My Green Shop…
In building my new shop, I tried to to be as earth- and human-friendly as I could, without spending an obscene amount of money or taking it to an obnoxious extreme. As we remodeled other parts of our house, I held on to some things I knew I might be able to reuse in the workshop. The three can lights along the back wall were pulled from our hearth room (we replaced those lights with insulated units to reduce air flow between that room and the attic space above it). Some of the wall outlets came from other rooms that were renovated within the last four years. Once I get it installed, the trim will be painted with trim paint left over from another renovation project.
After we replaced the can lights in the hearth room, we wanted to add extra insulation to our attic spaces. Working in the hazardous waste field, my wife is all too familiar with VOCs and how much formaldehyde an additional 13″ of fiberglass insulation might put into our house. So we spent some effort to locate a company in the area who would use formaldehyde-free fiberglass insulation. It ended up costing us a third less than comparison bids we received for regular insulation!
When it came time to insulate my workshop walls, I didn’t want to just go out and buy pink fiberglass insulation after we’d spent so much time trying to get the rest of the house insulated properly. Unfortunately, the company we’d previously used only had formaldehyde-free insulation in the loose, blown-in form, not in paper-backed batting. But after lots of Google searching and quite a few phone calls, I finally located the same brand of insulation, in craftpaper-backed batting, in my home town! It, too, was cheaper than what the same amount of pink insulation would have cost. And I found out, with a bit of work, I could fit seven such bundles inside my Xterra (man, was that a quiet ride home!).
With the walls insulated, drywalled, taped, and mudded, I wanted to get a few coats of paint on them. If you go to your big box store or a painting specialty store, you can buy special low-VOC paint. But it costs a lot more per gallon than regular paint. Fortunately, I didn’t need to spend the extra money! As it turns out, most of the VOCs are found in the colored pigments added to the base paint. By painting the walls a slight off-white color, I used paint that was already low in VOCs without spending the extra money.
Last, but not least, in my workshop renovation was the floor. I’ve had concrete floors in my workshops for years now, and it’s never been comfortable. It certainly wasn’t easy on any tools that might have been dropped or rolled off the workbench. So I started looking into what might be easy on the feet and back, kind to my errant tools, inexpensive, and eco-friendly, to boot!
I called a life-long friend of mine, who also happens to own a flooring store, and he set me up with a fairly new cork floor product! It is a click-install floating floor that comes in 4″ wide planks, like an engineered or laminate floor. It is comfortable to stand on, easy on my tools, and properly harvested from a renewable resource! The normal price was very competitive with engineered floors; I got it for a somewhat better price because he’s my older brother’s best friend.