Cabinets are often one of the dirtiest and most environmentally unfriendly products or systems in a residential house. Conventionally made cabinets are frequently manufactured with urea formaldehyde, as well as other toxic, VOC off gassing chemicals. On top of that, most major cabinet manufacturers make no efforts to verify the forestry practices of their wood suppliers. So if you’re thinking about updating your kitchen, think about tuning up or retrofitting your existing cabinet systems. That’s what my wife, Hanna, and I are planning to do.
We’re certain, the cabinets in our house were not manufactured with any regards for the environment. But we like the general layout of the kitchen and the overall quality of the boxes in our cabinet system is sound; it’s just the mechanical pieces and the face panels where our cabinets are lacking. Not to mention dysfunctional uses of the space such as the two “Crazy Susan’s” in the corners. As well, below the countertops we have deep boxes that would gobble up all sorts of kitchen goodies, while doing plenty to bury some treasures that will get lost in the trove. Putting in new cabinets would be tempting for most, but throwing away the whole system and demanding more out of the environment is just plain crazy and would cost a lot more than retrofitting the cabinets.
Fortunately at Greenovations (www.seacoastgreenovations.com) we have a good relationship with a couple of master cabinet makers. Barre Kidd from Salmon Falls Woodworks (www.salmonfallswoodworks.com ) was just here to discuss another project. Afterwards we discussed my kitchen. He mentioned a European contraption they use instead of a Lazy Susan, that noodles its way out of the cabinet so you can access the items you actually put on the shelf without having to crawl in like some kind of chimney sweep. Dealing with local businesses will you’ll get such solutions that are hard to come by at a big box store.
There are a few other things that Salmon Falls Woodworks and the likes can do to retrofit your kitchen.
1. If you’re just out to create a new look for your kitchen, you can have the face panels replaced and drop off the old one at Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store. A good, green cabinet maker like Salmon Falls Woodworks or Jewett Farms (www.jewettfarms.com) with FSC certified, regionally harvested wood.
2. Tired of crawling into those deep, crude boxes below the cabinet. Install sliding trays.
3. In our kitchen, there is a lot of space between the refrigerator and the end of the countertop. We plan to replace the old refrigerator with a slim, super efficient model from Conserv. The space that creates will provide enough room to add a new, floor to fridge high pantry with multiple shelves, a system that slides out of from the wall and its enclosure like a book coming out of a bookshelf.
Whatever the story at your house, take time to think creatively about the options in your kitchen. You can help preserve the natural environment, improve your quality of life and save money at the same time.