Can This Home Be Greened? Big Problems, Small Budget

Even an eco-savvy homeowner can use help fixing whole-house problems such as poor insulation and room design.

| July/August 2007

  • This four-bedroom, three-bath Monterey house is being remodeled in stages, as budget allows. Phase One, done in 2003, involved creating higher curbs and the yellow retaining wall to keep stormwater from washing off the street into the yard and driveway.
    Batista Moon Studio
  • Belinda Icenhower with sons Andrew (sitting) and Isaak enjoy their organic front yard, which is filled with native, drought-resistant plants.
    Batista Moon Studio
  • Belinda hired a local carpenter to custom-make cabinets from SUSTAINABLE WOOD.
    Batista Moon Studio
  • In the bedrooms, the OAK FLOORING was rescued from an old gym and finished with nontoxic oil.
    Batista Moon Studio
  • Belinda has already completed the Phase Two step of replacing an inefficient wood-burning fireplace with a sealed-combustion GAS FIREPLACE that amply warms the living room.
    Batista Moon Studio
  • The downstairs rec room has CORK FLOORING that minimizes noise and provides a well-insulated surface.
    Batista Moon Studio
  • Belinda redesigned the too-small kitchen and chose ENERGY-EFFICIENT APPLIANCES to replace older models.
    Batista Moon Studio
  • A TUBULAR SKYLIGHT will bring natural light into the bathroom.
    Batista Moon Studio

Healthy living isn’t just a passion for Belinda Icenhower—it’s her profession. As a naturopathic doctor, Belinda specializes in environmental medicine, so in 2003 when she bought a 2,300-square-foot home in a charming old neighborhood in Monterey, California, she recognized its flaws: old carpet, dark rooms and inefficient heating. However, the house’s location and coveted Monterey Bay views were irresistible to her and her two sons. She set about remodeling in stages, as her budget allowed.

Phase One—correcting poor drainage on the property and redesigning the landscaping—went well. Then Belinda contacted Natural Home because she wanted someone with green expertise to reinforce her decisions as she dove into Phases Two and Three of her remodel.

Belinda wants to use sustainable, healthy concepts, but her budget ($100,000—small in this wealthy area) was unattractive to most contractors. So she became her own general contractor. It took significant time to juggle work and family while also researching, planning and overseeing the project’s subcontractors—but she got the results she wanted.

Phase One: 2003

Solve the Drainage Issues

Problem: Upon moving in, Belinda discovered that stormwater from the street washed into the front yard and driveway, causing water to leach through the soil and into the crawlspace, downstairs bedroom and garage.

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