The Kitchen Series: An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen

This is the first post in ‘An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen’ series. And to save you reading it all at once, I’ve broken up this one long post into handy bit-sized readings for each element needed to create your very own ‘Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen’. Whether you have respiratory issues, chemical sensitivities, mould illness, asthma or any medical condition that is impacted on via air-quality, then these posts are for you.

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It’s also come to my awareness since being diagnosed with Inhalant Allergies to various natural and chemical substances, 13 years ago, that there are many parents who want to create a safe haven where little Jane or Jovan can have a calm, joyful place free of allergens and the worry that goes along with avoiding those allergens in everyday life; like at school, it’s the same as not having any peanuts in the house if someone in the family has an allergy.. The same goes for parents of newborns, they want to give their new treasured bundle the absolute best start in life.

Nowhere is your home more of a haven than when you are free to live an allergen, chemical-irritant free life.

An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen is about creating a worry-free hub where the family can come together to share meals in the most comfortable way possible: free of allergens and chemical irritants that inflame airways and play havoc with sufferers of inhalant allergies, chemical sensitivities, respiratory inflammation, Toxic Encephalopathy, Asthma, Occupational Asthma, Irritant-associated Vocal Cord Dysfunction, Reactive Airways Dysfunction Syndrome (RADS), Irritant-induced Asthma, Small Airways Disease and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS): all conditions where indoor air-quality is paramount to comfort and good health.

It’s just a matter of choosing the right products suitable for your own situation. The only way to do this and be sure you’re making the right choice is to investigate and research until you find the right product(s). Personally, I like to run ideas past my treating doctor, an Allergist and Immunologist; but mostly, I decide on whether the product or material impacts on my breathing by testing it–I’ll delve more into how I do this, and share ideas on how others do it in another post coming up.).

Dan and I haven’t yet decided on the materials we are going ot use. However, my good internet friend and author, Kathryn Treat, has a left a trail via her book, Allergic to Life: my battle for courage, survival and hope, and our interviews: in Part II of ‘New Beginnings—No Turning Back’, she describes her kitchen being made of completely sealed Formica, which in the US is chipboard/particleboard completely (or at least in her case) sealed on all sides with laminate. The doors in her kitchen are oak, and her window frames vinyl clad.

In the dearly departed author’s words: “This is no cookie-cutter illness; we are all different.”

Oak Doors

I’ve already tested the oak doors, and decided that that’s what we are going to use.

A glue recommend by the Healthy House Institute in the US as it contains aliphatic resins, which dry hard and odourless:

(This is the glue I’m testing for use with some Oak Cabinetry doors! It has the aliphatic resin as recommended by The Healthy House Institute.)

Titebond® Supreme

This is a very fast setting adhesive of the titebond aliphatic resin range. It is Specifically formulated to provide short clamp time for oak and other ring-porous woods. It has excellent heat and solvent resistance and excellent durability for interior exposures. Excellent for Ash and Oak high volume production.

Sizes available: 19lt Pail & 208lt Drum

Visit GREENchoice Website

If we need to save money, which we probably do, we’ll be using glass doors with aluminium edging around them, which I will get to in two shakes of a lambs tale. Basically, our Butler’s pantry [read fruit and vegetable storage room] is going to be mostly glass doors. and shelving with mirror splashbacks so as to appear to give it more space.

Polyvor Aluminium and Glass Doors

Polyvor Aluminium and Glass Doors

Now, for the cabinets, so far we have two choices. Ecological Panels (made from recyclable non-toxic, sustainable & green building materials, or Neemaboard, hardened uPVC board, which is either also sold under the name Waterproof PVC Based Polymer Board from Cowdrey or it’s a different product. The gentleman at Cowdrey who gave me the MSDS said that Neemaboard is no longer called that. So I will just refer to it as Cowdrey PVC Board. It’s actually UPVC or the sample I have that says ‘Neemaboard” on the back (shown below) is different. There actually is a huge difference between PVC and UPVC. So I will sort this out when I do a post in this ‘An Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly Kitchen’ series of posts, just on the cabinet materials available (maybe 5 posts away?).

(Our thermally-broken, double-glazed windows and frames, already ordered and paid for with Zenit Windows are uPVC (Known as PVCU overseas in countries like Europe), ours have come from Europe, so hopefully, the REACH stricter safety standards will protect my health from VOCs; I still can’t find any reputable information on the amount of VOCs released per square metre anywhere–so far. Except from over at the ATA forum. And from a VOC point, it’s not looking pretty. But from an Ecological standard, they are excellent going by reviews and the recommendation of our Eco Draftsperson, Quin Wyatt.)

Both cabinet products have their advantages. But I will say straight up that Ecological Board stacks up really well in price and suitability compared to the same product that contains formaldehyde in the glues, which hold ordinary particle board together.

Both products can be completely sealed with a 2Pak paint, which hardens just like powder coat, I am told by our kitchen guy.

(I wrote about ‘How to Seal Chipboard in the Kitchen’ way back in 2007 for AESSRA (The Allergy, Environmental, Sensitivity and Support Research Association), who then published it in their magazine, Sensitivity Matters. I can tell you now, the kitchen in the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project will not be using foil for anything other than wrapping sandwiches! Well there is the Kingspan AirCell 3in1 Building wrap… but that’s the last time, I swear. If you have chemical sensitivities, please laugh along with me.)

Other elements that could make your kitchen allergy-free, keeping indoor air-quality at optimum levels:

  • The kitchen doors
  • The cabinets
  • The bench tops (I have a special guest post coming up from The Allergista about this very topic in regards to transdermal skin allergies! and what can be found in your benchtops)
  • Any coatings or paints used in the sealing or colouring of materials
  • Removal of humid air, eliminating the risk of moisture build up, which could lead to mould growth
  • The flooring

The next post is going to be on Ecological Board, the good, the great and the awesome. Stay tuned.

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

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.

D&C Fear Concreting

The project, Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House, now has a concrete slab as the foundation for what’s to come. After living in The House of Mouldy Horrors back in 2012, when I got sick, where the slab edges in the three bedrooms, including the main, that ran parallel to the garden and concrete driveway outside was leaking water, drying out to effervescent white in summer to wet patch in winter (the solution was to tar it, which we couldn’t). At night time, the damp night air stunk of soil, and ruined my health, I’m sure; while back at the farm house my health was fine enough to go back to school until I lived in that house with a ‘faulty’  slab. However, this slab is different: its smooth, with neat square edges, perfect lines; it’s solid as a steel-grey rock with a texture smooth-as-a-polished-knife.

Daniel Fear concreter: House slab, garage slab and cottage slab for the 'Build and Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House' project

House slab, garage slab and cottage slab

After the moisture ingress issue with the slab at my last residence, ‘The House of Mouldy Horrors’, back in 2012, the place where my health deteriorated after exposure to mould caused by the quagmire of soggy soil surrounding the slab edges, we knew we had to find a good concreter who could lay us a chemical-free-as-possible slab with no petrochemicals or solvents used on site or on it;  one that would serve as a solid foundation for our blog project, Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House; but most of all, one that wouldn’t expose me to unnecessary chemicals most especially mould!

After shopping around via phone interviews, and gathering four different and varied quotes, I found this great concreting business:

DC Fear Concreting: tradespeople used in the book 'Build an Eco-friendly, Allergy Free House'

Daniel from D&C Fear Constructions Pty. Ltd.  

Location: 58 Lake Avenue, Ocean Grove, on the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia.

P: 04 0369 3794

Daniel Fear and his team where not only helpful, respectful and careful in helping me stay safe within the parameters of my medical condition but were active in doing so. You can tell when a tradesperson is going to be helpful straight off the bat: They convey an understanding immediately, often asking questions with the gist of, How Not to Make you Sick. In my mind it’s pretty simple: I tell the dude or dudette that I need to avoid any exposure to petrochemicals, solvents, cleaners and any chemical not tested by us. (I also email or hand over an Allergist’s letter to all people we consider hiring.) After a couple of chats on the phone, we met up at our block and, yes dear readers, he was free of after-shave, fragrance and sprays.

Some people just get ‘it’ when asked, thankfully.

Yes, I know. I base my tradespeople reviews on whether they are wearing chemicals (dispersed onto their person via sprays from deodorants and fragrance—like, for real—I can tell even if it was sprayed on yesterday because it’s not as volatile and, when I breathe it in, it doesn’t sting my eyes not even one quarter as much.). The mantra I always say to all people whom I’ve asked to go fragrance free:

It’s not the smell; it’s the chemicals.

For the slab this wasn’t so important, but when I visited after it was finished, the place didn’t reek of petrochemicals. I was happy.

Also, when I arrived at the Build an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House project site on day 4, the last day of the concreting job, our load of hardwood (from Calco) for the house’s frame was just arriving on a big bloody truck, spewing out diesel fumes into the air.

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Not one to trust my boyfriend to take a photo (one in portrait and one in landscape) with correct white balance, a steady hand and sharp focus and from the right bloody angle, I popped on my 3M mask, assessed the wind direction and jumped out of the car to get some shots. (The ones with all the concreting action.) I noticed two things straight up: The jerry-cans of petrol were kept off the property by the gate [tick]; and, as I went to walk near the entrance to the block, Daniel, picking up a petrol can, asked,  “Do you want this moved?”, I said “no” cause I was leaving after getting my shots… (Like about 20 clicks of the camera and I was out of there.) But that’s my point: tradespeople taking our medical condition seriously. What can I say, make it happen.)

I cannot recommend D&C Fear Concreting highly enough for people who have allergies, chemical sensitivities or conditions relating to respiratory symptoms.

Dan and I came back later to check out our slab. Back when I imagined the concept of actually having a slab, I thought we would have a slab picnic but, due to some friends‘ advice, I was just playing it cautious by totally avoiding sitting on it for a few days until it was completely dry.

But here I am, contemplating the end result and feeling like I’m in a dream. Me? In my own house? It’s actually happening.

 

 

Click on of the images below for a slideshow of the action.

Our eco-designer specified for the slab to be 200 mm high. And most of the north-facing windows are large, coming all the way down to the floor so that it can absorb the sun’s heat in winter. Our eaves come out 600 mm so that the higher-in-the-sky summer sun is blocked by them, therefore, allowing the slab to stay cool because the sun is kept of the windows (I’ll blog more on this issue once I get time to post my research online.)

More on Thermal Mass

In rooms with good access to winter sun it is useful to connect the thermal mass to the earth. The most common example is slab-on-ground construction…

A slab-on-ground is preferable to a suspended slab in most climates because it has greater thermal mass due to direct contact with the ground. This is known as earth coupling. Deeper, more stable ground temperatures rise beneath the house because its insulating properties prevent heat loss. The slab assumes this higher temperature which can range from 16° to 19°C.

In summer, the earth has the capacity to ‘wick’ away substantial heat loads. It also provides a cool surface for occupants to radiate heat to (or conduct to, with bare feet). This increases both psychological and physiological comfort.

In winter, the slab maintains thermal comfort at a much higher temperature with no heat input. The addition of passive solar or mechanical heating is then more effective due to the lower temperature increase required to achieve comfortable temperatures.

Use surfaces such as quarry tiles or simply polish the concrete slab. Do not cover areas of the slab exposed to winter sun with carpet, cork, wood or other insulating materials: use rugs instead.

Chemical-based Curing Agents

Daniel also suggested not using a curing agent as they often contain petrochemicals because they’re oil based. I’ve even read about US companies pouring diesel over it to assist in curing correctly. However, even though chemical-based curing agents do guarantee the slab will cure perfectly, they may or may not be suitable for people sensitive to chemicals; it will depend on the individual and their sensitivities.

More from Holcim Australia:

Reasons for Curing:

To sum up the advantages of careful control of moisture and temperature in curing:

  • The strength of concrete increases with age if curing conditions are favourable. Compressive strength of properly cured concrete is 80 to 100 per cent greater than the strength of concrete which has not been cured at all;
  • Properly cured concrete surfaces wear well;
  • Drying, shrinkage, cracking is reduced;
  • Greater watertightness of constructions is assured;

Points to keep in mind when curing:  

  • Start curing operations as soon as possible after concrete has been placed;
  • For proper curing concrete needs moisture;
  • Continuity in curing is a must; alterations of wetting and drying promote the development of cracking;
  • If during curing the concrete is allowed to dry out – as may happen in hot weather – the chemical stops right at the point where the concrete loses its moisture;
  • The ideal curing temperature is 23°C;
  • Cure concrete for at least 7 days;

From Ei Wellspring, Things to Watch Out For:

  • Besides avoiding the concrete additives, there are various other pitfalls.
  • As mentioned some contractors pour diesel fuel [or other chemicals,which may or may not be safe for you to use] over a finished concrete slab to create a nice finish.  This happened for an MCS house.  They were unable to correct the problem in any other way than cover the slab with a heavy membrane and then pour a new slab on top.  This worked well, but cost a lot of money.
  • a barrier will also block any radon gas that may come from the soil, especially in areas with bedrock.  It is best to use multiple overlapping layers.
  • Make sure the slab inside the house is not exposed to the outside, or there will be great heat loss.  Such errors have been seen where the slab under the house extends out on a small patio or walkway.  Such thermal bridging is especially important to avoid when the slab is heated with an in-floor heating system.
  • Insulation used in the foundation must be designed for this use.  Inappropriate insulation may compress or disintegrate over time.  In America, proper insulation boards are rated for “direct burial,” and are generally referred to as “blue boards.”
  • Make sure any gravel trucked in is clean.  It is not unusual for such a load to be contaminated with oil spills or other contaminants.  Make sure it comes directly from a gravel quarry, and inspect each load.
  • Decide in advance what to do with any leftover concrete.  The driver cannot take it back, it has to be dumped or used somewhere on your property.  One option is to spread it on the driveway, where it turns into gravel.

The company, Termimesh, came while the slab was being poured so they could install a special type of mesh, which will protect our house from termites without using poisons; but more on this, as promised, soon.

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Dan the Vegan Eco-Builder Man

Dan is the builder of the house, it’s his actual responsibility to get it right. If this house doesn’t work, we will need to sell it and go back to Mt Macedon Ranges but for now, like ten years or so, we’ll have to live here. We need to get this project done right. Also, even though I buried Ganesh in the backyard for good luck, asking him to bless our digs and remove all obstacles placed in our way, however, I still wanted to follow the Greek tradition of putting a coin in the slab for extra good luck. This didn’t happen because there was just too much action going on at the house during the concreting process; instead, I’ve jammed a 50 cent piece Anzac coin under the side front door part of the hardwood frame (post coming up on the frame soon).

I can tell you about some old-school Macedonian stories related to mythology and luck when it comes to ‘blessing’ a new house that would make your vegan (if you are one) head spin:

But instead, I’ll leave on this note from Latman 100 from the Coin Community:

“I am a builder, and people still to this day request to place coins either in the slab or in some other part of the house. The strangest thing I have ever seen was a goat head placed in the slab of a house we built for a Macedonian family. Something to do with an old tradition.”

But I’ll save the details on this particular mythology for another blog post.

More

EI Wellspring: Building a Concrete Foundation for a Healthy House

Green Home Guide: Is concrete flooring eco-friendly? What’s the best way to finish it—stain, paint, polish?

Toxipedia: Dangers in our Home, Mould and More

The Labyrinth: DuPont’s Worst Nightmare

The Labyrinth: Reece Plumbing

The Labyrinth: KLM Plumbing

The Labyrinth: Modakboard

The Labyrinth: How Long Does it Take to Create a Safe Home

The Labyrinth: Building a House with Ganesh (Yes, I do love mythology.)

Coming up

The Labyrinth: The Steps to ‘How to Get a Low-toxic, Water-tight Slab’

The Labyrinth: The Steps to ‘How to get a Termite Proof Slab with without chemical-irritants with Termimesh’

The Labyrinth: More Research on ‘How to Avoid Slab Moisture Ingress’

The Labyrinth: Passive-Heating and Cooling in Eco-House Design

The Labyrinth: How to Test for Chemical and Natural Compound Tolerance to Building Materials and Products

The Labyrinth: Pristine Carpentry

The Labyrinth: Calco (low-toxic, chemically-irritant wood building supplies)

The Labyrinth: A Hardwood Frame

The Labyrinth: Shoji Doors

The Labyrinth: my up-and-coming book: Freedom: an allergy-free, eco-friendly 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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