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.

We Wrapped our House in Plastic

Two months ago, where I live on the Surf Coast of Victoria, Australia, we experienced 3 days of wet Melbourne pouring rain, amplified. Not only was I sick from outdoor moulds but I knew the house was getting wet, if not water damaged: We were lucky, After Geelong’s (apparent) one-in-one hundred storm, our house took in water while only at slab, hardwood frame and roof stage. A lot of rain likely went into the slab. Concrete sucks up like a sponge. Luckily it was already cured, which makes a massive difference. After drying it out during a week of lucky, Ganesh-inspired hot weather. We were at the plumbing stage with KLM plumbing, and, thankfully, the house was kept clean of saw dust and other debris by them. After watching the weather over a two week period while the place dried out, we then wrapped the whole building.

Geelong's One-in-One Hundred Storm caused water damage to buildings in many houses

It’s a Wrap

We wrapped the house with Kingspan Aluminium Foil the day before. And, the next day, even though I was sick from the day before, we wrapped the upper half of the Build an Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly House project in plastic.

We used heavy-duty plastic, the type which is purpose built as a water barrier to go under a concrete slab, I think our carpenter, Damien suggested this. It works. With thousands of staples holding it on to the frame, it’s keeping wet weather out of our house. The bricks will be going up soon, fingers crossed, Ganesha blessed, the Boral bricks will not be any bloody later than this. (Boral Bricks were supposed to be here by xmas so that the bottom half could’ve been finished by now. Alright, let’s not ‘should’ all over ourselves, now shall we?

However, it was an ass of a job: the fumes from the plastic, holding roll after roll near my face and body, during hot weather is not something I’ll ever do again! I have a list of handy tradespeople who I know I can call and find at least one of them to do that job. Actually, Dan did ask our carpenter, Damien from Pristine Carpentry if he would do it but we decided to wait the weather out, wrapping at the perfect time: right before the next rainfall. (It had three weeks to dry out. We tried to wrap a part of it for a few rainy days as well but were yet to develop a technique that was safe. We worked out a way where, with someone else holding the roles from the inside, Dan could hang out on the outside and staple the plastic to the exterior of the house.)

We finished just as rain fell. We copped only a 1 ml of rain. And our house is now protected from water damage. 

I can rest easy now, knowing the house won’t get wet. My Dan has always been my hero but after this effort, he was just so great, as was I for even holding up to it. He took the next day off  work to look after me; and had another day off to take me for a blood test, one that had been previously put on ice, and needed to have two seperate tests run on it from two departments in the same building, it had to be retaken because the laboratories in those two departments wouldn’t run two tests on a singular vial of blood. So off I was to the clinic again: this the day of wrapping with plastic! Just the car visit and the pathology visit would have knocked me flat for the day anyway.

But no, I insist on standing on the upper floor of a building without walls or balcony railings in hot windy heat, drying my eyes and innards and making myself so nauseous, I had to wonder what the Hell we were actually doing out there like that. Him hanging out of windows; me ready to grab him by the back of his shorts.

So glad that day is over. 

Both jobs, the Kingspan Building Wrap (I have a detailed post about this process coming up along with some video footage of the process) and the Plastic Wrap (and a post of this abominable task) wrecking me. It just flattened me into bed for 3 days after. I’ve lost my tolerance and can notice my my health is impacted on via lawnmower fumes and washing powders etc. I just feel more sensitive. My head aches deep inside. However, I know that if I rest in my foil lined palace with the air filters running, this will pass. At least I can type and use my brain, which is always a bloody plus!

The following make great pictures for my up-and-coming book: Freedom: an allergy-free, eco-friendly house. [link to cover on iTunes coming up] but for now, here they are at The Labyrinth blog:

 

The Steps to Building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free house

The Steps to Building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free house and the tradespeople and companies we used (So far we have been really lucky with the team of people who we’ve found to help us build a low-toxic house.):

Design your house. We used Quin Wyatt, eco-Designer, and new beforehand, via testing with a doctor, what to avoid using before hand, plus, and apart from the actual style and design (the look), we knew exactly what we wanted: allergy-wise

Find your workers (yes I have a post: How to Find or Organise Fragrance Free Workers [post coming up]

How to Test Building Products and Products for your own or someone else’s Suitability [post coming up]

How to Apply to Council so that it passes through quickly [post coming up]

A fully, well-cured Concrete Slab, solid as a Rock from D&C Fear Concreting

Low-toxic Pluming installed by a fragrance-free plumbing team: KLM Plumbing

Choosing Fittings for the bathroom, kitchen and laundry: @Reece Plumbing

Choose your internal Building structure: We went with Hardwood from Calco [Post coming up]

Build a frame: we went with Damien and his team from Pristine Carpentry [Post coming up]

Choose a roof style, find a roofer [post coming up] , which are often, but not always a plumbing and roofing job (because plumbers and roofers often do both); We have the maddest Japanese style roof, which we are over the moon about, installed by Yeo Roofing and designed by Quin Wyatt, eco-draftsperson.

Kingspan Building wrap: FOR WRAPPING HOUSES THIS TIME

Virtual House Tour: using Sun Study Designs made by Quin our eco-draftsperson [up-and-coming post]

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.

Come Shopping with us at Reece Plumbing for Low Allergenic Products

A few weeks ago we chose most of our bathroom fittings. I didn’t think it would be an issue, finding products suitable for people with immune disfunction where their health is impacted on by sensitivities to certain chemicals, seeing most products are made from inert materials such as porcelain, ceramic and stainless steal. But I was wrong: Access to Buildings and Services is Everything When it Comes to Even Attempting This!

Since deciding on using tiles throughout our whole house (like we have any other choice!?), I’ve been to 5 tile and bathroom shops where, in 2 of those, I became so ill, I almost decided (only almost!) on letting my boyfriend, and future house partner, choose the tiles and fittings for us. However, when it came to visiting Reece Plumbing in Drysdale, Victoria Australia, I decided to call first, asking if I could please make an appointment with a salesperson not wearing sprays or perfume/aftershave/hairspray. (Yes, I do get nervous asking this, still! But a woman has to do what she has to do.) So I said:

“I am sensitive to chemicals, particularly those used in perfume, aftershave, spray deodorants and hairsprays; and I need to be able to come into a shop and not get sick from breathing them in. I do wear a mask when I go out but this doesn’t stop the solvents, petrochemicals and fragrances—used in the dispersion of these products—from sticking to my clothes, skin and hair, impacting on my health when I take off the mask after I leave. Is there, perhaps, a quite time I can come into the shop? And, is there someone there willing to not wear sprays on that day who can assist us?”)

Once I knew that I could actually have this accommodation made, we popped into Reece for a visit. But first, I went to their website and spent a couple of days (while sick in bed) going over their products and working out what could go where. Reece have a great online system, somewhat like a wish list where you can click products, adding them to a ‘Compare List’. So this awesome tool was my baseline for finding what might suit.

I am determined to create my dream bathroom. I love taking baths. Long, hot (no longer candlelight), relaxing baths in epsom salts. I have symptoms where my joints and muscles hurt; a bath helps with this immensely.

When it comes to bathroom fittings, Ryhs, the excellent and exceptionally helpful Assistant Manager at Reece, went above and beyond to not wear any sprays and also have the air-conditioning on as requested. I was even able to take my mask off while in there. The air quality was great compared to other building product supply shops!

And on another day, when we’d already said we might come in but weren’t sure due to how unwell I’d been all week, Rhys made sure not to spray anything on just in case. Lucky for me, because we did manage to make it in that day, spending almost 4 hours choosing just about everything we need.

In my experience, Reece can accomodate people with a range of disabilities: There, that’s my review of Reece Plumbing at Drysdale in Victoria, Australia… Nah, just kidding: I have a lot more to say about them:

(But first, some background information on smells verses chemicals: I am so lucky, Dan, my boyfriend, does all the sniffing for me. This way, I don’t have to breath in chemical-irritants to which I am sensitive to. This saves my health from getting impacted on via pesky, unregulated chemicals allowed into products sold in Australia. *Thanks* NICNAS. (Of course, the majority of the population is fine with small doses, but I, and many others, have medical conditions where these do impact on our the state of our health. The doctors know it. NICNAS know it. Disability Discrimination Services (DDS) know it. However, there’s a large set of the population who are not educated about it and this is causing problems for some of us). Note to Aussie Government: Address this issue please. Thanks for reading my blog… ) If I have someone, a carer or friend with me, my medically-recognised disability is not impacted on by breathing in substances that have been proven by science-based medicine to make me sick via impacting on my immune system. My boyfriend is so sweet, I think I need to do a post, introducing him to you all soon…)

You know, I just want to decide and move on as far as bathroom products go. There’s so much to work out with building a house; and in my case, the bathroom fittings used need to meet these needs:

1), must be inert and not outgas formaldehyde, VOCS or petrochemicals into the indoor airspace;

2), be functional, sturdy and smart in their design [read they’re not going to leak and cause water damage];

3), aesthetically, they must look amazing;

4), they must carry a good guarantee; and preferably be European in design (They have the REACH regulations too when it comes to safer chemicals used in the manufacturing of them:

REACH is a regulation of the European Union, adopted to improve the protection of human health and the environment from the risks that can be posed by chemicals, while enhancing the competitiveness of the EU chemicals industry. It also promotes alternative methods for the hazard assessment of substances in order to reduce the number of tests on animals.

Sadly and shamefully, we don’t have that in Australia to protect us.

We have decided on all our toilets, baths and some fittings. 75% of our gear are coming from Reece.

I am especially liking a tap Kale, our plumber, put us onto: it has to tap mixers (levers on the side) (see slide show below) that can deliver rain water using a lever on one side and town water using the lever on the other side! So clever. So smart. (KLM Plumbing have just completed the fitting of most of the internal plumbing throughout the walls of the house. Impressively, Kale, has kept the floor clean by using drop sheets, thus not walking mud over our new (and clean) concrete slab. Mould Illness peeps have to love that, hey?)

I have to point out how good Reece plumbing, compared to other shops have been when faced with selling products to someone sensitive to chemicals: great return policy; provide all MSDS without blinking; they allowed us to open boxes and (Dan to) sniff products to see if any coatings had any particular noxious odours coming from certain coatings on products.

Can you believe that, after reading my Immunologist’s letter one shop even asked us to sign a waiver saying that if any of their materials impacted on my health, they wouldn’t be liable, nor could we return them? I’m not naming the business here but would really like to!

(Another shop (that sells blinds) said outright that their products won’t be suitable for me because they come from China and they can’t guarantee what’s in them. Grrr… Discrimination right there. You can’t refuse to sell to someone based on their disabilities. But I did appreciate the heads up; ergo, if they’d known I’m one of those bloggers who puts the colour of their undies on the internet, I think they may have handled that differently. I probably will name this company later when I get to the blinds section of my book/blog because it’s not really very cool; and it’s a great example of what’s wrong with sourcing products from China (without having a Quality Control Policy in place, at least!).)

Anyway, what does signing a waiver like that even mean? Would it stand up at VCAT? I think not. Did it deter us from using their business, yes? Did I tell them that they are actually breaking the law by breaching our Australian Human Rights Act, which states:

Use of chemicals and materials

A growing number of people report being affected by sensitivity to chemicals used in the building, maintenance and operation of premises. This can mean that premises are effectively inaccessible to people with chemical sensitivity. People who own, lease, operate and manage premises should consider the following issues to eliminate or minimise chemical sensitivity reactions in users:

  • the selection of building, cleaning and maintenance chemicals and materials (see Note below);
  • the provision of adequate ventilation and ensuring all fresh air intakes are clear of possible sources of pollution such as exhaust fumes from garages;
  • minimising use of air fresheners and pesticides;
  • the provision of early notification of events such as painting, pesticide applications or carpet shampooing by way of signs, memos or e-mail.

For more information on ways to eliminate or minimise chemical and fragrance sensitivity reactions look athttp://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/MCS.html and http://www.jan.wvu.edu/media/fragrance.html

Note: There are a number of relevant environmental and occupational health and safety regulations and established standards, however, as is currently the case with other standards referenced in building law, compliance with those standards may not necessarily ensure compliance with the DDA.

No, I didn’t bother taking the opportunity to educate them. I just wasn’t well enough at the time, so I just waited until I felt better, taking our business somewhere else, landing right on Reece Plumbing’s doorstep…

:)

These are the shots from our shopping trip to Reece to choose plumbing fittings for our two bathrooms:

Reece have over 450 stores in Australia. You can find one near you by visiting this page. If you have fragrance allergies or any condition where you are impacted on by chemical-irritants, you may want to call, asking to speak to management so that you too can arrange an appointment to visit during a quieter time. You are welcome to show them this page; or you may want to just wing it if you don’t feel shy about it. Either way, Good Luck!

:)

As a side note: MCS was mentioned in this article, my diagnosis is ‘Inhalant Allergies’ to Chemicals

More

Reece: Bathroom Fittings

Reece: The Roca Range

Kado Lux: Toilets and Bidets

Fragrance Free Plumbers for People with MCS and Related Medical Conditions: KLM Plumbing

VOC free, Formaldehyde-Free Walls and Flooring for People with MCS and Related Medical Conditions: Modakboard

Australia: Reece Plumbing

Dehumidifiers that Don’t Give of Plastic Fumes (for most of us): AusClimate (Get the one without the styrofoam in it!)

All Products and Materials Used So Far: Build and Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House

Emerge Australia: What is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

NICNAS: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Review

Coming up

Plumbing for the Chemically Sensitive: I interview a plumber!

Get ready for cover Launch: my up-and-coming book: Freedom: an allergy-free, eco-friendly house

The Steps to Building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free house

The Steps to Building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free house and the tradespeople and companies we used (So far we have been really lucky with the team of people who we’ve found to help us build a low-toxic house.):

Design your house. We used Quin Wyatt, eco-Designer, and new beforehand, via testing with a doctor, what to avoid using before hand, plus, and apart from the actual style and design (the look), we knew exactly what we wanted: allergy-wise

Find your workers (yes I have a post: How to Find or Organise Fragrance Free Workers [post coming up]

How to Test Building Products and Products for you own or someone else’s Suitability [post coming up]

How to Apply to Council so that it passes through quickly [post coming up]

A fully, well-cured Concrete Slab, solid as a Rock from D&C Fear Concreting

Low-toxic Pluming installed by a fragrance-free plumbing team: KLM Plumbing

Choosing Fittings for the bathroom, kitchen and laundry: @Reece Plumbing

Choose your internal Building structure: We went with Hardwood from Calco [Post coming up]

Build a frame: we went with Damien and his team from Pristine Carpentry [Post coming up]

Choose a roof style, find a roofer [post coming up] , which are often, but not always a plumbing and roofing job (because plumbers and roofers often do both); We have the maddest Japanese style roof, which we are over the moon about, installed by Yeo Roofing and designed by Quin Wyatt, eco-draftsperson.

Virtual House Tour: using Sun Study Designs made by Quin our eco-draftsperson [up-and-coming post]

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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