Eco-Friendly, Sustainable Deck Staining Ideas

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Going Green Around the House During Weekend Projects

eco friendly deck stain and refinishingMaybe you’re at the stage in your life where you’re afforded the luxury of weekends at home, tinkering around with projects that have long stood waiting for you to attend to them. It’s a fantasy for some of us — work hard during the week, get to weekend finally, and some fun (and much-needed) projects, putting the house back in order, maybe repairing a fence or building one, putting that new insulation in the garage, or whatever. So what if you’re building a new deck? Or even better — what if you’re finally getting to take a stab at refinishing an existing deck that’s been in dire need of your attention? Is it possible to refinish and refurbish your existing wood deck, and still be eco-friendly?

It’s not that difficult to find out how to stain a deck on any number of websites online, but if you’re eco-conscious or working towards a more green lifestyle, then whenever you get wind of chemicals involved in a home improvement project, your first thought is — Can this be accomplished with non-toxic materials? And the answer, like many other things in life these days, is Yes — it can be done. You can find a deck stain that’s environmentally sound, one that won’t damage the planet as it dries, as you clean your brush, as water that’s used to wash off the surface of stain becomes part of the ground again, perhaps even near a vegetable garden, to point to a worst-case scenario.

How to Go About Staining Your Deck in an Environmentally Friendly Way

In the not so distant past, perhaps when as a culture, we were infinitely less sensitive to the environment, it was not necessarily easy to find stains and deck coatings that were environmentally friendly. Because many stains — geared towards outdoor use and robust enough to handle the seasons in climates that could be described as less than friendly — are oil-based, they also contain inorganic and organic materials and compounds that release solvents into the atmosphere. While it may not happen within moments of their application, certainly over the course of the material’s life cycle, it eventually happens.

Now, there exists the MPI Green Performance Standard, which considers volatile organic compounds and product performance in each deck stain variety, and then offers a rating or score for how that particular material ranks in terms of its impact on the environment and its power to get the job done.

According to the website, the pilot program investigating Ozone Forming Potential for paint and coating materials was initiated by the National Institute of Building Sciences. The program seeks to address the performance of materials relative to the environment and offers this language:

“Given that the primary function of paints and coatings is to provide protection for coated surfaces, and thus extend the life of such surfaces, it is imperative for any environmentally preferable product specification to address the equivalence in performance between products being compared. Inadequate consideration of product performance in the past has led to a selection of paints and coatings that have not provided comparable performance, leading to the premature aging of structures on the one hand, or excessive product use to offset performance shortcomings on the other hand.”

It’s not easy to construct and maintain a “green” deck — while wood is prized for its strength and ability to hold up underfoot, it’s also organic, and naturally wants to return to its natural state: falling prey to weather, water, insects, rot, and everything else in the environment. The types of materials that acts as a counter-balance to this organic break down often harm the environment, so this is certainly a tricky situation to work through.

First thing’s first. While old growth redwood material is not readily available for new purchase, you can often find it with a small amount of effort in reclamation yards, thereby re-using existing materials and getting the maximum amount of resistance in the wood you buy. If you have the money, treated lumber can be another great starting point when building or repairing a deck.

For even more information, including a ton of links to quality sources for stains and finishes for your “green” deck, visit this page on sustainable decking solutions now. It’s a wealth of a resource for your next home improvement project.



[Photo Via: legacyhomecolumbus]

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