Business Articles - Specialty and Trade

Choosing Green with Ceramic and Porcelain Tile Countertops

If you're considering installing a ceramic, glass, or porcelain tile countertop, why not opt to go green? In fact, ceramic, glass, and porcelain tiles are widely considered green to start with, since they're moisture resistant, long lasting, and environmentally friendly to manufacture compared to many other countertop options. Furthermore, they offer homeowners many easy and economical options for turning them even greener. Here's what you need to know about going green with ceramic and glass tile countertops.

Going Green with David Johnston
ServiceMagic understands that it can be tough for homeowners to wade through all the "green" remodeling information out there, which is why we've teamed up with green remodeling expert David Johnston to provide you with the best, most accurate, green remodeling advice in the business. Johnston is the founder of the green consulting firm What's Working, Inc., the author of multiple books on green remodeling (including the Nautilus Award winner Green Remodeling: Changing the World One Room at a Time), and he happens to know a thing or two about green countertop materials. Here's a green guide to installing ceramic tile countertops in your home, drawn from the experience, wisdom, and writings of Mr. Johnston himself.

Green Remodeling 101: Calculating Value
Before we get to specific suggestions, let's take a moment to look at the cost of going green. After all, budget is a big concern on any remodeling project, and rumor has it that going green can add to your bottom line. However, the truth of the matter is that green remodeling projects are very cost-competitive with traditional construction projects, and in many cases, going green can actually save you money. In addition, Johnston is quick to point out that homeowners need to factor in the intangibles when it comes to assessing the true value of green remodeling. Things like high-quality work and materials, low-maintenance countertops, healthier homes, and investing in a more environmentally sustainable world for future generations all have value that rises far above any calculations using dollars and cents.

How to Green Your Tile Project the David Johnston Way
So what can you do to make sure your new ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile installation is as green as they come? Johnston has several suggestions, ranging from your choice of tile right on down to how you manage your job site and waste materials.

  • Use Recycled Content Tile—Recycled content tile incorporates a large percentage of recycled material (everything from mining waste to glass bottles and old windshields) into the manufacturing process. Not only does this make good use of material that would otherwise be labeled as garbage, but recycled content ceramic, porcelain, and glass tiles are just as durable, if not more so, than "virgin" alternatives.
  • Use Recycled Materials—Even better than recycled content tile, consider using reclaimed ceramic, porcelain, and glass flooring tile for your project. The durability and long life of ceramic and glass tile make it an excellent option for homeowners who don't mind installing reclaimed tile that's been "gently used."
  • Use Local Materials—If at all possible, purchase tile that is made locally. Since it doesn't have to be shipped cross-country to get to your home, you'll be doing the environment, and your pocketbook, a favor.
  • Avoid Particleboard, MDF, and Interior Grade Plywood—If you install ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile countertops, you'll need to install a solid substrate to lay them on. If you can, avoid particleboard, medium density fiberboard (MDF), and interior grade plywood— all of which can off-gas carcinogenic formaldehyde into your indoor air for years after installation. Instead, use exterior grade plywood, solid wood, or formaldehyde-free MDF.
  • Seal Exposed Particleboard, MDF, and Interior Grade Plywood—If you choose to use these products anyway, be sure to seal all exposed areas with a low- or no-VOC paint or sealer prior to installation.
  • Use a Low Toxic Sealer to Seal Grout—Grout can be a breeding ground for potentially dangerous mold and mildew, especially in high moisture areas like kitchens and bathrooms. Apply a sealer to eliminate the problem, and make sure it's of the low toxic variety, since many sealers can off-gas harmful VOCs into your indoor environment after being applied.
  • Recycle Old Tile and Other Waste —As much as 85 percent of the construction waste sent to landfills can be recycled and used in other construction projects. If you're tearing up an old countertop to put in a new one, be sure to reuse what you can (old trim, etc.), and send recyclable waste (reusable tile included) somewhere besides the dump.

Which Shade of Green is Right for You?
While thinking green when it comes to tile is a smart choice for your pocketbook and the environment, it's not unusual for homeowners to feel a little overwhelmed when presented with the full scope of green remodeling options. If you're feeling unsure about how green you're willing to go with your new ceramic or glass tile countertops, there's no need to worry. Going green is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and the truth of the matter is that any step you take in a green direction is a smart one, whether you limit your green to recycled content tile, or green your countertop installation top to bottom.

If you do think green is the right choice for you, talk with your contractor about adopting a green remodeling philosophy, find a contractor who specializes in green building and remodeling, or seek out the services of a green consulting firm so that you can be sure your new tiling project is as green as it gets.

David Johnston
We are proud to partner with David Johnston, internationally recognized green building expert, to provide our homeowners and service professionals with the information necessary to "green" their projects.
• To learn more about David Johnston, click here.
• To learn more about Green Certification training, click here.

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