Sydney, ANZAC and Glebe Island Bridges, Sydney - photo Marghanita

Ecologically Sustainable Sydney

Kitchen Renovation (2008)

kitchen renovation before kitchen renovation another before shotRenovation can be expensive on the wallet and the environment. Consider carefully what you replace, change or add.

You will need to dispose of anything you replace - some things such as stainless steel sinks, may be reusable or recylable. However, laminated cabinets have limited recycling value and end up in landfill. It should also be noted that separation of components helps with recycling and some components may be reuseable or recyclable. In Sydney, some councils support annual neighbourhood frontyard sales, Leichhardt Council - Waste & Recycling on their websites.

kitchen renovation - reusable sink left on kerbLeaving items such as kitchen sinks on the kerb, after being careful not to damage them when uninstalling them, and cleaning them up a little to make it more attractive helps. A sink left on the nature strip, disappeare 24 hours - remember to leave tap fittings with it.

Disposing of other stuff is more problematic. Not just the actual bits but solvents, rubble, left over paint and varnish. Even if your old cabinets are in good repair, unless they are ultra-fashionable it is unlikely you will find a second home for them other than your own garage.

Selection of Components

From an environmental perspective even if you get professionals in to do the job ask them what happens to the bits they take away. You need to think carefully about whether you need to replace everything or just some of the kitchen. I chose to leave the top cupboards in place and remove the bottom cabinets/benchtops. Painting laminated cupboards, tiles and replacing door knobs are cosmetic changes that reduce the quality of the material whether it be synthetic (laminex) or a natural (glaze on tiles) laminate. If the knobs aren't broken chances are they are of very good quality and a good clean gives them a new lease of life.

The advantage with custom components is they are made to fit the space, though you may sacrifice functionality for visual appeal. However, most components stoves, fridges and cabinetes are standardised to a depth of 60 or 70cm, measuring your space correctly is crucial. You need to allow for skirting boards, tiling, splashbacks and walls that might not be square or parallel.

kitchen renovation - disassembled kitchen bench and sink packed into a hatch backkitchen renovation - new stainless steel double sink benchkitchen renovation assembled stainless steel benchAlso bear in mind that you need to an electrician to replace a stove and move power points, and a plumber to replace a sink.

kitchen renovation - installed sinkA one piece sink/benchtop eliminates the damp undersink cupboard. Laminate and Granite would only work with a drop in or under bench sink. The more hi-tech (and expensive) products such as Corian and Staron claimed the sink joint was invisible and provided guarantees. Though, they so promote the use of Stainless Steel basins. Pre-fabricated caterers equipment, rather than custom, stainless steel is another option. An advantage of pre-fabricated benches over custom ones, is the availability of wet surfaces - ie a lip to keep the water in.

Selecting and incorporating electrical appliances is another significant environmental and functionality factor. Smaller stoves, dishwashers and refridgerators will use less power overall than larger more "energy efficient" appliances (see references below). If you design your kitchen around a dishwasher, you still need to ensure you can wash the occassional disk and cooking utensil by hand.

Once the items that are to be replaced have been identified, the next challenge is sourcing the items - this approach emphasises your requirements/taste over the prevailing fashion that will affect your approach if you research products before reviewing your needs. The Internet provides the ability to search the world for products, auction houses provide a range of products, including second hand and new stainless steel/caterers equipment.


kitchen renovation - new mixerkitchen renovation - cleaning old PVC pipes kitchen renovation - cleaned pipes dryingPlumbing can be complicated, time consuming and expensive - particularly if you don't provide all the right bits - drainers, taps etc. The problem, I encountered, was that the plumber had to go and get the drainage fitting for the double sink. The tap was a little tight fitting into the hole in the sink but the sink drainers were fine. Ofcourse relocation can also be a problem as you need to get hot and cold water as well as drainage to and from the sink. My plumber wouldn't reuse old PVC pipes so, I asked him to take them away. The water plumbing requiring copper pipes and silver welding is expensive.

The old sink had separate taps, but I have decided to try out a mixer with a "vegie spray". The spray should be useful for rinsing the dishes, as I do not have a dishwasher. New taps come with a water efficiency rating based on the flow rate.

Electricals and Lighting

Energy Efficient Lighting

Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature. Ramin Communications is not recomending the specific products mentioned here and accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of information about specific products. Electricity is DANGEROUS and should not be treated lightly. Information on individual product packaging should be read carefully and understood before installation. The advice of qualified Electricians should be sought on specific requirements and installations.

Unlike CFLs, LED Lamps contain no mercury. For more on Fluorescent lamps and mercury, see end-of-life management and Mercury in Fish .

LED downlights connected to rangehood light switchIn addition to requiring an electrician to install your stove, powerpoints etc, you might also need to review your lighting requirements.

strip of LEDs Lighting a pantryLEDs are being incorporated into a variety of products enabling innovative cool, long life, energy efficient lighting - which can be turned on and off instantly by motion detectors and manually. Making it ideal for installing in Pantries requiring infrequent instant light for brief periods.

Removing the Cabinets

kitchen renovation - wall behind kitchen cabinet kitchen renovationkitchen renovation - do you really need to remove that panel?kitchen renovation - removing kitchen cabinetsBe prepared for unpleasant surprises behind your kitchen cabinets. Changing your Kitchen layout and fittings will expose, previously hidden, walls and flooring. Layers of "lino" and even japaned floorboards could provide some archaelogical interest. Toxic materials such as lead and asbestos may also have been used. Protective eyeware, gloves, clothing and even ear muffs or professional expertise may be necessary.

kitchen renovation installed stainless steel sink and benchThink carefully about what you remove, newly exposed damaged or missing walls may need to be repaired, rendered and plastered before you can even consider painting them. So, you might suddenly need a builder. Or maybe you could have left that sheet of masonite in place and just filled in the gaps! Cleaning tiles may be a drudge but makes a world of difference to your renovated kitchen.

Finished Kitchen

kitchen renovation - milk bottle noise absorberskitchen renovation - milk bottle sound mufflersWhile there were lots of references to stainless steel scratching easily - I found no mention that it can be a little noisy. Though this improved when I re-used milk bottles which help absorb the sound.

You may require council approval for your renovations, particularly if they involve a signficant changes to plumbing. Also remember that you still need to eat, while the renovations have taken your kitchen out of action.- Marghanita

References and Further Reading

    pvc pipe with cap
  1. Comparative Refrigerator Electricty Usage
  2. ecospecifier
  3. Building Sustainability Index (BASIX) - Alterations and Additions
  4. Treading Lightly - Environmental Seminar Series
  5. Kitchen Renovation
  6. How are Dishwasher Star Ratings Calculated?
  7. Operating Costs of Electrical appliances © Ramin Communications 2008-2010. Last modified 29 Nov 2013.