I am often asked my opinion about “green” building products, and my standard answer is that green building and remodeling is not about products but rather is all about the process.
The “greenest” products in the world, when not installed properly as part of a well-thought-out building system, won’t make a building green. And with a few exceptions, almost any standard building product can be part of a green building when used properly.
Now that I have that off my chest, I have used some products recently that, when used properly, can be a part of a good, green home.
Huber’s Zip System
Although I was skeptical when I first saw Huber’s Zip System wall and roof sheathing, having used it recently on my own addition I am very impressed with the product and hope that it continues to gain market share.
The Zip system consists of OSB with a water-resistant coating sealed with tape at all joints, including window and door openings. My initial skepticism comes from the lack of an overlap at horizontal joints; instead it relies on the tape to provide a weatherproof seal. In addition to serving as structural sheathing and a weather barrier, the tape provides an excellent air seal. This is a great opportunity to create a continuous weather and air barrier, critical to high performance building and remodeling.
As with any product, proper installation is critical. The tape must be installed on a dry surface and pressed tightly onto the panels with a roller.
On my own house, I installed Home Slicker vented rainscreen from Benjamin Obdyke between the Zip System and the siding, something I think everyone should consider.
Vented rainscreens can significantly reduce the amount of water and vapor that gets into a house through sheathing, allowing for both drainage down and evaporation up and out before any moisture enters the sheathing. Without a vented rainscreen, siding attached directly to sheathing, even with a housewrap, can allow vapor and water to get into the wall structure.
The Schluter System
Another product I like is the Schluter System for tile installation. They make pre-formed shower drain pans and wall and floor tile backer membranes. Installed over wood subfloors and drywall walls, they eliminate the need for any site-mixed masonry or heavy tile backer boards. Ditra, their floor substrate, is a plastic mat with recessed studs that adhere to both the subfloor and the tile, isolating cracks and providing a quick, solid installation. Kerdi, their shower pan and wall membrane, is adhered with unmodified thinset mortar. It connects to their own floor drains and interior and exterior corner fittings, providing a waterproof installation that can accept a finish tile installation almost immediately.
It’s sometimes hard to sell something that your client’s won’t see, particularly when they really want those granite counters, but using high-quality products and methods that improve the durability of your projects will, over time, improve your reputation and reduce callbacks and warranty issues.
Some high performance products may cost a bit more than more traditional materials, but in the scheme of most projects, the minimal extra costs are worth it considering the long term benefits.