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Greener DIY

To help your wooden deck avoid rot or insect attack, ask for pressure-treated timber with a copper formula known as ACQ.

People who want a beautiful home but want to create a healthy living space that doesn’t damage the environment have many more choices these days. Due to environmental and consumer demand, there is a growing number of greener home improvement products available.

These products may take some searching for and will probably be a little more expensive, but they provide cleaner and greener options when building garden decking, remodelling a kitchen, repainting a room or tackling other DIY projects.

If you are building a garden deck, a fence or any other wood project, you can use timber from sustainable sources. This gives you peace of mind that your purchase is helping to protect wildlife instead of destroying habitats.

Fencing or deck projects often put wood in contact with soil or concrete. To avoid rot or insect attack, many people buy pressure-treated timber that has been injected with the deadly poison arsenic, and chromium, a heavy metal. Widespread use of this timber is creating difficult and hazardous disposal problems for the future.

But there is an alternative. Ask for pressure-treated timber with a copper formula known as ACQ (ammoniacal copper quartenary). It’s free of arsenic and chromium, yet just as effective in keeping away rot and insects. The initial cost is only slightly higher, with much greater benefits in the future. This wood, however, does require some extra care during construction. Because the formula is richer in copper than ordinary pressure-treated timber, nails and screws can quickly rust. Manufacturers recommend using stainless steel fasteners, joist hangers and other connectors.

Indoors, there are many environmentally-sound choices, including true linoleum, cork, bamboo, sustainably harvested hardwood and carpeting made of plant fibres or wool. Standard flooring companies offer some of these products. Many of these choices are more durable than standard flooring. They are also very stylish, especially bamboo flooring. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass, making it a super sustainable flooring choice.

Cork flooring is made from waste left after wine corks are punched out of bark slabs. The trees are not damaged, so cork qualifies as a truly sustainable product. Cork floors are soft and warm underfoot, yet so durable that the flooring can last many decades.

Many home improvement projects are finished with a fresh coat of paint or varnish, and there are choices to be made here as well. Although water-based, low VOC (volatile organic compounds) coatings are easily available, it pays to look beyond these words on a label. VOC cause health problems when inhaled in sufficient quantities, therefore choosing a low VOC-labelled paint means that the VOCs won’t pollute the environment. They may still be quite toxic, however. Some low VOC paints still contain high amounts of ammonia, which is hazardous. To find a paint that’s low-VOC and low-toxic, ask in store to view for the Manufacturers’ Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), which must disclose all hazardous ingredients.
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