How to Seal a Whole House with Foil

My last post was about The Many Varied and Delightful Uses for Foil. One of the listicle points was about sealing the floor and fittings with aluminium foil to make the place liveable. For example: The sea-side rental property I live in has foil over the floors in every useable room. The two bedrooms that I can’t use, due to fragrance chemical residue in one of them and a brand new wall-unit of chipboard cupboards in the other, have both room’s doors sealed shut with painter’s masking tape and massive sheets of foil to stop any fumes outgassing into my sleeping area.

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It’s not exactly Home Vouge, now is it?

My sleeping area is in the open-plan-lounge-kitchen-dining area, which besides the bathroom, is the only room I can be in without getting very sick. Also in this area: there’s my home gym (treadmill, weight bench, yoga mat and pilates ropes), my cane dining table, kitchen, my bed and my dog’s bed, my wardrobes and my home office. It’s pretty crowded in here. Most days I try to feel grateful that I have a safe-ish home to live in. Many days, lately, when I’m not sick, I’m blissfully happy in my little cottage by the sea. I know of many people who have to sleep outside in tents, caravans and on balconies, or in homes that are totally unsuited to people who’re sensitive to chemicals. Plus there is another room where I store all my boxes of stuff; that room has foil on the floors also.

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So yeah, I’m lucky I have this rental property to stay in while we build an actual safe home; however, there are other days where I’m not sure how to cope with getting so damn sick. Sick from foods, sure, I can cope with that because I have an element of control over what I eat, but getting chronically ill from neighbours and their woodsmoke, the outdoor moulds and, inside, a lack of ventilation because I can’t open the house and air it as often as I need to, is hard to cope with. The floors still outgass terpenes from the pine boards; but worse than the pine fumes are the lemon-scented cleaning chemical fumes that emit when the house heats up or is closed for too long a time. I need to be able to air my home everyday. During spring and summer, I can have the house open most days, only going into lockdown on weekends when our seaside town is overrun by terrorists tourists, BBQs, lawnmowers, backyard burns (illegal but people still do it) and nearby smoke from bushfires and burn offs.

If my neighbours hang their washing out, or wash their concrete with disinfectant (yeah, in the ‘interest’ of young children, that’s what they do.) or they mow lawns without sending me a warning text (one neighbour finds it just too inconvenient to help me), and my windows are open, I get horribly ill. So I only open my windows when I can stay vigilant about the state of the outside air.

On many days, my house is kept dark with the blinds pulled down to keep it from outgassing. To be comfortable, breathing wise, I need the air-conditioner to be running if the sun is out. But for now, as it’s so damn cold, I choose to sit here cloistered in darkness. Yeah, that impacts on my mental and emotional well-being; not to mention my mood. Consequently, I don’t feel very positive when I have to live like that.

Things will change for me when I’m in a safe house; I know that. But for now, the soundtrack to my life is the hum of an InovaAir filter and a AusClimate dehumidifier working to control my indoor air environment; and the best chance I can give my health has been to try and put a halt to the chemicals that outgass in this house. Enter my trusty rolls of foil!

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Thankfully, there are some things that are within my control:

There are six layers of foil on the floor of my living space. At first we only had three layers but as time has wound on and I’ve been living here since 2013, nearly three years now while attempting to start our build, we’ve had to add extra layers because of the top layer getting ripped by my dog, Bella, my furniture, our foot traffic and the wheels on my air purifier as I move it around to clean the air. Pain in the arse, yes, but this foil trick works. (We wear socks a lot in here.)

I’ve used foil for many things, as most of my readers already know, but sealing a whole house has been a challenge. I hear some of you ask: well. why live in a property that’s not suitable; one that impacts on your health?  The answer to that is: I spent eighteen months looking for a rental property near the Surf Coast of Victoria where we are going to build, and most properties where totally unsuitable and I didn’t even venture past the front door because of the cleaners/moulds/fragrances/paints that were in them. This property is pretty good—when other people are not destroying the outdoor air—when I can keep the house open for a few hours a day. It looks a bit weird, having all this foil on the floors; and my teenage daughter was mortified when she lived here for a while. However, if you can breathe without being in pain, the space-ship, futuristic silver look takes on an attractive sheen! Trust me on that…

So this is how, and what we did to seal a whole house with foil:

First, we told the real estate agent we were doing it; and we had to agree to pay for any damage that this might cause (it won’t. Just wait until you see our technique!);

I had to source the foil. In another article on How to Seal a Room with Foil we used Kingspan Insulbreak, which is a vapour barrier and a thermal break used to insulate and wrap buildings in. It’s about $300 a roll and pretty expensive for this type of job. All the other foils that I found either had paint on one side (builder’s foil) or had a fire retardant blanket attached to it. I managed to contact a company that makes the fire-retardent coated foil and bought some rolls of foil before they were glued to the blanket. So what I have here is just foil.

There are two types: Foil coated brown paper, which the guy at the fire-retardant place gave me for free; and the roll of heavy-duty foil, which cost me $400. Cash. We used the brown paper foil to protect the floorboards underneath. In my experience, aluminium foil can rub of a silver stain onto areas; especially if friction is applied. Also it can flake off. I wasn’t sure if this would happen so I used layered the brown paper side down over the floorboards to protect them (and my bond money!).

 

And for some jobs we actually used kitchen foil:

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This gas heater was a mahoosive problem, and it was one of the first areas we sealed. Not only were the previous tenants smokers but they also burned a heap of nasty smelling incense (it smells like cat pee, I swear). For some reason most of the scents were emanating from here so I covered and sealed it straight up. I don’t muck around. It’s not like I’d want to try and clean stuff like that off; and I’ve lived with this condition long enough to know: you can’t scrub off fragrance because it’s designed to stick around. This job completely used a few small rolls of kitchen aluminium foil, which I then sealed with heavy duty aluminium foil tape.

For the first layer of floor’s foil we used heavy-duty foil tape to seal the edges. But for around the edges of the room we chose painter’s masking tape so that we didn’t damage the skirting boards. Any area of the house where foil is stuck down with tape adhering to surfaces, such as wood or paint, we’ve made sure that it’s only painter’s tape that’s stuck down to it. This way it will not leave any gummy, sticky residue there. (Someone pointed out that if there is gunky glue left over when it’s time to move out, I could clean it off using some olive oil and a hair dryer. Clever, I know!)

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Another layer of foil just added

Each time it gets ripped [I’m looking at my Boxer Dog!] we have to put a piece of tape over the rip. It looks ugly after a while; and it’s not exactly clean because I can’t wash the floor like I could if it were tile or boards, so we have to replace it. Also, during hot weather, the fragrance and solvents used in the residues from previously used cleaners come through the foil, so again, this needs replacing. Do we do that though? No, we just vacuum then put another couple of layers over the top. Kind of like floor lasagne.

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Before the Latest Layer of Foil. A little gross, I know!

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The Edges are Joined with Tape

Vacuuming can be a challenge. Not that I can vacuum myself because dust gets stirred up giving me a headache, and it’s painful to breathe for a couple of hours or until the next day. So when it’s time to vacuum, I can be found holed up in the bathroom while my boyfriend, Dan, vacuums the house while all the windows are open and the fans are running. Thankfully, spring has arrived and I can now stay outside while he does this. The other issue with vacuuming is that it weakens the foil’s structure and causes it to rip in places. But what can we do? If the house is left dusty, this can supply food for mould to grow. So I choose a little bit of pain while we run the vacuum over a lot of pain if this house gets mouldy!

Also to avoid mould growth and damaging this property if water is spilled, we chose to leave under the kitchen sink area unsealed. It’s only about 1 x 3 metres wide, and, yes, it does release fumes when the house heats up but still, it’s better than mould growing under the layers of foil if they were to get wet.

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Since the above photo was taken we’ve put tiles down over the area to stop some of the outgassing but they are not sealed around the edges or with grout or anything, but they still do the job. I didn’t want to make a bigger problem by getting water or mould growth under the foil so chose not to seal around here. It’s a small area as you can see. (I can’t use the kitchen oven because it runs on gas and probably has been cleaned with oven cleaner. I plan to do a future post on how I tackle cooking just in case someone else needs help with that.)

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The kitchen bench top is made from pine and it’s been sealed or cleaned with some type of polish or wood cleaner. The fumes on a hot day smell like Estapol and cause a headache like a tight band around my head. Guess how I solved that problem? Yes, aluminium foil. This time I used heavy duty foil to cover it. I have to be careful with food and always have a plate or glass chopping board underneath at all times because the aluminium rubs off onto my hands; I wouldn’t want that to happen to my food. The edges are sealed with painter’s masking tape so as to not cause any damage to the cabinetry.

So this how I sealed a whole house with foil!

Uber positives:
  • This foil is slippery when wearing socks and it makes a great dance floor.
  • The foil over the floorboards serves a dual advantage: it stops woodsmoke coming through any cracks!
  • Teenagers are too embarrassed to live here :)
  • It makes my house liveable.

Have you ever sealed off an area with foil?

More

How to seal chipboard in the Kitchen

How to seal a room with foil

10 uses for foil

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

About Michellina van Loder

Comments

  1. Oh, it feels so good to see someone else living like that . All of the metal shelving , we have so much metal shelving! Every cabinet and closet is sealed up with the foil tape and some counters are double aluminum foil heavy duty , it’s really in some ways dehumanizing because it just feels so mechanical , all the shiny things , with the humming of the air purifiers , I make the joke that in the 1980s all of this would be very cool , David Bowie would be doing cocaine off of the glass table tops with all the metal everywhere feeling very robotic LOL. and it is hard when you live where there are tourists , my cousin asked me if I got MCS from living in cities and I got it from sick building syndrome in the countryside but I was sick all the time when I had mild MCS as a child from the woodstove , I grew up without electricity or running water or chemicals but that woodstove and the oil lanterns ! Also I grew up in farmland . Both my parents grew up in farmland when DDT was legal . What did they pass along? And here IM in a top place for beautiful American vacations and I can’t go anywhere because of the diesel trucks logging , people riding ATVs and snowmobiles , the oil spills on the edges of late where people put their Boats in, all of the people showing up smoking , people using illegal burn buckets and barrels, burning treated wood , plus all the barbecues , I don’t think people understand that moving to the remote countryside gets you away from chemicals .

    There is a frustrating feeling that I’m kind of just turning into acceptance which is that we have absolutely no control over if we will be well enough to do anything . I consider it like we are villagers and there is chemical warfare being used and of course no one is going to give us a heads up . So when the bomb goes off it just means we hide. I have a nontoxic bed, I have oxygen with a porcelain mask , I have B12 methyl injections , I have glutathione , I have a room I never leave and those are things that make me lucky with MCS . Solitary confinement in a very hostile world , that’s like the goal most people are striving for , I have doctors who believe MCS is real and one of them has MCS , I have heat I can handle. I have two filters on my shower water and we have about six air purifiers , my underwear is $22 a pair so sewing has become a necessity financially . I found some great guys who were able to build a computer that didn’t make me sick from the offgassing because most electronics have pesticides and insecticides sprayed inside of them and when those heat up I get so sick along when plastic heats up , it’s like a miracle having a computer .

    I had a friend struggling with gratitude , trying to think of things she was grateful for and I just started listing things like safe water and she was shocked because she never thought about those things . In a way it does for me cause a lot of appreciation when I’m not totally frustrated by how hard it is to find something like a lamp .

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      Thank you. Never did I think I would receive a compliment about that. Did I start the trend or you? xo

      • I think there have been people wrapped in aluminum foil for decades now LOL but sad . 30 years ago my mother had a friend with MCS whose husband built a steel room inside a room in their house for her to live in . It’s weird how you get used to all the shiny surfaces! In the beginning I keep thinking something is glowing in another room but it’s the tape sealling the doors ! But it does really make you take care of everything , I definitely feel better environmentally about how I live aside from the electricity for all of the air purifiers . When you can’t have cheap stuff from China and everything is organic fair trade, that is consolation . Sometimes I think that if the 30% of the population who have illnesses from chemicals ( this article in scientific American was about diabetes, obesity , things like that , an interview with the woman who heads the US Department of something toxic explaining how we live in a giant soup of chemicals – she is not popular at work LOL! ) and then the people 30% who have chemical sensitivities, and that scientist woman from the scientific American article said there are a lot more people sick from all of the medications being combined causing health problems that she includes has chemical illnesses , we would easily have a strong majority of people who know that they are not alone and there would be demands for change . I have always felt that the MCS community doesn’t network enough with all the other illnesses . The woman who heads the US government toxic agencies said that if you have obesity and diabetes it was created by chemicals and your metabolism is permanently changed and no matter what you do and that’s what you will have to live with forever . Then you have all of the statistics with pollution and autism . Or cancer or fertility issues and all of the endocrine disruptors from pesticides which also contribute to people being born intersexed according to a friend of mine who is intersexed, you see it with frogs on farms when the pesticide level gets out of control, so he calls himself a frog and then we have the hummingbirds with chronic fatigue syndrome which I also have , there’s just a big picture which could just by nature of human selfishness demand change.

        Yes, back to the living inside a Silverlining LOL , I wanted to have on the safe Canary nest a photo section of how people solve problems with housing or clever little solutions like we live in the middle of nowhere and obviously I can’t use a gas station bathroom even with my mask on so there is a little plastic funnel , roll of toilet paper with no bleach , recycled no bleach paper towels and a jug of water with a little bottle of diluted Castile soap as the ” side of the back road bathroom kit . ”

        I would love to see more photographs of how people decorate . The woman who did the book Canarys with all of those amazing photographs shows a lot of silver lining wallpaper houses. They are ought to sell it as ” Silverlining ” MCS wallpaper. Maybe I will email Foust!

  2. I’ve wallpapered with mylar and double sided painters tape, as well as the regular painters tape.

    The mylar (aka emergency blanket) is pretty cheap, but probably not as durable on floors.

    It can be used to cover furniture and mattresses, but is crinkly and will eventually rip, but can be folded and re-used many times to cover chairs etc, unlike foil.

    I discovered that I don’t tolerate one side (it smells bleachy if I put my nose right up to it) so I use that side against what I want to cover, or tape 2 together, bad side to bad side, if I don’t want to contaminate what I am covering or my air, or if I have to use it for curtains (I won’t use it in south/full sun windows anymore, it does offgas some then, plain foil is safe though).

    And I can totally relate to the tourists and others as being toxic terrorists…

    When I was living at the cabin, the weekend air was full of smoke, pesticides, sun screens, motor boat fuels, etc. Took me the week to recover from, only to have it happen again… and again…

    It was uncanny how in the winter, the wood smoke from the only cottager who came up in the winter would make a beeline directly IN to the leaky cabin, not 10 feet one way, or 10 feet the other way … the smoke found every crack to get in through…

    Here’s hoping you get your safe, foil-free house built soon!

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      It doesn’t surprise that the smoke found it’s way into the cabin you were staying in. It’s like our immune systems become more sensitised over time, until the tiniest bit effects us as if it were a lot. I guess that’s why the only proven medical treatment, chemical avoidance, is always a good idea. However, without other human beings desire or willingness to help, while we are practicing ‘chemical avoidance’, sadly, we are stuck breathing in their fumes from woodsmoke and pollution!

      I had to google Myler, and after doing so I realise this is what some of my Aussie chemically sensitive friends have use when going to hospital for protection from the bedding’s disinfectant or sheet’s washing powders. (In case anyone is wanting more information on Mylar and its uses, see here: http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/198137.html ) I think i need to get some of this Mylar and catch up with the status quo, hey?

      As for window coverings, i’ve found a heavy blanket does well. I have a safety pin embedded about half way down so I can pin it up when I need light.

      When it’s time for a rental inspection, even though the owners and the real estate agent are okay with what I’ve done, I always get nervous because i know it doesn’t look ‘conventional’, I can only imagine the look on people’s faces if I’d wallpapered with foil as well! :)

      Peace and fresh air to you, friend :) xo

  3. I can relate! I’m looking at foil right now over some things in my room, including two walls and a slanted ceiling. :) Definitely allowing me to survive right now. Otherwise I wouldn’t be. I just learned the lack of ventilation is bigger deal than I thought–a guy was telling me how the CO2 builds up and can be just as bad as smoking, regarding health. But of course, like you & I right now, we don’t have a choice, because the neighborhood laundry etc is worse. Hoping your new house gets done soon!! Mine is coming along; hoping to be moved in by Christmas. :) Love the dance floor thing. :) I’ve seen people ask about rentals & scents–i will pass your info along! SO smart to put the paper down on floor, first. I’ve seen aluminum stain things, too.

    • PS Could you dust/dry mop/sweep with a Swiffer-like product instead of vacuum??? The microfiber is supposed to grab onto dust…. But maybe that won’t work.

      • Michellina van Loder says:

        This is an excellent idea! Thanks :) I’ve added a Sabco sweeper to the shopping list. I do have a miniature Dyson handheld vacuum that doesn’t make me ill like the big one does. (The only difference between the large Dyson vacuum (that makes me ill) and the small one (that doesn’t) is that the large one was used at our old mould ridden property. We washed it, and left in the sun for days but it’s still a huge problem.)

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      Thanks for reading, :) I’m sorry that you, too, have foil over your walls and ceiling, however, I’m glad that I’m in good company and we’re able to share these ‘renovating’ details :) Yes, lack of ventilation is huge, huge, HUGE issue. At my old house, I couldn’t ventilate because when I did the fumes for lawnmowers, cleaners were worse. Here, it’s hit and miss at least. My doctor told me to cross-ventilate at least for 15 mins every morning, which I try to do. I’ve even been known to stay in a close room (the bathroom or storage room) while the house is open, and it’s slightly smokey outside. I guess we have to choose what will effect us most and have the biggest impact. Let us know how you house comes along, hey? :)

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Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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