While durable, cost effective and ever increasing in style, laminate countertops can be one of the less environmentally friendly options for your kitchen or bathroom which may cause a few sleepless nights for the green conscious among us. Though containing high levels of adhesives, sealers, and other sources of potentially harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that get released into your indoor environment, all is not lost and by applying a few helpful tips from green remodeling expert David Johnston, 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), you too can ensure that your countertop project is as green as possible.
Many people know by now that laminate is one of the most affordable and cost effective countertop options and going green during the installation process will not make the project more expensive, and, in fact, can end up saving you money in the long run. Add to that the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have done your part to leave the following generations with an earth that is more sustainable, and the value of a green countertop is immeasurable.
The most obvious step toward having a greener countertop is to use as much recycled material as possible. If yours is a DIY remodel, be sure to salvage as much of the old materials as possible for use in the new and of course whenever possible, recycle materials since it is estimated that %85 of construction materials end up at landfills. The next measure to take is to properly seal and caulk all joints and seams, especially around areas where there is moisture such as the faucet. Failing to do so can lead to water reaching the substrate which causes harmful mold to form and can ultimately cause your countertops to structurally fail. Next, be sure to avoid solvent free adhesives, which give off toxic VOCs in your home. Lastly, try to avoid using particleboard, MDF and interior grade plywood which give of carcinogenic formaldehyde and instead use exterior grade plywood, solid wood or even formaldehyde-free MDF during the substrate installation phase of construction. If you choose to use particleboard, MDF or interior grade plywood, make sure that all exposed areas are sealed with low or no VOC paint and sealer before installation is complete.
While this list is not complete or comprehensive, it is a good starting point and can serve as a general guide to mitigating environmentally harmful elements of a countertop project. Going green is a great way to show your family, friends and neighbors that you care about the environment and are doing your part to keep it safe and beautiful for future generations. Perhaps one day everyone will take a more progressive stance when it comes to green construction projects. Until then, take comfort in the fact that the tide is turning and perhaps one day these safety precautions and materials will be the standard for all homes.