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Wiser Living

Finding a natural solution

Sustainable Tennessee Farmhouse: Unexpected Green Building Expenses

by Rebecca Selove

Tags: sustainable tennessee farmhouse, LEED Platinum, LEED, green home, building a green home, sustainable architecture, tennessee, sustainable farmhouse, reclaimed wood, green building expenses, green building,

Like many people who build a home, we started with a budget that included a margin for predictable uncalculated overruns. As our project nears completion, we know we have exceeded that margin for error. Hopefully you can learn from our three overruns and do better at staying within your budget when building your green dream home.

1. Reclaimed wood has cost us a little more. 

kitchen cabinets
Reclaimed barn oak cabinetry add warmth to the kitchen. Photo By Rebecca Selove.

We knew the reclaimed barn oak we’re using for our kitchen cabinets would cost more than wood from the lumber yard because there are extra steps involved in taking apart barns and sorting wood to take out that which is too damaged for reuse. Our conscientious cabinetmaker told us the wood, which he bought directly from the harvester, had to be dehydrated. He constructed a storage tent, where he stacked the wood with a dehumidifier. He also bought a meter for measuring the water in the wood, and waited almost three weeks to start construction of the cabinets until the wood was below 10 percent humidity. He graciously passed on only a portion of the extra cost to us, which we decided we could cover before we signed our contract with him and before we had many other unexpected expenses. 

2. Poplar paneling has cost us three times as much.

poplar paneling
A skilled carpenter installed this poplar paneling. Photo By Rebecca Selove.

We expected to pay a bit more for poplar paneling (instead of drywall) reclaimed from a home that was going to be demolished, and we bought the wood before consulting with our builder about additional costs for having it installed. Nailing standard sizes of drywall to the frame takes about one-third the time as cutting and fitting poplar panels on the frame. We are happy to have reclaimed wood and think it looks wonderful, but hadn’t expected the cost of installation to be three times the cost of installing drywall. Sometimes decisions made quickly can snag a bargain, but this one involved making a decision without knowing all the costs. 

3. Energy-efficient windows take extra planning. 

energy-efficient windows
Opening these windows is a big deal in function and a small deal on a blueprint. Photo By Rebecca Selove.

Our third over-run involved our energy-efficient windows, which are a significant cost and an important investment for us. We reduced our budget by changing the original design so that all windows in the house are standard sizes. Originally our bedroom was designed with a large fixed (non-opening) window beside a porch door that has a screen in it. We changed that window to a smaller one that would open (we thought). This wasn’t recorded on the blueprint, and when the window was installed we saw a non-opening window beside our bed. We decided to buy another window to replace it, and we hope to recoup 50 percent of the cost of the new one if the window manufacturer can sell the fixed one at a discount to someone else. Our mistake could be your bargain at the nearby window boneyard!

We recommend that you ask about additional expenses associated with using bargains that pop up. Also, go over your plans carefully to make sure what you want is in writing.