Dear PoPville – Seeking a Green Kitchen Renovation

Photo by PoPville flickr user Tactile Necessity

“Dear PoPville,

We are renovating our kitchen and want to do the best we can within our budget to make the project green. That means FSC-certified cabinets, countertops of new-fangled materials, or at least not granite, stuff like that. We’ve tried the gently-used route and want new this time, and we’re set on appliances. We’ve been working with Amicus Green Building Center and becoming increasingly frustrated with the customer service, random price changes, lack of attention to detail and things that are generally making us regret working with them.

Two things: 1. we’d like to hear from others about their experiences working with Amicus, and any tips they might have in making the process with them easier and 2. comments about countertops, especially anyone who has PaperStone.

New Kitchen, Old House”

13 Comment

  • If you are looking for a new green contractor, try Impact Construction in the District. The owner, Justin, is a great guy and a friend of mine from grad school. They specialize in green building, and Justin has a Master’s in Environmental Issues, so he really knows his stuff. I hired them to do my bathroom, and they did a great job, on time, on budget, and VERY clean. The workers were a delight. This sounds like a fake rave, I know, but I can’t say enough good things about Justin and Impact.

  • One way to build green is to build well enough that the project doesn’t have to be redone anytime soon. Better to build once not-so-green than twich green-as-can-be. So don’t sweat the small stuff.

    I’ll turn the mic over to John Ruskin (1907):
    “Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labour and wrought substance of them, ‘See! this our fathers did for us.'”

  • pablo .raw

    Are you not using granite because of the possibiltity or radon? Just curious

    • I assume its because of the perception of how evil and destructive mining is.

    • austindc

      Some granite is also shipped from far away, so there is an environmental impact with the transportation, though there may be places where you can get locally sourced granite.

  • austindc

    I highly recommend using Community Forklift for some elements of the project. They are a building material reuse company, and you can find all sorts of amazing stuff there that can be reused. Sometimes it’s really nice stuff that you can just install, and sometimes it’s kind of weird or old stuff that can be repurposed. They probably won’t have everything you need to do a whole renovation, but you can find a few treasures there. In general (but not always, I know), it’s greener to reuse something than to buy some new thing made out of recycled material or rapidly renewable resources.

    My wife and I have been using Community Forklift for all sorts of projects. We have saved a bundle, and we feel great about reusing stuff that would otherwise go to a landfill. Check them out! They have appliances too.

    • austindc

      Sorry, I just realized that the OP said no to “gently used.” So I guess Community Forklift is out.

      With regards to PaperStone, I have seen it used in offices and residences, and it seems to hold up well, plus it looks pretty cool. I don’t know how it stands up over decades, but I have seen it in places where it had been in for several years and still looked very nice.

  • OP here…
    Love both Community Forklift and Second Chance – have both donated and purchased items. Trying to find enough tile at one of the places to do the area behind the stove so we don’t have to buy new. The space is small and a bit tricky, so cabinets/countertops need to be new but good to suggest those places for other readers. They are great local resources.

    We don’t want granite for multiple reasons – mining, whether domestic or Brazil or wherever is a big consideration, but so is the need to seal and be nice to the granite. We want low-maintenance tops, and after some reading today are leaning Silestone now.

    Totally agree on using materials that mean the project stands the test of time.

    So it seems no experiences with Amicus? Thanks for the comments!

  • I bought my countertop from Amicus Green (Ice Stone – I LOVE it and it’s gorgeous) but I do not think they are great. For what you spend there, the service should be better. We had them measure for our counters and then they called and said, “these don’t seem right….we need to come back out but it will cost $150”. Um…what? You didn’t do it right?

    A few years later when I was ready to add a tile backsplash to my kitchen, we went there because again, they have beautiful stuff. They were, however, ridiculously expensive. When I showed my now-husband the price and we said “holy crap, it’s expensive!” the employee looked at us from his desk and said, “no, you just can’t afford it!”. It’s a tile.

    While they have beautiful things, I would think twice about really working with them. You can find the stuff you want (like tiles) and order them from elsewhere. They were never polite to me/us. Unless I had to if they were the only supplier, I wouldn’t make a point of dealing with them again.

  • Concrete is another green alternative for countertops worth exploring.

  • Amicus green is a funny place. It’s really hit or miss. I went in yesterday to buy materials for refinishing floors and got better customer service than I expected based on previous experiences and reviews.

    I have silestone and love it. My suggestion is to get a sample and compare contrast next to your new cabinets, paint, etc. For some reason the same silestone will look entirely different in various environments.

    For green cabinets, you may be able to buy Armstrong Origins (qualifies for LEED points) from the big box retailers.

  • Alberene Soapstone Company. Pick up from the quarry yourself or call them and get the number for their guy out of Richmond who installs in this area. They come with the slabs in their truck; measure, cut and install in one day. No sealers; just mineral oil.

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