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This includes the top 6 American locations in four states: Arizona, Nevada, California and New Mexico. These are campsites for RVs and tents (some have cabins, but not vetted) where experienced mold avoiders have found a lot of healing within the last year. Many of these locations are tried and true for many years, but I make sure I have recent reports on all of them.

The brochure covers the basic information you need to decide on which one will be best for you, including:

Location, elevation, basics on the campsite (hook ups, bathrooms etc), how spacious they are, costs, proximity to stores, WiFi and cell coverage, temperatures (and other weather related details).

This post on the Locations Effect goes into more detail on what a sabbatical entails (and also what to bring!)

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Building for the Chemically Sensitive

Those who are building and have moderate to severe chemical sensitivities have a number of factors they need to consider in the very early stages of the planning of the build. You could easily end up between a rock and a hard place without considering these details in advance. I have seen it many times!

It's incredibly important to build in a mold-preventative manner in order to recover in the new house, and it can at times be difficult to balance those two needs together. So the following areas to consider also apply to those building for mold prevention.

Here are areas that must be considered in the very early stages of planning a house if you are chemically sensitive:



"Sv sava topography P.Cikovac" by Orjen is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 



LOCATION - BEFORE YOU DRAW UP THE HOUSE 



1. Climate

Before you draw up plans for your house, you need to know the location primarily because you need to know the climate zone. This will impact your design significantly. This can impact your foundation type (and many who are building mold preventative want to use a specific type of foundation), it will also impact insulation requirements - with many areas in the US starting to require exterior insulation, you need to know if you can tolerate Rockwool Comfortboard, rigid sheathing or cork, for example. It will impact many other materials choices as well as HVAC system requirements.

If you are deciding between two cities or towns we can still start to put your materials list together and see if that impacts the type of house you can build in each area.

2. Topography

The exact piece of land can impact the design as well, since you will look at the topography of the area and site itself, and how that will impact the design - this could influence the size and shape of the house for example, as well as how the crawl or basement is designed, where you will place the garage etc. This is also important to factor into your budget. If you have a slope or are creating a hill for the house drainage it will impact costs as well as the lot size (distance you need from other houses/property lines). Though you could work the other way around, pick land that is flat enough and large enough to fit your design.

3. Building Codes

Another reason you will want to know the location, including possibly the exact location, is because building codes and neighbourhood requirements will impact which materials you can use. These could be codes around things as major as the minimum size of the building, and as small as the type of plumbing you use, for example. Those with MCS are often on a budget and want to build small, and you will almost certainly have materials that you have to be rule out due to sensitivities.

4. Neighbourhood or HOA Requirements

Neighbourhood requirements can impact facets of the build like the type of siding that is required. In some historical areas wood siding is required, sometimes even a specific type of wood. Wood siding is not the most durable option for rot prevention, and those with MCS may need to avoid certain types of wood (like cedar). There are areas where roof types are dictated by the local requirements, this could rule out a metal roof (which is what most with MCS want to use). There are areas that require flat roofs (though you can make it look flat usually and meet that requirement). Those are just a few examples.



EARLY STAGE DECISIONS- AFTER LOCATION BEFORE DESIGN

1. Wood Framed House?

At this point in the process you will need to have an idea of what materials you tolerate. The more info you have on which materials you tolerate the better. Most who are sensitive to wood are not sensitive to wood when it's in the walls - but you need to know which category you are in. You need to know if you are designing a wood framed house or something entirely different! If you are avoiding wood altogether you may want to consider other climate appropriate options which could be metal and foam, metal SIPS, adobe, hempcrete, concrete, and insulated forms. I discuss alternative walls systems in this post. The post on tiny homes talks about some other unusual systems. An upcoming post on (regular sized) prefabs will cover more alternative systems. Choosing the materials that are tolerable and healthy for you is one of the main things we will cover in a one on one consult.

2. Plywood and OSB?

While many with MCS want to avoid plywood and OSB, avoiding those two items will create a lot of "work around". You may be able to use alternative sheathing, or you may have problems with code, you may have a much more expensive house, or you may in the end have to go with a totally different type of house than a wood framed one. I encourage those with MCS to read through this post on plywood and OSB before ruling it out. I help folks go through these areas of the build that they have to consider, test options, and weigh the pros and cons of the alternatives. There are ways to offgas and even seal plywood which could in the end save a lot of money and worry.

3. Insulation?

You should also have an idea of which insulation you can tolerate. This is another main area that comes up in every session. Your typical build has rigid foam in the slab, breathable insulation batts in the walls and depending on the design and climate, spray foam in the attic. If you need to avoid spray foam insulation (which in general I would), you need to make sure your design takes that into consideration.

With batting, go through the options in the insulation post, as those are the ones we will go over in a consult. If you cannot tolerate any of the insulation batts, again, this will dramatically change the type of house you build.

"WALLTITE spray foam insulation being applied" by Cdpweb161 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 

DURING THE DESIGN PHASE


Decisions that impact the design


1. Avoiding Spray Foam

If you don't tolerate spay foam insulation make sure to design a roof and foundation that do not require it.

2. Avoiding Laminated/Engineered Lumber

If you want to avoid laminated/engineered lumber to avoid extra glues (see this article to see what I mean), this has to be considered very early in the design. You can only span so far with traditional lumber.

3. Avoiding Ductwork

If you want to avoid all ducted HVAC due to extreme mold sensitivity, this has to be factored into when designing a house. (If you want to avoid AC altogether due to sensitivities, that part definitely has to be factored into even earlier into the location. Even if you don't mind hot temperatures, you have to look at summer humidity since AC brings down humidity).

4. Design Areas to Consider

Consider simple roof designs to cut back on where things can go wrong, consider large overhangs to protect the walls, simple floor plans can help with cost reduction, carefully design plumbing in an interior wall that has access panels.

5. Avoiding Toxic Windows

You need to design the house around the windows! Yes this is that important of a factor. Many super chemically sensitive folks have run up against this problem too late in the build. First, the very  sensitive will want to go with aluminum windows (see my post on windows), and those can only be found in certain standard sizes (unless you go for totally custom, very expensive windows). Aluminum windows are already expensive. If you don't design around those sizes you are going to end up with either windows that you don't tolerate potentially (fiberglass, vinyl), reframing the house (big expense), or custom windows (another big expense).

"House Plans: Front" by Fugue is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 


AFTER DESIGN BUT BEFORE BUILDING 



1. Testing Materials

In order to not delay the build you want to make sure you have tested out all the materials needed down to the caulking, glues, sealants, grouts, thinset, and all the major materials as well. What can happen here is that if you need to make a substitution, some items are special order and need to be considered early on. You don't want to delay the project with special orders and you also don't want to delay the project because you need more time to test out materials.

If you are extremely sensitive you will either be factoring time in for the house to offgas before you move in, or possibly building a type of wall system that limits the types of glues, caulks, tapes that you are reactive to (alternative wall systems are listed here).

There are certain corners that cannot be cut while trying to eliminate offgassing. I've seen it done a lot in houses built for the extremely chemically sensitive. But long-term, you cannot cut corners on the integrity of your building system which is designed to keep out water, moisture, and air. Preventing mold is very important for those with MCS.

You want a builder who understands when materials can be substituted out and when they can't. Some builders will do whatever you want done because they don't have a high degree of understanding of building science, and so they don't know why that will fail. Or they may be too rigid and reluctant to change anything, again because of lack of knowledge of how to keep the integrity of the system while doing something slightly different. I will work alongside your architect and builder to make sure that the right compromises are made.

2. Contracts

Make sure the builder understands your level of chemical sensitivity and how important this is. You need to have certain requirements here in your contract to protect your site and your build. Paula Baker Laport outlines this in her book Prescriptions for a Healthy House.

You also want to work with your architect to produce a contract that will help protect you on the mold-preventative building front.
























CHOOSING AN ARCHITECT AND BUILDER


1. Your Architect

An architect is needed in any build to help design the moisture management systems. An HVAC specialist will likely be needed if you are doing a ducted system (or any other complex system). When looking for an architect, you need someone whose specialty is mold prevention and/or high performance systems like Passive House.

Anyone who has a high commitment to design and details that prevent moisture problems, rot, decay, and mold is what you are looking for. This can be worded as fine craftsmanship, high performance, increased durability and similar terms which are geared at the non-sensitive. These builders do higher quality work, their houses cost more and they have to market this to the general public as high performance or durability.

2. Your Builder

The same thing goes with a builder. A builder should be highly skilled, highly detail oriented, a perfectionist with getting the details right, someone who understands building science and has an interest in it. A good problem solver, can think outside of the box to accommodate you, while also understanding any repercussion of going too far against the norm.

The builder should have total buy in to the idea of building to accommodate your sensitivities and be thoughtful and mindful so that the wrong products are not brought in accidentally, in a hurry or to clean something up.

You builder should also be highly cooperative with your architect and with you (or your supervisor).

Highly skilled builders will be interested in building a well planned and very well executed house and will not have a problem with working with your architect and you to get it done right.

If they are not used to building high quality work, this will be a battlefield.

You can find a good builder through a good architect or you can find one on your own who you like. When I see high quality builders I list them here (though I don't know all of them well, and they are only as good as the weakest labourer or as good as their supervision).

Please get in touch if I can help you through the process, especially to make sure you know which materials are best for you so you can design your house around it. And we will make sure you have the right experts to build a high quality, mold-preventative, low offgassing home.

Guide to Non-Toxic Flooring 2019

Updated Fall 2019

There are many choices for non-toxic flooring suitable for the chemically sensitive or the health conscious individual, the best options are real hardwood, polished concrete and tile. But specific brands of natural linoleum, carpet and engineered wood are excellent choices as well. I will look at a few options that are still non-toxic but not quite as healthy, like luxury vinyl plank, laminate, cork and bamboo.


This post covers Green Flooring divided into three categories, starting with the purest options:


1. The Greenest Options (Dark Green)
2. Medium Green
3. Light Green
     

If you need assistance choosing the best floor for your sensitivities, budget and area of the house, please contact me for a one-on-one consultation. 


I recommend all of the products here, some products have affiliate programs and some do not. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission though affiliate links at no extra cost to you.

1. Greenest Floors "Dark Green" (0 VOC, No Offgassing)


i. Natural Hard Wood 

Naturally finished floors by @wdflooring
 @fourboardwoodworks flooring & installation
@thomashartshelby photography
Natural wood flooring is usually my number one choice. However wood contains natural terpenes which do bother some, and they can contain anti-sapstain chemicals which could explain why some people react to wood used in building and not wood in the forest.

Aromatic woods like pine have much higher natural volatile compounds than maple, for example. Wood also has a higher possibility of harbouring mould than less porous materials. To prevent mould you should make sure your wood has been kiln-dried and kept dry at the store and when onsite.

There are plenty of green 0-VOC options for finishing wood. I used Hemp Oil on my floors, a "purest" option. AFM Poly BP is another great non-toxic finish. I go into detail on options for wood sealers and stains in my post on sealers.

For subfloor glues, my top pick is definitely AFM Almighty Adhesive which is safe and highly tolerable. If that doesn't work for you, try Liquid Nails Subfloor Adhesive. There are no VOC/HAPs wood fillers by Mohawk and ECOs.

You can buy hardwood flooring from specialty flooring stores, as well as Home Depot, Lowes and Lumber Liquidators. The big box stores have networks of installers.

Pre-finished Hardwood - Usually finished with aluminum oxide infused polyurethane and cured under UV lights, these are typically very well tolerated once cured. I consider this to be safe product even for the chemically sensitive. Test it first. It is close to 0-VOC. This finish has two main benefits, not having to finish it in house, and the finish partially blocks the wood odour. I have looked over Mirage brand as well as Mono Serra from Home Depot.

ii. Concrete

If polished concrete flooring makes you think IKEA warehouse, think again, polished concrete can look beautiful and be green and healthy.

The Retroplate system, uses "liquid glass" and is completely non-toxic and 0-VOC. This option is available across Canada and the US, you just have to find someone who specializes in that system.

You can do acid stains, add natural pigments, use white cement, or add white sand to Portland Cement to get many different unique and modern looks.

iii. Tiles

Types of Non-Toxic Tiles:

Glass tiles are inert and healthy, many types are too slippery to use on the floor, but there are glass floor tiles.

Marble is good in theory, but most of it has a resin put on it at the factory to fill in tiny holes and fissures, and it might have a (chemical) sealant on it as well. Though a pure slab, or tile, that does not have a glossy finish can be sealed with a natural or low toxin sealer. Slate is also good, as long as it doesn't have a chemical sealer on it. Both can be sealed with AFM Mexeseal or Meta CreamTung oil can be used on slate.

Concrete tiles have beautiful designs. Look for "eco tiles" or ask what additives are in the concrete. I sealed mine in my tiny house with AFM Penetrating Water Stop. You can also use tung oil or Meta Cream.

Other natural stones like travertine, granite, soapstone and limestone are all great options for green floors. Always check if a resin or sealer is already applied, and then check to see which natural options will work over the stone of your choosing. Honed stones (not glossy) are the easiest to seal with a natural pure option. Very dense stones like many granite types and some slate do not require a sealer at all (bonus!).

Budding green companies now make walnut oil and hemp oil that can be used on natural stone and concrete. Though I have not seen hemp oil used in this application, it is a drying oil, so this theory does make sense. Walnut is a semi drying oil so I would have some reservations in putting it over a large area. The post on sealers explains this further.

Porcelain and ceramic are safe if they are lead-free and do not contain radioactive substances. Ask for lead test results from the company, do a simple 3M Lead Swab (those are useful on a number of household items and are affordable). But to pick up lower levels, you need to hire someone who has an XRF tool.

Imported glazed tiles especially, should be tested for lead. A client just tested American made tiles that stated they were lead-free, but when tested they showed high levels of lead. So it might be wise to test any glazed tile regardless of origin. And be extra careful when removing them as the lead dust is particularly harmful. Tile over existing lead tiles if possible, instead of removing.

Wood look tiles claim to be 0-VOC even though there is a printed image on them. The glaze seems to block this. I have tested them and I do not detect anything that is different from regular tiles.

A Note on Air Cleaning Flooring

Crossville Tiles have a coating option called Hydrotect. This uses the PCO process to clean the air. A layer of non-toxic titanium dioxide is used to coat the tiles. This reacts with UV light, and just like the PCO air purifiers I reviewed, creates a reaction that can break down some bacteria, moulds, VOCs and viruses. I don't know how impactful this tile coating will be to the overall air quality in a room. The company does have some reports that show a reduction in bacteria, which may be worthwhile for some folks.

If you read my article on PCO air filters you will remember that some people have a bad reaction to this process. It's possible that in a high VOC area it creates formaldehyde, or in a clean environment it can create NOx. I would try out a PCO air purifier before installing this tile, to make sure it works well for you.

This air cleaning technology is also used on wood floors.

2. Medium Green (0 to Low-VOC)


i. Natural linoleum - Marmoleum is made from linseed, binders, wood flour, limestone and dry pigments which are mixed and then calendared onto a natural jute backing. It's got a UV cured sealer on top, and this is the glue used to install it. I found that after one month the odour all but disappeared from the product - though many people say the odour never disappears 100%. I am using this in my trailer. I was surprised and impressed since I don't normally do well with linseed. The roll down flooring that I recommend that is glued down. The "click" is a little more difficult to tolerate and takes longer to offgas, but it has the advantage of no glue. This is one of my top flooring choices, I recommend it often and it looks cool as well. I like many of the colours and the concrete look.

ii. 0 VOC Engineered Wood - While many engineered woods have significant offgassing (see section below), Kahrs brand has zero added formaldehyde and claims 0 added VOCs. I tested it and found it to be quite good. Here is my more detailed review of my testing of this floor. Here are their test results with Total VOC 50 ug/m3, it's still not clear to me how three of those five chemicals are not added to the glues or finish, however that is still an extremely low level and two of the VOCs are terpenes naturally occurring from wood. Despite all this, most folks do really well with Kahrs, and it is usually the first option in the engineered category I look at with clients unless they know this won't work for them.

The next option I would look at is Cali Bamboo Geowood. I really like their limestone substrate, it is highly tolerable and much healthier and than the standard substrate in most brands (normally substrate is a wood and glue mixture - the main the reason why this category has tended to be higher in offgassing). This one does claim formaldehyde-free and was tested by Green Design Center.

Lauzon engineered flooring that is made in Canada also claims 0-VOC and 0 formaldehyde, but like Kahrs, when digging into their fact sheets on specific flooring, this did not seem to be the case on each type. Check out Anderson and Whickham brands which have also made claims of 0-VOC.

Use floating where possible, not glue down. The Kahrs underlayment is excellent.

iii. Hard Vinyl - Luxury vinyl plank (LVP) is much more tolerable than people generally think. I know, most of us think vinyl is one of the worst options! This should be one of your first considerations for an RV, and can be considered alongside other engineered floors if you are in the mildly to moderately sensitive category. I tested Armstrong and Cali Bamboo brands, which both surprised me in how low offgassing they were. I prefer the Cali Bamboo with the limestone backing, which is a backing I find to be excellent in terms of health and safety (much preferred over cork backing).

Cali discloses their testing and the VOC levels are extremely low. Here are their phthalate testing results (they are not phthalate-free). Use a floating floor instead of glue down when possible. You don't always have to go with the branded underlayment for all floors, but the Cali underlayment is very good.

iv. Carpet

For natural, non-toxic carpet, look for non-toxic or natural fibers, no flame retardants, no mothproofing, no stain repellent, natural padding and either no adhesive or a non-toxic adhesive. The most sensitive will want undyed natural carpet. Not all do well with the natural smell of wool though, and you might be pleasantly surprised with some of the non-toxic synthetic options.

I have reservations about natural latex which are outlined in this post on mattresses, and I'm not sure if the same precautions need to be taken with carpet. I personally have a slight preference for synthetic backing.

Safe Natural Fiber Carpets

The best non-toxic chemical-free wool carpets are:

natural non toxic wool carpet no offgassing no flame retardants
Earth Weave from Green Design Center
1. Earth Weave - wool, no mothproofing, no other treatments, does contain latex. I always prefer undyed wool for the very sensitive.
2. Nature's Carpet  - wool - contains natural latex adhesive. The dark green line does not have moth proofing and uses undyed wool. The medium green line does not contain natural latex, which for me is a big plus, but it does contain mothproofing.
3. Natural Home Products - wool, contains natural latex, but checks all other boxes.

Hibernia wool. I have sniffed Hibernia and it does have a wooly smell (as you would expect), but not a chemical smell. The company has since changed ownership (2018). They do use moth proofing (typically permithrin is used on wool carpets).

Seagrass - I really like seagrass carpet because of how it feels underfoot. The DMI brand makes one I like that is not dyed or treated with insecticides or other chemicals. It does contain natural latex.

Non-Toxic Synthetic Carpet

Top two pics for non-toxic synthetic residential carpet are:

Home Fresh - My top pick for synthetics carpet, this carpet contains charcoal which absorbs some VOCs (up to a point) and was extremely low in odour and offgassing. The carpet does have Scotch Guard coating on it so I do not know how they can claim 0 VOC exactly.

I got a sample that was a few months old, but bagged up, and I found it to be very good, extremely low in offgassing. I did not pick up classic carpet offgassing at all. Though it is not 100% odourless, it is close, and did not seem like an offensive odour to me. If you don't have an extreme sense of smell you may very well find this odourless. I was actually quite surprised as I have sniffed many carpets. This is my top pick for a green healthy synthetic carpet. Available in the US (not Canada).
For $350 off, email me for a discount link.

(Note: I've been recommending them as my top choice for 2 years before they had this discount code and despite the company refusing to send me a sample directly. I just actually think this is an impressive carpet).

Flor Fedora a low-VOC which is made from recycled plastic, it was less of that telltale carpet chemical smell. It offgassed to "odourless" way faster than their standard type. You will need to test their "dots" that attach these to the floor as well. This Fedora line does not hold up well with pets and does not look super durable, though some might prefer this carpet because of how fast it offgasses.

If you have conventional carpet in your house that is still offgassing, seal in the VOCs with Carpet Seal.

Commercial Grade

Commercial grade carpet is a lot harder to find in low-VOC. I have reviewed and sniffed a few of the ones that claim the lowest VOC levels.

Flor: Most of their carpets are commercial grade. They claim they have the lowest VOC levels in the industry as of 2017, though when probed for information on their VOC levels or any evidence to substantiate that claim, they did not have any. They have Green Label Plus which you can find almost anywhere now and is not a low level of VOC. However, when testing their carpet it did not have that tell-tale new carpet smell. The initial offgassing was as strong as other regular brands but it seemed less offensive (I know everyone is different here). But, what did impress me was that the sample offgassed way faster than other brands that have the tell-tale new carpet smell. A few weeks outside and it is fairly tolerable for a conventional carpet.

The other good option for commercial grade is wool. Though commercial companies are more reluctant to use wool because it is more expensive. The Godfrey Hirst wool commercial carpets  show test results of very low VOC levels. Though they do have that classic carpet smell and it does contain moth proofing (permithrin). Woolshire wool is also rated for commercial, I found it much more tolerable than Godfrey, it smells wooly but not like chemicals. It does have moth proofing in it. It smells similar to Hibernia brand. If I was picking a commercial brand I would consider Woolshire first and then Flor.

Some of Earth Weave's lines can be used in light commercial applications and those do not contain mothproofing or other chemical treatments. In a light commercial setting this is the greenest way to go.

Because carpet does collect dust, mould spores, pesticides, flame retardants and all types of contaminants and allergens that ride on dust, a HEPA vacuum like the Nilfisk is essential for cleaning.

Carpets with a conventional synthetic backing (but not Flor), can be glued down with AFM 3 in 1.

Area rugs are covered here in the furniture post.

v. Terrazzo - is a little complex as there are different materials, resins and sealers involved. But there are systems that are 0-VOC and low-VOC. 

3. Light Green (Low-VOC)


i. Engineered Woods - Junkers, Wood Flooring International all meet EU emission standards. WD brand is one recommended by sensitive folks. The substrates can still be problematic. Many use phenol formaldehyde which offgasses relatively quickly. This may work for some but they are not in the same category as the formaldehyde-free versions above.

ii. Cork, like wood, has a natural odour (terpenes). A resin is used to bind all the small pieces of cork together into flat pieces (I have seen polyurethane binders which I find to have strong offgassing that persists). In theory, you can make tiles or rolls without resin (they heat press them for some insulation) but this is not how cork flooring is made.

An adhesive is also required either to glue it down (and there are 0 VOC glues for this), or, in the floating floors it is usually glued to a fiberboard or substrate which tends to be problematic in terms of chemical offgassing. It is finished with urethanes/acrylic which may be tolerable once cured.

I have tested Cali Bamboo cork which I found to be the best one. US Floors was the second best. NOVA and Cancork smelled very strong to me. Here is my Facebook post about the testing of these brands. These floors claim to be green but they offgassing is higher than I would go for and that's why they are in the light green category.

iii. Bamboo requires resin or adhesives to hold the top layer pieces together, a substrate and a finish. However, there are many that are GreenGuard certified for low emissions. This wood is known to be problematic in that it can shrink, expand and do poorly with water/moisture/spills. Cali Bamboo GeoCore is made on a limestone based core which I found tolerable. I think this is one of the best brands out there for bamboo, otherwise bamboo is not usually a top choice for me.

iv. Laminate does offgas, but there are some low-VOC options. Look for brands that have certifications: GreenGuard (ideally GreenGuard Gold), CARB2, Floor Score and E1 certifications for VOCs and formaldehyde. Though most brands can meet these certification levels, so it does not help you to distinguish between them. One thing you can look for is that they are made with HDF and not MDF. I have not seen one that is formaldehyde-free (or more accurately said, no added formaldehyde).

Brands sold at green supply stores like Eurostyle (by the large worldwide company Krono Flooring) were not able to say their actual formaldehyde or VOC levels, and only cited their certifications, and so they did not provide any information to distinguish themselves from the competition.

This type of flooring can be floating - it doesn't require adhesive which is a bonus. I have seen better options in the engineered category but laminate flooring options are getting better over time. I don't have a specific brand recommendations until the brands can provide more transparency and recent samples to me.

v. Magnetic Ceramic Tiles - I tested Kablan's magnetic ceramic tiles and I found they did have a moderately strong smell (the magnetic backing components), though you may not be able to smell them once the floors is installed, as they are underneath. My video review of them here.

Cost Comparison of Green Flooring 2019 (US)


Wood $8-10/sq ft including installation
Polished concrete is $6-12 sq ft for residential
Stain and sealed concrete - materials $1/sq ft (unless you are pouring the concrete or have lots of prep)
Tiles are usually $8-10/sq ft but depends on the tiles (tiles come in a wide range of costs) and prep of subfloor/installation difficulty 
Kahrs Engineered - Materials $5-12/sq ft, labour $3-10/sq ft
Marmoluem - Materials $4.50-5/sq ft, labour $1-4/sq ft
LVP - Cali bamboo - under $4-5/sq ft, labour about $3-4/ sq ft
Cork $8-10/sq ft including installation




Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist with 5 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.


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Healthy Home Building Consultant

I have been helping folks create healthy homes for just over 5 years now. A certified Building Biologist, I began this journey with the build of my own tiny chemically safe house, the place in which I started to recover from mold illness and severe chemical sensitivity.

My main expertise lies in materials available in the US and Canada, but I do have clients in Europe and beyond.





Healthy Home Consults are for you if:

  • You own or rent a house, apartment or trailer 
  • You are building or remodelling 
  • You live with environmental sensitivities, allergies or asthma, including the most severe MCS
  • You have children or are expecting and want to provide a healthy home for them 
  • You are a builder, architect, designer or developer and want to collaborate
  • You are healthy and want to minimize exposure to toxins to prevent health issues

Areas I can assist you with:

A New Build or Remodel


We will go over your specific sensitivities, needs, and level of toxin avoidance, and you will come away with a list of products to use in your build or renovation. This may involve self testing materials for your own reactions. If you don't have reactions (or obvious reactions), I will use your level of toxin avoidance to recommend products. You will come away with pros and cons of materials you might have read about. I will take into consideration the system as a whole, so that your moisture management system is intact and point out areas that are mold prone. If it's a new build, you will come away knowing the typical steps to choose an architect, builder, materials and job site supervisor. I can work with your team from start to finish if you need. 

I help healthy folks and sensitive folks who range from those with mild allergies to those with extreme chemical sensitivities. I'm not just analyzing the SDS and what the manufacturer is telling us about what's in it, I'm also using industry knowledge to suggest what additives are typically used and undisclosed. And I use my experience and that of thousands of chemically sensitive folks to choose the safest products. 

Trouble Shooting and Remediating Chemical Offgassing 


If you have an odour or chemical offgassing we will trouble shoot the cause and what can be done about it. You will come away with strategies to then implement. These might be removing materials, sealing, cleaning with special cleaners, using ozone, choosing the right air purifier, putting in air exchange, using positive pressure and "baking" a house.

If we are having trouble figuring out the source, I will recommend a number of low tech and high tech ways to figure it out. 

Healthy Home Audit 


You will come away knowing how to make your current dwelling a healthier home. We might look at one room like a bedroom and top to bottom make it a healthier healing space, or we might look at how to find testing for VOCs, radon, and mold. Topics include which materials should be removed and replaced, helping to select the best air purifier for your needs, choosing water filtration systems, choosing furniture, beds and other household items. 

You can also send me specific materials and household items to review. 

This can be done in person in the south Vancouver Island and Victoria, BC area. Please contact me on this topic for more details on in home inspections as they are a unique experience. I use my nose and reactions as well as knowledge about problematic building materials to asses problem areas in your home or to help you find a new healthier home to buy or rent.  

Buying, Building or Renovating an RV, Trailer, Camper or THOW


If you want to buy, build or renovate anything on wheels we will look at which ones are best for your chemical sensitivities and which ones are more mold resistant. If you are buying, you will come away with pros and cons of different brands as well as different strategies (buy one that holds up and let it offgas or buy one and trade it in when it goes moldy). 

If you are building or gutting a trailer we will look at typical problem areas that done wrong and are prone to mold and I will refer you to a building science expert if there is something I can see will likely go moldy. You will also come away with which low offgassing materials will be best to use. If building a tiny home on wheels I can walk you through the process of finding an architect, builder, choosing materials and supervising. 

Camping and Simple Shelters


Whether you need to camp out of necessity or purposefully in order to unmask and bring down sensitivities we will get your camping set up together. You will come away with the confidence to camp even with severe sensitivities and limitations. You will know which types of tent material to consider as well as what other gear you need. If you cannot tolerate any ready-made tents we will look at custom making a tent or shelter out of almost any material you can think of - hemp, cotton, non-offgassing plastics (both hard plastic and flexible rolls), metal, foam, and wood. 

Mold Avoidance Consulting 


For a detailed overview of what I offer with mold avoidance coaching, see this post dedicated to that topic

Booking and Contact 




Consultations can be done via phone or email. The rate is $80 USD per hour. There is a 30-minute minimum for phone consultations. The rate for weekends, evenings and (US) holidays is $90 USD.
Due to the complex and unique nature of the research behind my work, I am unable to offer complimentary advice via email. You can purchase an email consultation starting at $20 (15 min).

Once you have booked the consult through the links below, email me at corinnesegura[at]gmail.com to book a phone consult time, or to begin the email consult. I will respond to the email within 24 hours.

If needed, please ask about a sliding scale based on income/assets.

Baubiologie en Español: Se puede hacer consultas de bioconstrucción escritas y revisar productos en español.

Purchase a 15 minute email consult
Purchase a 30 minute phone or email consult
Purchase a 1 hour phone consult


Testimonials can be found here.

Mold Avoidance Coach

My coaching for moderate to extreme mold avoidance is based on helping you with your individual limitations to problem solve a plan, no matter how complex the situation. I bring in my expertise in safe housing and my long-term view of healing locations to help you figure out where to go and where to stay. I use not just my own experience but the experience of hundreds of recovered avoiders whose cases I followed closely.

"WOW Nature The World Of Web" by TheWOWClub licensed under CC0 1.0 


My Story (in Brief) - Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes!

I started mold avoidance in 2013, at that time there were no Facebook groups and no Beginner's Guide to Avoidance. I don't think there was anyone providing coaching.

I bought an all aluminum Camplite and built a MCS safe tiny house, as I also had extreme MCS at the time. I had bad brain fog and mental and physical work was extraordinarily difficult. I was not able to take care of myself at the time. With brain fog I could not even begin to formulate how camping would be possible.

The Camplite turned up with high levels of offgassing, my plan to use that to scope out the best locations in my area would not work. I moved into the tiny house and began extreme avoidance there, but in one spot. My health picked up and up. I unmasked and got a lot better. With key supplements, meds and diets, I got started back with online work and taking care of myself on my own.

My Camplite was a gem and I didn't know

I made a lot of mistakes in mold avoidance that cost me a lot of money and a lot of further hits to my health. Now there is so much more help on the Facebook groups and information provided by Lisa Petrison, but for those starting out it can still be extremely overwhelming. I wish that I had support along that way in building the tiny house, with choosing the Camplite and with how to go more extreme with the limitations I had. As well as the likely pitfalls that are money sinks. That's what I provide now to folks, from my experience and from watching what has worked in the long term for others who healed (and what went wrong for those who didn't). Some of my mistakes cost $100,000. That's what I want to help you avoid. Housing mistakes are costly!

What I didn't know was that the Camplite was a very valuable and hard to find asset (once it did offgas), while tiny houses even though it was great for me from the get-go are built very poorly and will almost certainly mold up fast if not built right. I made the common mistake of building too soon, building without building science knowledge (only building for MCS), and selling a rare to find trailer. Then I made one of the biggest mistakes I see folks make in the early stages of mold avoidance - BnB hopping.

BnB hopping is what most folks start out with when they are leaving a moldy house. But here is the problem (especially if you have severe MCS/chemical sensitivities), almost all BnBs are moldy. It's a financially and physically expensive mistake to "randomly" choose a BnB (especially an older one that is geared towards MCS) and hope for the best.

I will help you choose indoor buildings in two cases - if severe illness means indoor spaces must be the starting point, not trailers or tents, or two, you are not very ill and we think we can help you get better while still staying inside (more moderate avoidance, or, the first step to more extreme avoidance).

When I lost my tiny house to mold, this began my "second run" of extreme avoidance. I spent most of two years in tents, disabled again by a tick bite, but this helped me recover to the point of finally bringing down my sensitivities (while staying unmasked) to be able to do well in regular housing again.

Well designed and well built condos can be good if carefully analysed and vetted


What is Mold Avoidance Coaching?


These are some of the areas we will look at together:

HELPING YOU WITH COMPLEX PROBLEM SOLVING TO COME UP WITH A PLAN

You will come up with your initial plan through the consults, if you have limitations, even severe limitations with energy, cognition, finances, jobs and families etc., we will put together an initial plan that includes a number of options. After the first consult you will have more ideas to investigate before choosing which road to go down.

DECIDING HOW EXTREME YOU SHOULD GO

I do not push anyone towards going more extreme than they want to, but I can help you decide based on your illness, goals, and what you are willing to do, what would be the best route to go. If I think something's possible that does not seem possible to you right now, I will point this out. Often an RV and tenting can work even for the severely ill.

CHOOSING THE TYPE OF LODGING

The main focus of my job as a Building Biologist is safe housing. Housing includes tents, shelters, trailers, tiny homes, and of course regular standard buildings. A big part of most consults is that you will come away with more options on where you can stay and I will help you to figure out which living situation will suit your situation, limitations and sensitivities. Again, after the first session there will be almost always be homework as you will have more options to look into and some of the ones you thought might work may now be crossed off the list.

We are going to look at:
  • Tents - how to camp alone and/or with severe symptoms and limitations.
  • Shelters - how to set up a shelter in your yard or on a large property or farm that will be inexpensive, small but very comfortable in terms of temperature and staying out of the elements. This option is far too often overlooked. Those who cannot stay in tents or regular buildings can find a shelter that will work even if we have to do all glass. 
  • Trailers/campers/RVs - which one best suits your needs, the finances of buying an RV, offgassing and chemical sensitivities, what's the best way to go about buying one, what are the pros and cons of different types and models. Which ones are mold prone and which ones tend to last.
  • Building a tiny home or small structure - how to choose a small structure or tiny home that would be best for where you are in your avoidance journey, considering sensitivities, costs and ease of build.
  • Regular housing - if you need or want to stay in regular housing we are going to look at types of buildings and HVAC systems less likely to go moldy. We will also use my list of recently vetted places and network of unmasked vetters to see if we can find you a vetted indoor space.


CHOOSING A LOCATION

I'm a big believer in the Locations Effect as I have watched this phenomenon over many years (almost 10 years now). I have followed and tracked where folks have gotten better in North America (the US, Canada and Mexico along with the Caribbean). I have knowledge of locations in Europe as well as Africa though we have fewer reports from those areas. What I do is organise all the reports from avoiders so that you can see pros and cons of different locations, make sense of the differing reports or contradictory reports, and we will come up with a short list of ones that might be best for you. Your backyard may be your starting location in some cases!

"WOW Nature - The World Of Web" by TheWOWClub licensed under CC0 1.0 


Common Mistakes in Mold Avoidance 

  • Choosing regular housing that has not been vetted and hoping for the best (it's likely to be moldy and/or too high in offgassing).
  • Building (or buying) too soon in the journey (building before finding the best location, unmasking and having enough energy to build properly will not yield good results).
  • Building without the ability to design and supervise a mold preventative build.
  • Buying an RV/trailer/van that is moldy or prone to mold.
  • Hoping to go on a sabbatical and then be unmasked enough to choose regular housing right after.
  • Setting out when severely ill WITH NO BACK UP PLAN. This one is in all caps because it can easily put your life at risk. If you are heading to a BnB/hotel or to a campsite you must have a back up plan, especially if your energy is very limited. If you have lots of energy and can take a night or two of no sleep and still sort things out, that is one thing, but with limited energy, you need a back up plan.
  • Following the path of just one successful mold avoider and not taking into consideration the differences in situations, sensitivities and abilities that might make your road to healing very different.


"WOW Nature - The World Of Web"
by TheWOWClub
 licensed under CC0 1.0 

What to Expect in a Coaching Session


Some folks who have little brain fog, are not too ill and have already planned out a lot of their sabbatical sometimes just need a one hour consult to go over a few areas in which they have questions or are stuck. Or, it might be about what to do when you get back.

But most folks have a more complicated picture. If you have a lot of brain fog it is best to start with writing out your situation, options you are considering etc. Then in the first phone call (1 hour) you will likely come away with more things to research as your options. You very likely could be more overwhelmed then when we started, as we will come up with new options and cross off other ones.

After the first phone call I will send a summary of the call and your research items and then you will complete your research. After you have looked into those ideas/options. A second call will go over your plan. The follow-up could also be done over email in some cases.

For almost all cases, I only recommend the package. I want my clients to succeed. After one call you will be left more overwhelmed with options and ideas to consider and this will not set you up to succeed. It's like doing one round of a physical treatment or taking one pill of a medication and not continuing. After doing this for a number of years, I have seen that the process is not complete without a minimum of time to work out your plan.

Mold avoidance doesn't end after that initial plan is set up. Once you start on the first leg of your journey this will give you feedback on your plan - what works for you and what doesn't. The first leg of your plan will not be perfect. For those who want continuing support I recommend the first package plus ten, 15 min emails. You are always welcome to book more phone time too if you need more support.



Booking


When booking consulting/coaching through the Paypal/Credit Card links you are agreeing to the following:

I consent to participate voluntarily in My Chemical-Free House Mold Avoidance Consulting and I expressly assume all the risks entailed in mold avoidance and I take full responsibility for my well-being and all decisions made before, during and after the email and phone consultations.

I understand that Corinne Segura is not a medical or mental health care provider and she is not
providing health care, medical therapy services or attempting to diagnose, treat
or cure in any manner whatsoever, any disease, condition or other physical or mental ailment
of the human body. Rather, she is serving only in her capacity as a coach, educator, mentor
and guide.

After booking please email me to get started!

Package One
2 hours with emails included (intro and follow up) 160 USD


Package One plus 10, 15 min emails throughout the mold avoidance journey.

To your healing!

Corinne

"Nature." by Vivian Farinazzo is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

Non-Toxic Windows, Blinds & Curtains

Updated Summer 2019

This post covers non-toxic Curtains, Blinds, Shades Blackout options, Window Frames, Window Flashing and Caulking.

1. Window materials – Windows made of thermally broken aluminum are the top choice for non-toxic windows. Accoya wood is also a healthy window option. Some vinyl and fiberglass can be considered, though they do offgas.

2. Window treatments – Natural untreated fabric, natural fibre roll down blinds, non-painted aluminum blinds and aluminum screens. Blackout bamboo shades, polyester curtains, hemp, cotton and paper pleated shades should be considered. Avoid PVC shades/curtains, flame retardant and wrinkle-free finishes, and wood and aluminum blinds with finishes that offgas.

3. Window seals – Polyurethane canned foam is the norm, which does cure quite well. The least toxic option is backer rod.

I recommend all of the products here, some products have affiliate programs and some do not. Upon purchase, I earn a small commission though affiliate links at no extra cost to you.

Non-Toxic Curtains and Blinds


The best non-toxic window coverings are natural untreated fabric, natural fibre roll down blinds, aluminum blinds and aluminum screens. For blackout shades, bamboo shades with liners, polyester curtains, hemp, cotton and paper pleated shades should be considered. Avoid PVC shades/curtains, curtains highly treated with flame retardants and other chemicals, and wood and aluminum blinds with finishes that offgas.


Source: Blinds Chalet
Fabrics

Fabric curtains are usually treated with wrinkle-free chemicals and flame retardants. Natural fabrics do break down in UV light but are a healthier option. Look for Oeko-Tex or GOTs certified fabrics to guarantee no chemical treatments.

Blinds and Shutters

Green versions include bamboo roll down blinds that are not treated with chemicals like those from Earthshade and Blinds Chalet.

I have not found wooden blinds with a 0 VOC finish since this is so hard to accomplish with something that holds up to UV. Real wood blinds are also prone to warping. Real wood is best used in shutters. Faux wood blinds are PVC, but composite blinds can be made of a safer plastic mixed with wood.

Aluminum blinds used to use powder coated metal which was very safe. You can find some older blinds like this. But currently all metal blinds in North America, Asia and Europe are made with a polyester based baked on enamel finish that does offgas. I have also seen additives, for example, Hunter Douglas ads an anti static additive to the coating. This may be something like Teflon, which would offgas as well.

You can find brushed aluminum blinds with no paint or coating, like those from Earthshade. At some retailers, brushed aluminum does have a coating.

Between the Glass

Between the glass is a really cool option that eliminates the worry of offgassing. Here is an example.

Screens

Conventional screens are very smelly at first. They can be left outside to offgas, or aluminum screens can be used instead. Marvin is one brand that makes aluminum options.

Non-Toxic Blackout Shades 


Bamboo Shades

Blinds Chalet blackout liner on the bamboo shades is PVC- free and they claim that it is environmentally friendly.

Polyester Curtains

Polyester with No PVC will work for many. If you can wash and or air them out first that will help:
West Elm 100% polyester curtains still have that new fabric toxic smell but will offgas.
These Eclipse polyester curtains from Amazon do not contain flame retardants, can be washed and aired out and should be tolerable after washing and airing for most people.
These Sleep Well polyester curtains do not guarantee no flame retardants or fabric treatments, but they are 100% polyester and free of PVC. They are washable. You can remove that new fabric smell by washing. Some have reported these having no smell and others more sensitive still can pick up the new fabric smell.

100% Black out Shades

Earthshade makes eco blackout shades and rollers that are probably the safest ready-made option on the market. The blackout roller shades do contain 35ppb formaldehyde which is produced when pressing the polyester sheets together to laminate them with heat. The shades have also been processed with bleach. Those are the only two treatments of the fabric. Generally my recommendation on formaldehyde (as long as it's not urea) is to give it 3 months of offgassing. When installed with a proper blackout system these will get you the most light blocking of the list.

Something Simple for Lightblocking:

Another option to consider is this paper black pleated shade - the company claims in an email they do not give off any hazardous chemicals (I bought the natural colour version of this - it has a slight toxic smell and needs to be offgassed only for a short while). They are not that great at blocking light compared to the other options and you will need to double them up to make a bigger difference. But these are super inexpensive, easy to install quickly, and worked perfectly in my tiny house.

Hemp

Another really safe option (truly the safest) would be to make your own blackout curtains with pesticide-free hemp fabric.

Cotton

IKEA curtains made with 100% cotton are somewhat light blocking. They should be washed or aired out before using.

Avoid: vinyl roller shades and vinyl mini-blinds, PVC and conventional blackout curtains.

Non-Toxic Window Frame Options


The top choice for green non-toxic window frames is aluminum (thermally broken). Accoya naturally treated wood can be considered another top choice, though wood is more difficult to upkeep. Fiberglass and Vinyl are the next best choices - they do offgas, but some brands will cure quite quickly or be low enough emissions to not cause any issues. Non-Accoya wood is treated with pesticides, insecticides and fungicides and it prone to warping and water damange. Let's look deeper:

Metal Window Frames

Aluminum windows are the healthiest, safest option. It is what I used in my tiny house (pictured left). On the interior, I added wood framing trim. You can also use decorative moldings around the windows. I used DYG windows from Canada. Milgard is a brand that makes thermally broken all aluminum windows (US and Canada).

What is used in the windows as a thermal break is blocked by the glass and metal so there is no need to worry about much offgassing. Thermally broken aluminum windows are all aluminum with polyurethane inside. Non thermally broken aluminum windows are not a good idea to use as they conduct heat and cold and easily condensate. Aluminum clad means there is an exterior of aluminum which usually has wood inside.

The most extremely sensitive clients can pick up the seal, PVC glass stop and some glues used.

The finishes I have seen on aluminum windows are baked on enamel, resin paints, powder coated and anodized. Some baked on enamel finishes and paints can offgas, the other two are considered safe. The gaskets are made out of rubber or PVC.

Wooden Window Frames

Wood windows are usually treated with fungicides, pesticides and insecicides. You could use a sealer that seals those chemicals like AFM Safe Seal, AFM Transitional Primer or Zinsser Shellac.

Accoya wood used in some window brands uses a non-toxic process called acetylation to naturally provide rot resistance. They use no chemical fungicides or mildewcides and they claim this process helps to obtain less shrinking and swelling than most solid wood windows. Loewen is one of the brands that uses Accoya and allows you to choose your paint brand.

You could go with totally custom made wood windows to avoid fungicides/pesticides, but they are more expensive and you still have to consider what kind of sealer you can tolerate on the inside and outside. For an exterior sealer see my post on paints and sealers. All wood (through and through) windows are not a good idea as they do not hold up well to moisture in the long run, Accoya wood claims to have solved this problem. You can also consider ones that are wood on the inside and a more weather resistant material on the outside if you like the look of wood inside. Consider also the glue that is used in conventional wood windows could be irritating for the sensitive person.

Marvin makes a window that is aluminum on the exterior and wood on the interior. The wood is treated with TimberTreat pesticide, tebuconazole and propiconazole fungicides, an unlisted insecticide and mineral oil. Pella and Anderson also make windows with aluminum exterior and wood interior, also with treated wood.

Fiberglass Window Frames

Fiberglass offgasses VOCs and some sensitive people do report reacting to it. Though it may be tolerable for some. Some types and brands are better than others (in terms of offgassing) and this could result in a preference of fiberglass over vinyl or vice versa.

Marvin's Ultrex was not tolerated by the very sensitive though some less sensitive have done well with it. Marvin has two different kinds of fiberglass, one has an acrylic coating and one has a polyurethane coating. You may find them to be different. Pella fiberglass is tolerated by some sensitive folks.

Kolbe has their own fiberglass called Glastra which is mixed with another polymer (plastic).

Vinyl Window Frames

Vinyl is generally not healthy, but since this is a hard plastic, many very sensitive individuals report tolerating it. I did not pick up any offgassing on the vinyl windows I tested (and used in a little camping trailer). I can pick up the offgssing in some of them used in apartments under one year old. Others have reported reacting with new ones, some let them offgas for a while before installing. Personally, with a bit of time to offgas, I find these to be good. Better than fiberglass, but not as good as aluminum.

Fibrex is a PVC and wood composite made by Anderson which some sensitive folks have reported being too high in offgassing for them.

Vinyl components can be used in any window frame type. Look into the gasket, window stops, jamb liners and tracks which can all be PVC.  I have seen some companies (like Alpine), replace the PVC stop with aluminum. More details on Alpine (which makes fiebrglass and vinyl windows) and other low toxin "High Performance" windows in this post on Passive Houses.

High Quality Trusted Window Brands

High quality window companies recommend by architects include: Marvin, Kolbe, Anderson, Pella, and Wasco. Alpine for High Performance windows.

Are Gas filled Windows Non-Toxic? 

Windows filled with argon or krypton gas have a higher insulative value and both gasses are considered non-toxic.

Are Low-E Coatings Non-Toxic?

The two main types of Low-E coatings are both non-toxic. The"soft coat" which is a mechanically applied silver coating that is within a double pane window system. You will have no exposure to the silver. A "hard coat" is a layer of tin oxide that is applied while the glass is still hot. The tin is a more integral part of the glass in this case, and is therefore not a risk.


Sealing Windows

Caulking

My top choice for caulking was Eco-Bond (which is out of business as of late 2018). The first two I would test out are AFM Caulk and silicone. Silicone caulks all have different odours/offgassing and rates of curing. Try Chemlink and GE. I have a post on caulking that goes into more detail.

Sealing around windows and doors

Plastic backer rod (polyethylene) can be used to seal around windows. This is non-toxic and odourless alternative to polyurethane canned spray foam. Many people do tolerate the canned spray foams after some offgassing (give it 24 hours to cure or more). Great Stuff is a common one to find easily online and in stores. Handi-Foam is another brand, that is certified with Greenguard Gold for more assurance (but I cannot tell the difference between the two). Wool is another option, if you are sure you won't have moisture issues around windows. I prefer not to have wool around windows.

Window Flashing


For zero-VOC window flashing use TYPAR AT. They do not recommend this being used in the rough openings, and it doesn't fit all building codes.





Corinne Segura is a Building Biologist with 5 years of experience helping others create healthy homes.


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