Posted by: greenpinkies | June 4, 2011

The Catch 22 of “Going Green” Remodels or “Breaking Ground Can Cause You to Fall Through the Cracks”

Because this was our first foray into the professional world, we encountered many situations in which we were placed at a disadvantage financially simply because we did not know all the ‘ins and outs’ of the industry. Some of what we encountered, we feel, was very unfair. Given the earnestness with which we pursued our work, the payback should have been greater.  But, we are not here to complain because: “life isn’t fair, but it sure is even”. (Another of our family’s sayings).

Here are three areas where we have been at a disadvantage due to our being not so much green pinkies but, “green horns”.

1. Retrofit vs. Remodel, definition thereof.

Be careful how much of your house you intend to tear up during the demolition phase of your project.  If you tear it too far down then it will not be considered a “remodel” but, instead, a “retrofit”.  Retrofits are required to comply with the building codes prescribed for “new” construction.  This wreaks havoc with:

The electrical: Lauren had to install very expensive arc-fault circuit breakers, a five fold increase in price from normal circuit breakers. She had to upgrade 14/2 wiring to 12/2.  Also, all outlets had to be upgraded to “tamper proof” outlets. (but wait, without the ability to melt copper pennies on the outlets or make dill pickles glow,  how will our children ever learn respect for electricity now?)

A note on tamper proof receptacles:  These have the same irritation factor as child proof caps on prescription drug bottles. The older you get, the harder it is to get it to work.

Windows: They need now to be upgraded to the current “Egress Requirements”. This is a financial pain in a 30 year old brick, already existing, exterior. Remember, the exterior is still the original, this is not a new construction!  How stupid. Equally stupid that the brand newly installed windows failed the initial City Inspection because of being 2 inches too short for said ‘Egress Requirements”.

We are just very, very grateful that we did not have to put in ADA bathrooms and ramps!

2. Federal Taxes and Energy Credits

Simply stated; if you have no income, you get No energy credits.

So shocked were we over this revelation at tax time, that we hired a one hour consultation with a tax attorney to make sure we had not overlooked something.

The verdict is that, because Lauren deferred income this year in order to work on this house project and, even though she put over $30,000 of energy eligible changes in that house, she gets nothing back from the Federal Government…nichts, nada, zilch. ‘Way to reward our young people’s initiative, guys!’

The bottom line is that our society is defined in all its aspects by a persons’s income and debt. If you have neither income or debt, you are not eligible for home loans, car loans and tax credits. You are an anomaly, outside the bell curve of the majority, you are an unknown, a Pariah.

Lest you think Lauren is independently wealthy, think again. Lauren was given a gift from a great Aunt to pay for a semester of college about six years ago. Because Lauren went through, on full tuition scholarship, the college of Engineering Honors program for five years, she put the money in a CD.  This is what she is now living off of this year.  Lauren lives at home, doesn’t own a car or credit cards, and, if you know her, you know that we don’t hang at the mall, eat out much, or buy much makeup…(it helps to be naturally good looking).

Enter, the guys in the White Hats:  Stock Building Supply!  Doug and the guys at Stock Building Supply in Springdale, using their program for working with contractors, will be helping Lauren now build up credit in the building industry. Doug does know the ins and outs and is coaching Lauren on how to negotiate the terrain. This will, we hope, soon translate to eligibility for a home loan, income, and, eventually, even legitimacy in society.

3. Cox cable Company

Cox Cable seems to have the monopoly on installing phone lines/cable in our area.  Trouble is, they have no clue what to do with a simple request to inspect cable in a retrofit house.  You see, they want you to buy a package at around $100/month before they’ll come out .  Trouble is, we don’t live there, it is a retrofit, we don’t have a television and we don’t want to have a long term service commitment, yet.

We asked them to treat it as new construction, but one  in which the wires were already in place but needed to be inspected before we foamed them all into the walls.

This is where Cox has a two word vocabulary: ‘new’ ( no existing wires and no-one lives there) or ‘remodel’ (existing wires plus someone who can sign up for service and pay the bill lives there). Cox has no provision for “Retrofit” (existing wires and ‘we may want your service at some time in the future, or not’.), simply isn’t in their vocabulary.

We finally got them to send out a technician for an “install”. But, when he saw that wires were already in place but only needing to be inspected, tested and hooked up, he refused to work with us. We offered to pay him for the service call. No it doesn’t work that way.

We begged, we pleaded, and the technician finally did the inspection.  It must have wreaked havoc with Cox’s record keeping because the tech guy refused payment at the time of service and Cox finally did send a bill three months later for over $300 for ongoing service to a residence that was not completed nor had anyone living there! We had to get that one refunded.

So, there you have a few of the pitfalls inexperience slaps you into. But, we will be balancing out these negatives with one huge positive truism:

“Fool me once, shame on you, Fool me twice, shame on me” 

Lauren has gained as much working knowledge from this project in one year as she did in Five years of college. As this project is winding down, we herewith announce with pride: Lauren Kuenzel is now is the registered owner of:

GreenPinkies, LLC

and does have the corresponding EIN tax number for her future projects! Look for the development of a website and do keep following this blog because now she will be filling out the application for the EVHA.

Look for this blog to change face a bit as we begin to post before and after sequence pictures and also monetary reports, what money was spent and where, We’ll get very specific as the dust settles. We’ll post before and after HERS ratings, Before and After real estate appraisals, and, of course pictures of our open house Gala and Weekend open house tours. Look for these in the local paper and here. Stay tuned in June.



  1. Even with the pitfalls, ups and downs of this project, I challenge anyone to be able to find a comparable project here in NWA that compares to the imagination and ingenuity of what these Ladies of Green Pinkies have done. Everyone in the industry can learn and benefit from what they have accomplished with this project. If you haven’t been by to see it yet, its worth it to go check it out. Can’t wait for the Open House Part!!

  2. Well, shame on you for being outside the government defined “norm”! (I am just kidding. You’re my heroes!) The gov seems to go out of its way to squelch anyone who shows gumption, and goes ahead and just does what they want to do. Truely, shame on them.

    Thanks to your blog, people contemplating renovating a home in the green manner now have more insight and practical guidelines to help them.

    Congrats on getting the LLC! I can’t wait to see the planned posts with all the before/after pictures and the open house!


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