Summer Home Maintenance

Summer is just around the corner! To keep your home in tip top shape, here are a few tasks to make time for this season:
  • Prep for cooling season by cleaning ceiling fans and filters in air conditioning units
  • Install blinds (interior or exterior) to reduce the need for cooling systems
  • Stop the majority of summer dirt from entering your home with both an interior and exterior walk-off mat
  • Check for rot and any mold/mildew or pests in your basement, deck, and attic
  • Save money and energy by installing an outdoor clothesline and hang-drying your sheets, towels, and clothes in the sun
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they are working properly
  • If you didn’t get to washing your windows during the spring, now’s your chance
  • Have your roof and gutters cleaned
  • Plan and implement a summer schedule for landscaping and watering your lawn and plants
  • Clean and test (or consider professional service!) for the following: your range hood, bath fans, sump pump, wood stove, sprinkler system

Deep Green Westwood Addition on the NW Green Home Tour

Join us for the 2017 Green Home Tour! This year we will be showcasing multiple sites on both Saturday and Sunday. A Westwood Addition, a Wedgwood Contemporary Kitchen Remodel, and a Modern-Retro Westside Kitchen.

Saturday April 29, 2017 | Westwood Addition at 9323 31st Place SW

Saturday April 29, 2017 | Modern-Retro Westside Kitchen at 3726 SW Austin St

Sunday April 30, 2017 | Contemporary Wedgwood Kitchen at 4008 NE 86th St

11am – 5pm | FREE TICKETS

Westwood Addition BEFORE:

AFTER:

This typical one-story war-box home was completely transformed by adding a second story with a master bedroom and bath, a family sized porch, and a kitchen refresh. The project features DEEP GREEN solutions for healthy indoor air quality and minimal impact on the planet.

The two story addition and new porch were able to complement the existing home with a new modern aesthetic and improved functionality.

Kitchen with teal backsplash

Recycled glass tile, locally produced cabinetry with non-toxic construction, and refinishing the existing floor, gave this kitchen and dining space a completely new look with very few new materials.

The south-facing windows high on the wall of the upper floor allow sunlight to wash over the ceiling and into the space, creating a naturally bright and welcoming master suite. Infrared Radiant Ceiling Panels provide a cozy, efficient heat source without impeding furniture placement or blowing dust and allergens around.

See more photos of this project on Flikr

“40 Days” to Clean and De-Clutter

March is here! Days are a little longer, dust and dirt show up a little more….and suddenly after a winter of cozyness, the house is feeling a little cluttered. It must be time for spring cleaning!

This year, we’ve noticed a trend of tying spring cleaning and decluttering to Lent. Rather than give up a favorite food, beverage or activity, some are choosing to challenge themselves to quit hoarding items they no longer need or want. Shelf by shelf, room by room, they are committing to purge their homes of 40 bags in 40 days.  Are you someone who already feels blissfully clutter-free in your home? Consider a commitment to buying nothing new (except real necessities such as food and toothpaste) for 40 days.

While we are all about the purge, keep in mind that your trash might be someone else’s treasure!  We truly hope that most of these discarded items find a new home where they will be used longer and loved more (read our blog article about this topic.)

A few other quick tips:

  • Clean Green! Find simple and effective non-toxic cleaning solutions here.
  • Old t-shirts can be cut up to make re-useable cleaning rags and old veggie “nets” can be made into dish scrubbers. Save them from the trash and save money at the same time.
  • While you are dusting the inside of that chandelier….take a minute to switch out the bulbs for CFL’s or better yet, LED’s. See our post about efficient lighting solutions.

Solutions For Green Cleaning!

Spring cleaning time is almost here! Following are some of our favorite easy-to-make recipes for earth friendly cleaning.

  • All-purpose Cleaner – 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar, 4 drops of essential oil (optional), a drop of dish soap. It’s a great window cleaner! (You will need to use it 2-3 times before it will cut through the wax build-up from commercial products, after which you can stop using the dish soap). (The vinegar smell goes away when it is dry.)
  • Soft-Scrub – 1 c. baking soda, 1/4 c. liquid castile soap, 2 tsp. vegetable glycerin (as a preservative), 2-4 drops antibacterial essential oil such as lavender, tea tree, or rosemary (optional). mix and store in a sealed glass jar.
  • Natural Disinfectant Spray – 1 c. distilled water, 1/2 c. vinegar, 2-4 drops antibacterial essential oil such as lavender, tea tree, or rosemary.

Happy Cleaning!

American Lung Association Seeks Volunteers

Have you ever wanted to learn more about indoor air quality and help members of your community make their homes more healthy?

The American Lung Association is seeking volunteers for their Master Home Environmentalist (MHE) Program. Laura participated in this about 6 years ago and found it super informative and fun.
The program’s primary focus is indoor air quality-which happens to coincide with good environmental care as well. MHE volunteers receive 35 hours of training and commit to offering 35 or more hours of volunteer time providing home air quality assessments to members of the community. Volunteers learn to spot home environmental pollutants and make recommendations to reduce or eliminate exposure.

If you’d like to get that warm fuzzy feeling for giving back to your community, go to the American Lung Association’s website and fill out the Volunteer Form. Training starts in
March. Tell them Mighty House recommended it!


 

Ask an Expert: New and Improved!

Ask an Expert, a regular event we facilitate at the West Seattle Tool Library, will be moving to 3rd Thursdays, beginning January, 2013.

New in 2013: Each month we will have a dedicated featured discussion focused discussions on hot topics for the season, including insulation, edible gardening and rainwater. Join us this month for a conversation on day-lighting your home and how to beat those winter blues.

These events provide an opportunity for homeowners and DIY enthusiasts to get together and share their stories of challenge and success, while drawing on the expertise of local coaches in fields such as solar power, green building and design, sustainable living, and urban gardening. These experts are willing to answer any question you may have on your current projects, future plans or anything else you’d like to discuss.

Smart Conservation: What You Need to Know When Turning Down the Thermostat

Most of us, in an effort to conserve resources (and a few pennies) turn down our thermostats at night and when we are away from home. However, good habit may have unintentional consequences if not done properly.

Mold can grow in any environment where there is adequate moisture and a lack of airflow. Keeping the indoor temperature to at least 60° F helps prevent condensation from forming on windows and other cool surfaces. If you have a particularly damp home, ensure there is adequate air flow in closets and around beds. This is just one of the many ways you can mitigate excess moisture from building up in your home. For more tips on how to help prevent mold, and keep your home dry, take a look at these recommendations from the American Lung Association and EPA.

Efficiencies: Heating Alternatives

Can you identify the heat source in this addition? Email us the correct answer and you'll win a prize (limited supply available).

Puget Sound weather looks like it is finally falling into line with the calendar and it is beginning to cool down, which usually results in thermostats turning up! Over the next couple of months we’ll talk about different ways to stay warm while reducing your energy costs and impact on the planet at the same time!

Traditional heating sources including “forced air furnaces” baseboard and cadet heaters are not the most efficient ways to heat your home. Depending on the heater they can heat unevenly, inefficiently use energy, and most importantly once they are turned off the space begins to cool down immediately.

The three most energy and cost efficient options for heating your home are passive solar, radiant heating, and ductless heat pump systems.

Passive Solar with some radiant backup system (in preparation for the next ice age or that really, really cold storms we can get occasionally). Passive solar allows the home to heat itself – no moving parts, no electricity or fuel needed. But passive solar isn’t an option as a retrofit in most homes in the Seattle area since its “parts” are really about good solar position and proper heat sinks (among other things). If your designing from the ground up on a good site, be sure to vet this option before choosing other solutions.

Radiant heat is another excellent option, but what type really depends on your situation: Are you doing other remodeling? Will you be installing solar to offset electrical consumption? Are you working towards a net-zero energy home? What is your budget? ??One of the beautiful things about radiant heat is that it not only heats the molecules in the air it also heats objects within a space (some more or less effectively than others). What that means is that when the radiant heating source is turned down or off, the objects in the room that have been heated in the process are still radiating heat – and it isn’t costing you a thing. Additionally, many radiant systems allow you to set temperatures in each room. As you can see from the graph below (courtesy of Joule Design), overall operating costs are significantly less compared to baseboard or furnace options.

Below is a list of some of the popular radiant solutions:

  • radiant boiler (expensive but a viable option during a big remodel or in new construction)
  • radiant electrical floor (good for small rooms where new tile, concrete or cork floor is being installed)
  • radiant electrical wall (easy retrofit; immensely more efficient and safe than traditional cadet or baseboard heaters)
  • radiant electrical ceiling panels (easy retrofit; great for all room sizes but particularly small rooms where wall space is precious)

Ductless mini-split heat pumps are another great option. Installation is relatively simple whether new construction or as a retrofit. Rather than radiant or “blow” heat, they recirculate air from the outside. Learn more about how they work here. Unlike their big brother (air source heat pumps), they work well as independent units.

Mighty House is a huge fan of radiant heat – and particularly of the radiant ceiling panels for all the reasons mentioned earlier:

  1. easy and inexpensive to install as a retrofit or during a remodel
  2. super efficient to operate
  3. if it breaks (which they never do), it is easy to replace (if a radiant floor system breaks, the floor may need to be removed to fix the heat)
  4. zoned heating
  5. contributes to turning conventional home into a net zero home when combined with other energy efficiency measures and a solar array!

But choosing what type really depends on your situation: Are you doing other remodeling? Will you be installing solar to offset electrical consumption? Are you working towards a net-zero energy home? What is your budget? Not all systems fit all homes the same. Let us know if  we can help you find the most sustainable heat system for your home and life.

Extreme Spring Cleaning

Spring is a time to renew, refresh, reinvigorate our homes and our lives. One of the customary ways to do this is with the spring cleaning ritual. In many homes this means going beyond the normal surface cleaning — and getting under and behind furniture and appliances, deep clean and oil on woods, and finally cleaning that spot where the cat rubs every-single-day!

On 14 March 2012, The New York Times published the article, Is It Safe to Play Yet? Going to Extreme Lengths to Purge Household Toxins. The article is the story of one family’s discovery of just how many toxins are in our everyday, seemingly-safe household products. At its base, it’s astonishing. But when you really dig into it, it is maddening. The fact that manufacturers think it is just fine to put so many toxins into and onto our body is asinine. The argument of the manufacturers is often that each of the associated chemicals isn’t really toxic to the human body. And that may be true but there are two problems with that line of thinking. One is that the chemicals are only tested on the equivalent of a 180lb adult. It is illegal to test chemical reactions on children (rightfully so) however they have equal exposure and a smaller “vessel” to process the chemical(s). Second is that they didn’t test their product’s chemicals as combined with another product’s chemicals that either are in proximity to each other, mixed in the air, consumed before the body has completely processed the other chemicals, or absorbed together through the skin.

[A couple of great resources on this topic are available via American Lung Association of WA (ALAW) and WA Toxics Coalition]

Clearly we can’t expect manufacturer’s to test all their products against every other product out there to see if the combined products do harm. So, what do we do? We force change with our dollars and demand the manufactures do better. We “ask” them to use less chemicals – and absolutely no known carcinogens or hormone-disruptors. We demand less-processed and more whole ingredients (in everything). We do our homework and take responsibility for our individual and family’s well-being.

So, back to our spring cleaning ritual… There are some amazing homemade cleaners that are easy to make, cost very little, and are time efficient that we’ve been using for years. The products we make are available to download here (pdf) – along with resources to more recipes. ALAW also has a great brochure on their website. So put away the Pledge, air fresheners, and Windex. Get out the essential oils, baking soda, vinegar, and water… and don’t forget a little elbow grease!

On Site – Bathroom Remodels

It sometimes feels like there is a social consciousness around decision making. Like when you’ve never heard a name before, name your kid with it, and suddenly there’s a million kids your kid’s age with that same name!

The conception of remodeling projects seems to take on that same social consciousness, though in March, it wasn’t just in the inquiry but in the execution as well!

March’s social consciousness remodeling project was bathrooms. Which we love doing so, “Yea!” Why do we love bathroom renovations? Well they usually involve:

  • better design and usability: From cabinet capacity and better flow in the room to just getting the pink out!
  • Reducing Water Consumption: Replace heavy water consuming fixtures with EPA-approved Water Wise systems and either replace toilet with a dual-flush (.9 and 1.6 gpf) or 1.2 gpf model (we recommend Toto or Caroma) or restrict your existing toilet’s consumption (more about that in a future post).
  • Healthier Finishes: Reduce or completely remove all petroleum-based products and low/no VOC products. Green Depot (south end) Greenhome Solutions (north end) but have a wide array of healthy finishes. You can also try to find what you desire in salvage from The RE Store (north end) or Second Use (south end). If you can’t find what you desire in green building materials or salvage, try your best to at least buy from a local manufacturer at a locally-owned business.
  • Cleaner Air: It’s important to not just move air in a bathroom but to remove the moisture with a properly installed and well-made fan. We always recommend a timer be installed – that way you can properly ventilate after showers/baths without having to remember to turn it off or  leaving it on all day.
  • GreenUp Products and Textiles: Swap out virgin-tree, heavy-chemical laden toilet and tissue paper with recycled paper products (read a NYTimes article on the topic), swap out heavy chemical soaps with castile soap, swap out that PVC vinyl shower curtain (here’s why) for nylon and cotton, and so on and so forth.

There is something about starting off the day in a space that is easy to use, beautiful, and that provides a breath of fresh air (literally and figuratively). Let us know what questions you may have or how you greened-up your bathroom.

Below are pictures of two bathrooms in-progress.

new tub replaces leaky walk-in shower

new shower stall replaces an old tub in a small guest bath