Barwon Mould Remediation Help Save our Build. Twice. Part I

So far, the Eco-friendly, Allergy-free House project has been through 2 winters; the first winter, in 2016, before full external lock-up, almost completely disabled, laid flat with exhaustion and headaches, I was living/existing in one of those mouldy rentals from hell; we were behind time with the build; so many things haven’t gone as planned; however, disasters have been averted, and for that I’m grateful. Over the last year, to be almost exact, I’ve been onsite, pottering away in the eco-friendly, allergy free house, without mould symptoms. Soaking up the sun’s rays while indoors; often thinking about one thing: mould. The house has been at a standstill while the outside is prepared: concrete etc. to keep the build clean while indoor work happens. This is what happened leading up to stage 3, where we’re at now:

Keeping my eye on the weather:  we wrapped the top floor of our house in plastic to stop water coming in. We had wrapped the house in Kingspan, a breathable wrap that also acts as a light thermal break.

Plastic used was the water barrier type

Plastic used was the water barrier type

The plastic worked for two storms that pelted the house with relentless rain until, along with strong winds, water came pouring in off the whole western side of plastic wrap as it flapped its way in and out on stormy winds, wetting the concrete and the adjoining floor-level hardwood house frame. It had to be dried and cleaned up, pronto. I thought that would be it, because I aired religiously, had heaters and fans running but when I saw grey fur growing up the wall in the bathroom, which was confirmed by our remediater, Darin, from Barwon Restoration Services.  It gave me such a fright to see mould in the build like that. I pictured myself living in my car… Then took immediate action:

When Barwon Restoration Services came over to give us a free quote, Darin, said our house was by far one of the least damaged buildings he’d seen that winter and one of the cleanest, and that:

“Buildings that sit unfinished over winter can have huge mould problems.”

Darin explained that as the weather turned to August, and mould grew on hardwood of the bathroom, it, being as thin as plywood, and on the north side, the moisture within the building must have been absorbed, and unable to dry, and then, once the weather reached 22c plus, mould grew.


Mould grew fast, and under perfect conditions

It happened so fast, it seemed. (Approximately ten days after water entry. And that mould grew over just 3 days, turning black before we even managed to change it! (I was checking and airing the house on most days, what, with all that rain.) With Darin’s advice, Dan replaced the materials that had mould on them, leaving the bathroom looking clean once again. But was it?

HouseUSBathroom2016-08-14 12.02.04 HDR

The bathroom with hardwood materials removed and replaced, rather than an attempt at cleaning them

In my view, it would have been impossible to clean mould that was half way into the wood.

Each area of the house, a biological reading was taken: it was cheaper than a mould test.


Moisture reader. This is the reading of the corner-but window’s reveal (not water-damaged) that looked the worst, yet it was still low compared to water-damaged areas.

Any area that was black and gave a reading was replaced. Areas that appeared clean but gave a reading were cleaned. Areas of moisture concern were dried out using fans and heaters. We replaced around 12 pieces of wood. And went through so many cleaning rags, 3 vacuums (1 was stolen) 4 bottles of dishwashing liquid and some peroxide in particular areas.

The Clean Up

The mould clean up began. Even Darin said that if I didn’t have such a sensitivity to mould, it would be overkill for most people. More importantly, to me though, what if it wasn’t? Lol, and I thought I was losing my mind over mould then. (It felt like impending disaster.) Oh, and then Dan bought a bottle of Concrobium from Bunnings, cause you know, we all want a product that will just magically make it disappear; it was recommended not to use it based on the idea that the remediation company never used biocides with occupants who have compromised immune systems. The Concrobium went in the bin. Close call, there!

Early on, Darin had been most receptive of the Shoemaker research, doctor’s letters and my explanation of what mould had done to my life and the lengths I now had to go to avoid it. Thankfully, he understood that I wouldn’t be able to live there if mould took over the house. Dan would have an investment but I’d have no home! Between the three of us, we worked out a remediation clean up that wouldn’t make me sick:

Dan and I suited up and did the clean up ourselves. Our only mistake was not taping around the edge of the cuffs of the tyvek suits and Hunter boots, and double set of nitrile gloves, but other than that, we masked up and did alright!:


Breaking Mould

We didn’t even use Barwon Restoration Service‘s products, instead, based on their advice, using our dishwashing liquid; a particular percentage of peroxide; a huge bag of white throw away rags from Costco; and more dishwashing liquid for the wipe up of the whole upstairs, instead, paying attention to the bathroom and other immediate areas.

It’s a dangerous thing, dead mould.

Peroxide is dangerous too, because dead spores break up into fragments, can become embedded in your belongings, and, given the right, moist environment, can possibly desecrate your life. We then used sabco cloths and a HEPA vacuum to clean up any remaining spores.

(This is a true story; it’s happened to myself and many others who either have faulty HLA’s (human leukocyte antigens) and/or have lived in a water damaged building (WDB).

For education’s sake, my HLA’s are 4, 7, 2 and 8, which, using the Australian version of  ‘My House Makes me Sick HLA calculator‘ and the results of my blood test, computes to this:

4-3-53 – Multisusceptible/Chronic Fatigue

7-2-53 – Mold Susceptible

7-3-53 – Mold Susceptible). 

Had I have known that this was only the first of many clean ups to come, I’d have thrown myself on the floor, curling up into foetal position, hands over my eyes so I couldn’t see the HEPA vacuum looking back at me. This was the 2nd and the last mould clean up I took part in. Spraying peroxide and wiping each area with only one wipe of a clean cloth, then another one with straight up detergent was a royal pain in the backside. However, we were able to save money doing this part ourselves. The reason I refuse to do it again is I now know how sick mould can make me.

We used air washing, using cross-ventilation and sea winds to clear the house in the coming weeks.

Feeling a bit like a superhero with a biology degree in mould, through the build, I was able to purchase a water reader for around $80, very basic; and a thermal imaging camera. I spent many hours at the house, checking for air leaks where water vapour could get through, or worse, water… I lost sleep over the build everytime it rained, unless I was there. So I went and stayed there, spending many nights checking for water entry when it was raining, I thought I was going nuts, so it was good to get biological readings on any suspect timber over the next few months. Finally, it was at lock up and all windows and doors were flashed, keyed and securely in.

A clean build is a safe build

A clean build is a safe build. So is one that’s at lock up!

Mould Entry no.2

It was September 2016, nearly a year ago.

Come November, one morning, after sleeping there during wet weather—yet again—I did my usual rounds, clattering ladder  behind me, moisture reader and thermal imager in the front pocket of my overalls. To my horror, one of the hardwood window ledges had a pool of water on it. No moisture reader needed! I couldn’t believe my eyes. This area faced south; where the heavy rain and south westerlies come in.

window leak

(Our UPVC (the ‘u’ stands for ‘un-plasticised’) windows were made in Germany but when they arrived, one window didn’t quite fit, so we had one from an Australian company placed into that space. It looked the same. Until it leaked.) It took a few weeks to get the window removed so the area could be remediated. I think I counted the minutes of those few weeks.

We had to prove where the water was coming in so they could take responsibility. That’s the thing when working on a house yourself, if something goes wrong, you need to trace it back to the person responsible and everyone says it’s everyone else’s fault. We didn’t know if it was the flashing, the structure of the timber or the window itself. The thermal imaging camera gave the answer to that question: the thermally-broken chamber was taking in and holding water, which then leaked out slowly into the building via the window reveal:


Once again on advice from our remediatior, we waited until just before sundown, when the temperature drops outside, leaving any trapped water within the building envlope at a higher temperature.

2016-10-22 23.16.06-1

Image taken after another rainy night. This time the chamber is full on the left. It would leak out slowly onto the wooden reveal

The inside of a window’s thermally broken chamber looks like this:

A piece of thermally broken window frame used for testing

A piece of thermally-broken UPVC window frame, used to test for suitability

(Image is not the brand that leaked, rather the one I’d tested for suitability early on in the planning stages.)

One wrong product or chemical used in the build could make it unlivable. Mould, impossibly so.

Once it was established how the water was getting in and who was responsible, the window was removed. By then it looked like this:

WindowFail2016-10-26 19.45.24

The mould that was visible was not half as worrysome as the mould that couldn’t be seen

During remediation, the above area was sanded back. To replace the materials, it was a matter of pulling apart the outside wall of the house. Darin came over and promptly sealed off the area using Grunt plastic. But not before he generously assisted Dan in boarding up the hole in the south facing wall: the area needed to be as air tight as possible for the pressurised room where the window had leaked. It was only a little mould. Should be fine being only small amount, right? We all thought so.

HouseMouldRemediation2016-10-28 20.44.05

This room has been wrapped, pressurised and set up with a HEPA air scrubber, ready for cleaning

Also of concern: The hardwood reveal in the corner-but window (next to the above window) had black dots all over it. Due to my recent CIRS diagnosis, we needed to know if it was mould: it gave a reading of 180. Anything over 60-80 wasn’t good. Rather than clean that area, we opted to replace that piece of hardwood also. This way, it was a sure thing! Better to be safe than sorry, and we were on a budget: a mould test wasn’t out of budget but we did have to chose where to spend money: materials and HEPA scrubbers or testing and remediation of materials and HEPA scrubbers?

After the room was remediated, cleaned and I’d stayed away for a few weeks, I returned and all was fine. I was symptom free. The window reveal had been painted in clear Safecoat. (I did, however, return the night the air scrubbers were cleaning the house. I would have to say that was the most intense mould reaction I’ve ever had. And I got it walking into the property, from the front yard. The air being expelled from the house was blown in my face by the wind. My face and hands felt like they were on fire. I actually thought the house was sure to be ruined considering the reaction of my skin!)

However, a few months later, I noticed the paint was bubbling up. This meant there was moisture, possibly mould, in the wood. Still! All other reveals were fine. Our indoor remediation had not been for nothing: it was an important learning experience: it’s better to the replace mouldy materials than remediate them, where possible.

Darin: 0498 777 131
John: 0412 777 193

Next, in Part II: Our back deck, shockingly, needs remediation: we have to replace our whole back deck after the hardwood supporting beams are now black with mould—as is the MgO board, which was yet to be sealed or waterproofed.

2016-09-24 09.52.44

Note how the back of the house is sealed with plastic. It’s called ‘containment’


Toxic Mould Support Australia: Remove, Don’t Kill Mould – Part 1 – Building Materials

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.

An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen ~ uPVC Board

uPVC Polymer Board

Due to my sensitivities to terpenes, as tested and diagnosed by my Allergist and Immunologist, Dr Colin Little, I think we will be using uPVC (or PVCu if you’re in Europe) board for the cabinets, not the doors, just the carcass. Think pharmaceutical bottles: hard white plastic. Well this board is like that but baked so it’s even sturdier. Pine is a huge problem for me due to the terpenes (the frame of our house is made from hardwood, which I will be blogging about next. Hardwood is not generally used in kitchens unless it’s a softer wood like oak, which is costly. (You can read more about oak as doors here [link coming soon].) (And you can read more about a Green and formaldehyde free chipboard/particleboard, Ecological Panel, here.)

What is uPVC?

Regular PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a common, strong but lightweight plastic used in products such as underground piping (Due to the PBA’s contained, we used it only for the outgoing sewage pipes.). It can be made more pliable with the addition of plasticisers, which may contain phthalates. If no plasticisers are added, it is known as uPVC (unplasticized polyvinyl chloride); or in the US, it’s called  ‘vinyl siding’ or rigid PVC. So the ‘u’ just means that it’s un-plasticised, more durable and a harder product without the plastic softeners such as phthalates!

Is it Safe for People with Health Issues?

From Diffen, where you can compare anything:

Safety and Risks

PVC-coated wires can form HCl fumes in a fire, which can be a health hazard. Plasticizers may leach out of PVC into the environment.

Phthalates are what allow PVC to be flexible. Some of the phthalates used in PVC have been restricted or banned over the years, and many others are being replaced with safer phthalates. Dibutylbenzyl butyl, and DEHP are some of the more commonly banned or restricted phthalates.

To date, there are no mainstream concerns regarding the use of uPVC, which does not use phthalates or BPA.

Read more about the differences here

modern contemporary kitchen

(Source: image from Pixabay)

What if you’re Chemically Sensitive to Plastic?

It probably doesn’t need to be pointed out that if you have contact allergies, inhalant allergies or sensitivities to plastics, then you wouldn’t use this product. Personally, I have tested it extensively (meaning slept with it on my bedside table, and later, held it to my face, and placed it in the sun to see what happens when it heats up…). I don’t have breathing problems with plastic; ergo, plastic bags from the supermarket cause my eyes, nose and upper respiratory irritation due to the cleaning chemicals and fragrances embedded in them just from where they are stored: in shops that sell chemicals alongside foods?! (*Don’t worry; it’s perfectly safe to eat bread that tastes like cleaning chemicals*) I’ve also asked my doctors, both specialists in allergies and sensitivities, about using this uPVC in our window frames, and possibly our kitchen. uPVC is on my safe list. You need to check before adding it to yours or someone else’s who has sensitivities to chemical irritants. It’s also noteworthy that many people who suffer physical symptoms from exposure to plastic, often, due to petrochemicals, or it’s the plasticisers that make PVC soft for other uses, like dog or children’s toys, that are causing the issues. (Yeah, I see that, due to phthalates, they may not be safe for anyone! The book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck gives good examples and citations on this issue.) However, this is not a rule. We are all so different; and, I am not a scientist or a doctor, just in case you didn’t know!

It can be confusing, I know. If you just remember the ‘U’, which stands for unplasticised and means it’s a different material than PVC, which is the softer plastic, often containing PBAs and/or phthalates  depending on where it is sourced from.

Some uPVC products are stabilised with other chemicals; but I’ll get to this with my post on uPVC windows from Zenit Windows asap. Just because we are chemically sensitive, in my opinion, it doesn’t mean that we need to live without chemicals. They are useful; we need them! They can help us solve many of the issues we have to deal with. Again, there are no rules; we are all different. I think people who are mould sensitive may do better with this type of material due to the fact it cannot absorb water.

Use in Outdoor Kitchens

uPVC board is used to make outdoor kitchens because it is resistant to mould and moisture buildup. Your Custom Cabinets in Geelong kindly gave us a large sample piece to take home for testing purposes. Now this was before we decided on the Zenit uPVC window frames, so I was dubious because of the uPVC and tips from some solid sources on the internet in regards to choosing products for people with chemical sensitivities, however, the anti-mould factor won my attention because this board is mostly used for outdoor kitchens as explained by Rod during our outdoor meeting.

More from ‘Your Custom Cabinets’ Outdoor Kitchens

“Take advantage of your outdoor living area with one of Your Custom Cabinets outdoor kitchens. Transform your backyard, patio or entertainment area with custom cabinets or an outdoor kitchen or barbecue. Talk to Your Custom Cabinets joinery for ideas on benchtops, cabinets and shelving and we can custom build the perfect outdoor entertaining area for your home.”

The board is mould proof, inert, and baked so that it’s hard. I have heard, from other sources, that if painted in 2pak (which is baked on just like powder-coated paint) and left to bake in the sun—as outdoor kitchens are left to do—and, if not under the cover of a veranda or similar structure, the paint will fade, especially the darker shades. However, indoors, we won’t have this problem.

How does it Feel to Touch?

If I were to describe how it feels: it’s dense, heavy and solid with know porous areas; it’s also smooth and impervious to water.

My first question about this product: VOCs, give me data on that, please

First, we will clear up the brand name issue: The board was marketed as Neemaboard, however, it’s now Cowdroy. It could also be sold under other names, if you know of more brands or places who sell products like this, please drop a comment down below. It will be most helpful for those of us who must think outside the square bubble for health issues.

MSDS for Cowdroy Board

My readers know I get excited when businesses are transparent and just hand over MSDS and other information such as:


SAFETY DATA …………………………………………………………………………..15th Jan 2015

The Wetline and Signline board supplied by H.M. Cowdroy , are a foamed PVC extruded board. Wetline and Signline do not contain any hazardous chemicals and as such are not scheduled under the G.H.S ( Global Harmonized System of Classification and labelling of Chemicals )

As a guidance to composition and safety when working with these board, we issue the following synopsis on safety data information, supplied to us by the manufacturer.


Foamed PVC board, available in the Australian market under the brand names WETLINE and SIGNLINE.


Poly Vinyl Chloride ( P.V.C) with a Calcium Zinc based stabiliser .

NO Lead or Organo- Tin additives are used in the manufacture of this product.

Hazard Information

Wetline and Signline , are non –harmful in the solid state .

Working with these products

Normal safety equipment, Goggles, Gloves , and Dust masks should be worn when cutting or machining this product .

For high speed cutting or machining, extraction and ventilation is recommended to remove fumes and dust.


If dust particles are inhaled, move to an area free of dust, preferably in the open air

Seek medical advice if discomfort persists.


Rinse mouth to remove particles, and drink water as required.

Contact with eyes

Contact lenses ( If worn) should be removed , flush eyes with clean fresh water , holding eye lids apart , until all dust and discomfort is removed .

Seek medical advice if discomfort or irritation persists.

Contact with Skin

If irritation to skin occurs, remove contaminated clothing , wash skin with soap and water ,and dry ,

Seek medical advice if discomfort or irritation persists.

Disposal of product

Do not incinerate, check with Local Authority guidelines relating to disposal of waste.

Fire Fighting Measures

In the event of fire, instruct personnel to evacuate the area, and inform Fire Fighters that the board comprises of P.V.C compounds and Calcium Zinc based stabilisers .

If fire extinguishers are used, Water, Foam, or Dry Powder are suitable.

How to Know if This is the Right Product for Your Allergy-Free Kitchen

Personally, when I asked my treating Allergist and Immunologist, who said, “It should be fine.”, I trusted that because I’ve been treated by this doctor for over a decade.

I also tested the large piece, given to us by Rod Bird at Your Custom Kitchens, who I found on Houzz, via just breathing near it. Later I put in out in the sun, then held it up to my face. I don’t recommend others do this; it’s just something I felt safe doing.

Some people practice Kinesiology; or go and see one themselves to find out if a product or chemical is suitable. I, however, will always trust my own bodily physical symptoms over what any therapist or doctor says. But just know, especially if you are skeptical of Kinesiology, this is the only way some people can test products because they are that exquisitely sensitive to so many substances, that they have no choice; so you need to just stand back and respect that method if someone tells you about it! (Also note, you can learn to do this yourself, I hear on the GE-free, organic grapevine!

If in doubt, trust your own instincts. If in doubt of your medical practitioner, get a second opinion or even a third!

More about ‘Your Custom Cabinets’:

Your Custom Cabinets is owned and operated by Rod Bird with over 30 years experience in the industry. We design, create and install Kitchen, Bathroom, Laundry and Living spaces cabinets shaped to suit your lifestyle.

Services Provided

Your Custom Cabinets can provide everything from design conception through to hassle-free installation of cabinets crafted to meet your individual requirements. We can also fully co-ordinate all trades people needed for your project.

Areas Served

Geelong, Bellarine Peninsula, Surf Coast, Ballarat, Colac and Melbourne.

Mobile: 0418 526 990


Business Hours

Monday – Friday

7.30am – 4.00pm

After hours by appointment. Or you can fill in their contact form, here

Building Biologist Recommendations for Outgassing Our New Kitchen

Whether we choose Ecological Board or Cordory, uPVC board, for the cabinet frame, or I find another product) we have planned an outgassing process (used over in the states; now adapted for summer Australian climate. (My caring vegan man, Dan, has developed this procedure over the last decade. The plan: bake the house when it’s new, sure, but renowned Building Biologist, Raphael Siket, Director of Ecolibria here in Torquay on the surf coast of Victoria, Australia, Victoria, has suggested we order the kitchen as soon as possible; then, laying the pieces out on specially placed shelves to get the outgassing treatment right before installation.

Ah, but what about when the kitchen heats up?

This was a question put to me on one of the local forums here in Australia where we discuss all things relating to living with allergies, food intolerances, mould and medical conditions relating to chemical sensitivities. Hopefully, when our kitchen heats up this won’t be an issue because we’ve already sped up the process using this exact procedure. If it is, I have to stay upstairs with stairwell door closed until it’s ready; however, this is the plan:

  1. Order the kitchen panels weeks, months even, before installing them;

  2. Place them inside the house where there is good air-flow;

  3. Set up some shelving against the wall in the kitchen area (of course the space is empty so there’s lots of room)

  4. Have fans running, pointed in the direction of the temporary shelving;

  5. Place the pieces of kitchen boards separately on the temporary shelving;

  6. Give them a wipe over with a solution of bicarbonate of soda, vinegar or you preferred cleaning product (I usually use Seventh Generation Free and Clear: All Purpose Cleaner but in this case, I’d start with the bicarbonate of soda as it absorbs chemicals, odours etc.);

  7. Make sure there is plenty of airflow between the boards, which are holding the panels to help them outgass their ‘newness’;

  8. At a temperature of 30-40 Degrees Celsius, heat the house up periodically, for 12-24 hours each time to bake out any wood terpenes, chemical-irritants (depending on what product you choose to use) or any residual odours left over from handling or manufacturing; keep the fans running as this will help the process along nicely;

  9. After each baking session, turn the heat off completely, leave the fans running and open all the windows of the house (ceiling fans will help greatly at this point).


Book about plastics, chemicals and their ability to build up within humans and animals: Slow Death by Rubber Duck

More on testing via Kinesiology: Australian Kinesiology Association

My Chemical Free House: A Non-toxic Kitchen

The Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free Kitchen Series

 An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—Oak. Glass or uPVC or Composite Panels?

 An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—By The Allergista: What are Your Countertops Hiding?

An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—Ecological Panels, and Building Biology Service, EcoLibria

An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—uPVC Board

An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen—Benchtops

An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen ~ A Recap on the Low Irritant Kitchen

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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