An Allergy-Free House Frame, Expertly Installed by Pristine Carpentry

Due to my personal symptoms with mould and terpenes, especially pine terpenes, we chose to have a hardwood frame. I know of other people who’ve built houses over 20 years ago and they have allergy-free homes made using hardwood for the frame. So, you think it would be easy to source new, kiln-dried hardwood for a house frame, right? Well, it wasn’t!

With a great stroke of luck, Dan found the perfect carpentry team: Pristine Carpentry! He drove around looking at new houses around Pt Lonsdale; often the builders put signs up the front of their builds to say who did what. Dan said some of the houses looked shoddy but the very next day he was walking closer to where I was renting and saw a house that he thought looked perfect. He has high standards, being a handyman, himself! This house was being built by Pristine Carpentry and went up in record time while still remaining perfect looking, not at all like the messy building sites you often see. So Dan went back and spoke to them and grabbed a business card. So glad he did!

But before we even found our carpenter, our builder and us tried calling around other places and were told it’s not possible to find hardwood for a house; especially if the frame is custom built—as specified by our draftsperson. We believed that until we spoke with Pristine.

Pristine Carpentry and Builders: the best carpentry team!

Pristine Carpentry and Builders: the best carpentry team!

Our carpenter had to source it specially from Calco ~ Trusses and Timber.

Calco Trusses and Timber

Calco Trusses and TimberCarC

We met up with Damien, the head of Pristine Carpentry, and worked out how we were going to go about sourcing the hardwood, testing materials, and sorted out schedules. He was so awesome with the chemical side of it; didn’t miss a beat and asked his crew to use the products we provided. They smoked outside, which was great too! Our builders looked over the contracts and pricing and all was well and good.

The one thing I can say about choosing a carpenter, or anyone who is going to be touching your hardwood frame, is choose someone who knows how to work with hardwood. This is immensely important. Otherwise you’re going to have workpeople who are just plain annoyed and cursing because their tools keep breaking (Yes, I watched this happen with three tradies): Pine is a much softer wood than hardwood; drills and what not get put to the test when used with hardwood. I watched one tradie go through three drills in a day!

It only took 10 days for them to get the bottom floor built. If not for having to wait on Boral Bricks, the top floor would’ve been done next but then we had no bricky because by the time the bricks arrived, our bricky was booked on another job. Mad scramble to find another bricky. Finally, once we found a decent bricky, the second floor went up just as quick (The roof was put up before this by ‘Blessed Roofers’.) and it began to look like a house. A safe house.

Custom built hardwood frame by Calco Trusses and Timber, installed by Pristine Carpentry

Custom built hardwood frame by Calco Trusses and Timber, installed by Pristine Carpentry

(The flooring is 20 ml FireCrunch MgO Board, previously called Modakboard, used instead of particle board, which I wrote about here.)

Another thing that we found most impressive was the way Pristine Carpentry handled our shoji door cavity slider problem: businesses who supply cavity sliders don’t make them in hardwood or oak or anything besides pine. Once our team found this out, they were like, “Oh, well, we’ll just make them up out of hardwood!”

It was to our delight and surprise when Damien turned up the next day with all 7 cavity sliders, handcrafted from hardwood.

It cost a bit more but was worth it as it was our only option; besides, they look great. All up we have 7 cavity sliders.

Did I not tell you this team of carpenters are awesome?

Okay, so now I show you what I’m most impressed with. Dan, not so much. I’m a bathroom girl. Love a good soak; and have been planning my upstairs bathroom for a long time (Dan can have control of the downstairs one.). It’s taken two years to get to the look right in my head: floor to ceiling travertine look-a-like tiles from Bella Tiles in Ocean Grove (awesome people for us allergy sufferers because they too, understood our situation and were most helpful as they have tiled a whole house for someone else with the same condition as me: extreme mould illness. Fantastic show room too! They also come up on the list of Top ten tilers in Ocean Grove’. 

(The blue tiles are for the downstairs bathroom to break it up a bit. Oh, sorry, am I taking control of the downstairs bathroom? Best leave that for Dan, but yes, he does like the blue tiles I chose.) Think of a bathroom carved out of the mountainside in Turkey, which is where real travertine comes from (real travertine needs epoxy and coatings of just too many chemicals for us to risk. Then there’s the price… But I’ll be posting more about bathrooms, safer products, etc. later.

Travertine look tile from Bella Tiles in Ocean Grove

Travertine look tile from Bella Tiles in Ocean Grove

So this is downstairs bath hob created by our carpentry team:

And this is the upstairs hob. As you can see, I’ve been playing around with design elements and accents already. It’s all in the planning, you see?

Pristine Carpentry Crew

Pristine Carpentry Crew

Pristine Carpentry: Phone 0417 573 832

So what have you used as a house frame? And how has it worked out in regards to your medical condition?

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.

How Proclima, and Laros Fixed Our Slab/Frame Overhang

The Slab Overhang Issue

How did this happen? Is slab overhang a common happening? How do you avoid a mess like this? Well, the Surveyor, contracted out by the builders, came out twice (over a six month period) to measure up, placing painted sticks and ties about the property for both house designs. We can’t work out what happened exactly. Except maybe…

11152015allergyfreeecofriendlyhouse_711_041

Take your own measurements, folks

…the kangaroos jumped the fence and moved both sets of sticks about. Yep! The first lot were left in; and the new ones were added to mark out the slab boundary.

The other thing could be that we downsized the house therefore confused our measurements. We’ve still not gotten to the bottom of it all but it really doesn’t matter now. The way the situation was handled by our carpentry team who alerted us and by our concreting team, who found the right people for the job, it’s such a small issue in retrospect!

If you accidentally design a McMansion and decide to downsize, beware!

Oh the #kangaroos this morning made my #heart sing I know why I live where I do. #grateful #wildlife #vegan #loveanimals

A photo posted by Michellina (@michellinaoutofthelabyrinth) on

Because of this mishap, the slab (due to the pegs and measurements) was made to the incorrect dimensions—the frame on the south side, the cold side of the house, was too short by 40 ml, and another 40 ml in two other places on the northern side, leaving our custom-built, excellent Calco hardwood frame hanging over—not precariously so but, according to engineering good practice: It wasn’t safe to build a second story on.

img_1763

And to answer the question: How common is this? People in the industry told us this happens a lot. Many builders don’t go to the trouble that we all went to. Life has been very stressful for him lately. He has to do so much. I can’t get government help for Oxygen or CIRS medications (some of them, but most, no!), testing cost a bomb. I’ve got my uni and my plans for a career from home but I don’t feel the disabled are given a fair go. Unless a fair go is just laying in bed getting sicker by the year!

img_1759

This piece was expertly sliced off by a concrete cutter

Plus, another section on the north side (the sunny, warmer side, which is our passive heating side during Melbourne winters!) and the western side (the hot side where the sun sets) were too big by 40 ml, which meant the concrete had to be wet cut with an electric saw by a concrete cutter.

These are the drawings our engineer drew so that we could get a clear picture of the solution to the slab overhang:

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-8-17-08-pm

Basically, we had a steel beam bolted onto the 3 edges of the slab to support the frame. However, right away from a building biology standpoint, it bothered me to think that some builders and owner-builders would construct a building straight over this  because of the condensation issue that most likely would develop: basic building-biology science says that if you have metal that’s cold on the outside while warm on the inside (as most houses are in cooler weather) then condensation will occur… then mould! could follow.

Being concerned about the health of the building envelope, condensation for the above reasons and, for a mould sensitive person with CIRS, this is a nightmare of a mistake to make.

In my brain fog, attached to oxygen, I contacted Thomas at ProClima in New Zealand (whom I found out about from Building Biologist, Rapheal at EcoLibria at Torquay, who I found out about from Lucinda at Eco Health Solutions). Thomas then put me onto Andreas at Laros Technologies, here in Australia.

Thankfully, Andreas understood my concerns! I have CIRS

The irony of writing a book on how to Build and Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House that is mould free and having to deal with these issues aren’t lost on me. As far as my book and blog go, this is a fantastic event to document because, thanks to ProClima and Laros, we fixed the issue. (I have a whole chapter on mould and happenings that can and did! go wrong and how we overcame these issues.) Dan and I inserted this thermal break ourselves. Now, 12 months later, my thumb still hurts from holding the beam while Dan wedged that low voc, non-toxic ‘thermal break’, between the slab and the metal beam.

Other ProClima products we plan on using:

Intello Internal Airtight Wrap (post coming up on that)

And, hopefully having our house and cottage roof windows’ supplies (flashing and tapes) supplied by them. I’m trying to book Kale in from KLM plumbing to do the job. He’s the perfect plumber: on time; does what he says he will. We’ll be sure to get good instructions for our plumber from Andreas [check] at Laros!

An Energy Efficiency Weakspot

From an energy efficiency point of view: this would be a weak spot that would suck out heat from the building during winter. So although the solution from our engineer was a clever one that saved our house and budget, it didn’t take into account that, Melbourne, being a colder climate, that has such *lovely cold weather, which would keep the piece of steel cold on the outside and warm on the inside each time the house was heated: this would cause condensation given those conditions, which is a great way to end up with mould!

The solution was to create a thermal break along the piece of steal. This would be a guarantee against condensation because there wouldn’t have any heat conductivity of the steel leading to it in the first place!

The galvanised steal beam which is called a ‘RHS’ (Rectangular hollow section) bolted to the slab edge. The RHS had the dimensions of 150 X 50 mm; and was placed On the 3 sections under the overhang of the hardwood frame&msash;Southside and Northside.

Again, the slab was too big by 25 ml: the whole west side length of the house, jutting out with no purpose but to leach heat out of the house by poking out into the cold like that.

The slab jutting out by 25 ml along the length of the westside, a potential heat leak in a passively heated house.

The slab jutting out by 25 ml along the length of the westside, a potential heat leak in a passively heated house. We had this saw off by (update coming)

So then the builders and Dan found a concrete cutting mob to came out to the build. Whew! They bought with them a special saw and expertly cut the excess slab of by 25 ml, exactly!

Our frame was then nailed and glue together by Pristine Carpentry the ones who rang us alerting us to the fact that the house frame was too too big for the slab. When you take into consideration all the bricks, tin and metal that need to make up the house, that’s still only 40 ml hanging precariously over the edge of the slab. Earthquake anyone? Hyperbolic catastrophes aside:

The problem was: because of the steals temperature conductivity, it was a potential, most definite with time. Mould problem caused by condensation, which would have rose up the wall.

We could have used a hairdryer to meld the shape of the material to the beam but, we realised the pressure of the house would do this.

It was a hard lesson.

Note: It’s best to check yourself.

But it’s all taken care of one thanks to Laros and ProClima: sell truly environmentally-friendly and people-friendly products made for New Zealand weather.

Our solution to slab overhang came from Laros.

img_7555

People and Places where we Received Assistance in Relation to Building Biology for People with MCS and Mould Illness (CIRS)

 

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.

How to Avoid Slab Moisture Ingress

Slab moisture ingress can cause indoor mould growth because it not only adds moisture and humidity to the indoor air environment but it can also cause the house to act as a petri dish where mould will grow, spreading spores around the house. This can happen if it hasn’t cured properly, of if there are gardens with soil covering the weep holes—small rectangular spaces left between the bricks at the bottom of the outside wall—where moisture from inside the building envelope can’t escape. Another reason is the slope of the property, rainfall needs to drain away: Don’t expect that ridiculously heavy rainfall will soak into the ground, it needs to run away from the property of into drainage channels.

I found out the consequences of slab moisture ingress at my last residence, before this rental property, when I lived in The House of Mouldy Horrors. (I do have a post in my drafts folder titled, The House of Mouldy Horrors, which is why I have been referencing it in my posts for like, the last two years or is it three now?), on how we (My Daughter and I) managed to remediate this situation including most of our possession kept in the house, including medical assistive devices such as InovaAir Purifiers but due to the stress or ustress (stress you use to create action), that I’m under, I’d rather not think about that right now. I have a mould-free house to build; or rather, lay in bed an write about it. I’ve not been there since I became chronically ill from a bunch of things at the house.)

(Just a note to new readers: my health went from good to bad in The House of Mouldy Horrors, and I suffered painful symptoms that were the beginning of chronic illness on top of chronic illness, I now react to outdoor moulds as well. I’m trying to get on top of this; and I’m trying to build a safer, mould-free home, where I WILL recover. Right now though, I can smell damp soil all the time because I live in a draughty beach-house. One doctor, recently diagnosed me with “what appears to be CIRS (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) caused by mould” illness. Another doctor, my main Allergist, says I do indeed get sick from mould but he also says, “It’s not your only problem.”, meaning inhalant allergies to other chemicals other than mould.)

Damp patch of concrete causing humidity and mould in the house efflorescence (a build up of a white coloured powdery substance)

The inside part of the house’s slab edge during wet winter months

Damp patch after drying out (before vacuum) with salt powder efflorescence (a build up of a white coloured powdery substance)

The inside part of the house’s slab edge during dry summer months

The white patches are efflorescence (a build up of a (harmless) white coloured powdery substance). The three rooms, all bedrooms, that had these wet patches in the concrete, coming from the slab edges that ran parallel with the outdoor gardens originally had carpet in them. When I moved into this house, the owner removed the carpets due to my allergies; ergo, if we hadn’t of done this it may have taken longer for the concrete leak to become apparent. I imagine the carpet would have taken on a mildewy odour–but not before the mycotoxins (the chemical in mould) outgassed into the air making me ill. Instead, each time it rained heavily, the house took on the odour of damp soil. And then I got sicker. It was inconvenient to pack up and move but necessary.

Those photos were taken in the main bedroom where I slept for the first year in that house; it had a garden bed and a tap on the outside of the house, running parallel to my to the room.

As a precaution, for the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project, we’ve particularly asked our plumber, Kale from KLM Plumbing not to install any taps near the edge of the house anywhere near the slab edges.

We’re also not putting any garden beds or grassy areas around the house. In fact, we’re using more high-energy-embodied concrete to put a pathway around the whole house. (And, so that we can conserve energy within the building via our slab [thermal], we’ll add insulation between the house slab and the concrete path. But more on this later.)

The majority of houses incorporating wellconstructed and well-detailed concrete slabs and footings experience no problems with slab edge dampness. Where problems do occur, there may be one or more of several causes. A thorough investigation is required to determine the most appropriate course of action to rectify the problem. Most slab edges are occasionally damp due to rain, garden watering or by contact with the ground. In some cases this dampness is able to permeate from the outside to the inside and affect the internal walls and/or finishes such as the floor coverings. Preventative measures are far more effective than facing the often difficult and costly repairs required to remedy problems caused by slab edge dampness and moisture ingress.

Not to mention the cost of a water damaged building (WDB) to human health!

Download (PDF, 324KB)

Indoor mould caused by dampness and high humidity can impact on medical conditions such as Asthma, Inhalant Allergies, chemical sensitivities, respiratory inflammation, Toxic Encephalopathy, Occupational Asthma, Irritant-associated Vocal Cord Dysfunction, Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS), Irritant-induced Asthma, Small Airways Disease or Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

The initial indication of a problem is usually persistent dampness of the exposed face of the concrete slab/footing, often resulting in associated efflorescence (a build up of a white coloured powdery substance) below the damp-proof course (DPC). There’s your red herring, right there: The DPC may have had lost it’s integrity or may never have been laid properly in the first place.

To fix the above problem, we needed to employ someone to dig out the gardens and pour tar against the slab edges, therefore, sealing them from slab moisture ingress. Due to my sensitivities to petrochemicals, this wasn’t an option. However, had I known before I moved in, it might have been. It was 2010 and my health had recovered from the mysterious chemical sensitivities; but by 2012, my health and level of tolerance for fragrance, petrochemicals and solvents was at ground zero.

To avoid slab moisture ingress:

  • Slope the surrounding soil around your building by 50mm before attempting to lay any paths or garden beds
  • If you suffer symptoms from mould exposure, keep garden beds away from the side of the house
  • When laying concrete around your house, make sure to insulate or better still, water proof the edge of the slab
  • Get professional Arborist before planting large trees to avoid tree roots blocking outlets to storm water drains
  • Avoid over watering adjacent to slab footings and edges
  • Have your plumber install unground pipes that drain water away from your home, which is what KLM Plumbing are doing for us

More

Toxipedia: Dangers in our Home, Mould and More

Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House: D&C Fear Concreting

Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House: KLM Plumbing

Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House: Come Shopping with Us at Reece Plumbing

Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House: We Wrapped Our House in Plastic

The Labyrinth: DuPont’s Worse Nightmare

Coming up

uPVC windows: Are They the Right Choice For You?

A Hardwood House Frame!

Kingspan Insulation: How we Wrapped our House

 

 

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.
Translate »