Building Products/Tradespeople Reviews

Hey there!

Just a short post to let you know that all the services and building products I use that work out for me and don’t impact on my health will be reviewed on this blog. So far, I’ve had some positive experiences with tradespeople and businesses that I’m so grateful for that I feel it’s only right to pass their names and details on. There’s my wonderful, thoughtful and patient draftsperson (aka Eco Designer), Quin Wyatt, whom you can read more about here. And many more positive experiences (and a few not so positive that I’m willing to share, too) that will feature here. When you come back in the future just click on the Freedom: an Allergy-Free, Eco-Friendly House link right here under the Building tab! All my posts to do with housing will be organised there for you. (Some are organised under Renovating for People with Chemical Sensitivities for your convenience, also.)

:)

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Of course not every product that is fine for me to use will be okay for others too. Of course, this is due to the varying nature of our sensitivities. For instance, mould is a mahoosive issue for me. (It’s taken 10 years of toiling with chemical avoidance, under the weight of my illness to work this out, because small amounts can’t be detected, which makes them invisible unless spores are en masse; and, it was not until I lived in a house that was mouldy that I realised that it was such a problem (then came the medical testing as further confirmation). If you get sick when it rains, you may want to look into this also.)) So, even though I have solvents, petrochemicals and fragrances to avoid when choosing products for building a house, I now realise that if I don’t do my best to avoid mould exposure, all those other chemicals impact on my health far worse. But for someone else it may be plastics or even all chemical based products that must be avoided, yes? Please be mindful of that when researching and choosing your own products! Your health needs are precious and need to be taken seriously.

Our house is being created with moisture control, elimination and prevention of condensation in mind. And it’s airtight, with good control of cross ventilation so we can air it regularly.

There’s a saying in Eco House Creation: Wrap em’ tight; ventilate right!

Nowhere is this more important than with creating housing for chemically sensitive people. The reason Eco Houses are wrapped tight is for energy efficiency. But for people like us, especially parts of our community who live housebound, being able to ventilate properly can be a massive issue. But even more problematic is what happens when we don’t open our houses to air them on a regular basis: condensation and mould growth are evil and can sneak up on your health, taking it on a ride into hell. Also take into account the materials and chemicals used in building and renovations; and coupled with a tight building, what you have created is the perfect environment for Sick Building Syndrome. It’s a thing. And it’s real. And it can be a pain in the arse, sinus and brain!

(I know! It’s a conundrum because of outside air polluted by cars, trucks, woodsmoke (from chimneys), fragranced-based washing powders and fabric softeners.)

This is where the right tradespeople are key in making a home safe for people with asthma, chemical sensitivity, and/or immune disfunction. Greenwashed products are great if they are really green but it’s not just about saving our environment; it’s about the people and animals who live in the homes, too. (Amelia Hill has written extensibly on this issue here.) However, if you can find the right tradespeople who listen and take on board your needs, and most importantly, what you don’t need, then you are on your way to a low VOC, chemical-free, mould-free utopia!

There is also a book out by Christa Upton who has successfully built an MCS friendly house and has written a book about it.

Stay tuned for more…

PS: if you know of any suitable tradespeople, businesses or products, drop a comment down below. This blog is read all over the world, and people will find this page or any of the others tagged with Build an Allergy-free, Eco-friendly Home via internet search engines. (And you never know, next time I’m stuck in bed with no creative writing flow, I just may make another one of my Listly Lists including your valuable input!)

(And thanks for reading, I tried to keep this short.)

Sharing is Caring…

:) 

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: 0418 589 461

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

Building Biologist: Raphael Siket at EcoLibria1300 326 542

Building Biologist: Lucinda Curran at Eco Health Solutions: 0488 377 466

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

How to Sort out Protection Based on Duty of Care with your Local Council [post coming up]

A fully, well-cured Concrete Slab, solid as a Rock from D&C Fear Concreting: 04 0369 3794

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

Choosing Fittings for the bathroom, kitchen and laundry: @Reece Plumbing: 03 5253 3000

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 Blessed Roofing, designed by Quin Wyatt, eco-draftsperson.

Virtual House Tour: using Sun Study Designs made by Quin our eco-draftsperson

Hydronic Heating by Hydrotherm [post coming up]

Laros and Proclima (Post 2# coming up on Laros Technologies and their Intello wrap)

(We will be using internal air sealant wraps by Proclima from either Laros or Passive House here in Victoria, Australia)

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.

FireCrunch: Magnesium Oxide (MgO) Board

MgO Board in Place of Particle/Chipboard Walling and Flooring

(Post updated:  6 January 2017: Modakboard is now known as FireCrunch!)

(Post updated: 12 February 2017 to reflect the name change of Modakboard to FireCrunch and other details to do with waterproofing for mould sensitive people–but another post on that later. (If you need to know, like, now!, of a low VOC waterproofer, then we are using Laticrete low VOC waterproofing. And I’m fine with it within 24 hours. Always test a product for yourself and don’t rely on others. Ask your doctor or health professional always.)

(Also note: since using this product I have heard horror stories in regards to MgO board from particular companies I won’t name. (Lol, I’m not Derryn Hinch of the building industry.) You really, really need to test the product as a sample first.

Ask them to wrap it in aluminium foil when they post it out; and to please not handle it while wearing aftershaves or aerosol sprays.

IF the product is okay: put it in writing that you want the same batch put aside. Put a deposit of it for sure. And send someone to check where it’s stored: mould, pesticides could be an issue if that’s your chemical irritant. Our floors, using FireCrunch, have been in for six months now. In my opinion, MgO board needs to be sealed if it’s going to get wet by the weather or spills because unless you dry it within a day or two, it soaks in. Still, perfect as flooring and I can’t wait to update on the walling coming up! But remember there are crappy companies overseas making crappy MgO Board. It’s a thing. Be careful.)

FireCrunch MgO as Plaster Walling

In an attempt to Build an Eco-friendly, Allergy-free House, we have extensively tested a batch of Magnesium Oxide (MgO) board to use as flooring and walling. Due to the results of testing the sample and such positive feedback on their reputation, we’ve decided to use the brand made by a company called FireCrunch. Our particular batch, already tested, has been put aside by FireCrunch for us so we can use it inside our house in the coming months.

What exactly is Magnesium Oxide Board (MgO)? 

It’s a mineral-based, mould-resistant wall sheeting that can be used as a replacement for the plasterboard used as walls. (It can also be a part of other green building products such as Structured Insulated Panels (SIPs) that have Magnesium Oxide cement in the panels, which makes them able to be structurally loaded. Some SIPs also have foam and Mgo in them. SIPS might be green and environmentally friendly and all that but some also have styrene foam in them, which is not health-friendly for some people. (However, we are using panels made from just MgO! So when FireCrunch is used throughout this post, I’m talking about just the MgO board used as walling.) You can see an example of FireCrunch’s External Mgo Panels, here. Often called ‘SIPs’ (Structural Insulated Wall Panels. I reckon these could be useful to people with medical conditions with chemical sensitivity as a problem.)

What’s Wrong with ‘Traditional’ Walling?

The issue with plasterboard (also known as drywall) is if it gets damp or wet it can be the perfect host to mould growth; and if there’s a plumbing or wet weather leak, also getting it wet, then there will be mould growth. It’s a given. Plaster can be a petri dish for people with any immune issues. Mould loves cellulose, its food source. Plaster has a paper (cellulose) backing on it that serves up as a ready-made instant food for mould—just add moisture! And, if the plaster gets repeatedly wet, or even just damp, the plaster itself begins to break down and becomes a smorgasbord for many different species of mould, particularly the toxic black mould, Aspergillus. FireCrunch, unlike other materials, is completely impervious to mould because it doesn’t break down, therefore, there’s no cellulose for mould to feed on.

And that’s why we chose this type of wall sheeting. FireCrunch, themselves, have been very accommodating in sending out samples of their flooring and walling. They arrived in an envelope separated from any advertising literature (as asked) and were not handled by anyone wearing fragrances or spray deodorants (as asked). They had no detectable odour, and no noticeable chemical contaminants.

We’ve taken the added precaution of making sure that the batch where our sample came from is the same batch put aside for our use.

Our samples of Modakboard: 10 mm tapered edge (walls); and 20 mm tongue and groove (floors)

Our samples of FireCrunch: 10 mm tapered edge (walls); and 20 mm tongue and groove (floors)

Testing

I tested the samples by wrapping them in foil, then later, when I was sure that I wasn’t sick from any chemical exposures (like fragrance or woodsmoke), I held them up at face range to see if there were any fumes or scents that effected my breathing. When I was sure this was fine, I left them on my bedside table overnight. In my opinion, these boards are a pretty inert product. (Note: this is just how I test products and chemicals. I recently spoke to someone else who said putting a product in their living space could seriously impact on their health. I think some people may use kinesiology, but for me I’d much rather go on whether it effects my eyes or my breathing. It’s the chemicals not the smell that I need to judge carefully.)

Benefits of FireCrunch

  • Fungus resistant
  • Fire proof to 1200ºC
  • Termite resistant
  • Mineral based, eco-friendly product
  • Increases the R-value (thermal capability) of any building (or products used in conjunction with it such as insulation)
  • No formaldehyde
  • It’s recyclable

More on Fire Resistance

We’re building on the edge of a National Park and have a Bushfire Attack Level (BAL) of 29, which means ‘Increasing levels of ember attack and burning debris ignited by wind borne embers together with increasing heat flux’. (A high risk but not the highest, which is a BAL of 40.) FireCrunch is applicable in BAL 12.5 to 40 and FZ flame zone regulation areas and meets the AS 3959 requirements, when used to protect exposed timber framing eaves joists etc., under AS/ NZ 3837 materials.

You can find more on Modakboard’s fire resistance capabilities here. And you can watch the video of the CSIRO testing done on a house made from Modakboard and insulted with straw-bales, which is exposed to a recreation of a severe firestorm, here. The Modakboard (MgO) is exposed to flames reaching 1000 degrees Celsius on the outside, yet sensors inside only register 35 degrees Celsius. (The Black Saturday bushfires reached 1200 degrees Celsius.)

Material Safety Data Sheet

The Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Modakboard states the composition of the product as:

  • Magnesium oxide
  • Magnesium chloride
  • Perlite, Woodchip
  • Fibreglass/Composites

They also state that there are ‘no formaldehydes, silica, heavy metals, organic solvents or asbestos’ are used in the manufacturing process.

You can read more about this, here.

DragonBoard: Hurricane Tested in the US and Canada

In the US, another manufacturer of Magnesium Oxide board called Dragonboard, have tested the product for use in hurricane-safe buildings. So coupled with it’s mould resistance, it’s just as useful in a natural disaster caused by a hurricane as what it is in one caused by bushfire!

These qualities make it inert and a much safer option for people with allergies, chemical sensitivities and respiratory and/or immune issues as well because the board is inert from outgassing chemicals (so long as it’s stored in a chemical free environment and doesn’t have any chemical based products applied to it). (This could also be why we, as chemically sensitive patients, need to make sure that we are getting the same batch as sampled; because, as far as I know, at this time in Australia, all MgO board comes from China. And seriously, given their exploding factories with unregulated dangerous chemicals in them, who knows what else the boards (and all building products from China) are exposed to before they are shipped out?)

For Use In:

Walls and Ceilings

Magnesium Oxide Board is an ideal product to use as ceilings and walls instead of plasterboard. It screws into place and is finished just like regular plasterboard. However, with low VOC products suitable for people with chemical sensitivities! (See up-and-coming‘Finishing’ post for further information on the process.) We are using the modakboard with a tapered edge for the interior walls and ceilings. You can check out the installation manuals for interior walls here. And the installation manuals for ceilings here. Installation manuals for exterior walls can be downloaded from here.

Flooring and Decking

It can be installed as flooring replacing conventional flooring such as particleboard (chipboard) or cement sheeting. It’s then suitable to lay tiles or floorboards over. For floors, FireCrunch comes in 20 mm tongue and groove for easy install of decking and flooring. We are using it as the floor upstairs on our building project. And as the floor on the back verandas (upstairs and downstairs), which will then be tiled. (Our front upper and lower decks are going to be Blackbut supplied by Woodform Architectural Timber; but more about this coming up soon.) We are using the 20 mm tongue and groove FireCrunch for the decks. Installation manuals for flooring, for both SE and TG can be looked at here.

Flood Prone Areas

Homes built in areas prone to flooding can make great use of FireCrunch because of its inertness and ability to withhold its form if submerged in water. It can be removed, dried, then replaced (once the installation areas have dried) and the plaster re-finished and re-painted. And because it’s mould-resistant–if sealed-!-after it’s re-installed it won’t cause the additional health risks associated with living in water-damaged buildings.

You have 24-48 hours to dry water damage if you are mould sensitive!

For people with allergies, chemical sensitivities or respiratory illness this product is a godsend if used right.

However:

FireCrunch is easy to use but is not the same as other building products therefore FireCrunch must be installed in accordance with the installation manuals available from this website (See support and FAQ) Click here. Failure to do so may result in damage to the board and will be void of warranty.

Formaldehyde Free

This is a huge plus for people who are sensitive to chemicals or/and suffer with respiratory illness. Actually, for everyone this is great, yes? Further information via the MSDS can be found here: Modakboard

The Modakboard Fiasco, if You’re Interested

Australia Building Code (ABC) Standards

There has been speculation and innuendo about Modakboard products not meeting the ABC standards. CSIRO has proven this to be wrong. Modakboard meets full certification.

“All ModakBoard ( MgO) products are made of non combustible materials this was confirmed by the CSIRO in the original fire test achieving AS / NZS 3787.

ModakBoard FIRE RATINGS TO FRL 90/90/90 re confirmed with 75 kg Fire batts.

  • CSIRO additional FIRE TESTS fully exonerate Modak Board products, and are ‘again’ independently declared fully compliant by CSIRO in subsequent testing.
  • Tests show the original Chinese reliance tests by (CNAS) China and previously approved by Certmark were exactly the same in result and non-combustibility in CSIRO tests”

The following is from documentation I received in October from Peter Jones of Modakboard:

“FEDERAL FIRE CERTIFIER CERTMARK CMI… QLD
PUTS MODAKBOARD “UNDER FIRE’… CANCELS CERTIFICATION… AND GETS IT WRONG … JULY 2nd 2015

The good news for all our customers is …

CSIRO FIRE TESTS CONFIRM ALL MODAKBOARD FRL CLAIMS ARE CORRECT. Same product and same fire rated ability.
ModakBoard prepares legal action in damages claim for itself, suppliers, customer users and professional bodies, who have all experienced losses both financial and reputational for recommending a product that was later wrongly suspended and stated to be a “non conforming” fire rated product.

All ModakBoard ( MgO) products are made of non combustible materials this was confirmed by the CSIRO in a fire test achieving AS / NZS 3787 ( attached)
ModakBoard FIRE RATINGS TO FRL 90/90/90 re confirmed and fully certified by the CSIRO September 2015 ( certificates attached )”

You can read more about this issue here

And you can find FAQs here

And you can find the installation manuals here:

MBA Manual External Walls 2015
MBA Manual Ceilings 2015
MBA Manual Internal Walls 2015
MBA Manual Floors & Decks 2015
MBA Manual Wet Areas 2015

If Sourcing Magnesium Oxide Board Overseas

If not in Australia: Magnesium Oxide board is sold in North America under the product names Dragonboard, in the US and Canada; MagBoard, in the US; Magnum Board, in Canada; and Strong-Enviro Board, in the Philippines.

The Labyrinth will be featuring more about Modakboard as the project of building an Eco-Friendly, Allergy-Free House goes along. Stay tuned for more.

Have you used MgO board? Do you have any ideas on how it can be used to create safe housing for people sensitive to chemicals?

 

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.

I’m Not a Hippy But… I’ve got a composting toilet!

Because my boyfriend and I are in the process of building an eco-friendly, allergy-free house (aka Freedom), with people working on site and all, we realised we needed a toilet for workers to be able to use. Mostly, on building sites you may see a portable toilet that looks somewhat like this:

toilet-402140_640

If this toilet has fragrance ‘deodorising’ chemicals, you may be better off going behind those trees

But, if you have allergies or chemical sensitivities that are impacted on via chemical irritants known to be in many cleaning and ‘deodorising’ chemicals, then you may feel/smell/taste this toilet before you actually see it (In my case, I often taste smells before I actually smell them, which is a sign that I’m about to get very sick if I don’t practice chemical avoidance). When I realised we needed a portable toilet on our building site, I thought back to the one my daughter and I saw at the Melbourne Markets when we used to go there: it was leaking a puddle of electric-blue liquid out from underneath the box that housed it. I was olfactory blinded by the 3M mask protecting my airways, therefore, couldn’t smell the fragrance chemicals emanating out from it; ergo, gratefully, my daughter did, and, grabbing my elbow steered me clear of walking straight into a puddle of fragrance chemicals!

Then, a few months ago, Dan and I were looking at the outside of some new houses going up near our block, and as we walked down a vacant street towards one, a cloud of stink arrived on the wind, nearly knocking me for a six. What the hell was that? I took another whiff. Yep! The ‘scent’ of artificial rose stinging my eyes and burning my nostrils was actually fragrance! I pushed my mask to my face, hanging back a whole three house blocks, while Dan went to check out the new house and alert me to where the obnoxious chemical irritants were coming from. They were coming from a Portaloo!

After we got home, I mused on the fact that a portaloo is just like a modern-day gas chamber… for every race. It doesn’t discriminate: that shit will get into everyone’s airways! However, it’s up to their immune system as to whether it will cause a problem or not. But why would anyone risk that? Do the people who make, sell and rent these portable toilets even care that there are people who won’t be able to enter them; or that there are people who will use these, finding they get sick afterwards?

It’s actually law that we, here in Australia, have a portable toilet on any building site. Fair enough, can’t have people just whopping it it out just anywhere; can we? But what to do about the fragrance chemicals? Have one of those stink-bombs on the site of our home-to-be? I think not! I mean, what if I have to use the toilet? What if it leaks? And there’s fluorescent-pink, artificial-rose-scented puddles of fragrance-chemical irritants near or on the foundation of my future home?

Isn’t this what people with MCS have nightmares about?

So, later that night, before I went to sleep, I jumped onto the AESSRA member’s forum, and fired off my question: “Help! I need a non-stinky portable toilet for our building site!” While I sat back wondering if I’d just asked another stupid question—I mean surely there are no stupid questions when I’m not the only one with this dilemma?—I received a reply from a member stating that, yes, there is a company called Natural Event who supply chemical-free, odour-free toilets Australia wide (and in the UK, too (where they’re called Pootopia!)).

A little bit about Natural Event:

Natural Event has designed and operates the most effective, practical, enjoyable and appraised toilet system for festivals, events and gatherings where people poo. Natural Event was created after the organisers of the Festival of ‘Folk Rhythm and Life’, in Victoria Australia, came to understand that the toilet system they had created to cater for their three day festival, had national and international relevance.

These are not just ordinary toilets. It’s a composting toilet, yeah? This is our Natural Event composting toilet, right here:

AllergyFreeHouseEdit

So you go up those stairs, sit on that black box at the back, which has a toilet seat and lid purposely built into it, and you too can have your own natural event! Underneath the toilet seat, where all the pee and poo goes, is a bin full of wood-chips (it has no bottom, and has been dug into the ground so all the worms can come up, and any liquid can soak into the ground). Next to the toilet seat is another bucket of wood-chips; after all the poo and pee lands down the hole, you just throw a scoop or two of wood-chips over the top. The stuff then composts down into the soil. Pretty nifty, hey? Later, and we’ve not used it enough to do this, you change the bin so that there’s a fresh one to do all the business in.

More about this company and what they can do:

Natural Event can provide for any size need, from a single loo, to enough to suit an army! In the natural world there is no such thing as ‘waste’. All organisms degrade and have their intrinsic nutrients taken up by other life forms. Nature provides the ultimate example of recycling. Natural Event replicates the rain forest floor in recycling organic material and nutrients. By combining human toilet deposits with a carbon based bulking material and oxygen, Natural Event creates an environment where a previous environmental and health issue becomes magnificent soil conditioner…

They also supply toilets for the Glastonbury festival, and it’s a nice feeling to know my bum is associated with such a superb gathering of people [Think Kate Moss in her Hunter gum boots. Now think of my bum on the toilet. And know this: What Kate Moss did for Hunter gum boots, my bum will now do the same for Natural Event toilets!]:

Natural Event offers complete hire of cubicles and urinals and can also tailor design a system to suit particular conditions and various site requirements…. By using Natural Event, festivals make a clear statement that they have had enough of the ever dreaded port a loo. The days are over where you expect cramped stinking boxes or over flowing trucks. Now there is no need to use harmful chemicals to store or treat toilet waste.

And no, so far it’s not at all stinky like I imagined it would be!

AllergyFreeHouse190913_0028

Above is the side view of the Natural Event composting toilet. And as you can also see, our block is pretty much ready to go. I’m a little excited looking at it! If you look at the back fence, just over that is a National Park; the air comes straight off the sea. And it was just the other day I was sitting on our Natural Event composting toilet, and was thinking: Why can’t all toilets be out in the fresh air like this? But then a cold south westerly slapped the tarpaulin wall, and I acknowledged that I can’t bloody wait to use my real bathroom toilet!

AllergyFreeHouseEdit2

So far, we are off to a great start! I’m feeling grateful for the assistance of others who’ve been able to share their tips such as where to get a non-toxic toilet from, and I feel especially thankful for my composting toilet. Thanks to Natural Event for the lovely dunny, too!

What do you think of composting toilets?

More

About Natural Event 

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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