Man-made ‘Finishes’ make great building products to replace or supplement natural finishes in construction. We are fortunate to find that a great many man-made products are on the market to help even the most discerning person building a home enjoy the beauty of quality finishes while also utilizing materials that either sustain or do not detract from our natural resources. Some materials have tax saving incentives (check with your City, County or State resources). Here are a few examples: Alternative Wood Materials: Engineered wood’ is a fancy name for man-made hardboards used for trim and siding that perform better than wood and are undesirable to termites and dry rot. They take paint – and in some cases stain – and are found to be more stable than many wood products, depending upon the use and the location. Porcelain tiles have been created that look like wood floors – providing the warm cozy appearance of wood floors but are scratch and stain resistant, pet-proof and available in as many options as regular wood planking. The one disadvantage is that they are hard and a fall on these floors is like a fall on any stone floor – unforgiving; unlike wood which is softer. Bamboo – not a new product at all but still a desirable substitute for a variety of finish uses in your home: Floors, wall veneers, and cabinetry Cork – Also not a new product but good for flooring and wall covering. Cork is soft and provides sound attenuation properties, looks very ‘now’ and is easy to care for. Counter Tops: Engineered Quartz (combining natural quartz with resins for durability) makes great looking counter tops for Kitchens, Bathrooms, Laundry Rooms, etc. It is durable, stain and scratch resistant, and low maintenance. It is available in slab material and in 100’s of choices of color and pattern; including solid colors for more contemporary looks or close matches to popular natural marbles and granites. (Some recognizable brand names are Sequel Quartz by Bedrosians, Caesarstone, and Silestone.) Glass: Glass is usually made of sand and silicates and is great for decorative separation walls, doors, and even floor surfaces on patio decks (allows light to permeate lower levels). It can be frosted, slumped, etched, colored or clear. Glass blocks, popular in the 20s, 50s and 80s, are still a great look and provide insulating properties. Concrete: Concrete is a composite material made from the combination of readily available sand and gravel aggregates. It hardens into a stone-like material and can be polished, dyed or honed for countertops, floors, walls, etc. It has the added benefit of being able to be used in a variety of ways for either a very contemporary or a very rustic aesthetic. Vinyl: Vinyl windows provide several environmental benefits; termites don’t eat them, dry rot can’t take hold of them and they can reduce heat gain.They tend to be more cost effective than wood or metal and some vinyl window products are quite high quality. Vinyl wood plank flooring is another alternative to hardwood and especially useful when there is a weight or thickness restriction.