McMansions for People with MCS and CIRS

Why is this house taking so long?

It’s taking us a an extended amount of time, more than 12 months now, to build our Allergy-free House. A good friend who built their own safe house, and has now recovered, told us,

“Take your time. It’s better to get everything right, rather than make a mistake causing your house to be intolerable and unliveable!” 

Seems we have taken this to the extreme as I’ve been watching houses go up in our area that only take 6 months to completion. Houses without eaves, I might add!!!

The first hold up: Back at the draft stage, with Eco Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt, we had our house plans re-sized and scaled down—due to budget restraints—the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project became around 10 square metres smaller. When Dan’s finance manager said to us, “It looks like a bloody McMansion!” and, “Spend a few k now; and save 100 k off the price of the build.”, we were like, “Sure.” Seriously, I moved out of the city, away from big houses with no eaves badly positioned on small blocks of land so that I could build a home to recover my health in; an ecological, chemical free, passively heated and cooled, with hydronic heating for those nights when the bones are sore. (For the allergy-friendly heating, we used a company called Hydrotherm; I have a post coming up next about the installation and excellent service we received from this company in regards to the system itself and how awesome they were with all my allergies.) But while all this was happening I was in a mouldy house of horrors with an ERMI of 17. And another mouldy house before that. I’m in a much better place now.


Our home is our castle; but it’s certainly not a resource guzzling McMansion! It never was but it was mahoosive for only two people. (Child left the nest.)

So we made the castle smaller.

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-freindly house. It shows sunlight splashed across the room in June, which is winter in Australia ~ Virtual house photo by, Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt

This made our heating cheaper also. Thanks, Hydrotherm. (Not sponsored.)

So we had the pleasure of trying out Quin’s new software, focusing on some more eco-friendly and money saving aspects of the house, and we got to see the above sun studies in all it’s virtualness; and the house and cottage on a smaller scale.

(These photos mean a lot to me: 12 months ago, I was flat in bed with what looked like SEID/CFS/ME: I was stuck in a mouldy house, laying in bed with 10 day headaches. Looking at these future-safe-house photos just forced me to focus on a positive future. Thanks, Quin.

Oh, how I needed the sun on my skin at a time when I was stuck indoors: sick when I stayed inside; and sick if I went outside. But these photos represented the future to me. (You can read a blog post I wrote for Quin, here.)

The future is now; and it’s good. The headaches are gone; and I have sun on my skin. In the house, most days.)

Our house has come along, stumbling and fumbling along. Many headaches&amp—of the metaphorical kind—and a zillion worries of immense proportions. I’m at a place now where I cannot rent a house due to severe chemical sensitivity caused by CIRS; at place where if I have to I will sleep in a van in the state forests with my boyfriend’s dog, Bella; a place between here and now.

Sitting in my upstairs #bathroom in the morning sun while work goes on around me. I love how, even though we had water come into the property and we’ve had to replace wood panels because of mould, and we need to get #barwonrestorationservices in with #HEPA #Scrubbers before putting up the walls, my health, headaches and other symptoms ease of tremendously whenever I visit. And there is dust and mud all around the place! It’s been a tough #winter for me but as soon as I’m in #freshair and #sunshine, I just know 🏡 that the #buildanecofriendlyallergyfreehome project is going to be all right. #pristinecarpentry and #zenitwindows were here today to help get this place to #lockup Dream bathroom: here I come🛀🏼

A photo posted by Michellina (@michellinaoutofthelabyrinth) on

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.

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, Unknown)

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, Unknown)

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.

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, Unknown)

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


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.
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