I have an old concrete pad in my yard that wasn't doing anything except keeping the weeds down, and I wanted to turn it into something useful without using a process that created any carbon footprint to speak of.
The concrete is the floor from a 20 ft.x20 ft. detached garage that had been demolished several years ago.
The concrete is in good shape. I decided to make this large slab the floor of my 'garden home/summer kitchen' by building a pole structure over it, using screens and panels for infill.
The roof will have a wide overhang to control weather exposure such as hard rains, blowing snows or direct sun.
I don't want just plain old ugly gray concrete for a floor, so I'm looking at the 'greenness' of three floor treatments:
- Carpet: Indoor/Outdoor types because the buildings' interior will be partially out in the weather and can expect heavy picnic/outdoor use.
- Hardwoods: Exterior or deck woods because of the weather exposure and the inside/outside life of a garden home.
- Decorative Concrete Engraving: I'm intrigued by the tools available for decorative concrete engraving and have found places that offer hands-on training seminars about the engraving process and use of the tools.
The three options, decorative concrete engraving, hardwood, and carpet have some true cash cost for installation.
There are 'hidden' costs such as moisture control, padding and one-time-use installation equipment.
All will have installation labor on top of materials. I'm not considering the dollars and cents investment in this comparison although they are important factors for the final choice.
Greenness is the focus today.
All of the options will be subjected to changing weather and temperatures, plus humidity. The screen areas will have drop shades on any panels that require control of direct sun which will help relieve UV risks to any of the three choices.
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Carpet comes to the party with a distinct disadvantage. I don't like carpet. The upkeep is not appealing to me; a wet/dry vacuum will be required because of the outdoor conditions.
Carpet would require protection from furniture and pets because it can be stained, torn, snagged, and unraveled.
Concerns for care include dirt that will most assuredly be tracked in. And food spills which bring mold potential.
If I don't get tired of the pattern or if I can forget the cat pee, chocolate milk spills and mud stains, this specific carpet can be my flooring for 10 plus years.
The material content is not organic. When the carpet becomes unattractive, unhealthy and disgusting enough to justify getting rid of it, it's going to end up in a landfill.
Carpet requires energy for manufacturing; synthetic materials that are petroleum based. When new, there will be issues with irritating dyes and other chemicals. The snuggly soft carpet can be habitat for molds and dust allergens leading to "early onset functional obsolescence."
The choice of indoor/outdoor materials may extend the functional life over other types. The bulk contains materials that will not dissolve in the landfill. Carpet isn't making a great impression as a green choice.
Hardwoods are a little more appealing. General upkeep can be a broom, dust mop or light vacuum, with maybe a little wet mopping with wood loving cleaners. Mold, odors, and general gross appearance are not permanent parts of the floor.
That type of maintenance is more my style. While messes can be cleaned up, the risk of staining or scratching remains and is better known as "character" in hardwood floors. Hardwoods and I can plan on a long term relationship; some brands come with a 25 year warranty.
Since the structure is a 'garden home, possible issues down the road aren't as scary. They can involve: abnormal cracks, cupping, crowning, insects, termites, loose boards, peeling finish, buckling, color changes.
I can choose a wood that utilizes 'junk' timber that grows fast, so tree 'killing' isn't an issue. Or I can think about bamboo, a renewable crop source which can be made into attractive decking material.
Chemicals used in processing, plus energy for sawing the timber are considerations. Finishes can be toxic or irritating. When I'm ready for something different, the boards would have some value as firewood.
Because of nails and glue used in installation, the probability is high that much of this floor would go to the landfill. Wood is organic, but slow to break down when buried in a landfill.
Hardwood seems greener than carpet and definitely more to my taste.
Decorative Concrete Engraving
What is this process of decorative concrete engraving?
In my garden dreams, home decor teamed with plain, ugly concrete doesn't have a poetic image.
The concrete is there regardless of which option I select. If I choose to transform it into an attractive, useful primary flooring for my garden home/summer kitchen, what will move the Green-o-meter?
The concrete can be stained using an acid stain that will permanently penetrate a shallow depth of the concrete.
Typically, this stain has a 'marbled' look because every square inch of the concrete will respond uniquely to the acid chemical of the stain.
As I said before, I like low maintenance; that marbling appeals to me. Or, I can choose a water reducible concentrated stain that bonds to the concrete.
Either method can then be engraved with a pattern of my choice; geometric, abstract or imitating nature.
When the staining and engraving processes have been completed, the entire surface is protected by an outdoor acrylic sealer. The stains and sealer have environmental risk only if they are improperly applied.
After application and curing, they are solid. They STAY put. Should I decide to change colors or patterns, there are some simple removal applications available, including sandblasting with a vacuum system that keeps dust minimal.
Nothing for the landfill. By my measures, decorative concrete is the greenest option.
The certain loss of anything ceramic, glass or pottery that could be dropped on the concrete surface is a disadvantage. Carpet or hardwoods would offer a small insurance against breakage...very small.
Not so with the engraved concrete. Broken cups are relegated to the dollars and cents department and won't influence the Green ratings.
It looks like decorative concrete engraving is the best choice for leaving the least carbon foot-print.
Now to choose a contractor who does decorative concrete engraving and get started. Or perhaps I will let myself have some of those intriguing tools and do my own engraving.