Eco-Friendly Kitchen Cabinets South Portland ME
Eco-Friendly Kitchen Cabinets
First things first: What the heck is a green cabinet? As it turns out, there are as many definitions as there are, well, shades of green.
A cabinet can be green because it is healthier for consumers, or because it has a low impact on the environment, or because it's simply more durable, so it doesn't have to be replaced as often and pile up in our landfills, says Carmen Mateo, kitchen and bath designer for Brand Kitchens & Design, based in Mountain View, Calif.
So far, so good. But many homeowners may wonder just what exactly makes a green cabinet healthier, eco-friendly or more durable than a traditional kitchen cabinet. And, of course, many will ask the key question: Do green cabinets cost more, and if so, are they worth the benefits?
Cabinets and Clean Air
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollutants rank among the top five environmental risks to public health. Typically, interior levels of pollution are anywhere from two to five times (and even up to 100 times) higher than outdoor pollutant levels.
One pollutant found in many homes is formaldehyde, and one of the most significant sources of formaldehyde in the home is products made with pressed wood specifically pressed-wood products made with adhesives containing urea-formaldehyde resins, according to the EPA.
The negative health issues associated with formaldehyde are well known, says Wayne Fuday of Humabuilt Healthy Building Systems, a manufacturer of eco-friendly cabinets. Studies have shown that formaldehyde can cause everything from dizziness, eye irritation, coughing and headaches to nausea, skin rashes and respiratory-tract infections.
Many conventional cabinets are made with particleboard or plywood that contain urea-formaldehyde as a binder, explains Fuday. The average home contains quite a few cabinets with a lot of surface area that can out-gas volatile organic compounds (VOCs, from glues and finishes) for a considerable amount of time.
According to the EPA, some types of medium-density fiberboard, which is used frequently for kitchen cabinetry, contain a high resin-to-wood ratio and are generally recognized as being the highest formaldehyde-emitting pressed-wood products.
For homeowners concerned about indoor air quality, there are a number of green kitchen-cabinet alternatives including those made with solid woods such as cherry, maple oak or alder, or sustainable woods like bamboo. Other alternatives include cabinets made from formaldehyde-free engineered woods such as PrimeBoard, an environmentally safe type of particleboard made with wheat-straw and formaldehyde-free resins, and Medite II, a medium-density fiberboard made with formaldehyde-free synthetic resin. Also, cabinetry made with exterior-grade plywood contains phenol-formaldehyde, as opposed to urea-formaldehyde, resins and outgas far less formaldehyde.
In addition, homeowners should ensure paints and stains applied to the cabinetry contain little or no VOCs, which are potentially harmful pollutants that can affect the environment as well as indoor air quality.
Durability vs. Costs
Indoor air quality is one aspect homeowners should consider when choosing kitchen cabinets; durability is another, especially when considered along with cost.
While cabinets made of particleboard or medium-density fiberboard might appeal to homeowners on a budget, they are not as durable as the solid wood and (plywood) we use to build our cabinets and kitchens whenever possible, says Cynthia Miyashita, president of Berkeley Mills, based in Berkeley, Calif. She notes that particleboard will deteriorate when exposed to water, it is more susceptible to dents and tends to sag when carrying weight long-term. As a result, she says, cabinets made with particleboard won't hold up as well to the wear-and-tear commonly experienced by kitchen cabinetry, and may have to be replaced sooner.
Each homeowner will have to weigh the cost versus durability issue when choosing cabinets for his or her particular project. However, advocates point out that durable, eco-friendly cabinets are not as expensive as one might think, when compared to their non-green counterparts.
In terms of cost, most eco-offerings in general compare exactly with good-quality cabinets at the mid-price range on up through high end, says designer Lydia Corser of Corser Design in Santa Cruz, Calif. The labor is the same, she notes, and while you may pay slightly more for materials, that's more than offset by the benefits to water quality, wildlife and the planet.
This is an important consideration for many homeowners, says Ian Firth, director of marketing and sales for Weyerhaeuser Forest Products. We have found that, given the choice, and if the cost difference is not too great, the customer will invariably do the right thing in choosing cabinets that aren't destructive to the environment.In addition, he notes, Concern about ecology seems generally to rise with education and income. This means that people buying the more expensive cabinets will tend to take green into their decisions.Green Cabinet Options
As far as materials and designs are concerned, there's an ever-increasing range, says Miyashita. Until recently, the combination of green materials and good design may have been more difficult to find. Now consumers can have the best of both worlds. Greenbuilding is attracting more and more good designers, not just green people who may have had more experience in environmentalism than with design.
Berkeley Mills, for instance, uses wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for its products; this ensures the wood was harvested from sustainably managed forests, meaning that the amount of wood removed from the forest is limited to what it can replenish on a long-term basis.
Other companies use similar natural materials. AlterEco, a custom shop in Sausalito, builds their cabinets exclusively with bamboo, which is a rapidly renewable source, and durable, says Mateo of Brand Kitchens Wed, 12 Sep 2007 00:00:00 Nancy Christie What Makes This Home Green http://www.smart-homeowner.com/node/8009
- Foam allows greater flexibility in design
- It provides a healthier indoor environment
- It acts as a barrier to moisture and insects
- It's easy to repair and maintain
- It's resistant to high winds, heavy snow loads, earthquakes and fire