4 Eco-Friendly Building Materials to Use in 2020

bamboo - 4 eco-friendly building materials

Thinking of doing a few DIY upgrades in the home this year? With the recent lockdown, more homeowners than ever before are choosing to spend their time upgrading their houses.

If you are planning on making some much needed changes to your property, it’s worth looking into eco-friendly materials. Whatever your project, using eco-friendly building materials to complete it doesn’t just help the environment, it can help your wallet too.

Here, you’ll discover 4 eco-friendly building materials to use for a number of different renovations.

1. Bamboo


Uses: Flooring, panelling, decking, cabinets, vanities

Bamboo is considered one of the best existing eco-friendly building materials on the market. It benefits from a high rate of self-generation, growing and spreading without the need to be replanted. It can be harvested without killing the plant and grows back remarkably quickly. Some species of bamboo can grow up to three feet in just 24 hours.

Bamboo has become a big industry, meaning it’s more readily available than it used to be. It also boasts an impressive strength to weight ratio, giving it unbeatable durability. Its compression strength is better than concrete. For this reason, it’s a particularly great choice for cabinetry and flooring.

In your kitchen, deck or flooring renovations, bamboo is a useful material to consider. It’s versatile, water-resistant and stainable. Bamboo has a variety of looks, depending on how it’s been processed. It can look like hardwood, but it’s less expensive than many hardwoods, especially ones that have been sustainably harvested.

2. Sheep’s wool


sheep - 4 eco-friendly building materials

Uses: Insulation

In certain circumstances, if you’re looking to install your own insulation, sheep’s wool could be a fantastic eco-friendly option. The right insulation can really help to cut your energy bills down, but traditional options like fiberglass tend to be less environmentally friendly. Sheep’s wool, like bamboo, is in plentiful supply and regrows quickly.

“Wool has good thermal properties and actually competes well with insulating materials like fibreglass; it is naturally fire retardant and durable,” says Kenny Corscadden, of the University of Dalhousie’s Faculty of Agriculture. Corscadden tells CBC News that it’s an “obvious choice” for insulation.

There are a lot of benefits to using sheep’s wool over other materials. As well as boosting the home’s efficiency, it can help to purify the air and regulate humidity.

The cost of using wool as insulation make it a prohibitive option for something as large as a whole home. For something smaller like an outbuilding, wool could make more financial sense.

Before you re-insulate anything with wool, run the idea past your insurer. Depending on where you live, wool might not be recognized as an accepted building material and your insurance could be impacted.

3. Reclaimed wood


Uses: framing, flooring, decking, moulding, furniture, cabinetry

If you need to work with wood for your DIY projects, consider sourcing reclaimed wood. As eco-friendly building materials go, it has the great benefits of not needing any additional energy to produce and of keeping materials out of landfills.

It’s important to note that the quality of reclaimed wood can vary drastically. You’ll need to assess each piece to ensure it’s suitable for the application you intend it for. Inspect the wood for water or insect damage, mould and rot, as well as twisting and warping.

Also be aware that reclaimed wood might have been treated with paints or chemicals that you wouldn’t want to breathe in. Always wear a respirator when refinishing wood.

The beauty of well-aged wood is tough to beat. With good quality reclaimed lumber and the right tools, you can create unique and solid projects with a character you just can’t create with new materials.

4. Cork


Uses: flooring

If you’re looking to put new sustainable flooring in the home, cork is a great choice. Similar to bamboo, cork can be harvested without destroying the tree. It’s fast-growing and easily renewable.

As a building material, cork is fire, rot and mould resistant. It’s also excellent in terms of soundproofing and insulating. DIYers love it because it’s easy to install, less expensive than many hardwood flooring options and fairly easy to maintain.

It’s not ideal in every situation. Because it’s soft, heavy furniture and pet claws will mark it. High humidity environments can lead to swelling and curling. Lots of direct sunlight can discolour it. The sealant coat will need reapplication every so often to prevent stains and water damage. That said, cork can also be refinished in the event that scratches and discoloration stop looking like character and start looking like damage.

Like every material, how sustainable these eco-friendly building materials are depends a lot on how they’re managed and processed. Bamboo, for example, needs a lot of water to grow and a lot of labour to get it to market. As with any “green” product, do some research to make sure the company you’re purchasing from can back up its eco-friendly claims.

Feature image: Valeriia Miller; Image 1: Skitterphoto

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