Friday, January 02, 2009

Affordable Green

The sun room is almost finished. We've been using it for months but I had some trim to install and almost completed it today. I ran out of nails.

Facing east.
Facing East. (Larger version)

We did all of the work ourselves, shopped for used and recyled materials, frequented the Habitat for Humanity store and watched Craigslist. The ten south-facing windows are double paned and cost $30 each. The small odd-shaped west window - $15; the shelf above the dining table - $10 at Habitat; the recycled soy sauce barrels behind the fence - $14 each; the concrete floor beneath the tile and the footers are crushed glass concrete. These and other savings enabled us to add 480 square feet for about $8000. That's $16.67 per square foot. We exceeded our original budget because we initally planned for heat and a functioning greenhouse room. Once we began work Julie requested additional living space with a tile floor and pleasant surroundings. As it turns out, it was an excellent request.

Facing west.
Facing West. (Larger version)

Our goal was additional living space, solar heat and an environment for house plants. Well over 50% of our heat comes from the sun. We no longer need the propane furnace and it has been turned off. Following sunny days a fire in the wood stove isn't absolutely necessary when night time temperatures drop to single digits. We installed a wood burning stove for cloudy days, extreme cold periods and atmosphere. I anticipate we'll burn about one-half cord of Ponderosa this winter. We purchased a permit for $20 that entitled us to cut four cords.

Facing south.
Facing South. (Larger version)

One of my disappointments with the green movement is the high cost that makes green products unaffordable for many people. For example, I checked on the cost of recycled cotton insulation rather than fiberglass. I was quoted a cost a little more than fiberglass, about $100 for the job. When I phoned a second time to order the materials I discovered I had been quoted a price on the wrong thickness. The cost was more than double that of fiberglass. From what I've read, most of the cotton used in the insulation is waste material from sewing factories. Why should it cost over twice as much? One of my personal goals was to add an affordable addition that most home owners could afford. I settled for fiberglass.

Facing north.
A portion of the north wall. (Larger version)

The project had several intangible benefits. I dug and moved several yards of earth by hand which benefited my health. I purchased a concrete mixer and Julie and I mixed and poured concrete for about three days. She helped plan the addition, raise the walls, lay the tile, paint and do anything that was needed. It's our room, our memories and our marriage that is stronger. I'm planning a large passive solar greenhouse to raise vegetables throughout the winter months. It will be on the south side of a woodworking shop. Based on our experience constructing this room, the construction of the greenhouse will be better, easier, faster and less expensive.

I've talked with some people who say something like "I could never do what you've done" to which I reply "Nonsense! Anyone who is reasonably healthy and can read can do what we've done."

To finish the room I need to get a box of finishing nails and install tile on the counter top. We have new tile already -- half price thanks to Craigslist. But, the counter top will wait for a while. We have the materials, soil and composted manure to build raised garden beds. That's our next major project that I want to complete by the end of January.


Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Looks great. You guys are amazing.

1/02/2009 08:23:00 PM  
Blogger Buffalo said...

Beautiful job. You and Julie make one heck of a team.

The green in "green" isn't only the movement. There are a lot of people making an incredible amount of money out of it.

1/02/2009 10:41:00 PM  
Blogger anonymous julie said...

Probably worth mentioning that time is also a consideration! Nice work, Paul and Julie.

1/03/2009 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Nice job all around, Paul & Julie, from materials acquisition to design and construction.

That is a beautiful room.

1/03/2009 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Hodgens said...


You say: I've talked with some people who say something like "I could never do what you've done" to which I reply "Nonsense! Anyone who is reasonably healthy and can read can do what we've done."

Thanks for showing the way. As a kid I was infected with an attitude that "manual" doesn't go with formal education.

It has been a persistent infection for me and I surmise for most.

Now, I say that your education is not complete until you can use both your hands and your brain.

Paul, I had an insight today about myself. When I get an idea of wanting to do something, I tend to spend way too much time thinking about it and reading about it rather than getting into the doin' part of it - early on.

Again, thanks for indicating and showing the path.


1/03/2009 05:25:00 PM  

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