Go green with eco-friendly kitchen cabinets

Kitchen upgrades are among the most popular home improvements, and even a modest renovation will likely replace any outdated cabinets. When completing this work, it helps to consider the environmental impact of the project and what steps you can take to minimize any adverse effects.

Going green with this renovation won't just benefit the planet. Using the right materials can prevent glues and finishes from releasing unpleasant fumes into the home, thus improving the interior air quality.

Check the material to see if it bills itself as a more eco-friendly choice. Michelle Jeresek, writing for the home design site Houzz, says materials like particleboard and plywood are more likely to contain formaldehyde, which is carcinogenic and prone to off-gassing. Look for choices that are formaldehyde-free.

Similarly, some cabinet finishes or paints will give off fumes known as volatile organic compounds. Water-based finishes are preferable, as are finishes rated as having few or no VOCs.

When you use wood for your cabinets, there will naturally be some risk that you're contributing to deforestation. The home improvement site HomeAdvisor recommends that you look for wood that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. This approval signifies that the wood used in the cabinet has been harvested using sustainable practices.

Consider environmentally friendly alternatives to harvested wood as well. Sage Builders, a company based in Newton, Mass., says one option is to use salvaged wood to create your new cabinets.

You can also opt for a more renewable wood source. Jeresek says bamboo has become a popular choice due to its durable quality and rapid growth. More recently, the engineered product Lyptus—made from a hybrid eucalyptus species that replenishes more quickly than traditional hardwood—has been gaining ground.

Decide whether you want your cabinets to be made entirely from wood or if you just want to use wood veneer, which uses only a small amount of material to coat a substrate and give the appearance of a completely wooden product. HomeAdvisor says you could also preserve your old cabinets and give them a new look by repainting or refacing them.

Don't forget to keep green practices in mind when choosing hardware for the cabinets. Maureen Blaney Flietner, writing for the home improvement professional Bob Vila, says you can easily utilize recycled materials such as antique metal or glass knobs.

Environmentally friendly choices will often result in a bit of a higher price tag on the project. HomeAdvisor says the cost will be worth it, since you can enjoy a healthy and long-lasting upgrade to your kitchen.

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