When you move house, many people want to create their own touch on the new home, renovate the kitchen and bathroom and repaint all the rooms. But renovating does not have to mean tearing everything down and starting all over again. A smarter way is to take advantage of the interior that already exists by painting or rebuilding and to supplement with recycled materials for floors, windows, doors, etc. Here we have gathered advice and facts for conscious and sustainable renovations.
A guideline for more eco-friendly renovations can be to choose products with EU Ecolabel/Nordic Swan Ecolabel where the product is subject to requirements throughout a life cycle perspective. For example, glue has a limit to the amount of hazardous chemicals[HS1] that are allowed, wood from endangered forests shouldn’t be used, plastic should be free of dangerous additives and metals should not have any heavy metal coatings. Many colours that are labelled with the EU Ecolabel could also be found.
Ekobyggportalen is an online guide to greener construction, interior design, and gardens. Here you will find eco-building info, critical construction facts, good products, news, and forums. By building and furnishing with non-toxic materials, the environment is spared, and you get a healthy indoor environment. When renovating, it is important to recycle materials in the right way.
Tips for a conscious renovation
- Use mud paint (e.g., Falu red paint), linseed oil paint without solvents or iron vitriol for house facades and water-based paints, preferably eco-labelled, indoors.
- Preferably choose natural materials for floors such as tiles, stone, Swedish wood, and linoleum, but avoid tropical wood. Avoid PVC floors that can leak hormone disrupting chemicals.
- Avoid impregnated wood and choose durable woods.
- Choose eco-labelled products. Then you know certainly that the materials are organic, and that the production has been controlled.
Avoid paints and varnishes with solvents (such as white spirit, thinner, turpentine, xylene, toluene). A first rule of thumb is to use water-based paint indoors and paint that is durable enough outdoors.
Among the best choice for the environment is mud paint, as it does not contain hazardous solvents. It is also harmless for the one who does the paining because it only contains water as a solvent. “Falu red colour” is the most common so-called mud colour in Sweden. The dye, which comes from copper-containing ore, however, contains low levels of e.g., copper and lead. Other good alternatives are linseed oil paint (without solvent) and iron vitriol which gives a greyed facade on wooden houses.
Use water-based paints and ask for colours with low evaporation of volatile substances. Indoor paint that contains linseed oil is good for the environment but can emit irritating substances when it dries. Today, there is solvent-free linseed oil paint with low emissions. For colour indoors, you can ask for paints labelled with EU Ecolabel and Nordic Swan Ecolabel.
- The use of wood oils gives large emissions of white spirit. White spirit forms oxidants with ground-level ozone which, among other things, have a negative effect on vegetation.
- Cans with paint residues must be treated as environmentally hazardous waste and left at the nearest waste management centre. Residual washing liquid from cleaning tools e.g., paintbrushes, must be treated in the same way.
- Ask questions when you go shopping – the retailer should always receive information from the suppliers about what the products contains. Chemical products such as adhesives and paints must have warning labels in Swedish if they are hazardous to health or the environment as well as information about how they should be handled.
Eco-friendly choices are not just about eco-labels. It is also about choosing products that last a long time. There is a difference between wood and wood. The core timber is the innermost harder part of the trunk, and such timber can last for several hundred years. Larch, oak, and some foreign woods such as cultivated teak are well resistant to rot. Old log houses have survived well over hundreds of years because they are built of heartwood.
Impregnated wood contains toxic substances such as arsenic, chromium and copper. Therefore, such wood should only be used when needed, i.e., in places where the wood is exposed to moisture or risks being attacked by insects. Impregnated wood is divided into four classes: M, A, AB and B. The M and A classes contain the strongest poison. By choosing the right construction and position that prevents the wood from being exposed to moisture, you can often avoid impregnated wood. Instead of impregnated wood, you can paint or oil the untreated wood.
Ask questions when you go shopping – the retailer should always receive information from its suppliers about what the products contains. Chemical products such as adhesives and paints must have warning labels in Swedish if they are hazardous to health or the environment as well as information about how they should be handled.
Page updated 2021.
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