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Sheep Dog Hollow: an eco-friendly renovation

Reclaimed wood flooring wins out in home renovation

In renovating an old house, the flooring decision comes down to new flooring (relatively inexpensive) vs. old wood planks (more expensive but charming and recycled).

By Correspondent / January 7, 2010

The construction crew starts to clean up for the day as the light dims at Sheep Dog Hollow, a 1902 farmhouse being renovated in Connecticut.

Joanne Ciccarello/Staff/The Christian Science Monitor

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With our bank account steadily draining away as we renovate Sheep Dog Hollow, it’s getting more difficult to make decisions that put the “green” of environmentally sound before the “green” of good old hard cash.

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Alexandra writes about the "green" and budget-friendly renovation of a 100-year-old farmhouse in south-central Connecticut.

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Our goal, as I’ve noted repeatedly, is to test the proposition that one can build in an environmentally sound as well as an economical manner. One of the first lessons we learned is that it can be done, but one needs to look at the word “economical” in a five- or 10-year time frame. So, for things such as geothermal heating and spray foam insulation, we opted to spend more now on cutting-edge technology to save heating and other costs in the future. It wasn’t hard to justify.

But now we’re talking floors. We had hoped to be able to save the old floors at Sheep Dog, but alas, most were in such bad shape that it would clearly cost more to try to patch and repair what’s there than to simply put in new floors. And new wood floors from a properly managed forest are not only affordable, but also ecologically sound, according to Wood Floors Online:

Unlike most floor coverings, wood floors come from a natural resource that is sustainable. Long gone are the days when timber was cut down with little thought for the long term consequences on the nation's forests. Today most timber is cut from forests that are carefully managed to ensure continued resources in the future. In fact, according to U.S. Forest Service statistics, almost twice as much hardwood timber Is added every year through new growth as is harvested. Additionally, there is more standing hardwood timber today than there was 50 years ago.

So it should be a no-brainer that we put in new wood floors. But that’s not what we’re going to do. Nope, because Martin and I love the look of old, wide-board floors, we are opting to put in far more expensive, reclaimed wood planks. And we have support in this decision from Rudy Rzeznikiewicz, a self-described “mean old miserable coot” who sells those old, wide board planks at Brooklyn Restoration Supply in Brooklyn, Conn.

“No. 1, the wood was a better wood back then,” he says. “It was slow growth and had a tighter grain. Also, it’s not going to warp on you. Anything it was going to do it has already done over the course of the 200-plus years.”

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