Archives for March 2016

Our Shoji Doors from ‘Shoji Screens and Doors’

(This post has been updated to reflect the accuracy of the shoji door material, Opal Rice, which is actually made from fibreglass not rice paper! Although it certainly does look like rice paper.)

Shoji ~ Traditionally a sliding screen door or wall made of latticed screen and paper used to screen an area, thus making it private.

Today, I’m going to show you a part of our house-to-be that I’m not only excited about but also epically grateful for: our custom made Shoji Doors, which have been constructed, sealed with a suitable sealant MIROTEC WB 8060—which was tested by me—and are ready and waiting at the Shoji Screens and Doors factory: where they have been since December last year!

(The hold up: We were waiting on our Augusta Boral Limestone bricks) from Boral in Geelong since Christmas; you see, since they’ve had to come from WA, they actually had no code in Boral’s system so got lost in business bureaucracy. Hence the plastic around the house to protect it from rain and mould entering. Our bricks cannot go up until our European made PVCu Double-Glazed, Thermally-Broken Windows from Zenit Windows are installed. So the arrival of the Limestone bricks and the soon-to-arrive windows are synchronistic enough to have us moving forwards and onwards! Apparently, in the building industry, there are always going to be hold-ups, I’m told by, like, just about everyone.

The bricks and windows about to go up, enclosing around the skeleton of our castle, made from kiln-dried hardwood, which was supplied by Calco – Trusses and Timber (who also gave me products to test before we went ahead): another awesome company who’ll be featuring at:

The Labyrinth: aka the ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House‘ project and in the book, Freedom: Build An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Home due out in 2017!

What’s great about our Shoji Doors, is they may have already outgassed completely because they were painted last year, which is wonderful; because even after we have completed the house there is another 2 -3 months of outgassing it first before I can actually live in it due to everything being new. 

I have to make sure all products containing solvents and petrochemicals have been personally tested for my chemical sensitivities. Or, I can’t live in the house, which essentially makes me homeless until Dan can sell it. I am on the Disability Support Pension; and it’s only through the good grace of Dan that I even have the chance to build a safe home, let alone write about it! The specialist’s letter specifically says I need to avoid particular products like solvents. And given the investigation into me having CIRS that’s going on right now (I have an MRI this Thursday), solvents are even more of an issue. 


And considering our shoji doors surround our bedroom on two sides: the bedroom has a small retreat room, which overlooks the bush and bay, a set of two shoji doors close off this area from my bedroom; the other side of the bedroom has set of shoji doors leading out into the upper living area.

More on our awesome Shoji doors:

They are made from oak wood

And the white rectangles look like Opal Rice Paper, which is an opaque-white fibreglass that has the texture and actual look of real rice paper! (Shoji Doors and Screens now have an acrylic version of the same Rice-Paper look material.)

Here’s the details for our wonderful Shoji Screens and Door supplier:

Shoji Screens & Doors

9 Nevilles St, Underwood QLD 4119

07 3208 6331

What I like best about this company is the fact that they took my medical illness absolutely seriously without even asking to see the doctors letter, and now (6 months after placing our order) that I’ve been assessed for a diagnosis of CIRS and it’s now blatantly imperative I avoid any chemical-irritants such as solvents (often used in lacquers and paints). Most of the companies I’ve dealt with, I’ve explained it as ‘Inhalant Allergies’ to solvents, fragrances etc because that’s what my original treating specialist has said. (It’s no big deal: chemical sensitivities are just a symptom of many conditions or they can be, controversially so, the actual condition itself, aka MCS or EI!) So after I explained my situation and our project, I received this back from just one of the most helpful assistants at Shoji Screens and Doors, Karen:

“… Should you still wish to proceed further we can supply you with a completed sample corner section of a door & insert panel using our usual joinery products and lacquer.  We will leave it for a week for the lacquer to dry completely and then post it you for your allergy testing.  Just let me know.”

And then, Shoji Screens and Doors sent out a lovely sample piece of the wood glued together, holding the ‘rice-paper-look fibreglass’ in the middle. It was so exciting to hold this little piece of Shoji! It was one of the first samples, I tested.


Opal Rice Paper Fibreglass. Isn’t it pretty?

However, at first I just wasn’t sure about this product because upon first opening of the package I noticed a kind of vague cleaning  product type scent. A scent of orange maybe? Like someone had peeled a mandarin then packed the Shoji sample into bubble-wrap package, sending it off to me. My breathing wasn’t impacted but I noted the odour, indicative of orange solvents, all the same, and thinking what that might be like on a grander scale, I swallowed my nervousness, and the possible idea that maybe I was just being overly cautious, or about to ask a silly question, and I immediately rang the business: after speaking to Damien at Shoji Screens and Doors who suggested we try another one; ergo, this time painted with an eco-paint that’s low voc.

The type of paint used on children’s wooden toys,

He also sent out a Material and Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to show what exactly was used previously:

Download (PDF, 389KB)

I was so impressed with the service and kindness of the staff at Shoji doors, I barely complained, just described the smell, questioning if had been in contact or had chemical-irritants in the form of solvents in it. (We enquired about the doors in 2014, sample tested in 2015, finally purchasing 3 sets of sliding shoji doors and 1 single door, so even though we had the eco-friendly, allergy-free conversation when I first contacted Shoji Screens and Doors, a year later, when ordering the sample, I didn’t reiterate my needs as far as avoiding allergens and irritants went). You know when you have that feeling in your gut when you know you have to confront someone about chemical usage, and you feel a little nervous? Well, I didn’t need to worry about that at all! Damien at Shoji Screens and Doors insisted on sending me a new sample painted with a specifically, low voc, low allergenic paint speaks volumes about the type of company they are: responsible, truly eco-friendly.

And he sent me another MSDS for it. Here they both are embedded here in this page via Google Docs: After I queried if the first sample had been wiped down with a cloth that maybe had some cleaning detergent containing chemical irritants in the ingredients, I was sent a new one painted with a new product Damien kindly sent over the MSDS, which I didn’t really look at but have put here for others to read in case it helps them make a decision on what product to use.

It tested fine overnight on my bedside table: no breathing issues at all. Damien said that maybe it was the 1st conventional paint used on that 1st sample; consequently, discussing the use of Mirrotone Low Volatile Organic (VOC) paint on the new sample.

MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Water Based Topcoat 

MIROTEC WB 8060 is a clear, single pack, water based topcoat. It is easy to apply and low yellowing.

Product Advantages 

 Single pack, no pot life issues to manage and less waste of product.
 Water white and low yellowing, it is ideal for use over blonde timbers and liming stains.

Higher solids content than clear nitrocellulose and precatalysed lacquers with similar chemical resistance to clear precatalysed lacquers.

 Low VOC (solvent content), non-flammable, low odour, safer for workers and the environment.

 Formaldehyde free, zero formaldehyde emissions in rooms in which coated articles are installed or used.

 Isocyanate free, does not require air assisted face masks or other respiratory personal protective equipment for application.

 Pthalate free, it is ideal for children’s toys.

 Complies with the Green Building Council Australia: Green Star – Office Design v3 & Office As Built, Table IEQ-13.1 Maximum TVOC Content Limits for Paints, Varnishes and Protective Coatings.

 MIROTEC WB 8060 is classified as a Group 1 material (In accordance with Specification A2.4 of the Building Code of Australia). (Average specific extinction area: 139.1 m2/kg. Refer tp Specification C1.10 section 4(c) of the Building Code of Australia.


Sample 2 painted with low voc water based sealer: MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Topcoat

Our carpenter, Damien has discussed with us how he can make them fit (I think via planning them to fit snug as a bug) into slider cavities that are set in tiles tightly to help with air-tightness.

On the second sample, Damien and Karen organised for MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Topcoat to be used on, it had no chemical odour on arrival. And I slept with it on my bedside table to make sure it didn’t impact on my breathing.

MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Topcoat is an easy to use water based topcoat that is water white and low yellowing, making it ideal for use over blonde timbers and liming stains. Being low VOC it has also helped many of our customers to achieve the criteria required for the Green Star rating they are working towards, as it complies with the Green Building Council Australia: Green Star – Office Design v 3 & Office As Built, Table IEQ – 13.1 Maximum TVOC Content Limits for Paints, Varnishes and Protective Coatings.

MIROTEC WB 8060 has also been Fire Rating tested and is classified as a Group 1 material (In accordance with Specification A2.4 of the Building Code of Australia). (Average specific extinction area: 139.1 m2/kg. Refer to Specification C1.10 section 4(c) of the Building Code of Australia.

Visit our projects section to see two examples of MIROTEC WB 8060 Clear Topcoat in use; The University of Queensland and The Supreme Court in Wellington.

For more information on our water based coatings click here

Download (PDF, 278KB)

The shoji doors were also Quin’s idea: he really queried us on so many elements in regards to style, as well as materials suitable for my allergies and sensitivities, all structured around ecological values minimising our overall footprint on the planet. He also discussed with us the importance of testing every product before using it.

The Japanese theme came up a lot as did walled gardens with peaky holes in the fence surrounding the cottage out the back! The minimalist look, natural earthy colours and ways to make our house look modern and ‘homey’ while still adhering to the needs of my disability have turned out well–except for in a couple of instances, which we are trying to, and will fix.

However, at least we’re happy with our choice of company for our shoji doors. I can’t wait until this project is finished and I can show you the prototype for an allergy-free and eco-friendly safe house for people with conditions related to chemical sensitivity. But more so, I can live in a house that doesn’t make me ill due to mould, solvents or petrochemicals and fragrances.

Now,  as John Snow say’s, “Winter is coming.” And Dan and I both know that I need to be able to move in by winter or tough it out in my beach rental until the house is fully-fitted, out-gassed and ready for me to live inside of. Or:

Rent another house that’s not a WDB until it’s ready…

Thank you, Shoji Screens and Doors for being so awesome about my health condition. You are number 1! xo


Shoji Screens and Doors Portfolio

Technical Drawings for Shoji Doors and Screens

Shoji Design Guide



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.

The Letter from my Treating Allergist and Immunologist in Regards to Building a Safe Home

This is a copy of my doctor’s letter written specifically for my situation so that I can get help from tradespeople and product manufactures while building a home safe enough for me to live in without getting sick from the materials and products used in its construction; I also have to avoid mould, which means I am building a house that won’t go mouldy.

I have huge medical issues with solvents, which impact on my health, making it impossible for me to be near them for any length of time. For marketing purposes and the book I’m writing, Freedom: An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Home, it’s just like I am writing and researching all the ideas and possible products that could be used so that other people, too, can build a home that suits their particular allergy and chemical sensitivity needs. This could include skin allergies, inhalant allergies, asthma or any other condition that has ‘chemical sensitivity’ as a symptom, including CIRS and mould Illness. In reality, however, I am building a house that has to meet the requirements of MY many allergies and chemical sensitivities, the worst being mould, solvents and fragrances.

I won’t be able to live in a house that has solvents, fragrances or mould in it. I will be homeless if I don’t get this house right. I WILL get this house to the standard I need. I WILL do what it takes to do that.

This is the letter here:


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.

Virtual Eco-House Tour

All readers, welcome to our home:

My safe, allergy-free and eco-friendly home. Ready for the tour we promised? Take your shoes off. Only socks or Japanese slippers allowed. 

“Would you like a cup of coffee or tea? Do you take sugar? Soy milk okay? A herb from the garden perhaps?”

[Miche pops the kettle on.]

“Why, thank you for going fragrance-free. I really appreciate it; and it’s so lovely to have you here to visit! xx “

“Here,” Miche says while holding out a bright flowing fabric with a flock of exotic birds scattered across it (or a white Tyvek suit–your choice), “Pop on this will you? It’s just to protect the furniture from any washing powder or fragrance residue on your clothes.”

It’s an exciting day: Because today, I warmly, virtually invite you into our home by taking you all on a Virtual EcoHouse Tour, using the latest technology in architectural drawings for our ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House‘ Project, These were done by Eco Draftsperson, and our friend, Quin Wyatt; he’s known as an ‘EcoDesigner’ around the Peninsula Coast (I am on Victoria’s Surf Coast near Queenscliff but I was just 1 hour by boat away at Portsea: the air and seaweed, beaches are mostly the same. Except we have marshland that rubber boots won’t help you with, it sinks that much, which makes it a perfect haven for birds. So it an actual Marine National Park with a few different things going on: Army training, hooded plovers, Mud Island (sink in sand there for sure!) all types of bird and seagrass.


Black footed albatross (image source: Pixabay)

Why we are taking so long to build:

Our house is smaller, which is why it took another 6 months to get started because of the re-sizing. Plus all the testing of the products. Then we had to wait on Boral Bricks by 3 months, luckily, Ashley from Boral in Geelong made up for this by giving me a heap of research about mould and bricks and how to remove the horrid stuff. We are supposed to be at lockup stage by now. Been told hold ups are normal on this business. Issue is we need to be locked up before the rains come.

It was downsized by 10 square metres, which is like the size of an average room. This took a load of the cost of the build. The front balcony was rejigged so that it didn’t form part of the indoor area by intruding into the house, which would have looked more contemporary modern; instead it’s just your old-school 6 post balcony. This way if there’s ever a leak it won’t flood into the house, it ill run straight off the balcony. Smart thinking, Slobodan <3 And, it still works as an eave for the passive heating and cooling effect.

Passive Design Coupled with Ideal Orientation

A good ecologically designed home, utilises orientation because the way the house faces, which is to the north, plays an enormous part in passively heating and cooling the home. So long as the occupants are active in summer by closing blinds and roof-window blinds early in the morning, closing off any rooms that catch warmth on days of high heat; only opening up again at night, putting on fans and opening windows strategically positioned to cross-ventilate, which will also allow thermal lag to cool your house off, you too can design an eco-home.

Ideally, the home should be placed so the living areas faces north (south if you’re in the US, I think, correct me if I am wrong) to take advantage of the winter sun. The eaves overhang 90 centimetres to block out the higher-in-the-sky summer sun, while allowing the lower-in-the-sky winter sun into the house, warming the tiles or polished concrete floor.

Because the Zenit thermally-broken, double-glazed uPVC windows are designed to go low to the floor, the sun hits the concrete warming it in winter while the concrete acts as the thermal mass (unless you cover it with carpet or something else, which acts as insulation or has rubber in it that will impede on this all-important function). Coupled with the Hydrotherm Hydronic panel heating, the most allergy-friendly heating possible, the house will always be a warm home. On sunny winter days we won’t need heating as the sun heating the thermal mass will be enough, even at night when heat from the slab is released via thermal lag, or if closed up, the thermal lag will still be keeping the place warm as the temperature drops outside. But more on the other eco-friendly elements that help facilitate a truly efficient home later…

The cottage is in the far right hand corner. The Garage is seperate, with a breeze-way as specified as what Interviewee, Katryn Treat said when I asked her what she would do differently if building again,

The cottage is in the far right hand corner. The Garage is seperate, with a breeze-way as specified as what Interviewee, Katryn Treat said when I asked her what she would do differently if building again,

The little cottage out back, the one for fragrance-free visitors to stay in, had to lose its bathroom, which is no big deal: there are two inside the house. Both run on filtered rain water supplied by EcoBright Tanks (all stainless steel! No plastic lining!), then town water if the tanks become dry. (If you have advice on tanks please share below.) The toilet is fully ecologically minded, with it’s own 2000-litre-rainwater tank too. We’ve got this tank covered with Reece plumbing in Drysdale. And our plumbing was done by KLM Plumbing whose team went fragrance-free; I highly recommend their services if you’re on the Surf Coast or the Bellarine Peninsula of Victoria, Australia!

We also have an outdoor shower: visitors Beware: Come fragrance free or go nude and wash outside in the garden of Eden.

Nah, just kidding, the outdoor shower is for the dog and beach visits!


Yes, we will give our composting toilet back to Natural Event at the end of the build. It’s still working out really well feeding the soil of the neighbour’s apricot tree, I’m sure.

One positive that came out of halving the garage is that now we have all this space between the cottage and garage. Is the extra room for gardening and paving areas: bonsai garden, outdoor shower. This space is a medium sized courtyard that’s surrounded on three sides by the brick fence separating ours and our neighbours property and the brick walls of each out-building.

Oh, and the other brilliant thing about kids flying the coop is the room for a proper yoga room and gymnasium.

Now just notice where the sun falls and the time of the year and day. This will show how it’s positioned for good orientation taking advatage of the full northerly aspect so on winter days the sub comes right on in. Quin Wyatt did a remarkable job designing and then re-designeing this house to suit my needs. 

We did this re-jigging of the house via Skype last winter when I was horribly ill from Pullaria mould and possibly the mould in the room with the water-damaged ceiling. [Update: I’ve since been diagnosed with CIRS, so it’s not just Pullaria mould that was the problem.) So I wasn’t exactly coherent but luckily for me Quin and Dan and I worked it out: We have an unusual front balcony, which I will show you all later. Welcome to my prototype for an Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly House!

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A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia

A sun study of an eco-freindl y house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia. This is not our kitchen just a generic image of the design. Pretty cool, hey?

If you take a look at the sun study done for June, which is mid-winter, and since 2012 and living in two water damaged buildings (WDB), I’ve suffered every winter since due to outdoor moulds; now when I was in mid-winter of last year, sick as I’ve ever been (before CIRS diagnose), I took impeccable comfort: the type that just wraps you in cottonwool, allowing you to feel everything is going to be alright, that type of comfort, when looking at these photos. The sun coming through the window. Picturing myself in our safe house. Knowing all is going to be just fine.

On another positive, it’s near close to all bricks and mortar now, and I’m busy, busy, busy, testing and organising samples, asking, sometimes hounding for MSDS and product contents. I’m finding there are two business models:’ don’t share a thing’ and ‘here you go’ when it comes to building products and materials… especially MSDS or proof of composition of materials of VOC release per cubic metre. Also, Australia is lacking in ecological products; but we do have access to some incredible European products.

So this is the roofline of the house:

The front of the 'Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House' project

The front of the ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House’ project, which I am also writing a ‘How to’ Book about the Process itself

I know you are picking up the Japanese them now. Do you like the design so far? Ant questions on passive design?


Where we are getting the doors: Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Modified Shoji Doors

All the posts on ‘Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House

Quin Wyatt Building Designers: Created This House Around my Allergies and our Environment!

Stainless Steel Rainwater Tanks: EcoBright Tanks (I’ve a post coming up on rainwater tanks (the 3 companies in Australia who sell them!) and on catchment and delivery systems to the bathrooms. Full Eco Housing ideas coming up.

Hydrotherm Hydronic Heating, the best heating for people with chemical sensitivities or allergies (also the best price out of many quotes)

Natural Event Portable Compositing Toilets (no head splitting chemicals)

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.

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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