A Custom Hardwood House Frame by Calco

The choice for a house frame, breathing-wise, was slim: hardwood or steel. We chose hardwood because it’s less volatile than pine, which has different terpenes. I will be getting stuck into a post sharing my research on building with a steel frame, as it seems like the obvious choice for people with MCS/and or CIRS aka mould illness or Lyme. I think I’ve found some good tips on how to build using a metal frame–so long as the correct amount of thermal break has been created to stop condensation. Condensation. That’s why we chose wood, so long as it’s protected from direct water damage, it can absorb a small amount of humidity then release it back into the air.

Sourcing a custom kiln dried hardwood frame wasn’t as easy as Dan and I thought it would be. We tried several places, starting to feel as if what we wanted was just plain wierd. People told us we wouldn’t find it. So we just asked other people… I know of people who have MCS and have successfully built using hardwood. So why was finding so hard?

Our talented carpenter, Damien, from Pristine Carpentry tried a few places also, finally coming up with Calco. He explained my condition to them. And I didn’t even have supply my usual doctor’s letter for them to get it. Don’t you like it when that happens?

Calco were so awesome they even gave us nails so I could test them. Nails? Yep. The nails are sold in packs of ten and they’re glued to blocks of wood for ease of use. This way, nails are kept straight and they’re not all over the place for the workers. So when Calco found out about my condition (which was diagnosed as inhalant allergies at the time but now has the addition of CIRS to the list of conditions that cause sensitivity to chemicals [read: a pain in the ass!]), they decided to give us the nails embedded in glue just to make sure they were not going to cause any symptoms. Perhaps they thought I was going to handle them myself? Or maybe that I was way more sensitive? Sensitive like some of you out there, perhaps. I appreciated the care they took to check the nails were fine to use.

Nails from Calco Timber and Trusses

Sample of hardwood for frame and nails set in glue, kindly from Calco Timber and Trusses ~ for testing purposes

You know, when you’re sick as you’ve ever been and totally anxious about house materials? (“It only takes one thing to ruin the whole house,” I’ve heard often. Stories abound of other MCSers who’ve had tradespeople agree to use products tested for that person’s particular chemical-irritant sensitivities but have then forgotten or negligently used their own noxious product; therefore, making the house unliveable), so when businesses take the time to check even the tiniest possible risk, it makes life a whole lot easier to deal with because you feel like people are on your side. And they are on your side. At the same time, don’t assume just because you tell someone you’re sick they will take it seriously. You just have to ask lots of questions and see if they’re up for the job. Always go with your gut, or put it in writing. It only takes an email.

From my experience, Calco Timber and Trusses don’t just want to sell just a product or a service rather, they want you to be successful with your project and happy with their product.

The only hardwood that couldn’t be sourced by our builder’s carpentry team were the balcony posts: hardwood just didn’t come in that size; not at the time we were needing it, anyway. Besides pine, which is out of the game because of terpene sensitivity (and I wrote about that here), so we were left with Cypress (also a type of pine but to be used on the outside of the building). When Pristine Carpentry first gave me a sample, it was a brand new freshly cut piece, plus it was raining: it stunk like burnt wood, stinging my nasal passages: not forgetting that I was living in a water damaged house and that my sinuses felt like I’d been hit in the face with a cricket bat, which, inhaling mould explains why it hurt so much to breathe, so I decided to test it further rather than just basing my decision on that one reaction. A few days later, after the sample had been left in the sun, it had a faint odour of wood. That strong smell that felt like a smack in the nose was gone so we took a punt on using the Cypress, sealing it with Intergrain low VOC wood stain, and, guess what? It’s fine, for me anyway! Looks sexy too.

We do have to make some adjustments to the posts to make them comply with our BAL level, which I’ll go into later, to do with the BAL (Bushfire Attack Level) in our area but I’ll post on that in a seperate post when the time comes. This house could take a while to build ~ I’m hoping I can get some sponsors who want to run their add in my sidebar ~ on the condition their product is cool for people sensitive to chemicals/and or mould. But back to the Cypress:

It’s wrapped in plastic and specifically says to keep it wrapped until painting time. We didn’t do that: we had the builders and carpentry team install it naked. Then handy man Dan painted it with Intergrain Low VOC paint in Tasmanian Oak.

 

Calco Trusses and Timber

Calco Trusses and Timber: Cypress Pine Posts for the balconies

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Calco Timber and trusses

Calco Timber and trusses custom built house frame (flooring is 20 mm MgO Board by Firecrucnch)

The timber arrived in perfect condition, mould free too.

Slide show: The evolution of erecting a house frame

Calco Details

62 Barwon Terrace, South Geelong

p: 03 5221 1655

f: 03 5221 9788

Trusses:truss@calco.com.au

Timber Sales:sales@calco.com.au

Administration:geelong.reception@calco.com.au

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. Us, too–went away from metal because of condensation. I think I understand NOW how to do metal right, :) but I still like our wood framing because of the humidity thing (absorb & release), and also because it was easier on the budget & I didn’t have to have any kind of plastic or foam insulation in my walls (to insulate like they do with steel framing). So glad it’s going well for you!!!

  2. Michele says:

    Michellina, just came across your posts. I know this is not related to building, but did you ever find out if quinoa was OK. I have been finding it difficult to find info on foods that don’t have amylose starch including chickpea hummus. Thank you for any info you can provide.

  3. Michellina the Choice of Calco Kiln Dried Hardwood for the framing and the Cypress is spot on ….Natural products and very sturdyand you are absolutly correct about the sustainability and the nil impact on people with mcs….most of the houses that were built in the soldier settlement times were built with these materials in the southern part of victoria…good choice indeed and also sourced locally what better(I am saying this as my jk has used calco hardwood previously for trusses)

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      Hi, :) This is great to know! I feel very lucky to have found Calco. My BF’s Mum lives in a house built 35 yrs ago and it was with hardwood. Yet these days people look at you like its a strange choice. I suppose the pine is cheaper, but what’s the point if you can’t live in a house made with pine due to health issues. Nice to see you here xo

  4. Seeing the process coming along with your words and photos is great! Wishing you a productive weekend, Michellina :)

    • Michellina van Loder says:

      Thank you, Christy :) It was productive, finally. It’s been slowgress up till now. x

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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