The renovated bathroom has plenty of insulation.

 

- WANGANUI CHRONICLE

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