25 years ago in Holualoa, a particularly moist section of Hawaii that drew many well-to-do retiree home builders, the kitchen fashion of the times was to install custom cut one-piece countertops above cabinets made entirely from pressboard. Pressboard was relatively cheap and (to the delight of busy contractors) relatively quick and easy to install.

Welcome to Holualoa

Impatient owners were glad to see their kitchens develop rapidly and at a fraction of the cost of using dense, resistant and properly treated hardwoods or other alternative materials. Flash forward to the present day, when this same set of now aged homeowners are bending down to open kitchen cabinets beneath their sinks only to find their cabinets come away in their hands as gummy pulp and rotten mush.

Their use of a totally inappropriate building material in the name of upfront savings and speed has also invited legions of termites, cockroaches and other pests that find the rotten cabinets ideal for nesting. Additionally, colonies of toxic mold have spread throughout their kitchens, aided by the cabinet materials themselves and the unsealed spaces caused by perpetual moisture damage to the spongy pressboard.

Stone Church in Holualoa

Mold of this kind is not only repugnantly smelly, but also potentially harmful to the respiratory systems of immuno-compromised demographics, such as the elderly. I recently spoke with one such homeowner who was told his entire kitchen would have to be redone and that he could expect to pay at least $8000 for the bare minimum of work required to make it safe to be in again. Imagine how often he has wished he had spent a little more time and money upfront to prevent such a disaster!

Holualoa Big Island

This preventable disaster speaks to a grievous error commonly made by first-time home buyers: failing to thoroughly consider the environment and climate their new home is situated in and how it will affect their home's aging and essential systems. If you are thinking about buying a new home, take a moment to consider its environs and how they might affect your home's building materials. Homes in urban environments, for example, should be outfitted with effective and top of the line air filters to help reduce air pollution and contaminants within the home. If you know your location is notorious for termites, you should have the problem addressed proactively; get a competent pest-controller to come and line your home with protective barriers to keep termites out before they start to eat your home from the inside.

A little bit of extra planning and money upfront can save you a lot of headaches later, and there's no reason not to take your home's future health seriously when you're expecting it to serve you well for decades to come.