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.


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.


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.


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.

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


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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