How to renovate your home the sustainable way

As society bears witness to the real-time effects of climate change, many of us have been inspired to make greener lifestyle choices.

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This might mean travelling less, consuming less meat, or opting for pre-loved fashion when it’s time to refresh our wardrobe.

However, if we want to make real change, this way of living needs to carry over to the big events in our lives too. Many are now also choosing to renovate their homes in an eco-friendly way, cutting down their waste, demand for new materials, and energy usage.

But with so much to think about in your house remodel, it can be hard to know how to make these changes and still achieve the outcome you want. So, if you’re looking for inspiration, here’s a handy guide on how to renovate your home the sustainable way.

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Use recycled materials

Using recovered and vintage materials is a great way to make your renovations sustainable. Opting for reclaimed wood in your floors and cabinetry is a growing trend which can reduce the demand for new wood stock, and therefore decrease deforestation rates. This helps the planet to retain its natural beauty and carbon sinks, which take greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. Not only is it a sustainable option, but using reclaimed wood also gives real functional benefits to a remodel: it adds warmth and character to an interior, and is typically more durable than newer woods.

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As for your fixtures and furniture, you’d be surprised what mint condition and refurbished stock is picked up by salvage centres and charity shops. Search for previously used doors, window fittings, lighting and furnishings that could be incorporated into your designs. Big-budget remodels and new-builds often order custom-made pieces that end up unused, so are donated or auctioned off at a much lower cost. By sourcing these fixtures for your remodel, you can extend their lifespan and stop them from going to landfill, all the while reducing your own demands on the supply chain.

Correctly dispose of your construction waste

When it comes to larger scale renovations like loft conversions and extensions, you can expect to have some construction and demolition waste. Unfortunately, these byproducts (including concrete, bricks, and swathes of plasterboard) are typically bulkier and more difficult to dispose of than regular household rubbish.

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However, there are recycling services that can repurpose these materials, using specialist tools and techniques. Sustainable waste management company Bywaters recycle many of these products, and explain some of their uses: “Masonry is crushed to make road bases, appliances such as sinks and baths can be refitted if they are still in good condition, and metals can be smelted into new products. Any leftover, undamaged bricks are perfect for new developments, and recovered glass can be reused in decorative materials, or as insulation and abrasives.”

By investing in a service to deal with your trickier materials, you can ensure that your renovation efforts produce minimal waste that would otherwise head straight to landfill and generate polluting greenhouse gases.

Insulate properly

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If your remodel will add new rooms or structures to your property, it’s essential to insulate correctly. Cavity walls, loft space and windows can massively drain the warmth from your house if not protected, with up to 40% of heat loss resulting from poor insulation. This will place further demand on your boiler system and require more energy use to keep it warm, which in turn creates a larger carbon footprint for your property.

To mitigate against heat loss, invest in effective natural insulation materials. These are the most eco-friendly options to keep your home warm and will pay dividends when it comes to the cold winter months, keeping your energy use (and subsequent costs) to a minimum.

Modern triple glazing is another feature to consider, which retains more heat by decreasing the thermal conduction of your windows. These can insulate up to six times more effectively than single-glazed panels, so are a worthwhile investment to reduce energy use.

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Invest in energy-efficient appliances

Lastly, when fitting any appliances in your remodel, choose those that are energy-efficient. Consider the size and quantity of the essentials you need, such as ovens and refrigerators, and be economical with your selections. Always check machine energy ratings and make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck: these are typically graded from the top-ranking A down to the inefficient G. Comparison sites like Topten can help you find the best in class for whatever you need to install.
Most modern houses are also fitted with a smart meter to allow homeowners and suppliers to easily track energy usage. If you don’t have one, a remodel is the best time to enquire about these with your provider, as changes to your home’s square footage and utilities can significantly affect your energy use. This is especially important in recent times, considering the ongoing energy crisis in the UK, which is predicted to force homeowner energy bills up by an average of £2,800 a year, from October 2022. A reliable smart meter is a way to keep on top of your use and spending, and make any necessary changes to cut back — for the well-being of both the planet and your wallet.

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