We use DensArmor and DensShield for dry wall. Photos of a recent project (after texturing and painting) can be seen here.
This is a rented apartment which was remodeled top to bottom using the SaferBuilding approved materials and methods.
The cost for the dry wall materials is roughly double regular dry wall and the labor is the same. Even though the primer and paint cover up wall board, that doesn’t mean that it won’t off gas toxic materials through the primer and paint. If they provide somewhat of a seal, eventually, it cracks.
We use Murco wall mud which takes longer to dry since it doesn’t have additives to make it dry faster. That labor cost can be more than regular labor costs unless the job is very large so your contractor has something else to do while waiting for it to dry. It is very worth it though since wall mud can off gas for months into the interior of your home after using it.
We find that builder supply stores carry DensArmor and DensShield, although we usually call in advance since not all carry them. DensArmor and DensShield are advertised as mold resistant since it is a paperless sheetrock. At shows, the manufacturer has a piece of sheetrock with water pouring over it to show how mold resistant it is. It is a cool demonstration.
We cut outside whenever practical. This is for tile, stone, wood floors, dry wall, etc. It is prudent to leave particles and dust outside.
In the photos in the above apartment, the bathroom floor is limestone on the floor with marble inset.
The walls and ceiling used Murco for texture. Over the Murco is ICI, No VOC Primer and ICI No-VOC Paint. The only caulk throughout is AFM. The paint has a yellow tint.
For a shower curtain, we installed a pole (not photographed) from one end to the other and they bring the one end of the shower curtain into the bathtub.
When you paint your house, the protocol is that you pick the paint color and the painter picks the paint brand, primer, spackle, caulk, joint compound and other building materials. After all, your painter is a professional, has been doing the job for a number of years, knows which paints will last, and can give a guarantee on products with which she or he is familiar.
You get to make the important choice: the color! Right? Wrong!
What really matters, more than the color, is any adverse health effects to you and your family. The common misconception that “it wouldn’t be on the market if it weren’t safe” is just that, a misconception. There are many products on the market which not only have the potential to be harmful during the remodel, but also leave a toxic residue. For example, joint compound can continue to off gas for many months after the application.
This happens with most remodeling. With tiles, you pick the tile or stone, and your contractor picks the cement, backerboard, tile setting material, grout, etc. With flooring, you pick the wood, and your contractor picks the underlayment, subfloor, vapor barrier, wood fill, etc. Selecting different tile setting material or different underlayment makes a difference with the ultimate product, even though you can’t see it.
Selecting green building materials doesn’t suffice. Sadly, many green building materials are toxic and the methods used matter as well with regards to leaving a toxic residue.
So, the question is, how can you know which building materials and methods are better, and even if you knew, how could possibly ask your contractor to use building materials and methods that you recommend when the contractor is the expert?
It is a challenge; but an important one since the health of your family is at stake.
The SaferBuilding Contractor Addendum’s and how-to guides empower homeowners with the information to make great decisions and give them tools for working with their contractors.
We each have different criteria… for some, it is school district, for others it is price or size; but how many people consider the toxic residue or likely toxic exposure?
Many real estate disclosure forms include disclosing neighbor’s barking dogs. During an escrow, one of three things can happen. The buyer can be one that doesn’t mind the frequency or volume of that particular barking dog; the buyer can choose to not buy the home; or the Seller can correct the problem.
Similarly, if a neighbor regularly refinishes furniture or does some other activity which allows toxic fumes to come onto the subject property, the Buyer will have an unhappy surprise. The consequences to the Buyer may be an annoyance, and it may trigger an asthma attack for the Buyer’s child. The Seller (and agent) may get away with it, and may get sued.
To protect everybody, the best solution is to use supplemental environmental disclosures. Like with a barking dog, the Buyer may not care, the Buyer may choose to not buy the house (which is preferable to the Buyer taking the house and suing the Seller), or the Seller may correct the problem.
What distinguishes the SaferBuilding environmental disclosures is experience. There are over one hundred questions based on over three hundred field tests. The SaferBuilding team knows which toxins are more likely to cause a problem and how expensive it is to get them out. No other organization even comes close to the experience.
It is not just neighbors that can effect the toxicity of a house. Interior paints and stains can release or “off gas” toxic fumes long after the application. Being “green” isn’t good enough. A recycled carpet may have used toxic glues in the installation or may have carpet padding which off gases toxic fumes.
The point isn’t to throw your hands in the air with an attitude that “everything is toxic” and “I just want to live my life”; the point is that easy changes can have a substantial effect on the house and on the health of the occupants. Using environmental disclosures empowers the Buyers and protects the Sellers (and their agents).
It is possible to abate VOC’s by using an ozone generator. There is a protocol for using an ozone generator which is outlined in the SaferBuilding How-To guide named “Getting Odors out” There is a picture of an ozone generator in that link.
If you’re trying to remove odors from new paint, then there is more than using an ozonator that can be done. You can wash the walls with baking soda and water. Make sure to use a new mop since dirt from a floor mop will likely get your walls dirty. That, and many other methods are discussed in the “Getting Odors out” how to guide mentioned above.
If you have control over the paint, the best solution would be to use the safer paints to start with. While “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” sounds like a cliché, it fits with respect to not introducing toxins in the first place since it is cheaper than removing them.
SaferBuilding has a how to guide for “Interior Paint” as well which covers more than just the paint itself (caulk, joint compound, spackle, common mistakes, etc.
A final note with respect to moving into a new house or apartment. Paint can be used to cover up a lot of things. If you walk into a newly painted office, house, or apartment and get headaches or otherwise don’t feel well; then don’t count on an ozone generator to make it right. Ozone generators are effective and may well solve the problem, but there could be something else toxic going on that the paint covered up such as mold or pesticide residue. In other words, it wouldn’t be prudent to make a commitment counting on an ozone generator to remove the toxicity.
Impervious to dog pee is a tough one. The problem with Marmoleum is the installation glues and the tiles themselves can take a long time to offgas. What I like about it is that the tiles are gorgeous and safe, after the installation glues off gas.
If you are fine with the sample tiles, then it may be a good idea to find out when they were manufactured to make sure that you’re testing something that hasn’t had years to offgas. It would be great if they could give you some glue to put on something that you can tolerate and test that outside somewhere (on a piece of wood or something).
Solid pre-finished wood is great, but if the seal breaks (which dog claws can cause), dog pee can penetrate the wood. Another option would be a tile floor ( ceramic tile is likely be more dog pee resistant than natural stone). The grout will likely not be resistant, but grout is cheap to change out after your dog is housebroken. Make sure that they don’t put in too much tile setting material so that the grout completely covers the tile setting material.
In some areas, no one uses tile so it doesn’t improve property values. For that type of thing, I usually ask 3 to 4 local realtors.
Make sure to give our how-to guides to your installers so that they don’t inadvertently introduce a toxic product by using the wrong method even if using good materials.