Category Archives: Podcast

NTE Podcast: Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons

You’ve all heard me say that no project ever goes perfectly smooth. Mother Nature can drop 10 inches of rain. Sub-contractors ignore your request to use the healthier product. Folks, these things happen all the time. It’s not a question of ‘what if’, its a question of ‘when’. So when the time comes, it requires quick action by the homeowner and/or general contractor to make sure things get back on track. Jay and I give some current real examples of this and how they got successfully resolved.

Google Play


Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons

Making Lemonade Out Of Lemons


Andrew Pace: Welcome to the Non Toxic Environments podcast. My name is Andrew Pace. Every week, my cohost Jay Watts and I will discuss healthier home improvement ideas and options. Thank you for finding us. And please enjoy the show. 

So, Jay, we were talking before I hit the record button. The problem we have on job sites across the country is not always user error, contractor error, but it’s also out of everybody’s hands, act of God, weather related, freight delays and so forth. But you and I came up with this idea of let’s talk about job site problems because this happens all the time and what do you do? You know, where do you go? 

Jay Watts: Yeah, it’s so true. And this is a common thing with all manufacturers. This is not something that unique to the green building product world. This happens in the conventional world all the time. I think it’s demonstrative of the idea that in the contracting world, there’s kind of a fixed idea about the products that are used and the techniques you use to apply them to surfaces. And I think where a disconnect can happen is a contractor will appropriate those tools and techniques that they’re familiar with when in reality if they’re unfamiliar with a coating, any coating for that matter, whether it’s a conventional coating or one like ours, that there should be a step back to evaluate any nuances that might be necessary in the application of said product. Unfortunately we know Andy that because of budgeting and you know, timing and the availability of contractors to be on jobs, sometimes that part of the equation gets overlooked. Then we wind up in situations that we’re going to probably talk about a little bit here where something went sideways and then why did it happen and is there some kind of thinking about how to prevent these things in the future?

Andy: So folks, as you can tell, today’s topic is going to be on how do you deal with problems on the job site? How do you deal with situations where something occurred that nobody was expecting and where do you go from that point? And so Jay, let me start the topic then with a project that I am working on currently. Very good customer of ours. I mean these people are friends of mine now, we talk so often. They’re building a home where it’s as healthy can be. They have family members that are suffering from the detrimental effects of mold sensitivities. And their last home home just had a whole horrible mold problem. So mold obviously is a key issue here, right? They’re building a home, it’s under construction. The home gets framed and then what happens? It starts to rain. Now everybody who listens to this show knows that. I’ve talked about this before. One of the reasons why I’m not a big fan of Tyvec and I’m not a big fan of traditional stick framing of homes is because of that off chance that when the home was being built, at some point all the crews have to leave the job site because it’s raining too much. Happened on this job and there’s no ready defense. There’s no defense. Nothing you can do about it. You can’t have crews onsite building a multistory home. They can’t put even a temporary roof on the home because of the deluge of rain coming down. 

Jay: It’s almost like you’d have to tent it like you’re doing a pest control tenting. But that doesn’t happen either.

Andy: It doesn’t happen either. What happened on this project? Well, they got a bunch of rain. They got 10 to 15 inches of rain over about a two week period. All of the framing in the house, not just the exterior framing, Jay, all of the interior framing, every stick of wood in the home starts to grow mold. I mean, it literally breaks my heart for a family who is specifically building a home to avoid the mold problems they’re running into this. And I can’t blame the contractor by any means, and it’s not his fault that it started to rain so hard. So what do you do? Honestly, the first thing you can do folks, if you are a contractor or if you’re hiring a contractor for a project, whenever there’s a problem on the job sites, no matter what it is, stop where you’re at. Stop what you’re doing, put down the tool, put down the material and make a phone call or to contact somebody who you’re working with, somebody who you trust and ask the question, what should I do at this point? And folks, that’s what these people did on this project that I’m talking about. You know, the whole house was framed. They were starting to work on some exterior finishes and it started to rain. They noticed a little bit of mold developing on the wood. And that’s when they called. By the time that the construction team was able to do something about it. They sent me pictures and I could see black mold spots on every stick of wood in the house. We quickly sent down, I want to say a hundred gallons of Caliwel to the house. And matter of fact, this weekend, Memorial Day weekend, there’ll be spraying every stick in the house with the Caliwel industrial product. 

Jay: What was the prep for the Caliwel? What did they have to do to the surfaces prior to Caliwel? 

Andy: That’s the nice thing about Caliwel going on raw wood that might have mold on it. You don’t have to wash the wood. Matter of fact, Caliwel or Alistagen, the manufacturer of the product, talks out against it. They discouraged you in any cleaning with any biocidal type cleaning materials because all it does is get in the way of what the Caliwel product can do. So there’s gotta be a little moisture in the wood. You can’t do anything about that. But it’s just a matter of spraying on the Caliwel.

Jay: I don’t want to get too deep into this other than the fact that it’s just in my mind you’re saying this. Is there any problem with the moisture in the wood having an impact on the Caliwel curing cycle? We talk about this occasion when people are having prolonged curing issues, which is usually defined as odor, right? And we’re wondering about moisture content and are we in a situation where curing is being interrupted because there’s moisture present. So I guess is that an issue with Caliwel or no? 

Andy: It is a little bit of an issue. Like I said, just before a little bit of moisture is not going to hurt it. In this particular project, the roof decking wasn’t completed. So before it started to rain hard and obviously the seams weren’t sealed and so forth. So there’s a lot of water coming to the house. What they did was, what the homeowners did was they bought some industrial fans, some industrial dehumidifiers. They really did a wonderful job of nipping this in the bud. So imagine how much worse it could have been. At this point the homeowner is saying to themselves, we’re only as far as rough framing, do we just knock this down and start again? I mean, this is how serious this was. But what they did was they stopped anything else going on in the home. They got this equipment, they started to dry it out, they did the right thing, folks, they did everything correctly. And then they’re able to get the wood dry enough that it’ll accept the Caliwel. They’re also gonna use the Caliwel to spray on all the block walls in the basement. They’re just so afraid of mold. And I don’t blame them. I really don’t. 

Jay: Everyone’s aware of the challenges and the danger of mold, there’s not a soul that doesn’t understand that.

Andy: Right. And now they have a temporary roof on the home, which is great. So now no new moisture’s coming into the house or water I should say. They are certainly in the right position, but taking this step of applying the Caliwel product will definitely solve that problem. It’ll salvage the project. Also even in areas where they didn’t see mold. If they’re applying some Caliwel like the block walls. It’s good peace of mind. 

Jay: Yes. You know, Andy, I know with your commercial background, you’re familiar with at least I think I have this correctly, you’re familiar with job site punch lists. 

Andy: Yes I am.

Jay: So it’s coming to me that maybe, maybe this is something that you and I can work on together is to come up with maybe a checklist for people they can use as a punch list on a project and they can actually go down the list, item by item to make sure that, and of course in this case where we’ve got act of God, we can’t really predict that, but I’m thinking maybe the idea of a punch list for the clients so they can actually go back and say, okay, there was this step, check that was done correctly. Next step check, that was done correctly. I’m thinking that makes some sense, but it may be something that might be too cumbersome, but I’m searching for some guidelines here for our listeners to be able to kind of appropriate when they’re in their project instead of just turning it over and lists walking away and not paying attention and then finding out later we’ve got a big problem, which leads me to my issue, this is very recent. In fact, today as recent as it gets: a client of ours, has some Douglas fir doors, interior doors that they wanted to stain and seal. And of course they were able, through their research, to find AFM and made an investment in our Durostain and our clear finish called Acrylacq. They hired a contractor and the contractor’s opinion was that the door porosity, the Douglas fir porosity would be a challenge for the stain. And the concept there, which is consistent with good practice in many cases, was to actually precondition the wood with a conditioner. And what the conditioner does folks, it’s like a sealer that goes on and it evens the porosity of the wood. So the soft areas and the hard areas kind of even up. And what that means in a staining job is that you’ll get a much more even appearance of the color of the stain as it goes onto the wood. It won’t soak in one place really deeply and make it darker and not soak in another place and be really light. So in this particular case, the contractor used a conditioner on the wood and then stain the wood and then applied our clear finish over the wood. And the client reported that this was a disaster. And I asked that they send photos, which they did. Andy has seen the photos now too. So he may comment on it as well. But basically you could see that the application of the conditioner was done in such a haphazard way which of course means that anything to do with staining is going to be absolutely a disaster as well. There’s no way for this to fix itself. And what’s what’s so amazing about this is that this would be something that would have been immediately noticed. The contractor did all the doors, all 13 doors, when door number 1 would have been demonstrative of what was going on. And folks, let me be clear, this would have been immediately demonstrative, Oh, it dried a couple of days and then we discovered it. No, as soon as that stain hit that conditioned wood where the sealer that was on there, that preconditioning was done unevenly, that it was going to jump out at you. It was just going to blare out and you would have noticed it. And that’s what Andy’s referring to at this point. The contractor’s responsibility, let me repeat, his responsibility is to stop because anyone can see that this is not acceptable. Stop, make a phone call to the manufacturer, to the dealer and get some counseling on how to not continue with this and come up with a remedy that will solve the problem. In this case that wasn’t done. And now the client client is sick and I don’t blame them. And I’ve suggested to them that sadly there’s only really two remedies here. I mean remedy one, we basically get this all off the wood and we start from scratch or remedy two, which is not the ideal remedy, but the only other remedy would be to paint these doors. My sense is that that’s not the remedy they’re looking for. So I’m sad to say that I think this is probably gonna wind up being a a redo job. I know for a fact that I would not re-hire the contractor to do this and my guess isn’t telling me if I’m off base on this Andy, but my guess is this contractor probably wouldn’t want to come back to this job anyway. 

Andy: Well, based upon the pictures that you sent me, Jay, it’s hard for me to put into words for everybody in the audience how horrible these doors look, it’s hard for me to put into words how horrible this contractor is, that they would even allow this to be given to a client, right? Folks, if you have a contractor who’s never used something that you are asking them to use, a good contractor is going to say, all right, well let me just play with the product a little bit. I’m going to do a couple of sample pieces so I understand how the products work, how they react. That’s the first thing for sign of a good contractor. A second kind of a good contractor, as Jay said, first of all whatever they used for a pretreatment obviously was not compatible with the AFM Durostain. Either was not compatible or it was just slopped on so haphazardly that they thought that the stain would just cover up any of their mistakes. But yes, after the contractor stained door number one, why would you even go to door number two? I mean, it looks horrible, right? And then to go on and do 13 of these doors AND put on two coats of clear finish over it… I can see if you’re doing all the staining of the doors and you’re doing it all one after the next, after the next, and you stain it, you wipe it, you hang it, you sand, hanging it and you’re just doing these things and you’re letting them dry. Now you go back to door number one after 12 to 24 hours of dry time and you look at door number one, you go, Oh, that looks horrible. And your first thought is wow, this looks horrible. I think I’m going to finish it. I think I’ll put two coats of finish on. This is a contractor who does not care about his or her work. They don’t care about their client. They’re using products that they don’t know how to use. They don’t care to learn how to use. And their mindset probably was, listen if this turns out lousy I’m just going to blame the product. I don’t have any good things to say about what I saw in those pictures. The first project we talked about act of God, right? You know, nobody could predict 13 or 15 inches of rain. This, everybody in the world could have predicted what’s going to happen with this if they just open their eyes. So what do you do? As Jay said, as soon as you see something that does not look correct, you stop, you put the brush down, you put the sprayer down, whatever it is, and start making phone calls. Let’s get this figured out. If they would have contacted wherever they got their material from and had a conversation about this, the problem could have easily been solved before one door was really ruined. 

Jay: Correct. You know, it reminds me too, and we’ve spoken about this in the past, folks, if if you’re in a situation where a contractor comes to the project with some skepticism, it’s really incumbent upon you to make sure that you’re paying attention all through the process. I can cite another example here. I know sometimes this happens. It’s rare, but it does happen. Contractors signed onto a project and they have a very negative attitude about the products they’re asked to use. So much so that they would even say, which is kind of strange to me. They will say these words, I can’t guarantee my work if I use a product I’m not familiar with. And that’s always baffled me a little bit because I want to believe that the pros out there that are doing this kind of work are craftsmen. And as a craftsman, you become familiar with, you should become familiar with and want to become familiar with all the different options that may be put in front of you. And as Andy said, if you’re asked to use an option that you’re unfamiliar with, then you do what Andy suggested. As you tell the client, I may have to charge you a little more because I think this is what happens. They come to a job, they do a bit, and they’ve got it all figured out to the hour, but then the client says, use a new product. And they’re like, well, Oh, wait a minute. That’s going to mess up my bidding. I’m going to have to charge him work. Listen, folks, I’d rather have the contractor tell me it’s going to cost a little more for me to figure out what I’m doing so I do it right so that we don’t have this mess on our hands, which is going to cost hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars more than it would have cost you to have him give you another hour of his time on the bill. 

Andy: For sure. And so this… boy, I keep on thinking about this and I wonder what goes through the head of somebody who takes on a project like this and take somebody’s money and says, this is the best I can do. It’s truly, truly remarkable. So all that leads to my next example, because you touched on something, Jay, about how contractors love to use that phrase. Well, if we’re not going to use a product that I’m familiar with and I can’t guarantee my work, well, this is what happened on a job site. Another job site we’re working on here locally where a couple is building a wonderful new healthy home, which is just going to be a fabulous project. This is going to be a showcase that I can talk to people about. Matter of fact, when job is all done, I’m going to go be going down to the house and actually broadcasting from the home, excellent video to show everybody what it’s all about. Well, the couple of designing the home, they’re actually doing the general contracting work, which if you’ve never been a general contractor before, a new home is not what I’d recommend you start with. But you know, they are thorough and diligent people and they’re doing a wonderful job. But it’s tough because you have to put up with the games at the subcontractors like to play. And well, what happened in this house is they’re at the drywall stage and I won’t get into the total specifics of the project, but some of the drywall is the paperless drywall. Some of it is synthetic drywall, some of it’s traditional drywall. But the entire home is being mudded or skim coated with the Murco M100 product, which is the only hypoallergenic drywall mud that we use. This is at the homeowners request. They are extremely, extremely concerned about formaldehyde. So keep that in mind. They got done with applying the first coat of Murco and the drywall contractor approached the husband, I believe, and said we need to do a level five finish so we can’t use the Murco product. We have to use our product and so forth. And I don’t think that there was a true understanding of what that meant. And the husband said, sure, go ahead, do it. We want to get this done right. Side note, I do understand sometimes you have to take a step backwards to take a step forward or take two steps forwards. Sometimes you have to use a product that’s not the healthiest in the world to achieve ultimately an overall healthier project, and longer lasting project and so forth. I don’t think this is one of those situations. I think this is the situation of the contractor just didn’t want to use the Murco product anymore. So now the final coat of drywall mud in the entire home is a premixed drywall mud that contains biocides. The wife comes up here few days ago and she’s a very good client of ours, just a wonderful friend. And she’s very concerned that she doesn’t want her kids living in a home that there are biocides coming off of the drywall mud. I don’t blame her. So here we have a situation where we’ve got a home under construction, contractor made a bad decision by forcing the homeowner’s hand and maybe pitting one homeowner against the other a little bit and used a product that they shouldn’t have used. Now do you throw the whole thing out? Do you rip out all the drywall and start from scratch or do you salvage the project, keep things moving, because you want this home completed and you don’t want to cause more environmental concerns by ripping out all this drywall and having to dispose of it? So we took the approach that we know that the Safecoat primers and paints will seal up toxic off gassing. With that, the entire home is being primed right now with the AFM Primecoat primer. Matter of fact, we’re doing two coats, Jay. We understand that two to three coats of any AFM product will seal up chemical off gassing anywhere from 98 to a hundred percent. It’s hard to give an exact number number because we can’t actually review each square inch of the home, but we know 98 to a hundred percent. So they’re going to be priming the entire home, all the drywall with two coats of the Primecoat. And probably finishing now with two coats of the new GDC Naturals product, which is the plant oil and mineral based paint that we source from AFM and it’s the new GDC private label product. This is how you kind of make lemonade out of lemons, right? You can’t rip out everything. I don’t think it’s a good move to do that because you could also create a whole new set of problems because of the dust that you’ll generate in the removal process. And ultimately at the end of the day when the project is complete, those walls will be completely sealed. You will not have off gassing from that drywall mud. 

Jay: I’m sure this was a huge relief to your client.

Andy: Huge relief. 

Jay: It was an option other than demolition. 

Andy: Right. And because you’d never know in demolition, it’s kind of like doing remodeling, now you don’t know what’s going to happen during the demolition process. What else will you damage? What will you have to repair, replace from that? I’d rather actually just finish it with materials that I know will solve the problem. Now this problem does not exist anymore. You had alluded to this before, Jay, and I’m just going to mention, we did a show back in July of 2019 called Project Planning to Avoid Frustration. I’ll link it in the show notes, take a listen to that. Talking about putting together a punch list, putting together a list of points that you’re trying to achieve on the project, making sure you’re not over estimating what can be done. You’re setting your expectations properly. 

Jay: So important. 

Andy: So important. Again, Project Planning to Avoid Frustration is the name of the podcast from July of 19. 

Jay: Perfect, great segue. Well, Andy, I think we’ve done a pretty good job of a tricky conversation here. There’s always a lot of emotion impacting these situations and of course a a lot of money being spent and it’s probably as important as just the anticipation of something really wonderful that kind of gets out of control and the dream bubble gets popped and sometimes that’s very difficult for most people to be able to manage well. The emotional part of it is sometimes an impediment to some clear thinking. No one wants to point fingers at anyone. I mean, that’s the last thing we want to do. But invariably that happens because people’s sense of responsibility slips a little bit. Oh, it’s not my fault. It’s that fault. You know, I want to point my finger, you know, sadly, folks in the coatings industry a lot, and this is just across the board with coatings companies, you ask any of the big brands, they’ll tell you the same thing. There’s a lot of finger pointing at products when the finger pointing shouldn’t be at the product. It should be turned around and pointed at the person who is applying products. Now, contractors, if you’re listening, we don’t want to beat you guys up. There are a lot of you out there are fabulous, fantastic craftsman that know their trade. They know when to stop, they know when to learn, they know when to educate themselves and they want to do a very good job. You’re out there. We know that. And for those of you who are wanting to become contractors or think you’re a good contractor, check your pulse every once in a while. Make sure that you’re going to be happy with whatever you provide to your client. And that’s the bottom line. You’ve got to know that this is a work that you’re going to be proud of because you know why? Because it’s all about referrals, folks. It’s about referrals. And if you’re not getting good referrals, guess what? You’re a maybe working at Arby’s or McDonald’s or something. 

Andy: Exactly right. Well, I need to give a shout out a group that I talked to last night. I was supposed to do an in person presentation and we weren’t able to do this. But we had a Zoom conference last night with the Holistic Mom’s Network of Lake Country Wisconsin. And interestingly enough, one of the things I did talk about during my presentation was that you have to set the expectations correctly for the project. One of the things I tell everybody that I work with is there is no such thing as a perfect project. Perfection is never the goal of our projects. Tolerance to the materials, budgetary obviously, and a proper understanding of true expectations. You’ll drive yourself to the poor house or the nuthouse trying to build or remodel a perfect healthy home. It’s not going to happen folks. So what Jay and I really tried to convey today and I tried to convey last night was you have to set those expectations and when there is a problem, not if there is a problem, but when there is a problem, stop and call, stop what you’re doing. Stop the contractor, make a few phone calls and there’s almost always a way to fix what’s happening in the two situations that I talked to, we were able to fix the situation and move on and the homeowners will be very, very happy with the finished results in this situation you brought up, Jay, that’s going to be a little tougher because unfortunately the contractor didn’t stop and make a phone call. I don’t think there could be a more clear example of why you want to do that. 

Andy: Right? No, I think it’s so painfully clear to this client and I’ll try to help as much as I can on my end. We’re sensitive folks to the situation that’s going on in projects and we try to reach out to our clients and try to satisfy a situation as best as we possibly can. Always remember it’s never too dire. There’s always some resolve. It may not be the best resolve possible, but it’s going to be the one that we can come to.

Andy: Exactly. So I think that comes to the conclusion of this week’s episode of Non Toxic Environments. Jay, this is a Memorial Day weekend. You know, you live in San Diego, it’s the world’s most perfect climate, Here in Wisconsin this is the unofficial official start of summer for us.

Jay: Yeah. Oh yeah. 

Andy: A little different this year because of what’s going on. But, for the most part, here in the state of Wisconsin, most of the municipalities have finally wised up and open things up, But we’re still opening up for business folks. Get out there this weekend. Enjoy nature, enjoy some rest and relaxation. Please, take some time to think about those family members, friends, or even those you don’t know who were military members that we’ve lost. So please think about why we have a Memorial day. It’s for those military members that we’ve lost over the years. Jay and I will be back again next week with another episode. Have a wonderful weekend. 

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Our Own Personal Influencers

Last week, Jay and I talked about some of the more common myths and misconceptions we deal with regularly. This week, we’re focusing on the individuals we would call our influencers…the legends, if you will. You may have heard of some or many of these folks, but we’ll talk about why they were so important to us as we molded our careers. There you have it..Myths and Legends. Please let us know who your influencers are!

Google Play


Our Own Personal Influencers

Our Own Personal Influencers


View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Eco-myths and Internet Mis-information

I know I’ve harped on the topic of internet research before, but this episode takes it much further.  This week, Jay and I discuss many of the myths and fallacies of the green and healthy building process and hopefully, shed some new light on them for you.  We’ll talk about plumbing, flooring, VOC’s and more.  This was such a fun episode for us and I trust you’ll enjoy it as well.

Google Play


Eco-myths and Internet Mis-information

NTE Podcast: Eco-myths and Internet Mis-information


Andrew Pace: Welcome to the Non Toxic Environments podcast. My name is Andrew Pace. Every week, my cohost Jay Watts and I will discuss healthier home improvement ideas and options. Thank you for finding us. And please enjoy the show. 

Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. This is Andy Pace and as always, Jay. How are you this week? 

Jay Watts: Well, I’m staying warm here in the West coast. Andy spring has sprung. And are you thawing out out there or is it a shorts weather yet? 

Andy: I know a lot of states can say this, but here in Wisconsin we’d love to say if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. So we were blessed with this past weekend we had weather in the seventies, sunny, beautiful. Woke up this morning to snowflakes. 

Jay: Wow. 

Andy: And just north of us, they had measurable snow fall. So, welcome to spring in Wisconsin. 

Jay: I don’t worry. In five minutes it’ll change. 

Andy: You got it. It will. 

Jay: So today I think we’re going to be talking about some of the myths that surround the industry that we’re in. And I know you’ve got some things to say about some of the myths that people kind of labor under when they’re doing their research on healthy building products. 

Andy: Sure. And I think a lot of these are myths that just get sort of passed along via blogs and different posts and so forth. These are things that we’ve talked about over the last couple of years on the podcast. A couple are new. But I really wanted to focus on myths because you know, right now we’ve got a lot of projects going on across the country and I constantly hear the same things coming from customers and I just wish I knew where the genesis of these was. 

Jay: Have you been able to kind of isolate where it starts? It’s so funny because in the context of the virus and you start to think about where did the virus start, well it started in Wuhan, China. But this is kind of, that just crossed my mind when you were saying that, where do the myths begin? I think there’s a lot of, and we’ve talked about this, people start researching on the internet and they may go down a path on the internet and that path keeps going deeper and deeper and deeper down into the well, and maybe some of that stuff is percolating back up as people hear, they start to hear several different voices say the same thing, and then they start thinking, well, that’s how it is. That’s, that’s the rule, right? In fact, it may not be, it dismissed maybe a series of subjectives opinions, certainly based on someone’s experience, but there’s where all the problems lie because if something goes, quote unquote wrong, there’s so many different reasons why that may be happening. And so it’s like digging into the archeological, mother load to try to find out, okay, well where and how and what and all those questions that you and I have answered over the years as healthy forensic doctors, detectives, how do we, not doctors but detectives, how do we separate the chaff from the wheat as it were? 

Andy: Exactly. 

Jay: And then get to the truth of a discussion.

Andy: I find that there is a story or a project that goes haywire somewhere. Somebody writes about it and then the next person that does their Google research reads that story and then writes it in their blog and then the next person writes it in their blog. Here we go, you know, 15 years later, 20 years later, and we’re also having the same discussions as if it’s brand new. So I’ll jump right into it. This is something that actually came to me in the last couple of weeks. There was a very well known blog site for healthy building, green building, and they had their list of eco-friendly flooring options and right in there said that natural linoleum should never be used in bathrooms and I can’t tell you how often I have discussed this with people over the years, folks, there is no such worry. 

Jay: Yeah. Frederick Walton would roll over in his grave, I think. 

Andy: Listen, natural linoleum or what we know here in the States is a brand called Forbo Marmoleum. And I’ll get to a side note on this in a second, but natural linoleum, used to be used in the old Naval ships to the point where they used to call it battleship flooring. This stuff is amazing. It’s an all natural material that essentially gets harder with age, gets more resistant to the elements with age. 

Jay: I think what’s really interesting about what you’re saying, Andy, is the, the basic formula is pretty much the same one that he invented, that Walton invented in 1863. 

Andy: You are a 100%, right. 

Jay: So when you think about that for a second and go, wait a minute, they haven’t needed to tinker with it. We’ve used it in so many installations, both harsh installations and not so harsh and it’s done really, really well. My example locally is our art museum here in San Diego,  up on the second story that all of that floor in the galleries is linoleum. And it looks beautiful. It looks beautiful. 

Andy: It’s fantastic. I mean the IKEA stores across the country, most of them have linoleum, natural and on all of their elevated floors where you’ve got 10 to 20,000 people a day with shopping carts. 

Jay: So the problem is perceived problem is we’ve got a lot of water and water is going to attack the linoleum. Is that what the myth is about? 

Andy: The myth is that water pooled water will cause it to swell and lose its durability. This product is used in cafeterias, surgical rooms, auditoriums, retail spaces. And it gets just about everything thrown at it on a daily basis. Years ago you could argue that the adhesives that the linoleum was put down with just didn’t have a lot of longevity to it. And so if water got between a seam or around the flooring and underneath it could attack the sub floor, which would cause the sub floor warp or swell. Making the linoleum looked like it was having a problem. But folks, that is just not an issue. Um, there are different methods and different materials involved with natural linoleum and there’s a product for every application. But one thing is sure, you can use natural linoleum in a bathroom. I’ve done it myself in homes of my own and with clients for 25 years. 

Jay: Myth busted one, boom.

Andy: Alright, myth bust number two, natural ingredients are always preferable to synthetic ingredients. This is something that AFM deals with on a regular basis. 

Jay: Yes, we do. How do we begin the discussion on this? I frame it this way. There are natural ingredients that are certainly are great and those natural ingredients maybe we want to be a little careful of. Conversely, there are synthetic ingredients that you want to be wary of and there’s a lot of synthetic ingredients that you don’t have to worry one little bit about. And on my side from my brand, I understand that because the dominant a model for our product line is synthetic. And so people go, well, wait a minute, how do you do that? How do you use synthetics? Aren’t those deadly petrochemicals and aren’t those toxic? And of course, you’ve had the conversation and I’ve had the conversation about talking about the nuances and in our case specifically about how we went about discovering what we discovered about the use of synthetics. 

Andy: One thing to point out to people is that natural materials; we’re not gonna discuss religion, but whatever your religion is, if your God or the being created the earth and created everything on earth, the fact that natural materials contain natural chemicals, natural chemicals sometimes are so complex that we still do not understand how they react or off gas or interact with other chemicals, synthetic chemicals, manmade chemicals, something that’s been made in a lab and we can see the efficacy of those. We know that A plus B plus C equals D and we know that let’s say with Safecoat products, some of the ingredients are natural, some of them are synthetic, but we know that all the ingredients that are used are used in a controlled manner that once the product cures, it’s completely free of chemical outgassing. When you use natural ingredients as the bulk of the product, there’s still a lot to be learned about that. And, think about this, the aromas that natural ingredients create, whether it’s linseed oil, like in Marmoluem or the smell of cork from cork flooring. These odors are, I would say virtually impossible to seal up with any AFM product or any other material because the chemistry of those natural materials is so complex. We don’t even know how to stop it from smelling, right? So flip side using them as a coating, you just don’t know what it can lead to. And so when we’re dealing with folks who have chemical sensitivity and other immune system disorders, we have to make sure that we’re using materials that we can verify how long it takes to cure and then it stops off gassing. So we can be sure clients are getting what they’re supposed to be getting. 

Jay: Yeah. I think you’ve alluded to something, it’s the predictability of the science behind the synthetic work that we’ve done and that other companies do. However, folks, let’s be clear, we’re not bashing natural ingredients here or we’re just saying that you have to look at it through maybe a little bit different lens to understand the nuances. Andy and I are both in favor  letting good chemistry from whatever quarter it comes, letting that best chemistry rise to the surface that we can all both as manufacturers and consumers take advantage of it. 

Andy: Right? And I think we have to just understand that, the myth that because it’s synthetic, it can’t be safe or because it’s natural, it has to be safe. Both of those are wrong. And so there are safe synthetic ingredients. There are safe natural ingredients, and we always strive to just choose the safest ingredients no matter how they’re derived. 

Jay: Myth number two. All right. Okay. 

Andy: Okay. Myth number three. Let’s go back to flooring again. Okay. Because I’ve heard this since 1996. 

Jay: Ooh, it’s an old one. 

Andy: This is an old one. Bamboo is the most eco-friendly hardwood that I could use. 

Jay: Wow. Yeah, because it’s grass. It’s not wood. 

Andy: Right? And so I call it a hardwood because it falls along that classification. But you are exactly right. It’s a grass. Part of building healthy. Part of living in a healthy home is not just health of the body from a chemical load standpoint, but it’s also health of the mind. We’ve touched on this before. When people use like sthapatya veda architecture to construct a home, one of the rules is that every corner of every room should bring you bliss. So think about this from a standpoint of mental health. If you walk into your kitchen and you installed new bamboo flooring, you walk in there every morning to get your cup of tea or cup of coffee, and you look down and you go, Oh, I just love this floor. How valuable is that for mental health? 

Jay: Man, it’s huge. It’s huge. 

Andy: It’s huge. 

Jay: So I’m just visualizing that right now. I don’t have bamboo floor on my floor on my home folks, but I can imagine I have good imagination and I’m sitting here as Andy saying this, and I’m like, wow. I would be very happy if I was walking across that to get my tea every morning at seven o’clock. 

Andy: Exactly. And so I use that when I describe bamboo flooring because the myth is that bamboo is far more ecofriendly than wood because bamboo is a grass and it grows really fast. Therefore you get the same yield out of a three year old bamboo plant than you do out of a 60 year old Oak. Well, that’s not necessarily true, number one. Number two, all bamboo is grown and manufactured in China. So from an environmental standpoint, what’s better? Bamboo or hardwood, one can be procured probably from your state. One has to be shipped literally around the world. Bamboo is very hard, but at some point, hardness of a floor doesn’t necessarily translate to longevity because the flooring material is so hard that the finishes can actually dent and scratch easier. Alright. 

Jay: I’m sure all this is feeling a little counterintuitive to folks. 

Andy: It is. And so that’s why I preface this whole thing with if you love the look of it and it makes you feel good, understand that it is very durable and there are some sustainability aspects to it. Of course you want to make sure you’re buying a bamboo that uses a formaldehyde free adhesives to ply it together, right? Because if you don’t, now we’re talking bamboo been far more harmful than traditional solid flooring. But today’s day and age, most of the material you’re going to see will be formaldehyde free. All right. So the myth here is that bamboo is the most eco-friendly hardwood product. I don’t believe that’s the case. I think there are some benefits, but at the end of the day, if you love the look of it, you love walking on it every single day, folks, that is something that is good for mental health. And I call that a healthy home benefit. I can’t say I’ve necessarily busted this myth cause I think I’ve argued both sides of it pretty well. 

Jay: Yeah, you have. And so we’ll call that a draw. 

Andy: All right, that sounds good. We’ll call it a draw. All. Alright, let’s jump into something a little more high performance building related. This is one that I get a lot and you know, it’s not a very sexy topic, but it’s something I think everybody’s interested in. Copper piping is better than PEX piping. 

Jay: Oh, this is a good one. This is gonna be interesting to hear this one. 

Andy: All right, so if you’re not familiar what PEX stands for, it means cross-linked polyethylene. Essentially folks, what this is a piping material that takes the place or replaces the copper piping in your house. Now this is something that gets argued quite a bit on all the green building pages mainly because your state of California, Jay keeps on changing its mind whether they think it’s an okay product to use or not. And we all know that what happens in California with environmental and health regulations, kind of dictates what the environmentalists across the country are going to say. 

Jay: Yeah, pretty much. 

Andy: So what are the pros? Alright, copper pipes last a long time, usually at least 50 years. It’s not prone to leakage or corrosion. But I’ll say there’s an asterisk with that because it all comes down to the installation. Sure.

Jay: Is there any, is there an extraction issues with copper? 

Andy: And so that’s kind of one of the cons. Most people will say, Oh, there’s no problem with copper. Of course there’s some folks that will say copper pipes are good because copper is a trace mineral that we need in the human body. Although, new copper actually can release far more than what is considered healthy. Okay. Copper is recyclable. Copper will withstand extreme temperatures really well. A couple of downsides. Copper is very expensive these days. Copper is prone to condensation. So in the warmer, more humid climates, you got cold water flowing from your well through your copper pipes, you start to get condensation. If you have your pipes within enclosed walls or above a finished ceiling, you can run into some mold issues. 

Jay: I was going to say there’s a problem there. 

Andy: Exactly. An alternative would be cross-linked polyethylene now. 

Jay: Ooh, it’s made from petrochemicals made from plastic. 

Andy: Not all plastic is PVC plastic. Now PVC or what’s called CPVC, has been used and still is used in parts of the country for potable water. Not PVC. PVC is used for drains, but CPVC is used for potable water. I wouldn’t recommend it. It is more likely to leach into the water. And so PEX or cross-link polyethylene came about probably about 20, 25 years ago. Extremely long life. We’re talking 50 to a hundred years is no problem whatsoever. Very easy to install because it’s very light. Makes it easy for one plumber to work with it. Has excellent temperature tolerance, it’s inexpensive. You know, it’s roughly a quarter to one 10th the cost of copper. And it does not require adhesives to put it together. Most of the fittings are press fit. So when people worry about plastic piping and they worry about PVC, they worry about the PVC glues mostly. And there’s no alternative to that unfortunately with PVC. With PEX, it’s all press fit fittings. And that is it. 

Jay: Is it easily accessible? 

Andy: Easily accessible? Yes, it is. The nice thing about PEX is that it allows a plumber a lot more flexibility in the installation process because it’s not rigid. It can go around things. 

Jay: Yeah. Right, right. You got to drill a hole. Right, right.

Andy: And so, and I’m going through this right now. I’m remodeling a home here locally. We’re changing from copper to PEX. And one of the things that I love about this is you can do what’s called a manifold system with PEX where all the water for your main water supply goes through a manifold system that sends out cold water and hot water individually to each fixture in the house. There are no tees involved. And the beauty of that is you end up with a situation where your cold water is cold faster, your hot water is hot faster. 

Here are the downsides. There’s obviously cons with anything. Now, the cons would be if you do have municipal water and municipal water specifically using chlorine for purification, I do recommend a whole house purifier to take out the chlorine. Chlorine is detrimental to PEX piping. 

Jay: What’s it do to it? 

Andy: It actually breaks it down microscopically. Which could mean you can get that funky odor and taste in the water. And so there’s that. It’s also something that can be damaged really easily by UV. So if you’re in the construction process, never keep your bundles of PEX piping outside in the sun. Always keep it enclosed. UV radiation or UV will cause it to eventually get brittle. All right? 

Jay: Good stuff, good stuff.

Andy: Two more things that I would say about cons of PEX. Okay. The situation where some plumbers across the country still refuse to work with it because they really like to use copper. That’s their craft. They know what they’re doing. And they’ll talk down the use of PEX so they can use what they know best. 

Jay: That’s consistent with some other traits. We know they get used to a product and they stick to the product no matter what might be better. 

Andy: Exactly. And the other con of course is just that general worry that it’s plastic, it’s going to leach into the water. So I just wanted to point that out that if you take the right precautions, that’s not going to happen. So I think we’ve busted that myth pretty well. 

Jay: Busted. 

Andy: Busted. And so the last myth I want to bust is the myth that zero VOC means it’s safe. 

Jay: I have recently pointed clients to a recording that you actually made some years ago and that was exactly the title. The myths about VOC. I listened to it all the time because it keeps being topical. It doesn’t lose any steam because the subject comes up again and again and again and again and again. 

Andy: So, 30 years after starting in this business, and probably having this conversation with clients ever since- just today, I had a conversation with a client about this topic. It surprises me, it shocks me actually, that we still have to point this out. On the other hand, when the entire industry is saying, buy zero VOC because it’s going to be healthier for you it’s really hard to be, two of the lone voices in the industry. 

Jay: Yeah. It is. And the drum is beat really hard, really hard. And it has been for so many years that people just, it’s like it’s gospel. 

Andy: Exactly. And so let’s talk about a couple of specifics as it relates to this. So whenever we talk about VOC versus health or VOC versus toxicity, we’d like to point out a couple of things on either side of the equation to show that you really can never use this as it’s an always situation. Anybody who’s ever used nail polish remover, nail polish remover is typically acetone. Acetone is a solvent that is highly, highly reactive. Matter of fact, if I open up a can of acetone in our office building here within 15 minutes, everybody working in the office will have detectable levels of acetone in their liver. 

Jay: It’s amazing, man. 

Andy: That’s how fast that enters into the blood system. Acetone when used in paints and coatings is actually deemed zero VOC. It’s an exempt ingredient. 

Jay: And that’s because it’s not contributing to the production of outdoor pollution or ozone. 

Andy: Hundred percent. That’s exactly it. And so Jay, you hit it on the head. VOCS are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency because of their propensity to rise to the upper atmosphere, react with nitrogen and UV and create low level smog. Some chemicals that are carbon based that will rise up actually will not react with nitrogen or UV and they won’t create smog. So the EPA has consider them exempt compounds. It’s about 37 of them that are used throughout the industry. And when these ingredients are used, they do not have to be disclosed on the safety data sheets because they don’t meet that threshold of the EPA. Acetone, ammonia and butyl acetate of the three that are most commonly used in paints and coatings. But it goes well beyond paints and coatings. It goes into things like flooring. And think of carpet, that new carpet smell that we all know that’s a combination of a lot of ingredients that make up a component called styrene butadiene rubber. But one of those ingredients is a chemical called 111-trichloroethylene that is been deemed like this specific chemical that creates that smell. That’s called zero VOC when used in building materials. So when manufacturers claim that their products are zero VOC, they’re not saying they’re zero toxin, they’re saying that their products do not contribute to outdoor air pollution as deemed by the EPA. 

Jay: Right. All right. And, and so we understand this because people then are using a product that they’ve thought was safe for them and they bring it into their environment and then the reactions start to occur. Then confusion reigns because they thought they were doing the right thing. And now I have a pollution problem and it’s- why am I having the pollution problem when it’s a say it’s zero VOC?

Andy: Exactly. Exactly. The interesting thing about this argument or this myth about zero VOC, it does not equal healthy is that, look at the flip side of things. You know, just because something is a VOC, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be unhealthy. I always use the analogy of you peel the skin off of an orange and technically speaking, you’re releasing about 850 grams per liter of VOC. 

Jay: Everyone goes, whoa. Right? 

Andy: But, but it’s not, it’s not regulated. It’s a natural VOC. Well, we all know natural doesn’t mean safe, but it is still a solvent. It’s still a chemical called d-limonene. And so it can be harmful to people, but how do you regulate orange groves? You can’t.

Jay: You can’t. How do you regulate a pine tree forest? There’s another one. Pine trees exude a huge amount of VOC into the atmosphere. 

Andy: Exactly. I know of a product and we get a lot of this from clients who say, I was looking at this European product and they say that meets a European standards. There’s a product called Burmeister. It’s a polyurethane hardwood floor finish. And this one cracks me up because it actually says it’s a safe zero VOC polyurethane. It doesn’t contain any VOC solvents. And they also say doesn’t contain any acetone or ammonia. So they really dig deep into this one. Yeah. So when they dig deep, I dig deep. I look at their safety data sheet. The number three ingredient listed is ammonia. And we’re talking about ammonia at levels of 450 parts per million. Matter of fact, in some of them up to 2300 parts per million. But it says it doesn’t contain these VOCs. And so I think what this is proving folks is that manufacturers understand that people generally skim the details. 

Jay: Yeah. And a lot of it’s multi-syllable symbolic words that no one wants to see or can even think about. Exactly. So they just kind of glaze over it and go, okay, well I’ll buy the bigger story, which is the marketing department’s job is to tell the marketing story. And so this is where the confusion comes in. 

Andy: Yeah, exactly. So I think, you know, without going on this topic for another 20 minutes because we probably could, the deal is folks that when you’re looking for healthy home products, don’t look at the VOC content. I mean you can certainly use it as one of your reference points. But don’t use it for everything because we can give you countless examples of how zero VOC materials or low VOC materials aren’t any healthier for you than something that’s got an extreme amount of VOC in it. All right. I hope this has been a good sort of primer to this topic. I would like to talk about this on a more regular basis when something comes across our desk and Jay and I can just have a quick conversation here online for everybody to say, what do you think about this? You know?

Jay: Right, right. I think what’s going to happen is I think people listening to this show are going to have some questions. I’m probably gonna see the mailbox fill up a little bit on this one. 

Andy: I believe so. 

Jay: People are going to come at us and say, Oh, wait a minute, I heard your podcast, you’re talking about how natural ingredients maybe they aren’t so great. I want to argue with that. So I think it’s going to be kind of interesting to see the feedback that we get on this one just to kind of, and frankly folks, Andy and I’ve said this before, bring it on. We want to have you ask us the toughest questions you can come up with and we’ll do our best to try to give you a really solid answer. And you may stump us but not for very long. So we will definitely, we take everything you say seriously on both sides of the equation. 

Andy: I have to be honest, there’s nothing I like more than being stumped on a question that I have to do some serious research on. 

Jay: Yeah. Right, right. So that’s how you get smarter, you learn things that you get smarter about them. As you know, Andy and I are in the business of trying to deliver the message we think is the one that’s the most resonant with everybody. And that is what we want to live a healthy lifestyle. Boy, do we ever have that in our face right now? We want to live as healthfully as we can. You can take control of that. This is the thing about what’s going on right now. We’re all feeling fearful because the virus is out there somewhere. Right? But when we’re talking about what you can do in your own home and the control you have there, I’m telling you what, this is a nice way to balance any of that anxiety you may be thinking about right now. 

Andy: Yeah, that’s very well said, Jay. Thank you. All right folks, that’ll do it for this week’s episode of Non Toxic Environments. That was a good one. MythBusters. 

Jay: MythBusters! 

Andy: As always, we encourage you to go to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review. We’d greatly appreciate it. I want to give a shout out to… we have a whole host of new listeners in of all places South America. 

Jay: No kidding. What country? 

Andy: Brazil specifically, we are up to the 20th rated podcast in Brazil. I don’t know what that means folks. 

Jay: You’ve been working on your Portuguese or something? 

Andy: No, not at all. Not at all. Maybe it’s me just hoping that I lived in a warmer climate. Ah, that’s it. 

Jay: But that’s what, in five minutes the weather is going to change. 

Andy: That’s it. Five minutes. And thanks folks for listening. All right. So please leave us a rating and review, let your family and friends know about the show. We’d greatly appreciate it and we thank you very much for your loyal listenership, and we will be with you again next week. Take care everybody. 

Jay: We also want to say thank you to all you moms because the only reason we’re here is because of you moms. 

Andy: That’s it. Everyone happy Mother’s Day.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Protecting our Homes From Above and Below

Roofing and waterproofing.  A couple things that Jay and I get asked about regularly, but have yet to address here on the show. Since we’re in the throws of a rainy spring, now is a great time to start this discussion.   Whats the best roofing material for your home and is it affordable?  If I’m planning a lower level in my house that will be a livable space, how do I keep it dry?  Great episode for building geeks, for sure!

Google Play


Protecting our Homes From Above and Below

Protecting our Homes From Above & Below


Andrew Pace: Welcome to the Non Toxic Environments podcast. My name is Andrew Pace. Every week, my cohost Jay Watts and I will discuss healthier home improvement ideas and options. Thank you for finding us and please enjoy the show. 

Hey folks, welcome back to Non Toxic Environments podcast. This is Andy Pace and Jay, sounds like we got a fantastic topic for us this week. 

Jay Watts: Yeah, it’s all about being up in the air, Andy up in the air and what I mean by that is we’re going up on the roof. 

Andy: It’s actually raining out here. And so this is a perfect topic for this week. 

Jay: Excellent man out here in California. It’s as hot as it can be for April, late April. So talking about rain on a roof is where we needed to begin. 

Andy: I’ll just preface it by saying this too, as long as we’re talking about roofing. Let’s also talk about the other aspect of weatherproofing your home, which is, okay, so we’re up on the roof and then we’re also going to go down below and we’re going to go waterproofing the foundation because I think these two things right now based upon the time of year we’re in and what’s happening in construction actually tie in really well together. 

Jay: Yeah, I agree with you. Let’s go. 

Andy: So when you think about roofing in on a residential project, I think just about everybody thinks of asphalt shingles. That’s really because I would say in residential roofing, well over 90% of the projects are done utilizing asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles are the least expensive type of roofing available for a residential project. Nice thing about asphalt is that it’s available everywhere. Contractors just about everywhere know how to put them on. They’re easy to install. You don’t need real specialty roofing contractors to install. And we’ll talk about those things in a bit. But it’s a product that people can install rather easily. The life expectancy, this is one of the downsides, 15 to 30 years maybe. Depends on the quality level and how well it’s installed. And then from a a pricing standpoint in the roofing industry, I’ll let you know, they typically price out roofing materials by the square. And that’s not by the square foot. I mean you think of all the other things that we sell, it’s priced up by the square foot. It’s actually by the square, which in in roofing parlance, that means a 10 foot by 10 foot area or 100 square feet. 

Jay: That’s very interesting.

Andy: So in pricing out roofing materials and asphalt shingles price anywhere from 50 to $150 per square. Now let’s talk about health because obviously our listening audiences is really concerned about health of the occupant. If installed properly and if the home and attic, if there is an attic, is properly designed so that you don’t have negative pressure in the house sucking air from the roof into the house, then to me the roofing material that you use is less likely to be problematic. Years ago when I developed the Degree of Green program, we also had this kind of spin off of the program that I called a healthy value engineering. Now, you’ve heard this term before, Jay, value engineering on a project is where the contractor or somebody involved in the project is trying to reduce the overall cost for the owner. And they do it in a way that doesn’t go against what the intent of the architect was. So yes, if we can make the job look the same, reducing the price, but the intent is still there, it looks the same, it performs the same, then that’s what value engineering is. Healthy value engineering in my opinion is- if you’ve got $40,000 in your budget for roofing on your project and it’s going to cost $40,000 for asphalt shingles and maybe $120,000 for metal roofing, are you really going to get $80,000 worth of additional benefits out of the metal roofing or are you better off saying, well, we should take that extra and maybe put it into something else in the project where it makes sense they are impact. 

Jay: Oh, absolutely. That’s the only way to think of it. I don’t think there’d be any way you could argue that, you know, I’m going to spend that much more money and I’m going to get that better performance out of the roof. I don’t think you can draw that conclusion and I think you’re right. I think you have to go back and say, okay, we can do the $40,000 job, we’ll get a really good roof and we can take that money that we were thinking about spending on metal and put it into something that will benefit us maybe even more. 

Andy: Right. And I think it comes down to a number of factors, not only the cost, but then the life cycle of how long are you going to stay in this house? You know, if this is your life ending home, no matter how long you’ll be on this planet, you may consider going to one of the other roofing materials we’re going to talk about because maybe you are somebody who just never wants to worry about maintenance and you put a value onto that. Asphalt shingles, you know, in 15 to 20 to 30 years you’re going to be replacing. Well do you really want to have to have that countdown in your mind, knowing that every year you’re getting closer and closer to having this project done again? 

Jay: Yeah, I think that discussion is interesting cause if we were to do a polling of our listeners and say, Hey, do you really want to worry about maintenance issues? I think most of them would say, well probably would like to reduce that idea as much as possible. Of course. 

Andy: But it comes down to, again, the individual. And so we get this call all the time from clients- what would you recommend for roofing? And I can’t really recommend any one of these over the others because there’s so many factors involved. I mean obviously budget is the biggest thing for everybody, but how much do you value the comfort of never having to worry about your roof? Again, if that’s the case, if a customer says, we’ve got the money for a very good roof and we can afford a lot more for the roofing material, what do you recommend? So there are steps up. Metal roofing is going to cost you anywhere between $100 to $650 per square. So obviously we’re talking about between double and quadruple the price of asphalt shingles. Yes, higher initial cost, but you’re also looking at something that probably carries a 50 to a hundred year warranty. You know, it’s nice to know that in your lifetime you’re probably never going to have to touch that again, in most situations. Metal roofing sometimes there’s some issues with the sound of rain or hail on a metal roof in our climate here where you have higher snow loads, you’ve got to be concerned about in the middle of winter, sliding snowbanks and avalanches off your metal roof. I mean there are ways to deal with that. 

All right. I didn’t talk about wood shakes at all. Cedar shake roofing, mainly because it’s just not done much anymore. Cedar shake roofing is usually about the same price as an asphalt or a little bit more. It’s a very difficult install. The labor used to install that. It’s a dying art, honestly. 

Jay: It reminds me a lot here on the West coast and in the Southern, the desert States, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, tile roofs are a popular trend and what we see in here in San Diego, with the Spanish Latino influence in construction, I think similarly to what you’re saying about shake, you’re not gonna see a lot of that kind of roofing any longer unless the architectural design demands it. 

Andy: Right. And you know, tile, if you’re looking at either like a clay tile or a Spanish tile, that’s kind of how that has that ribbed arch look, you’re looking at anywhere between 300 to $600 per square. Yeah. So very, very expensive. It’s also incredibly heavy. So you have to have a roofing structure that can support the weight for it. But yeah it’s going to last. I would look at some of the buildings in Europe that have Spanish tile that have been around for hundreds of years. Not much maintenance. It’s noncombustible it’s really good for fire retardants, but there’s a price to pay for that. 

Jay: Sure. I was just going to say being on the outside, I’m always thinking, okay, we’re going to go on the inside, on the other side of the roof. So I guess we’ll get into that discussion here shortly. 

Andy: Yeah. So the other thing I wanted to bring up about roofing materials: so you’ve got asphalt shingle on the low end, you’ve got your tile. I would say on the upper end, I mean we’re not going to talk about slate because that isn’t done much at all anymore. Because as you’re talking about a thousand dollars per square or more, you got your metal that’s kind of in between depending on the quality level. There’s also another one that’s in between and it is a, what’s called a synthetic slate. Synthetic slate looks like a real slate tile or a clay tile or looks like a Spanish tile, but it’s made of recycled rubber recycled plastics. This is a product that’s starting to become more known in the industry. Certainly not as inexpensive as asphalt, but not nearly as expensive as it’s natural counterpart. And it gives you the longevity, the durability and low maintenance as those other high end products have. I think the biggest downside to these synthetics, again, besides the price if your budget is for the asphalt, the biggest downside is there’s not a lot of contractors in the country that had been fully trained on the installation of the product. So if you happen to live within an area that has a good representation or a manufacturer of these products here in the Midwest, we’ve got a couple of manufacturers. If you’re outside of those areas, sometimes it’s difficult to find a contractor who really knows what they’re doing. 

Jay: Just came to my mind. What do you know about the evolving world of solar roofing tiles? 

Andy: Well, I what I do know is probably enough to be dangerous on that. But I do know that the solar tiles, although get a lot of publicity and a lot of good press out there, most manufacturers of them are clearly just in design development stage. 

Jay: Oh, okay. 

Andy: They’re not ready for prime time. This is not something that is just available for homeowners. I just wrote a story recently about how Tesla had to pull back on their pilot programs. Just not ready yet, but you know, this is something that eventually will be available. I just don’t see it as something that will take over the industry quickly. 

Jay: It’s going to be awhile, no question about it. You’ve got to develop the technology and make sure it’s solid and then you’ve got to have the people that know how to install it. And that takes a while for people to be trained and bring it up to speed.

Andy: And keep in mind too that some of the best solar panels on the market, the panels themselves last 30 years before they have to be replaced. Well at 30 years, you’re at the high end of the life expectancy of an asphalt shingle. So if you’re spending a lot of money to buy these really high tech solar shingles that you’d have to replace every 30 years, I just don’t think it’s a viable industry yet, but we’ll get there. 

You had a question about what’s underneath the roof. 

Jay: Yeah, yeah. We’re in the attic. Let’s get in there and see what’s up. 

Andy: So you know, it’s, it really is going to depend on the type of construction. Underneath most of these roofing materials you have to have some type of a roofing paper. Usually that’s like an asphalt impregnated construction paper. Again, if the home was designed properly with the pressure is proper, you’re not going to have to worry about any of that off gassing coming into the house right now. Also, you have to be concerned about where you live and are you susceptible to what’s called ice damming. Ice damming is a problem that Jay will never have to face in Southern California. But here in the Midwest and in other parts of the country, the Northeast and Northwest, ice damming is where you have a snow load on the roof. So in the middle of winter here in Wisconsin, it’s not uncommon to have a foot of snow on the roof. Well, if you have any leaks in the attic, any leaks from the warm air in the house, getting through the insulation up into the attic and it actually rises up to the underside of the roof. Or what happens is that snow that’s on the roof starts to melt. Well then at night it freezes back again and then the next day it melts a little bit. Then freezes melts and freezes. And folks, this’ll happen all throughout winter. And then what happens is you end up getting what’s called an ice dam on your roof, where if some of the snow, let’s say you start to get warm days, snow on the roof starts to melt and it slides down the roof, hits that dam and they can’t go anywhere. So it backs up and actually goes underneath the shingles and can get into the attic, eventually get it into the house. An ice and water shield replaces the asphalt paper on your roof deck. It’s a peel and stick membrane usually put one or two layers. It’s a three foot wide roll so that it eliminates the problems that occur with ice damming. So if you do get ice damming and water does backup underneath the shingle and it gets under to the roof deck, it hits that ice and water shield and then it’ll disperse again just through gravity, it’ll get underneath the shingles, underneath that ice dam and eventually drain away. So it doesn’t get into the house. 

Jay: It’s just a common practice in these areas where they have that issue. Various part of the installation? 

Andy: Yep. Very common. I usually tell my clients, if you’re in an area that has a high incidence of ice damming to do two layers up of the ice and water shield. Now with some of the other types of roofing materials, specifically metal, this isn’t an issue if you get an ice dam. So what, water just keeps on backing up, keeps on backing up. There’s no seam that the water can get into or under. 

Jay: It’s just going to drain. 

Andy: Exactly. So that’s really where we’re looking at for the roof assembly itself. In the attic in the home, obviously insulation and air barriers and so forth to keep the ice damming from happening. For the most part when it comes to roofing materials, these are the most common materials we talk about, the most common questions that come up and hopefully it’s enough of a of a primer to get you to the next level. 

Jay: Yeah. So you want to go down now to the foundation? 

Andy: Well, I do because I do think that as you’re trying to keep water from getting into the house from above, keeping water from getting into the house from below is just as important. Folks, it’s a common theme here on Non Toxic Environments that we are trying to protect against moisture in the home, which can lead to mold problems. Again, there’s going to be a difference of where you live and where, where you’re building and whether you’re not you have a slab on grade foundation or a crawl space or a full basement. What I’m going to be talking about right now will be for full basements because, again, Midwest and other parts of the country, this is what we’re dealing with. If you’re in a slab on grade structure, waterproofing is not necessarily something that you really need to concern yourself with. If you do have a crawl space or that full basement, waterproofing the exterior of the foundation is crucial. If you think of the way homes were built decades ago, if you had a basement in your home, basements were designed not to be livable spaces but to house mechanicals, right? You know, your HVAC system, maybe some storage, maybe your laundry and so builders would use on the outside of the concrete block or the poured foundation, they would use what’s called a damp proofing coating. A damp proofing coding was really nothing more than like an asphalt coating that you might put in your driveway mixed with diesel fuel. And so they would either spray or paint that on the outside of the block or the concrete so that when they back-filled, it would actually protect the concrete a little bit. And also it keeps some of that moisture in the earth from transferring into the block or the concrete. Downside is it’s not very protective. And so as you’re backfilling, aggregate, stone, whatever’s in the film can actually scrape that material off and just due the nature of it, it starts to degrade usually within a few months of back-filling. And that’s why basements have inherently been more damp because this type of material doesn’t really do a great job of waterproofing. It gives you some moisture protection, but not a lot. 

Jay: Yea, so this brings to mind the idea the initial stages of site evaluation and you know, taking a look at the topography to see how water is going to move. I know one of the methods that people will employ here when they’re doing the foundation work is to actually French drain around so that there’s a way for the water to move away from the wall as opposed to having to hit the wall and try to go through it. It can be drained off. And I know a lot of people will wind up doing that a lot of times after the fact that they discovered that their basements got a lot of hydrostatic moisture intrusion and then they realize, Oh, you know, we’ve got to deal with it on the outside. So then I’ll have some contractor come in and French drain around their foundation to help mitigate the problem. 

Andy: Exactly. And so you know, in today’s building climate, if you are going to have a basement, they’ll almost always put in what’s called drain tile. So that as you say, when water hits that foundation slides down the foundation, it goes in the drain tile. And then a lot of times that drain tile most often is then tied into what’s called a sump, which is essentially a large concrete bucket, a storage unit that holds this water that has collected around the foundation and then it gets pumped out to the sanitation sewer or to the street so it gets away from your house. The older the home is, the more likely that if there was drain tile, it could be clogged by now. You also have to be concerned about whether or not the the water table has risen in your area. We see this quite a bit, with the way our climate is changing from decade to decade.  We’re getting water table rising in certain areas. 

Andy: So I advocate for a more positive type of waterproofing on a new home. And what do I mean by that? Well, there’s three ways to accomplish this. A waterproof coating, a waterproof membrane, or a rigid waterproof paneling. I’ll give you an example. A waterproof coating for the outside of the foundation, something like the AFM Dynoseal. So Dynoseal is a really thick elastromeric coding that you can use to waterproof things. And I know because of projects we’ve done, three or four coats of Dynoseal on the outside the foundation is an absolutely wonderful waterproof coating so that your basement never gets wet. 

Jay: And it can withstand what you alluded to earlier, which is the backfield challenge when the gravel and such gets pushed into the wall system, the Dynoseal at a level of mill thickness level that it can handle that. So you’re not puncturing it. The way you described it was very accurate. It’s like a puncture of the membrane is not going to happen with this. 

Andy: Right. And, and the nice thing about Dynoseal is because it always remains a little tacky when it’s cured. If you do have any desire to add some insulation to your foundation, you can actually before backfilling, after you’ve done your Dynoseal you can actually put up a three quarter inch or one inch thick rigid poly insulation on the outside, which also keeps condensation from occurring because it insulates the foundation a little bit. And now I think that there are other brands of liquid membranes on the market. I use Dynoseal because it’s obviously the healthiest one that we’ve dealt with over the years. But there are liquid, waterproof membranes that are out there. And if you are going to be using your basement as a livable space or you do not want to risk moisture intrusion that could lead to mold, you definitely need at least a liquid waterproof membrane. Second thing would be a peel and stick membrane. Something like, as an example, like the Henry Blue Skin, it’s a brand that we’ve recommended over the years. Henry Blue Skin is a peel and stick waterproof membrane. So it comes in a roll of a couple hundred square feet and it’s designed to adhere to the foundation, but it’s got a really thick, like a 60 mill and the mill is a thousandth of an inch, so it’s 60 mils thick and it gets attached to the foundation and folks, it’s not going anywhere. And so you install this, you make sure you lap the joints properly and that’s something that you also could insulate afterwards. But this will be a very positive type of a waterproof protection for your foundation. The self adhering adhesive itself, again, if you design your home properly with the proper pressure in the home, I would not worry about any of that off gassing and coming into your house. Now the third thing I’d recommend if the budget allows, because we’re kind of going good, better, best here. If the budget allows, I’d like you to do something that’s called a plastic dimple board material. Years ago, there’s a company out of Europe called Platon that developed this, this thick plastic board that had all these dimples all over it. Now there are several brands of this on the market, but this gets attached to the foundation and this the dimples actually hold the plastic paneling itself away from the foundation by about an eighth of an inch. And the beauty of this is if water were to hit the foundation from the exterior, the plastic panel allows that moisture to just drain all the way down. If water were to get around it somehow from the top side, maybe there was a detail on the top above the foundation that caused moisture to get behind the waterproofing and hit the concrete, the dimple board holds the actual waterproof material about an eighth of an inch away from the foundation so that it allows for evaporation. So it’s a really unique type of waterproofing, but it is the most expensive of these three that we’ve talked about because it’s more of a system and it requires a little more labor to install. 

Jay: Well, again, it comes back to kind of timeframe, right? Right? And you know, how long are we planning to be here? How much maintenance are we going to be concerned about or worried about? Right? So you have to factor that in folks when you’re budgeting and deciding, you know, where’s our comfort level here? I mean all things being equal. I think everyone would want to do the best thing you could possibly do. But you know, it has to be a function of what our budgets tell us we can do. 

Andy: Absolutely. And really when it comes to something like the lower level of a home, if that lower level is an area that you are going to be using a lot and you’ve got an entertainment room down there, maybe some bedrooms, I think that I’d rather have you spend some of your building budget on a better waterproof system for your foundation. Then on a more a stately looking roofing material. You’ll definitely gonna get your money’s worth out of the foundation waterproofing. 

Jay: Absolutely. You know, we have challenges. Our clients call us and tell us that they’ve got moisture coming into their basements and we know that the outside either is degraded or was never treated properly. Now we have to fight that interior moisture and that’s a very difficult thing to do. 

Andy: Well, for anybody who I’ve talked to over the years that who has asked me to help them with a basement remodel and as you say with moisture in the basement, I usually don’t hold back when I say listen- basements for not designed to be lived in 50 years ago. The only way to positively waterproof the basement is to then excavate the entire foundation, waterproof it and then refill. That’s a huge expense. It costs you a fraction of that to do it right from the start. I know we’ve talked about a lot of things here folks today and roofing and waterproofing are obviously two very important parts of your home, but it just made me think of another thing, Jay, when we’re talking about the foundation waterproofing, I mentioned the Safecoat product, the Dynoseal. I would love for you to tell folks about this because in the last month and a half, the sales of Dynoseal will have skyrocketed across the country and it’s specifically because of the time of the year and it’s not because of waterproofing foundations. So why is that? 

Jay: Well, I think people, because of restrictions that have been placed on us with a COVID 19 people are hearing the message that maybe it would be wise for you to think about growing your own food, setting up your own backyard, a vegetable garden. And so I think a lot of people now are taking that seriously and they’re actually building their raised bed gardens. And over the years when people have come to us to ask about, well how do I deal with water issues in a raised bed garden? Two issues, I’m going to build it out of a wood. So I want to protect the wood longterm, but we’re like really concerned about is I don’t want to adulterate the dirt with the coating on the inside so that my plants are poisoned by some leaching from a coating on the inside. So what people have been doing is they’re using our Dynoseal as the waterproofing coating on the inside of the raised bed where below the dirt line, and then across the bottom will Dynoseal that, that protects the wood from waster intrusion and it’s nontoxic so it’s not going to pollute the soil, so we’re good there. And then coming around above dirt then we can switch products so we can allow the wood to show its natural color and its natural figure. Dynoseal, just to describe it real briefly, it’s very elastomeric and rubbery and it stays kind of tacky, but when it dries, it’s almost black. It’s very, very close to black. And the thing about Dynoseal is when it’s exposed over a long period of time to sunlight, it tends to start to weaken a little bit. And we have a system for covering Dynoseal when we are doing a back to the roof. If we were up doing a flat roof where we were going to use coatings as a part of that system, we make a product that can protect Dynoseal from direct exposure to the sun. That product is called Roofguard. I’s white for reflectivity purposes to keep heat buildup at a minimum, but most people don’t want to paint their raised beds white. They prefer to have their bed look like the wood itself. And so Watershield, which is a clear coating that can go over exterior wood, that’s one way to keep the wood protected from the outside of the box. That’s probably the easiest one. I tell people, Dynoseal below the grade, below the dirt line and then water shield on the rest of the box. And that gives you a good one two combination to protecting plants and the material, the wood 

Andy: That’s fantastic. It’s what a great use for that product of Dynoseal for raise garden beds like that. It makes tons of sense. You’re trying to protect the wood from wood rot, use something that’s not going to taint the vegetables. So great. That’s fantastic. Thanks for that Jay. 

Jay: I’m planning to do my own pretty soon here in my backyard. So the request has been put in to get busy with that. 

Andy: Everybody’s making lists these days, aren’t they? 

Jay: It’s been a great show. Andy, I think our listeners are gonna really appreciate this. 

Andy: I hope so. You know, these aren’t real sexy topics, you know, but I think they’re very crucial to the entire building process and I hope that if anything, I hope it generates some thoughts. And if you do have any questions, please feel free to reach out: as always, we really appreciate you listening to the show. If you have any ideas or suggestions on topics, we’d love to hear them because you know, Jay and I are always looking for things to talk about with you folks. 

Jay: We are, we are indeed. And I feel like we’re a big family, and we’re growing and we’re a growing family. I find a lot of pleasure out of knowing that and sharing all these ideas with our listeners. 

Andy: Yeah, it’s been a fun ride so far. We want to continue this as long as we possibly can. So in order to do that, folks, we’d love if you would go on to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review. The more ratings and reviews we have, the easier it is for others to find the show. And with that, Jay, we’ll be back next week with another episode of Non Toxic Environments and have yourself a good week. 

Jay: Same to you, Andy. 

Andy: All right.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Healthy Construction During COVID-19

While the nation is on lockdown, work still needs to be done.  Today we speak with one of our partner builders in Texas that gives us a ton of useful information about working within this current environment.  Jen and Rusty from JS2 Partners specialize in custom healthy home builds, so they are used to working with clients who have serious health issues, so their experience translates perfectly to what we are currently dealing with.

Google Play


View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Protecting the Human Immune System w/ Dr Lisa Nagy

This is the most important podcast we’ve ever done!

While the world deals with the COVID-19 virus, we asked our friend Dr. Lisa Nagy from the Environmental Health Center of Martha’s Vineyard to come on the show to talk about her experiences and recommendations for protecting ourselves during this pandemic.  What we got from Dr Nagy was a massive checklist for us all to be following, complete with links, product names…folks, I’m still stunned at how much information she gave us all.

Google Play


Protecting the Human Immune System w/ Dr Lisa Nagy

Protecting the Human Immune System with Dr Lisa Nagy


Andrew Pace: Welcome to the Non Toxic Environments podcast, my name is Andrew Pace. Every week, my cohost Jay Watts and I will discuss healthier home improvement ideas and options. Thank you for finding us, and please enjoy the show.

We’ve got a fantastic guest and topic today.

Jay Watts: We do, indeed, it’s a repeat performance. I want to thank everyone who’s listening to us, wherever you may be today. We’re so excited to have Dr. Lisa Nagy with us today, and of course the topic will be something that’s affecting all of us, the Coronavirus.

But first, I’d like to set the stage here, and tell you a little bit about Dr. Nagy. She’s the director of the Environmental Health Center in Martha’s Vineyard. That particular clinic that she runs there is modeled after Dr. William Rea’s world famous facility in Dallas, Texas, which is called the American Environmental Health Clinic. She’s also now president of the Preventative and Environmental Health Alliance, and this is a group focused on educating medical students, doctors, the American Medical Association, Congress, and the public. She assists patients to help them, nationwide. She’s actually got a great story about her own survival, and journey of discovery, in discovering and being involved with the field of environmental medicine.

Obviously, the fact that we’re dealing with the pandemic and it’s on everyone’s mind, we thought it’d be good for you to be back on our show, and actually talk a little bit about the ideas that you have around how everyone can deal with the pandemic in a personal way. Certainly, your experience suffering from exposure to chemical sensitivity and all of that will play into the discussion, but we just thought it would be a good idea for you to be a part of our show today, and share your wisdom, as you understand it going forward.

Andrew Pace: Before we get started here, Jay, something you brought up a few weeks ago on a show, and Dr. Nagy, I’m really looking forward to your response to this question. Jay says, “Dealing with this pandemic for the average person, is kind of like what it’s like to be chemically sensitive. Now, everybody knows what it’s like.”

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Yeah. It’s funny, as soon as I saw people wearing masks I thought, they’re entering my world. Because when I became chemically sensitive in 2001, I never heard chemical sensitivity, but I also never knew why somebody would be wearing a mask inside a store, because of the high formaldehyde or VOCs that would be bothering them, as opposed to being outside.

I had difficultly going into one of those home improvement stores, without saying any names, and I would become confused, and tired, and then need a wheelchair. My blood would go into my legs, it’s called dysautonomia, and my heart rate would go fast, and then I would need to sit down, or be in a wheelchair. I felt much better when I went outside into fresh air.

Being a Cornell Medical School trained traditional physician, I was really the stupidest person on Earth about figuring out why I would fall apart when I was in a store, but I would be better outside. Then, it turned out that since I lived in the Los Angeles area, a nice part of Los Angeles, further South, where the air quality wasn’t quite as bad as LA, I couldn’t tolerate Los Angeles, or San Diego because of the ozone being so high. I lived in a hotel on the water for a little while, and had a quick surgery, and then escaped to Martha’s Vineyard, and I never went back.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Every year I went back, to fly through LA, and get out, and maybe go around for a day, I had to wear a gas mask. I had to wear a respirator, because I couldn’t tolerate the pollution in LA. So, now I can tolerate the pollution anywhere. The moral of the story is you can get better, but I don’t want to live in a major city because I don’t want to die young. I still think I’m young.

Now, with the Coronavirus, I tried to tell people two, and three, and four weeks ago, about wearing a mask in grocery stores, and people who worked at the pharmacy, people who are dealing with the public, and everybody laughed at me. It’s funny that today is the day that the CDC may finally be changing policy to say, “wear a facial covering when you’re outside.” Do you know what I mean? There’s a level of denial in people who do not understand new concepts, that takes time for them to get by. That time, we didn’t have with Corona, and that’s why we’re in the position we’re in.

I don’t know if I should keep talking because I do have ideas, I wouldn’t say they’re political, about what happened in the United States to lead to the problem of not being able to test early, and determine the contacts, and then isolate people who had it. Now, we just have a full blown pandemic.

What’s happening in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, these are very sad situations where each state is dependent upon the scientific knowledge, or comprehension of their Governor. People’s brains, their functionality, is determined often by their environmental exposure. So, when you have encephalopathy from exposure, and you’re in change of other people, then you can have a problem where you don’t do the best for the other people because you don’t believe it. You don’t believe that mold can hurt you, you don’t believe that Coronavirus can hurt you. This is the problem that we have now, is that we’ve put our trust in people who don’t really get science. I’m going to be a little controversial, here. Tony Fauci is a very nice and brilliant person. I did a tweet the other day about this, because I don’t usually go on Twitter very often.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: I met with Tony Fauci, I don’t know, 18 years ago, because I’m from Washington, DC. I went to a meeting, and I introduced myself, and I discussed with him. He did not believe chemical sensitivity was a real syndrome. He’s the infectious disease allergy guy at NIH. So now he’s 76, he’s trying to walk this tightrope every day on the television, with President Trump, and we’ve got a problem in that if he speaks up loudly, which maybe is not his predisposition, he will not be allowed to be on the television with Trump.

So, we want him to be able to present the information, and be in that inner circle, yet things are too slow. Between the two of them, it is just going too slowly, and therefore people aren’t able to get a hold of this, when they just have a couple of cases, and close things down. So, that’s one aspect of this, is that people who are in charge of making decisions often don’t grasp the concepts about whether its chemical sensitivity or Coronavirus, it’s really the same thing. Sometimes Dr. Rea would say it would take 10 or 20 years for things to change, and new information to trickle down to practitioners. But often, practitioners need to die, and new practitioners need to take their place.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: We’ve got a very dire situation. My push is that there are some basic supplements, and I’ll list them, and there are more, maybe if we want to do phase two, we could do another interview in a week or two, where I can get some more details on more supplements, as they come out, and what’s appropriate to boost the immune system, that everybody should be on, and that they can increase when they get sick.

I wanted to mention, I heard Bill Gates speak at the Medical Society, maybe three years ago, and other people that maybe are considered liberal, that were on the pandemic information side of this, it was possible to be much more mentally prepared in our government. It depends on who you put in government positions of power, that can make rapid decisions based on their previous education about things like pandemics, and infection in general.

This whole idea of wearing a respirator on planes, I’ve been bringing a respirator with me because I was chemically sensitive, and putting it under my seat for the last 17 years. I just say to the guy next to me, “I am a doctor, and I’m a little sensitive to jet fuel. If I smell it, I’m going to put a respirator on, but I’m totally fine.” You know, like don’t be bothered. I tell the flight attendant when I enter the plane, and everybody’s fine with it. All the flight attendants now know about chemical sensitivity, because of the Chinese uniforms that they had to wear, that were filled with formaldehyde. A lot of people in various walks of life have been knowing that they should be protecting themselves. But, to have flight attendants now wearing a mask, now they have maybe authorization to do it because of policy change that occurred today.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Supplementation for the immune system is pretty easy. We all tell patients about vitamin A, and that they should be on a certain amount of vitamin A, as long as they don’t have liver failure. Really, probably almost nobody listening to this podcast will have liver failure, but if you do, then don’t take vitamin A unless you talk to your physician. I’m not giving medical advice over the phone, I’m telling you about supplements that are available, over the counter, that you should research. Vitamin A, the one I like is made by Carlton, which I think they do fish oil, and vitamin A, and other things that are fat soluble. And, they come in 25,000 units and below.

Usually, in integrative medicine, you take one of those, every other day. Then, if you get sick, you take a high dose for five days, and it helps the epithelium of the respiratory tract, so it’s very helpful in virus. I don’t know, were you aware of that?

Andrew Pace: Yes. As a matter of fact, I just showed Jay right before we started this recording, that I’m taking 25,000 units of vitamin A, 10,000 units of vitamin D. I had heard that from another friend of mine, who is involved in alternative medicine, and she gave me that recommendation. Then, if you do start to feel symptoms, then you up it, based upon the symptoms.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Right. So, if you get sick, what they say is if you’re an adult of roughly over 100 pounds, that you would take 125,000 units, so that would be five capsules, and that would be for five days.

Andrew Pace: Okay.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: So, that’s five capsules, five times, for five days, and then stop. Or, go back to your usual. The dosing for vitamin D, usually I get it from a company that only sells to doctors, it’s 50,000. So, when a regular person buys it at the store, or at, which is where I suggest you get supplements inexpensively, or you can use, or you can get it from your practitioner, if you want. What you can do is take 50,000, twice a month.

Most people, that’s a dose every other Sunday, that won’t hurt them even if they don’t know their level. Normally, we’d get a blood level for vitamin D, and if it’s less than 30, that’s considered low in traditional medicine. We would like it 60 to 100, in a sick patient, a patient whose chemically sensitive, or whatever.

If you tolerate 50,000 at one dose, you could just take it on Sunday because the fat soluble vitamins, which I’ll list, they don’t need to be taken every day because you store them. Whereas the water soluble vitamins, you urinate out. The water soluble ones that you would take every day would be B and C. Whereas the fat soluble ones are A, D, E, K, and then things like coenzyme Q10, fish oil, flax oil, those are all fat soluble.

I tell people this all through data, let’s say, about fish oil … I tell people to take the fish oil, like a Chinese tablespoon’s worth, on Saturday. Or, two of them. And, flax oil on Sunday. So, they don’t have to take what they may think is not tasty, fish oil, every day, they can take it once a week and then they don’t have to worry about it the rest of the week, they can take other supplements that, maybe they need to, because they’re water soluble. Does that make sense?

Andrew Pace: Perfect sense. I have to say this. Jay, see this is why Dr. Nagy has been requested to come back on our show.

Jay Watts: Exactly right.

Andrew Pace: Just an absolute wealth of knowledge. When it comes to taking these supplements Dr., everybody asks should I take it with food, without food, on an empty stomach, what is your recommendation?

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Well, the fat soluble ones, they say to have with fat. So, if you’re taking your coenzyme Q10 and your fish oil, maybe if you take them at the same time, or with a fatty meal, you’ll absorb more of your CoQ10.

But, when I do a blood level of CoQ10, let’s say it starts out at 300 or 400, and the person takes 600 milligrams … Oh, by the way, CoQ10 is a good thing to take for energy, so let’s put that in the mix. Vitacost has great pricing. 600 milligrams of CoQ10, and can take one every other day, or one every day if you have fatigue, and two a day if you’re really sick, or have heart failure.

So, that’s a slam dunk, for the rest of your life. CoQ10 is 50 cents a pill, so it really matters where you buy it. And don’t buy 100 milligrams, because that’s a waste of money because they charge a lot for the small dose. Again, I give it to my dogs, and they only get it once a week. I only take it now once a week, I take six of them because I don’t really have time to bother with supplements as much as I should.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Now, the other things that are good for the immune system are zinc, and zinc makes you nauseous sometimes, so I like zinc orotate. I use the one from Professional Formulas, and maybe people can get that online, I’m not sure. They make 10 milligrams, and they say when you’re sick you can take a higher dose, of 50 milligrams. As long as you’re not nauseated, maybe take 10, 20, or 30 milligrams a day now. If you can take a regular zinc, you can, like zinc picolinate, but I tend to get nauseated with zinc so watch out for that.

People with low zinc, by the way, will have little teeny bumps on the outside of their arms. So, if you rub your arms and you’ve got fine bumps, you know you have low zinc, you don’t need a blood test. Then, you would take more, if that’s exciting for the public.

Andrew Pace: Oh, it’s just fantastic, those little tidbits are what just amaze me.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Well, medicine is fun.

Andrew Pace: It is, it is.

Jay Watts: I’m actually rubbing my arm, right now.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: I know, that’s why I said it.

Jay Watts: I just wanted to interject at this point, this is such fantastic stuff. After everything calms down here, in the next several months… When we’re through talking about dealing with the problem in its stages right now, once it all dies down, I’d like to hear what you have to say about how to maintain the supplement regimen, going forward? Obviously, we’re going to back off?

Dr. Lisa Nagy: I think you would stay on this regimen … Well, first of fall, Corona’s not going to go away, so you want to keep your immune system strong for the next year and a half, at least.

Jay Watts: Right, right.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: When I see people who are environmentally ill, I tell them, budget yourself, and be prepared to make up vitamin boxes, for at least the first year or two. Then, you can wean down. But, people who ask me what they can cut out after one week, it’s not a reality because they want to get better.

In order to make your liver handle chemicals better, and detoxify, and process them, and put them into the stool, and put things into the urine so you can excrete them, you need the building blocks, the machinery for detoxification. So, that includes things like glutathione, or building blocks which are glutamine, glycine, and cysteine, and we call that NAC. So, if you have to pick something to take, it’s NAC. 600 milligrams, one at night. That’s a basic, inexpensive way to make glutathione, and to keep your detoxification pathways going. Just in case we want to give people one other supplement that’s good, without spending a lot of money, maybe, on glutathione.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: The downside is if you’re a yeasty person and you take too much NAC, you’re get yeast everywhere, you’ll get red plaque under armpits, or in your groin, or under your breast. So, you need to watch out for that, and when it happens you go, “Oh, I remember this lecture that Lisa Nagy gave, and it means I’m taking too much NAC.” I’ve been through all of these things with patients or myself, where you think you’re doing a great thing, and you take a ton of something, and then you get a side effect which, unless you’re going to the doctor, you may not realize what the side effect is. Now, we’re doing telemedicine more, so it’s less likely that you’re going to get examined, and things could be missed.

Should I continue with some more supplements?

Andrew Pace: Yeah, please do.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Okay, good. Yeah, there’s a punchline at the end, of a couple things that are really quite amazing, in terms of research for Coronavirus.

Okay, other things that people take would be good antivirals, that I’m not an expert in. That’s echinacea, ginseng. I’m trying to think, there are various … ashwagandha, which increase white cells. Some of these things will increase natural killer cell function, which I did not prepare a talk on how to increase natural killer cell function. But, that’s the key here. You’re trying to fight a virus, and you want your body to naturally be able to fight it off, and natural killer cells are part of that response.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: There is transfer factor slash colostrum, which is huge. Everybody should buy colostrum. Now, the more you spend on it, and the better the company is, the earlier the cow will give up the colostrum in the milk for the baby cow. So, if you get a cow that gave birth yesterday, and you collect the breast milk right away, it’ll have a lot of colostrum in it, and it’s immunoglobulin. Immunoglobulin is part of our immune response. So when you take IBG, which is immunoglobulin, from a cow and you eat it, then it makes you fight things off better, and it’s very good for allergy or virus, and it works immediately.

Everybody should have colostrum, all winter. Now, we’re going to have it currently, because of Corona, and you should take one or two a day. They’re usually 500 milligrams. You can then take three, six, or nine a day, when you get sick. I guarantee, whatever you have, whether it’s influenza or Corona, it will help to be less sick. I don’t know if it’s going to cure people, but it will definitely help to reduce symptoms. No doctor who does integrated medicine would argue with it.

Andrew Pace: Okay.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Okay, so there are Pure Encapsulations, there’s Research Nutritionals, which I think only sells to doctors, and there are places that sell it, as I mentioned probably Vitacost, I think if people go to and put my name in, they get a little bit of a discount. If it doesn’t work, they can call my office and let me know.

The other major thing I should cover, for people who have IGG deficiency, will not fare well during this period. I have patients and personal friends who have low IGG, and they get blood, an infusion at the hospital, of IGG. It’s called intravenous gammaglobulin, and it’s $25,000 a month.

Andrew Pace: Wow.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: It’s covered by insurance, for people who get infections. Now, let’s just go on a tangent. There was a study of four patients, or maybe five, I believe in China. It’s on the NIH website, there are 232 published about research studies on Corona, which I’ve read the first 100. We could obviously do more on this. But, they gave intravenous gammaglobulin to four patients, and they all survived, period. So, we’re done with the subject of whether people should take colostrum, the answer is yes.

Number two, there are studies on intravenous vitamin C. Jeanne Drisko, from this country, I believe was part of designing the study. It went over to China, they had good response. I won’t give the details, but they had good response to intravenous vitamin C in patients with Corona, who were deathly ill. They are repeating that use of intravenous vitamin C on Long Island, with a physician whose name … Actually, I won’t mention his name. He’s doing intravenous vitamin C, and the New York Post is the article. That post was five days ago. He’s doing it four times a day, and the dosing was milligrams, and it should have been gram, so I don’t know exactly what he’s doing.

Basically, we usually use 15 grams a day, and in cancer we use 100 grams a day, so somewhere in that range depending on how sick you are. A lot of us have amassed a lot of vitamin C for our offices in case people get sick. What I would recommend is that you go to a practitioner whose in a zoot suit who does vitamin C, that would be helpful if you don’t need the hospital. Then, the last thing … Can I continue? I have a very exciting supplement I want to talk about.

Jay Watts: Yes.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: You’re with me, right?

Jay Watts: Yes.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Good, because I don’t want to do it twice.

There’s a supplement, and it’s called CDP-choline. So, that’s C like cat, D like dog, P like Paul, dash C-H-O-L-I-N-E. I spent $700 bucks on it yesterday, and bought a lot of bottles of it, so I obviously think that the webinar that I heard at Great Plains Laboratory, by Dr. William Shaw, was excellent. I’ll give you the medium version, as opposed to just saying, “Take this supplement,” I’ll tell you why.

Dr. Shaw is the only person that measures a urine test for a substance called PLA-2. PLA-2 is produced in the urine, when you have inflammation, it’s a detergent. It destroys tissues in the body, and it may be produced by Coronavirus, as in other Corona viruses that have been studied, and leads to destruction of tissue. Which would, in my mind, explain why you would get ARDS, which is adult respiratory distress syndrome, which is the disease you get in the lungs when you need intubation. Then, there’s only apparently 20% of people are surviving, who get the ARDS and need a ventilator.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: So, it’s not just getting a ventilator, it’s getting rid of the lung disease that helps you to get off the ventilator, and to live. So ideally, I think they should be giving them all CDP-choline, and Dr. Shaw wanted them to do a study, prophylactically, giving CDP-choline to police in New York City, to see if it lowers the conversion rate, or decreases the illness once they become positive, because I believe 700 police are positive with the Coronavirus in New York City. So, the idea is this PLA-2 is produced by other Corona viruses, and he shows good graphs about that it happens.

They also showed, kind of unrelated, but people with multiple sclerosis can have elevated Coronavirus titers. Previous Coronavirus, not this one, not COVID-19. So, the thought is if we give a supplement, CDP-choline, it lowers the PLA-2, thereby lowering the detergent effect on the lung. So, the connection is you want to lower the thing that’s causing the destruction, and we’re doing nothing for treatment right now. Traditional medicine is offering not treatment. Maybe they’re doing chloroquine and Zithromax, and that may work as well, but in addition they may want to combine these other treatments.

What I thought was interesting is that the PLA-2 is released when get a spider bite, or a rattlesnake bite, or other venomous creature that puts the venom into the skin. PLA-2 is one of these inflammation products that is causing tissue destruction, which we see in emergency medicine, when we obviously know that venomous bites are a problem.

So, CDP-choline is a supplement that people usually take for memory, 250 to 500 milligrams a day. If you get sick, the recommendation is about 2000 milligrams a day. On Amazon and on Vitacost, they’re both available. Until I gave this lecture, and then they’ll probably be sold out. My advice is get it, because it really can’t hurt to have it. Then, if you do get sick, you’ve got your colostrum, and you’ve got your CDP-choline. The CDP-choline I got was $22, so it’s not a big investment. I do have any stock in the company that makes CDP-choline.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: I think that there will be other pieces of information that will come out, with further research. But, what I would do … I didn’t even mention oral vitamin C, but if you don’t have access to intravenous vitamin C, and you start to get symptoms, then taking oral C, 1000 a day, or 2000. Or, 2000, two or three times a day. It depends on how much money you want to spend on vitamin C, and also how sick you are. If you have diarrhea when you take vitamin C, it’s too much. You would take enough, they call it bowel tolerance. You take 2000, then if you get diarrhea, then it’s too much, so then your dose is 1000. Then, you can decide if you’re going to take it every few hours, or exactly how often. But, there’s nothing to say that taking 10,000 of vitamin C a day is bad for you.

Then, the last thing is alkalization. With vitamin C, the gold standard for treatment in environmental medicine is tri-salts and C, we buy a powder. So, we take the vitamin C buffered, Allergy Research Group makes a very good one, and you mix it, like quarter teaspoon, half a teaspoon, or a whole teaspoon, with the same amount of tri-salts. I use the one by Biotech. That has salt, so if you have high blood pressure, you don’t really want to take tri-salts, you’ll want to take something that doesn’t have sodium. But, the idea is you take the C and the tri-salts, and you’re changing the pH of the cells of the body. Coronavirus likes it acidic, so if you make it alkalitic, then you’re helping to discourage the Coronavirus from taking hold. Things like magnesium, and vegetables, green leafy vegetables, will also alkalize you.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: So, you can eat green leafy vegetables until the cows come home, and you probably won’t change your pH that much, so you want to add maybe magnesium at night. We usually say magnesium glycinate. If people have diarrhea, and they can’t tolerate magnesium glycinate, then there’s magnesium orotate. All of this is interesting, only when you have a symptom.

What you can do is you can write everything down, and then when you go try a supplement, if you need to get a different supplement you know, oh I got diarrhea from either the C, the tri-salts, or the magnesium glycinate, and then you know what to do. Usually you’d be able to tell your doctor, but now times are tough, and you’re not going to have as much communication with a physician.

Anyway, I hope that was a good, quick summary. I don’t know what I’m leaving out, but there’s, I’m sure, something important.

Andrew Pace: Well, it was a fantastic summary. Of course, we will be typing out this, as well as audio because I think it’ll help for folks to be able to see the spelling of these things, and we’ll link all the resources that you gave us, Doctor.

In my opinion, my layperson opinion, I think what people should take out of this is while there is no CDC approved cure, there are ways to deal with this that are helping, and are proven to work. So, one of the biggest problems that this country, I think the entire world is facing with Coronavirus, is the stress that it’s causing in people, because of the fear of the unknown.

Jay Watts: Well yeah, and I think this is addressing the emotional component of this.

Andrew Pace: Correct.

Jay Watts: If you don’t have tools available to you, or you’re uncertain of the tools available to you, that’s going to be stressful. I couldn’t write fast enough, Dr. Nagy, and I’m glad Andy’s going to document all this because I was running out of paper. But, I think this is an empowerment, we talk about empowerment in our podcast. Now, we can get our listeners to empower themselves to take action that’s meaningful, where they’re in control. I think that’s one of the big things here, Andy said it, we feel like we’re out of control here, and this is really an empowering thing we’ve done today.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Great. If I can just close, I really think if you just sit around and feel helpless, then you get that thing called learned helplessness. That Seligman used to take the rats, and put them in water. Then they would struggle, and then they would give up swimming, and sink.

If you learn that you have nothing to offer your own salvation, basically taking care of yourself, then you will be depressed. There are so many things that you should be doing, right off the bat, take care of this, and then move on with your life to figure out how you’re going to earn a living, how you’re going to help other people, boom, boom, boom.

I’m going to list all the supplements. You’re going to take your vitamin A, your vitamin D, your zinc, your C, your colostrum, some sort of immune boosting herbal thing, astragalus, ashwagandha, that kind of stuff. And you’re going to maybe be taking, CDP-choline, which I would … I took my first pill last night, no side effect, so I would recommend that because, Jesus Christ, it can’t hurt. Sorry to swear. I think that people just need to be able to get that under their belt.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: And then what I would say is, if you’re hypo adrenal, and you have signs of low adrenal function, they’re on my website. It’s Lisa Nagy, N-A-G-Y,.com, it’s office video two. It’s five minutes, about low adrenal function. These people that are thin, and have low blood pressure, and they have fatigue in the morning, and at four o’clock they want to take a nap, and they get hypoglycemia, and they’re whiny, those people are going to die with influenza, and they’re definitely going to have problems with Coronavirus. They don’t have enough cortisol for their immune system to work well. If they don’t measure it in the saliva, which they can do on their own, with a lab called … I’m just trying to think of the lab. Access Lab, A-C-C-E-S-S. Four saliva tubes, I believe it’s $150 or less, you don’t need a doctor to order it.

If you see your graph of the four cortisols, which should be high in the morning, and then lower at midnight … If you see that your cortisol is low in the morning, then you’re going to seek out a physician who assess hormone function. That’s often difficult with endocrinologists, they’re a little conservative so you may want to go to an integrative doctor, and get yourself hydrocortisone. Because oral hydrocortisone will help you to have good immunity, and if you get sick, they’re giving it to people ICUs. So, they are giving it to people for sepsis, they’re giving it to people without Coronavirus. That’s another study, whether steroids help.

So, these are the things that your integrative doctor knows. The question is, how do we get it out to the public? Anything you can do, by typing up this list, and getting somebody to pick it up, these are basic things that everybody has a right to. Then, when they feel like they are taking care of business, they’re mood will be elevated, they won’t feel hopeless, and helpless.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: And then, they’ll be able to turn on the radio, and exercise at home, and go on with the next step, because they’re taking care, as best they can, of their health, and their friends’ and family’s health, by spreading this basic information. Okay, I’ll be quiet.

Andrew Pace: Doctor, that was absolutely fantastic. We will definitely be typing out all these show notes, so everybody can not only listen to it but pour through it with their eyes, too. Then, we’ll link to the locations that you gave us. We can’t thank you enough for coming on today, and we will definitely want to have you back in a few months and maybe get an update, to some of these studies that you were talking about. I think that people will be extremely interested to hear about that.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Yeah. I think if anybody ends up in the hospital, they should ask for intravenous vitamin C. Hospital formulary can definitely do it and get it, and if they have patients knowing to request it, then that will drive the hospitals to change policy, and quickly ramp up on that treatment.

Andrew Pace: Fabulous.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Which is cheap, it’s inexpensive.

Andrew Pace: Exactly. Jay, do you have any follow-up questions at all?

Jay Watts: No. I was just thinking, I’d like to get Dr. Nagy on a speaking tour. Basically, we’ll put you in a car, and we’ll drive from Martha’s Vineyard across the country, with a big speaker on top of the car. You can broadcast this stuff, as we drive through every hamlet in this country, to explain exactly what you talked about here. It was absolutely fantastic. I can’t tell you how … I’m grateful.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: You know, I hate to say this, but I just thought of one quick thing. Can I say something else?

Andrew Pace: Sure.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Henry Schein is a company that sells products, medical equipment and stuff to practices, and they have a test which I guess I’m getting next week, which sounds fabulous. I just want to tell you about it. It’s the antibody test, IGG and IGM. It is cheap, it’s not covered by insurance, and I can afford to offer it for free for people who don’t have any money. It’s 15 minutes, right there you get your result in your driveway.

Andrew Pace: Wow.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: If I test people, or they test themselves, they can get the result of whether they have immunity, presumably that they’re making antibodies because they already had the Coronavirus eight to 10 days earlier. That’s exciting.

Andrew Pace: That’s fantastic.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: The other company, it was Vibrant. They’re a laboratory that does really good antibodies to the nervous system. They’re offering as of, I think, next week, they’re doing finger prick, comparing it to serum. So, the finger prick may go out right away. I think their test is going to be $149, not covered by insurance. That will give you four antigens, and they’re doing IGG, IGM, and IGA. Again, to prove you already had exposure, you basically can go out in function in society fairly soon. I’m thinking, we all show our document.

Andrew Pace: For sure.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: If we’re out, to prove we can work. Then, you let people run businesses who are positive for the antibody, if that makes sense. Then, I’ll be doing nasal swab testing, with Quest, which I hear has a back log. At least I’m going to be able to test, I’m just going to get a zoot suit, and test people outside on the porch.

Andrew Pace: Excellent. I think that’s a really good place to finish this episode today, because ultimately we need to get the country back working again, so we have a country to come back to. What you’re talking about is really important for folks who may have already been exposed to it, have the antibodies for it. They’re the ones who can actually get this country back going again.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Right. That’s what I was thinking. It could be that you could get infected twice, but if it’s not the case, then those people would be able to go out front first.

Andrew Pace: Exactly. Dr. Nagy, I can’t thank you enough, we can’t thank you enough for coming in today, and spending your valuable time with us, and with all of our listeners. We will be, of course, letting everybody know how they can get in touch with you. I’m sure you’re busy these days, but folks, if you have questions, if you have concerns, we encourage you to reach out to us here on the show. If you are in need of Dr. Nagy’s services, we will be connecting you through the show notes. Thank you so much for coming in today, and sharing your knowledge with our listeners. We look forward to having you back on the show, soon.

Jay Watts: Absolutely right, thank you very much.

Dr. Lisa Nagy: Great, thanks for having me.

Andrew Pace: Well, I know my forte in this business is in building materials, healthy homes, helping people live, build, remodel a home. But folks, I believe that this episode might be one of the most important episodes that Jay and I have ever done. I can’t thank Dr. Nagy enough for the time she spent with us today. I really encourage you to listen to this show a few times, take the notes, promote the show to your family and friends, put it out on social media. Folks, we want to blow this show up, we want people to hear this, this information, this valuable information that Dr. Nagy put out.

As always, please feel free to go to iTunes and leave us a rating, a review, that’ll help others find this show. Reach out to me at, leave us a SpeakPipe message on the website, Thank you for listening, we really appreciate having you as our loyal listeners. Tune in again next week for some fantastic information. Take care, folks.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Strengthening our Home’s Immune System

We’re obviously in the midst of a world wide health crises and I know dozens of experts in the alt/health community are podcasting and YouTubing all about protecting our personal immune systems.  My expertise is in the health of your home, so this episode is all about making your less less susceptible to viruses through the use of healthier materials and better design.

Google Play


Strengthening our Home's Immune System

Strengthening Our Home’s Immune System


Andrew Pace: Welcome to the Non Toxic Environments podcast. My name is Andrew Pace. Every week, my cohost Jay Watts and I will discuss healthier home improvement ideas and options. Thank you for finding us and please enjoy the show.

Well, hello everybody. This is Andy. It’s so good to be back here behind the microphone. Last week I came in and recorded a very short episode. As you may know, I had a slight surgery a couple of weeks ago and I’m on the mend. It’s all good. It’s an elective surgery to allow me to use my right arm again. Just so happens that at the same time, the entire nation is on lockdown because of this virus. It’s very interesting, interesting times we live in. And first off, a point to all of our listeners, our friends, our family- I hope everybody’s doing well and I hope we are all getting through this and we’ll get through this unscathed. You know the old adage, what doesn’t kill us, make us stronger? I think that, as a nation, we will survive this and we will get stronger because of it. So that’s all I will say about that.

I thought it’d be a good idea today to talk about… as we’re hearing all about our immune systems and how our own personal immune systems are trying to fight off this virus. The more we learn about it, the more we learn that those who may be getting slight symptoms and it goes away, it’s partially due to the fact that they have very strong immune systems. You’re going to hear, I’m sure you’ve already heard, a number of experts talk about this and I do not claim in the least amount to be an expert in human immune system disorders and how to strengthen our immune systems. I’m loading up on my vitamin A and vitamin D and some vitamin C and I’m trying to get as much sleep as I can these days. We all do our part to help ourselves personally. But what I thought it’d be interesting to talk about is our home immunity system. What does our home have to do with our immune system? Well the home itself can be either a healthy environment to live in or it can be one that is not necessarily unhealthy, but certainly not helping us, not doing its part to allow us to heal. I’ve said this before, that everyone needs to have at least one room of their home that’s considered the sanctuary that’s considered their place of healing. And we hope that’s a bedroom.

Your bedroom, you spend six to eight hours a night, hopefully in the room and it’s gotta be a room that is not going to be harming you during that process. The less toxins that we are subject to during that time, the better the body can heal. But what else can we do in our home to strengthen its immunity system? It’s immune system, however you want to put it. What can the home do or what can you do in your home so that as this moves forward, and as we all hear, we’re going to go through a second round of this later this year and a third round of it sometime next year. And as the doctors and experts in the world figure out things like vaccines and cures and so forth, I’m thinking of how do we alter our homes so that it is less susceptible to things like viruses that could then harm everybody in the home?

Jay and I were talking about this over the phone the other day and unfortunately, Jay’s not gonna be with me today, but he and I had some really good conversation about what we can do inside of the home to strengthen its own system, let’s say. And a lot of it has to do with our discussions of making a healthy home, right? So we talk about the idea of using hard surfaces throughout the home for flooring, countertops. These are surfaces that are unable to absorb viruses and bacteria into the material and it can be wiped off easily. They can be surfaces that can be sanitized through methods of cleaning with hot water and Super Clean or steam. The surfaces like flooring materials, say carpeting and unfortunately has the problem amongst many things is that it can absorb viruses and bacteria, mold, and allow that to become airborne for longer period of time. Hard surfaces can be cleaned thoroughly and can be sanitized thoroughly. So that’s one big way to think about how we make our home a healthier healing area or environment for everybody living inside of it. Now, if you’re in the process of designing a new home, right now, one thing that I like to bring up is the idea of using a detached garage  instead of an attached garage this way anything that would be inside of that garage. Your automobile, gardening equipment and so forth. Anything that has oils and greases and solvents and so forth, there’s less of a chance for those fumes to become airborne and waft into the home if it’s not connected. But I also liked the idea of having a detached garage with a breezeway, the way we used to do it years ago.

Essentially it’s like a walkway, a covered walkway between the garage and the home and particular to our situation we’re in right now with virus. Imagine coming home, and exiting your automobile and going into the breezeway and being able to take off your jacket. And in some cases being able to take off the clothes you’re wearing throughout the day that could have been contaminated. And then putting on a fresh set of clothes to walk into the home. I have a lot of clients that I’ve worked with over the years that do this just every day because of their sensitivities. Jay brought up a really good point yesterday and they said, people who are now trying to deal with this COVID virus at home are getting a real eyeopening experience and awakening to what somebody was severe chemical sensitivity has been dealing with for years and years.

It’s having to avoid everything, everybody. Having to take precautions that we normally wouldn’t have to. Nobody wishes chemical sensitivity or having the virus on anybody. But you know, we use this as kind of as a teachable moment here. And so when we recommend things like detached garage or a breezeway for chemical sensitivity issues, it’s also really perfect for this situation with the virus.

HVAC systems. It’s always been something that we talk about at length when we discuss new homes or whole house remodeling. It’s extremely, extremely important to make sure you have a good purification system for the whole home attached to the furnace, AC and blower unit. I like air purifiers. I think they’re very good for what they do. When it comes to purifying the air throughout the home, there’s nothing like having a good high quality purification system. I happen to work with a brand called Solace Air. It’s their RS4 unit. I was having a discussion just today with a client of mine and she had asked about various materials that are out there. one of the reasons why I love the RS4 is because there are three main ways that you purify air in the home. One is through filtration, whether it’s a high Merv filter, electrostatic or kind of a combination. And the RS4 has that electrostatic replaceable media that is equivalent to about a Merv 12, Merv 13. So that’s going to get your particulates out of the air.

The second way you purify air in the home is by the use of a UV filter or a UV light. UV light sanitizes the air as the air goes by it. It can do this process with or without the use of ozone. And I’ll get to that in a moment. UV lights are very effective for killing off mold spores, bacteria, viruses. These can be installed either in the return air plenum or in the the supply side, above the A coil of the AC unit. And so if you live in a real high humidity area, it’s very effective to make sure, for keeping a mold from growing on the A coil.

Then the third way you purify air is through the use of a filtration method for gases, VOCs, chemical off gassing and the RS4 does it by using what’s called a carbon matrix. So all the air passes through your electrostatic filter gets zapped by the UV and then also passes through the carbon matrix to absorb any chemicals out of the air that are too small to go through a filter.

So RS4 does that all together in one unit, which is really nice. So you have one unit to service. The servicing is very simple, inexpensive and not very frequent, which is nice.

Now I mentioned before the use of ozone. Now this is controversial in that the several years ago there was a company called Alpine that produced ozonation systems for home use. It was a multilevel marketing company. They made a decent product, but they didn’t really have a highly educated professional staff. Again, these are multilevel marketing companies. It was people selling to family and friends and then they would sell it to family and friends.

You didn’t have a lot of professionals selling this equipment and they really failed to tell people that with ozone, you have to be very careful with how much it manufacturers and how much you’re exposed to it, your lungs and your eyes and throat and so forth that can become damaged with too high of ozone. Alpine or Living Air, another name for their company, a lot of lawsuits and so forth. Now many years later, people think it’s a bad idea to use ozone. And unfortunately that’s incorrect. Ozone is one of the absolute best ways to purify air. You have to do it in a healthy manner. So there’s two ways you can do that and you can actually use a UV light either inside of the RS4 system or separate from that, that is specifically designed to create ozone during the process.

Personally, this is what I use at home. I love the use of ozone inside of my HVAC system to purify the duct work and to cut down on transmission of viruses, the common cold and so forth. But you know, there’s a dial on the unit that allows me to turn it off or turn it up or turn it down and adjusted to where it needs to be. How do you know if it’s too high? Well, rule of thumb with ozone is if you’re using an ozonation system, if you can smell it, it’s up to high. Ozone has a very sweet, distinct smell. Think about being outside after a thunderstorm, you smell that sweet air. That’s what ozone smells like. And in concentration it can actually be damaging to your lungs, nasal passages and so forth, especially if you already have a compromised immune system because of allergies and asthma.

Now I use this type of system in my home just as a preventative maintenance. You can actually use an ozonation system or something that purely creates ozone in a high quantity at a time like now to purify your home in case you think somebody came into your home who is carrying the virus, or if somebody in your home has it or had it and you want to make sure that the home is completely clean of it, you can use an ozone generator to sanitize the house. Now how would you do that? Well, every sanitizer is a little bit different, but we actually work with one here and I’ll put a link in the show notes to this. We have a unit here that we rent out to customers, to use for smoke damage, water damage, and in this situation for actually sanitizing rooms or homes.

And you can set it for a certain amount of time at a certain amount of a quantity of ozone. When you are using an ozonation system or an ozone generator to purify a space, you’ve got to do it while you’re not there because it creates such a high amount of ozone that you really don’t want to be around it for very long. I’m talking like 15, 20 seconds. So you turn it on. Let’s say you set it for two hours at at the highest level. If it’s a small room, you don’t have to do that long, maybe 30 minutes. If you’re using it for your whole home and you’re putting it in the main area of your house, set up for two hours and let it go.

Now the beauty of ozone is ozone has a very short half life, and so it has a half life of about seven and a half minutes. So if it’s not going to attach to something in the air as a method of purification/sanitization, it’ll actually attach to itself and turn back into pure oxygen.

Think about a time, if you’ve ever been in a hospital and you’ve gotten an oxygen tube in your nose, and after a period of time, your throat feels really dry because of that pure oxygen. That’s exactly what happens in homes that had been ozoned, that pure oxygen can have a drying effect in your throat and in your nasal passages. Again, this is why we don’t want to be around it when it’s being done. So you purify your room or your home for 30 minutes to two hours and then dependent on your climate, temperature at the time and so forth and other various things, we would then open up the windows or turn on some fans to blow the air around to circulate.

So it’s a very simple method, a very effective method. A matter of fact, we’re a little too new in this particular, COVID virus outbreak to have the research on it, but we know that when SARS was around several years ago, that was actually a COVID2, we’re now at COVID19. And there’s been a lot of research done about how effective ozone has been on the COVID2 virus. And so, considering this as extremely similar to the COVID2, one can be pretty confident that this would be extremely effective to the COVID virus. That’s one way to purify the home and to strengthen its own immune system.

Something else we’ve talked about in the show before quite often is a product we have here called Caliwel. Caliwel is an industrial coating or they also have a Home & Office coating that will kill off mold spores for minimum of six years. So if mold spores are in the air and the attached to the surface where the Caliwel product is, it kills it off almost instantaneously. And it does that by raising the pH of the surface so high that it cannot continue to live. It does this through alkalinity, does it through lime. Alistagen, the manufacturer of Caliwel, just put out a press release last week that said that the use of Caliwel is actually a very effective way to kill off the COVID virus that’s in the air. And so I’m not saying, run out and grab a bunch of buckets of Caliwel and paint your whole home and you won’t get the virus. No, what I’m saying is if you use it in certain situations, it will strengthen your home’s immune system so that if somebody did walk into the house who happened to have the virus on their person because of coming in contact with somebody, it’s quite possible that it could die off very fast in your home because of the surfaces in your home being treated with the Caliwel product.

I believe that all of these things used in combination in both a remodeling application or a new home construction project will strengthen your home’s immune system, strengthen the immunity in your home, which will then help us. Like I said, so many professionals, so many experts out there right now are jumping on their podcasts and jumping on Twitter and Instagram and YouTube and saying what we need to do to strengthen our own immune systems. Well, folks, that’s not my forte. My forte is building materials and healthy homes. And so this is my way of helping you help yourself, not only right now but down the road as this COVID virus makes its way back a couple of times and who knows what the next one will be?And wouldn’t it be nice for us to live in homes that are more immune to these types of situations.

So folks, thank you so much for allowing me to come into your home or car, or device, this week again. Being gone a little bit because of the surgery and because of the virus and so forth, I miss this. I miss being in front of folks and I really look forward to hearing from all my friends and listeners who send emails and make phone calls and reach out. And so I’m asking you to do the same. You can always send me an email Feel free to write a review on iTunes if you happen to listen to our show through iTunes and let everybody know what you think about the show and it helps others find it. We’re still a very fast growing show and we promise that once we all get through this, Jay and I’ll be back in with much more content. We have a lot sort of waiting in the wings and right now as all businesses are across the country, things are a little dicey. But we have very loyal listeners, very loyal customers, and you all are giving me a reason to come back into the office and behind the microphone every single day. So thank you so much. I look forward to being with you again in about a week. Take care everyone.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Specific Subjects of Worry

So often we have clients that are stuck spinning their wheels because of the fear of too many toxins and pollutants.  They use the phrase “what if” when discussing their homes.  What if it has asbestos…what of it has lead… what if it has formaldehyde… Folks, just about every home will has its own set of problems to deal with and these can almost always be remediated and fixed.  Jay and Andy talk about these specific subjects of worry and more on today’s show.

Google Play


Specific Subjects of Worry

Specific Subjects of Worry


Andy: Welcome to the Non Toxic Environments podcast. My name is Andrew Pace. Every week, my cohost Jay Watts and I will discuss healthier home improvement ideas and options. Thank you for finding us. And please enjoy the show.

Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments, everybody. This is Andrew Pace and with me again, although remotely today is Jay Watts from AFM. Jay, how are you today?

Jay Watts: Fine, Andy. Hi everybody listening into the show today. So Andy, we were talking earlier about our showe and I think you came up with a pretty good theme. Why don’t you get us started with this?

Andy: Sure. So we hear an awful lot from clients who are worried about the building materials, that they have, that they’re using, the homes that they’re moving into. And it always seems to get into this sort of careful what you ask for when you start asking about- could this be a problem, can that be a problem? I think we all start to hyperventilate a little bit and we get overly concerned. Now, I’m not saying that what we’re talking about today is not a concern, far from that. But what I’d like to do is sort of break it down to the items that we really should have concern over, items that we can fix and we can remediate and we can control and items that maybe are just a little bit too much hype and not a big real big concern.

Jay: Yeah, I think the internet has a lot to do with people reading different things and seeing a variety of different opinions and many of them are solid and scientific and then there’s a lot that aren’t. And so all of that gets mixed into the blender. And sometimes what comes out of it is some concerns and fears about exposures. I think today we can kind of dig down into that, explain some of the things and hopefully make it a little more clear for everybody.

Talked about a little about old homes in one of our previous casts. I think it’s a good place to start because that’s where a lot of the kind of the questionable materials from yesteryear are still resonant. And so being able to manage those. Obviously we can talk about asbestos.

Andy: Asbestos was used and all sorts of materials of course, cause back in the day, nobody really knew about the worries of it. It’s a natural mineral. It’s a ground found mineral. I think when folks discovered it, they realized that it was a kind of a miracle product. Its ability to resist heat, resist direct flames, moisture could go right through it and affect the material whatsoever. And so it was used for, floor, tile backing and insulation and pipe wrap and ceiling tiles and a whole mess of things inside of the home. Now, it was also used industrially in, in the production of automobiles and boilers and so on and so forth. I have a real direct connection to this. My mother in law died of mesothelioma and so I know the dangers of it, but I also know it takes anywhere from 30 to 50 years to incubate in the lungs.

Jay: Yeah. How, how was she exposed to it? What was the, what was an industrial or job related exposure or what happened?

Andy: Well, and that was interesting with all of the research that the medical staff put together to figure out where or how she got exposed to it, found that it was washing her father’s clothes when she was a teenager because her father worked for a company that used it. And that’s how she got the exposure and she inhaled a couple of fibers and then 50 some years later, she starts having breathing difficulties.

Jay: Yeah. That’s an amazing story. I guess any sense of the timing on the discontinuing of asbestos? Was it the 70s, like the discontinuing of lead or was it earlier than that? I don’t really know.

Andy: The 60s, 70s, and 80s is when asbestos started being ramped out of the use of materials. But interesting thing is it’s not actually illegal to use right now. It’s so expensive for manufacturers to pay the fines that they just decided to not use it anymore, which makes tons of sense. We all know the dangers of it, but it’s not illegal.

Jay: So in terms of dealing with it, I mean there are companies and that’s their role in terms of remediation because you have to stick to take special care to remove as best as materials.

Andy: Correct.

Jay: The higher specific firms that will come out and do what they need to do to protect you from it exposures, which means tenting or whatever they do. And then, you know, they’re in their white suits and their masks and they’re out there removing things.

Andy: That’s right. And you know, the thing about asbestos is, and I would tell all of our clients is- if it’s in good shape, let’s say you have asbestos in the floor tile in your basement, if it’s in good shape, if it’s not fraying, then you have the choice. You can either leave it and cover it up. Essentially you’re kicking the can down the road. Either you’ll have to deal with it at some other time or the next buyer will. Or you can have it remediated. And the remediation process is just making sure you’re following the steps of, as you say, hiring the right companies, but they have to tent off the area so that no air gets out of it. It’s the use of very specialized HEPA vac systems. Double bagging the disposable materials and they haul it away and have it have it taken care of. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. You don’t have to worry about it lingering, provided that they use the proper ventilation techniques to ventilate out any of that dust.

Jay: Yeah, I think it’s a good point here to mention that, and this is consistent with some of the other materials we’ll discuss, but on asbestos it’s really dangerous when it’s turned into dust, right? What’s called a friable state. I’s not an emissions challenge. I think some people start to get confused about what it is, is it emissions? Is it dust? Which one is it? Both? Is it one or the other? In this situation asbestos is something that if it was turned into, and if you could inhale it as a particle or particulate, that’s the danger of it.

Andy: Exactly right. And this leads us to our next danger in homes, which is lead.

Jay: There you go.

Andy: Lead is used most often in paints and coatings, stains and clear finishes from probably as recent as about 40 years ago. Lead was deemed unsafe to be used in paints and coatings in the 70s. But the biggest problem would be in a large cities where you have a lot of older homes that are being still being occupied today and are probably in dire need of repair. And you have these lead painted doors and windows that every time you use them, you start to scrape off some of the dust and the dust becomes airborne. And it’s not a worry with adults. The problem with lead from an inhalation standpoint or ingestion standpoint is with children in developmental ages.

Jay: Yeah. All right.

Andy: So it’s become a real focus, real, real focus of the Department of Housing & Urban Development…

Jay: And the Department of Education. You’ve got schools that have the financing, our funding hasn’t been there to keep the schools maintain as well as they should. Right. If it’s in a community that doesn’t have the resources, you know, poor communities and schools, maybe they barely get a maintenance team, did clean the place, let alone remodel. It’s entirely possible. There’s these old, old materials still resonant in these properties and therein lies… And I think you said it, small children there that really at risk. You know, a thought just popped into my head and we’re talking about abstestos and really the danger of it being in a dust form ingredient in that way. And similarly with lead, it’s the same idea. Then I started thinking, you know, they’ve taken lead out of gasoline and so I guess my question, I don’t know if you can answer it, I’m wondering what was the danger of lead in gasoline other than inhalation? What would be the reason they are de-leaded was there something about it? It ruined engines or, I’m not certain I understand that. I never checked that all of a sudden there was unleaded gasoline. For a while you could get leaded and unleaded and then now just unleaded gasoline. It’s kind of gone away.

Andy: Right. The, for a couple of reasons. Uh, the, the biggest concerns would be from the fumes…

Jay: The burning of gasoline…

Andy: But even just the dispensing of it.

Jay: Yeah. Coming out of the pump.

Andy: Right. The exposure that people would have if they got some on their hands, the exposure to the environment when it gets spilled on the ground or if there’s a fuel leak. This reminds me a little digression here, but remember 10 years ago, 15 years ago when compact fluorescent light bulbs became the way that environmentalists were going to help the environment? And what we found out that was every compact fluorescent light bulb actually had a very small, soldered circuit board inside of each bulb. And if you didn’t dispose of the bulbs properly, which was to actually take them to a hazardous waste collection facility, people would throw them away. And these light bulbs were ending up in landfills. And the biggest problem from it was these circuit boards were leaching lead from the solder. And so think of it from a standpoint of gasoline and all the chances that there would be for gasoline to leach lead into our environment.

Jay: Gotcha. Solid answer.

Andy: Thanks.

Jay: So we’re back to lead. So one of the things when you’ve got old properties, and we come across this quite often, where the property may be from the sixties or fifties, and people are getting ready to do some kind of remodeling and they want to paint, but they’re worried about the lead. And typically I’m saying, well, generally speaking, if you were the only owner of the home from the sixties or fifties, and yeah, maybe there is some lead there and it could be right  at your fingertips or more than likely if the house has changed ownership over the years, there’s probably layers and layers and layers of non-lead paint on there. If this was an apartment specifically, they’re always repainting, usually repainted before new tenants occupy.

There could be a whole three, four or five who knows how many layers of water base or oil base paint right on top of the lead. So people get a little bit concerned. I think when in the recommendation would be probably your best bet here is to sand up or de-gloss your surfaces and then they- oh, there may be lead there! Yes, ,however, how old is your home and is it a rental and there’s questions we could ask if figure out if it’s really lead or if there’s something in the way. How do you talk to people when they’re dealing with it, a do it yourself-er comes in and says, I know it’s lead paint I had it tested. It is lead paint. Now I’ve got to do something about it, right, because I’m going to decorate it. What do I do?

Andy: Well, it comes down to the situation they’re in. For instance, if they’re looking at painting a woodwork in the house, specifically door frames and window frames, I will suggest strongly that they look at just removing and replacing the entire material. It’s a lot of work to strip lead based paint or any paint off of windows and doors. There’s a lot of little areas to get to, you can miss a lot of areas easily. You really have to strip it off. I mean, they say we love the woodwork. You want to keep it, it’s too expensive to replace so forth. You have to strip it off. And there are products like a product called Blue Bear, a company called Franmar. They make a soybean oil based paint stripper specifically designed for lead based paint.

Jay: And it works pretty well?

Andy: It works wonderfully, absolutely wonderfully.

Jay: I know you’re carrying it at the store. I’ve heard of it, but I’ve never actually had a chance to use it.

Andy: Right. And, and so it encapsulates the lead dust. So as you’re scraping it, you don’t have to worry about that dust become an airborne. Then you can scrape it off and spread it onto a newspaper. Many municipalities across the country, you can actually roll up that newspaper and either throw it away or recycle it. Just check with your municipality first. And so provided that all the material has been taken off and then the surfaces are cleaned and washed, you can then prime and paint and bring it essentially back to new. But it’s a lot of work involved.

Jay: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. There’s going to be situations where people just, as you just mentioned, they’re not going to want to rip things out. You know, they love what they’ve got. They just want to find a way to make it safe. And so is the way to go about that. Okay. Moving on. So I guess the next offender in the lineup, the usual suspects here formaldehyde, we’ve talked about that a lot.

Andy: Yeah, we talked about an awful lot because it’s in everything, right? It’s everywhere. And so I think let’s just take a look at all types of chemical outgassing. We’ll use formaldehyde as the target because as we say, it’s in everything, but in the average home has, new home has about 15,000 chemicals in the air just from the building process. An existing home, who knows where that is because every time a chemical off gasses, it has a potential of actually combining with other chemicals and create a new compounds.

Jay: Right? Exactly. And there’s no science on that. It’s impossible.

Andy: Right? And so yes, you can hire indoor air quality scientists or do a prism test and you can determine things such as VOCs in the air or formaldehyde or other aldehydes. But this gives you a sort of a general idea doesn’t give you the full picture. Like asbestos, which can be remediated, lead, which can be remediated, chemicals can also be remediated. So to remediate those chemicals, it’s just a matter of figuring out where they’re coming from. As we’ve always said, Jay is the best way to get rid of a pollutant is to remove the source, like asbestos and formaldehyde of course. But if you can’t remove it for whatever reason, then we have to seal it and deal with it.

Jay: And you know you’re talking about the past versus the present, because a lot of times what people have done is they’ve done some recent work and they discover they have a formaldehyde problem and it’s newly created. Oh, it’s panic time, panic mode. What do I do now? It brings to my mind, of course, the system you’re pioneering with the ability to actually surface test for formaldehyde. And I think that’s a vast improvement in terms of analyzing indoor air quality. You alluded to it with the ambient air test, and they can be helpful. You can get a sense of pollution levels, but you really don’t know where to start with that. And so being able to pinpoint it and deal with it in that very specific way is really leaps and bounds ahead of where it’s been.

Andy: That’s a great point. Jay. You know, you think of something like, asbestos you can see it, you know where it’s coming from. We all have a pretty good idea what is releasing it.

Jay: Well, I black it’s black and ugly.

Andy: But chemical gas, chemical fumes. The release of un-reacted chemical monomers, we can’t go by smell.

Jay: No.

Andy: Just because something doesn’t smell doesn’t mean it’s safe. Carbon monoxide is not safe. Chemical off gassing and depending on your level of sensitivity does not have to have an aroma. On the flip side, just because something has an aroma doesn’t mean it’s dangerous. And so the FRAT system to be able to detect where in the house formaldehyde is actually coming from has been a remarkable, giant leap forward in remediating chemical outgassing.

Jay: Yeah. Yeah. Especially as you alluded to earlier, when you’ve got a brand new house where you’ve got so many new things in there, being able to pinpoint and say, oh, it’s the floor or it’s the paint I aware of, whatever it may be, wherever it may be. This is so important because then you can tackle those surfaces and just kind of go at them as you need to go at them. And what’s really great about it as you can, in almost real time, you can fix it and test it and make sure that it’s taken care of.

Andy: Exactly. Exactly. So I, and I might not gonna bore everybody to tears with the whole chemical outgassing thing cause we talk about it just about every episode.

Jay: Yeah, we do. Yeah. It’s a part of everything we talk about.

Andy: It is, but it is a specific subject of worry in which is why we’re here today. I’d actually like to talk about a couple specific subjects of worry of things we don’t necessarily need to worry about.

Jay: Yeah, it’s a good one.

Andy: So the first thing I’ll touch on is, which again, something we’ve talked about many times, which is VOC or volatile organic compounds. This one’s kind of a hybrid because yes, there are many VOCs that are dangerous to humans as well as being to the environment. Probably too many to list. And these VOCs find themselves in a variety of products in our home. But there are also VOCs that are completely harmless to humans. There’s actually a list of 37 chemicals that the EPA has deemed to be unreactive and, and even though they are carbon based, they’re readily vaporize at room temperature, they do not react with nitrogen and UV to create low-level smog. And so the EPA says, well, manufacturers, you’re allowed to use these 37 and you don’t have to disclose them.

Jay: Is that list on the EPA website?

Andy: The list is not, it’s not on the EPA website. So this list, I actually do have a copy of it and I’m going to post it and allow people who listened to the podcast to download this because I think people will be really interested to see the two or three that I talk about all the time.

Jay: Ammonia, acetone.

Andy: I mean that’s nail polish remover folks. That’s dangerous stuff. Ammonia, that’s a dangerous solvent. Also, not a VOC. One that I think really throws people, that new carpet smell that everybody knows that everybody hates? There’s a chemical in that material called trichloroethylene 1,1,1. Trichloroethylene. That’s actually an exempt compound by the EPA. Manufacturers do not have to leave and list it as an ingredient.

Jay: Therein lies the problem with the way things are perceived because it’s zero seems to be the target. If we don’t, if we have zero, we’re safe. Right? I think you’re pointing out that that’s not necessarily true. Certainly reduction and zero of those regulated ingredients. That’s an important step forward. We know that, right? But it’s those unregulated ones are the ones that we need to watch out for. And people come into this not really aware of that, they buy zero and they’ve heard zero and for many years the talk in our industry was that zero was your ideal, now we know from our experience just on a daily, a day to day basis that the zero metric isn’t the perfect metric.

Andy: Well, and this is why VOCs are so controversial. And because of that, I believe the industry just tries to avoid the discussion. And folks, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that VOCs are perfectly fine. We know they’re not perfectly fine, but it’s not the right metric because using VOC as your metric, choosing materials is actually in some situations causing more harm to the occupants. Now the next logical question is, well, what metric do you use? We don’t use a metric folks. We have to just use common sense. We have to use recommendations, anecdotal information. You have to listen to people who you trust. That’s what we’re here for. We hope you trust us and we hope you listen to what we’re talking about. There just is no metric. The owner of, of AFM years ago told me that, metrics in this industry are essentially trying to give a black or white answer in a world of gray.

Jay: Yeah. So true.

Andy: And I think about that every single day. The world is not that way. We have to look for things that make sense. So I don’t want to beat that a horse anymore. Another ingredient, a specific ingredient, Jay, that you’ve talked to me about quite a bit is a titanium dioxide.

Jay: Yeah. Well, it’s a dominant ingredient in most coatings these days. It’s the ingredient in there that allows for a whiteness. And talking just specifically about paint. So paint companies, market their product in what’s called bases. And those bases are calibrated to accept colorants. So you can tint very light colors, off white colors all the way up to very, very dark colors. And so when you’re making bases for the very light colors, you will have more titanium dioxide in those formulations. As you start to eliminate it or remove it so that you can actually tent darker colors you have less of it and you can see this. If you looked and you folks, you don’t normally see this because you don’t see what the bases look like untinted. You see them tinted. But if Andy were to open up a can of our paint, a pastel based paint from anybody, it would look fairly white, very white as a matter of fact, or would look like white paint. And if you open up that same brands, deep base or dark base or accent based on look at the same product before it’s tinted, it would look much more translucent. That’s just because the white in there is such a powerful ingredient that there would be no way to be able to tint a dark color if we had too much titanium dioxide in the formulation. So let’s talk about when the worries. I took a call the other day from a gal who was worried that she was going to have an inhalation exposure to titanium dioxide. And she had already started using our brand, our Safecoat brand. She was very happy and she wanted to continue on and she was getting ready to do a nursery for her. And then she started to read on the internet about how titanium dioxide is a carcinogen. You don’t want to be around it. And she was worried. So she called and I wanted to just relay her fears by saying, well, it’s like lead or like asbestos. It’s one of those things where you’re not exposed to it as a particulate, there’s really not an emission index with it at all, really. It’s just something that you wouldn’t want to breathe in a dust form. It’s completely suspended in the coatings. In that way, you’re not exposed to it. That’s what I shared with her and she kind of got a better feeling for it and felt more comfortable about it. So what do you think Andy? I mean, that’s pretty much how it is, right? There’s nothing outside of the dusting of titanium dioxide, which would be, again, if you were sanding old paint. And I tell you, listen, if you’re sanding anything, you don’t want to breathe in any of it. I don’t care what it is. Right? So if you’re sanding wood, you’re sanding a piece of pine or a piece of oak or something and wear a particulate mask. Right? So you don’t inhale it. No one wants to inhale dust. I kind of break it down to almost the real kind of simplistic basic terms, you know? Because it’s just good practice.

Andy: Well, and this is a thing about titanium dioxide. It’s found in every paint manufacturers paint, right? This is what makes paint white. This is what mate’s makes paper whites, toothpaste white. This is the ground found mineral that if anything is white, it uses titanium dioxide and yes, if you are breathing the dust of it from sanding or grinding, it could cause eye, nose and throat irritation. This reminds me of crystalline silica, which is another ingredient that used to be found quite a bit in paint. Safecoat, never used it. Because of its possibility of causing silicosis, but that particular ingredient actually had a track record of causing silicosis where titanium dioxide is more or less a warning, like don’t breathe dust. I am all for telling people to take precautions and be careful whenever they’re using. But it’s almost like saying this knife is sharp or this hot coffee is hot.

Jay: Yeah.

Andy: And so what’s happening in the industry, right, is there are some folks out there who are just making life miserable for manufacturers by finding any loose chink in the armor. And they’re saying, you need to tighten this up because we’re going to sue, people can get sick. We’re going to sue. So when you see on the safety data sheets or the MSDS, when you see warnings about irritants, whether it’s in Safecoat’s or any other paint brand, look a little deeper and you’ll see this typically because of, at least in case of Safecoat, it’s because of the titanium dioxide and it’s an unavoidable ingredients in liquid paint.

Jay: Yeah. I think Andy’s been a pioneer in this folks, looking beyond the veil of products and studying products and understanding products. And if you have a chance to go to the Degree of Green website and take a look at Andy’s metrics for understanding how to select products, I think it will be very valuable for you and to give you a little picture because I think it’s really worth it for folks to know. The kind of help, you don’t have to be alone out here in this world. There are a lot of good folks doing a lot of good work and there’s a lot of information that can be extremely valuable in terms of making decisions about the ingredients you want to be around. I just want to put that out there and folks to take a look.

Andy: Well the last thing I’ll say about the specific subjects of worry that we’re talking about today is that, and I’ve probably said this before, I’ll reiterate this. Sometimes they have to take a step backwards to take two steps forwards. In a home, there is no perfect way to do things sometimes and you have to use materials that yeah, maybe I’d like to avoid. Paint is not one of them in this situation. I always take precautions when I use any liquid material. But you know, if you have to use a certain type of adhesive or a certain type of cleaner or a certain, whatever it is, just understand that at the end of the day, if you’re making the home healthier in the long run for the occupants, that’s the goal, right? So, that’s what Jay and I strive to do here every week is help people make their homes a little healthier. And what this episode was all about was just letting you know that not everything is a five alarm fire that we really have to work with. We’ve got to deal with some of these things are very scary sounding, but they can be fixed and remediated or covered up and lived with. That’s the direction we have to go.

Jay: Right, right. And again, just to reiterate, folks, we’re not trying to downplay some of the concerns here. We’re very much very keenly aware of the dangers out there. In fact, many years ago our company came out with a corporate brochure and we talked exactly about that. The danger wasn’t outside. The danger was inside. And so we made a point of saying we need to be watchful. This was back in the early, late eighties, early nineties. We’re 30 years on from now and things have gotten a lot better, much better. But there’s still, you need to be paying attention here. I always stress with people with whatever brand you use or thinking of using, try to sample, I know Andy’s a big advocate of sampling and manages a very, very effective sampling program on his end, for all kinds of products. It’s really important and just don’t fall for a sales pitch or what you read on the internet on a specific website. I mean, you can read all that stuff and educate yourself, but it’s really important to get your sample or do your due diligence before…  The worst thing that can happen is that you make a leap. And then you get into it so deep when you realize, we’re in deep water here and now what are we going to do? Andy and I both deal with these kinds of situations on a day to day basis and have for many, many years. It’s always saddening to me when I know that people kind of, for whatever reason, budgetary or time wise or whatever, they kind of jumped into a situation and now they’re having to come back after all the work and time away from their home, possibly in the money spent to have to do it over again.

Andy: Right.

Jay: And it just, my heartbreaks, every time I hear these stories. In the front end, it’s better to slow down a little bit and make everyone else get in the back seat so that you can drive this car of trying to keep yourself healthy and build a healthy home for yourself and your family. That’s the goal here. That’s the most important thing.

Andy: Fabulous Jay. Great. Great bits of advice there. And folks, if you have any specific subjects of worry that you want to talk to us about, feel free to drop me an email, You leave us a speak pipe on the website, which is a voicemail. We get a lot of phone calls and a lot of emails every week and we really appreciate the questions, the suggestions. Matter of fact, we’ve had a lot of people reach out about this subject, about the ingredients that are found in paints and, and so forth. And we really appreciate all that feedback. And folks, Jay and I will be back again next week with another good episode of Non Toxic Environments. We appreciate you listening.


View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Another Dip Into The Mailbag

So many awesome questions being sent into the show these days, so Jay and Andy use this episode to discuss some of them. Piano’s and radiators, lingering paint odors, and a followup question to a previous episode about countertops.

Google Play


Another Dip Into The Mailbag

Another Dip Into The Mailbag



View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Countertop Options

Countertop options. Granite or quartz? Laminate or Solid surface?  Choosing the best material for your project requires an understanding of the function, costs, aesthetic and of course, the human health impact.  In today’s podcast, Jay and Andy talk about all the most common, and some less common, countertop options for your home project.

Google Play


Countertop Options

Countertop Options



View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Bathroom Projects

It’s that time of year. We’re getting antsy. We want to take on a project in our house but it can’t be too big, since spring is around the corner and we’ll all have yard work to do. So maybe that’s why bathroom remodeling projects are always so popular this time of year. In this episode, Jay and Andy discuss some of the more common materials used and the ways to avoid mold and other toxicity issues.

Google Play


Bathroom Projects

Bathroom Projects

Andy: Lots of bathroom remodeling questions this time of the year. Winter time is a good time to get these little projects done before we have to move outside. So today, on Non Toxic Environments, Jay and I will be talking about bathroom remodeling. The do’s and don’ts, the materials available, and how to avoid the typical mold and other toxicity issues; today on Non Toxic Environments.

Hey, we’re back on Non Toxic Environments. Jay, we are into the cold months of the year here in Wisconsin.

Jay: Still? still Andy boy. Oh boy. Yeah, the cold months in Wisconsin, I think, don’t you define cold months? Isn’t that Wisconsin?

Andy: Yeah. Yeah. Well actually we have, we have two seasons here in Wisconsin.

Jay: Cold and colder?

Andy: Winter and construction…

Jay: A nice lead into our subject today, which is actually a construction thing, something that’s important to a lot of people. Why? Because we use this room every day,

Andy: every single day.

Jay: And more than once!

Andy: And sometimes we have time to sit there and contemplate what we’re surrounded with.

Jay: We can actually immerse ourselves in this subject, can’t we Andy?

Andy: We can. Immersion is a part of this room. You’ll be showered with good ideas, folks.

Jay: Are you getting the message here?

Andy: We’re talking about bathrooms today, talking about bathrooms. Okay. So Jay, in the last few weeks I’ve had at least a half a dozen clients contact me about remodeling a bathroom or they’re in the process of designing their new home and the topic of the master bathroom comes up. So I thought, we should really discuss this, and in talking during the coldest time of the year. And it’s interesting if I think back in 27 years, just about every February is when we start to get phone calls from customers. They’re thinking about doing a bathroom remodeling. And I think it’s because it’s one of those things that people want to get done in the winter months before spring and summer comes along. And they also think it’s a project that can be done somewhat, I don’t wanna say simply, but less time than it takes to let’s say remodel a kitchen.

Jay: Yes.

Andy: And it always comes into the conversation of the materials you’re going to use and the finishes and so forth. And we usually have to break it down to the most important thing about a bathroom. And especially in, in the upper Midwest and other parts of the country where there’s such a variance in temperature difference from the inside of the outside. One of the biggest things we’re concerned about is a moisture control.

Jay: Yes. It’s the highest moisture room in any home for the most part. You know, the other thing about bathrooms, it’s much like kitchens, the valuation of your home… those rooms are, are high value rooms. So we have to kind of think of it, you want a really good looking kitchen, you want a really good looking bathroom, right. Those are selling points for people.

Andy: They’re definitely a selling point. Between kitchens and bathrooms, this is where you’re going to get almost every dollar of your investible come back in the form of an improved sale price.

Jay: That that’s exactly right. So I like that idea because in other rooms where we may have to for budgetary reasons kind of scale back a little bit in the bathroom and the kitchen, those are those places where he can kind of let it go. Right, right. Cause you know, as you just mentioned, you’re going to recoup that money back on in the future.

Andy: Exactly. And I think bathrooms specifically because the amount of material used in a bathroom is so much smaller than a typical kitchen. It allows for a little bit of splurging sometimes and not only with your material itself, but with your colors and the look, the aesthetic of the materials.

Jay: So let’s break it down to the basics. All right, let’s go right to the basics. So what are the basics? We’ve got a toilet. We’ve got a sink and we’ve got a bath or a shower. So why don’t we start there and just share your ideas about that.

Andy: Sure. So, the best thing I can say about things like toilets or water closets and sinks and so forth, is that you really don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have to replace it three or four years down the road because now you’re hiring a plumber. I liked the idea of spending a little bit more on something like a toilet or a faucets because it eliminates potential of water leakage, which can lead to a mold problem. And so folks, one of the things you’re going to hear throughout this entire episode is mold is the chief thought on our minds when we’re talking about bathroom, either building a remodeling because of the fact that it’s so inherently moist and there’s a lot of food source for mold in a bathroom, right?

Jay: There’s a lot of water around, a lot of water.

Andy: And, and think of this, you take a shower, take a bath, and that steam rises from the water. Well, it’s not just water folks that is dead skin cells and soap scum and essentially these are the things that mold loves. Wherever that steam travels, it carries with it that that other mess of materials and it’ll stick to the walls. It’ll stick to the floor, it’ll stick anywhere. It can wherever, steam lands. so will those other things. And if there are mold spores in the air, and I say, I shouldn’t even say if! There are mold spores everywhere, and under the right circumstances that can lead to mold growth. And that’s why in bathrooms it’s so ubiqitious. You always see little bits of mold growth on walls and bathrooms and it’s usually because people don’t ventilate properly or they don’t wash surfaces properly.

Jay: Yeah. I was just gonna say ventilation is a huge thing. Sometimes people have bathrooms, there’s no ventilation or using a forced air ventilation on a mechanical ventilation versus a natural ventilation.

Andy: Yeah. And so that actually came up in conversation with a client today. I know we’re kind of jumping around here, but the key theme here is moisture protection and mold protection. They have a small powder room that they constantly have mold problems with. Actually, I would call it a half bath that has a walk in shower. They don’t understand why they cannot get rid of the mold growth and yet they have no powered fan in the room. And older homes are like this, right? So you’re kind of stuck in a situation where you either build it out then to protect against the mold growth that will occur. So you’re using porcelain tile on all the surfaces, right.

Jay: Harder surfaces. Right. Right.

Andy: You need to devise a way that you can cut in a fan and ventilate it to the outside.

Jay: Right. It’s making me think, and you’re right, folks, we’re kind of jumping around a little bit, but I think we’ll all pull it together here. It makes me think about the remedy that you have Andy, the Calwell product, that can be used to kind of as a little bit of insurance policy for this kind of mold protection. I wanted to get back to the fixture idea because I know that whats become popular is dual flush toilets. Right? And so I guess my question and probably a question in the minds of most of our listeners is costs, how much things cost. When I go down and get a regular toilet, single flush toilet. And, but I like the idea of dual flush. How much money more am I going to spend for a dual flush than for a regular?

Andy: Well, in some instances, Jay, you won’t even spend any more for a dual flush. Here’s the thing, you can buy a toilet for $200. You can buy a for $10,000. Okay. I don’t advocate the $10,000 toilets yet because at the end of the day, it’s not necessarily worth it. It’s not a life changing event. But I will say that a toilet that’s going to cost you in the 4 to $500 range, a decent Toto toilet, that has either a dual flush or just a low flush. They’ve designed their internal flushing mechanism in a way that… One of the downsides of the early low flow toilets or dual flush toilets is that you’d have to flush two and three times. And so it’s kind of the unintended consequences of trying to do the right thing.

Toto really did a good job with their flushing mechanism. I absolutely love their product and we use them on almost every project that we’re involved with. Getting back to the original idea about your fixtures and mold protection and so forth, the glazes that Toto uses for their toilets is just superior to what’s out there. They even have in some of their higher end versions, a glaze that has what’s called active technology. And active technology essentially is a high degree of titanium dioxide that’s used in the glaze. Titanium dioxide is naturally antibacterial.

Jay: Yeah. You need to riff on this a little bit though. Cause you know, titanium dioxide gets a black eye out in the world as well.

Andy: Well, from a paint standpoint or a grout standpoint, titanium dioxide is considered a potential carcinogen because the dust could be inhaled and it could lodge in your lungs and create silicosis and so forth.

Jay: Yeah, I think that’s an important point to make folks. It’s gotta be what’s called friable, meaning it’s turned into dust and then you have to inhale it. It’s not, it’s not a gas.

Andy: Exactly. And so titanium dioxide that’s found in a solid form like a glaze on porcelain doesn’t have that ability.

Jay: No, it’s benign

Andy: But it has the ability to kill off bacteria and viruses and mold spores. And so, Toto actually invented this technology years ago and they’ve sold the technology, the rights of the technology to companies like Transceramica tile who does a large format porcelain for not only for interior of buildings, but for like tunnels, highway tunnels throughout Europe, for railway tunnels. And this act of technology allows for contractors that come in once in a while with high powered water cannon, and essentially just wash off all of the pollution that collects on the surface because it can’t stick to this active surface. It’s really amazing stuff. So Toto took this technology and then they coupled it with a toilet seat that when it comes down, it automatically turns on a high powered UV lights and it literally kills off any microorganism within the toilets.

Jay: And then this is the 400-$500 toilet you’re talking about.

Andy: This is probably a $7,000 toilet. But the porcelain is still the same. And in Toto is a company really leading the way with this. And you will see year after year this type of technology becoming more affordable. And, matter of fact, you can even buy toilet seats now, I believe Toto makes them that you can retrofit your existing toilet with this special UV light. So the technology is out there folks. In some situations a technology can be a good thing.

Jay: Yeah. And aesthetically too, you can get really good looking toilets. It doesn’t have to be the old fashioned bowl situation. They make really nice looking, very sleek, very modern looking toilets. And that’s always nice to have that have that ability to make some design decisions that are really high end. Going back to the idea that it’s all gonna come back and money. So of course, obviously, we’ve got the whole sub floor situation around the toilet, and the things we need to do to make sure that we’ve got good connections between the toilet, right? We talk about sealing the plywood or the sub floor material to kind of get add water repellency to it.

Andy: Well let’s kind of take a look at it this way, Jay. When we’re looking at doing a bathroom remodeling, one of the things we talk about or we’ll bring up right away is ultimately what are you trying to achieve? You’re trying to achieve a space that is impervious to water because water intrusion is a great possibility here. Something that’s easy to keep clean, easy to maintain, something that holds its value as you’re talking about. So in bathrooms, I actually kind of like to work from the visible side than back all the way down through to the sub floor. Okay, so let’s talk about things like your walls in your floors. I’m a big believer in the use of porcelain tile in a bathroom. Now there’s porcelain tile in there, ceramic tile, these are your manmade tiles. Then there’s natural stone. I don’t like the use of natural stone because natural stone does have to be sealed in order to keep it from staining, from absorbing oils in bathrooms because of soaps and shampoos and skin oils and so forth. This can be problematic. So I like porcelain the best.

Now all porcelain tile is ceramic. Not all ceramic is porcelain. And I say it that way to describe that there is a difference. There is an improvement that porcelain adds. It’s a denser material. It’s a stronger material and most importantly, it’s far less apt to absorb moisture than just traditional ceramic. There are no chemical admixtures used in the production of porcelain tile. It’s inorganic minerals that are mixed together and fired at a very, very high temperature, typically 2,500-2,600 degrees, and then they’re glazed and that glaze, essentially is a layer of glass that is molten onto the surface.

Andy: Now the way porcelain tile is made these days in many situations you find it impossible to tell the difference between, let’s say a what’s called a through body porcelain tile that looks like Calcutta marble and a real piece of Calacatta marble. So I don’t believe you have to alter your design intentions whatsoever. If you want to choose a porcelain tile in lieu of a natural stone.

Jay: Yeah, I like the idea. You don’t have to seal it. I mean, bingo. Yeah, take kicking some of the steps out of the out of the equation to me makes a lot of sense. And certainly from a maintenance standpoint, going forward, if you don’t have to reseal your tile every so many years or whatever, it’s just makes so much sense to go that direction.

Andy: Exactly. And so that’s why I like using that for floors, for walls. I certainly know a lot of clients that have used a wall tiles. I would say most often people are just going with a painted surface, or a combination of tile and paint. We like to use a paint that has a little bit of a sheen to it, right? Because it allows for moisture to be wiped off the surface a little bit easier. Now hopefully if your bathroom is ventilated properly, you’re not going to have moisture building up on the surfaces.

Jay: Right. My situation is exactly what you described. I have subway tile coming up about halfway up my wall and then it graduates to painted surfaces with the cabinets. And then the ceilings are actually painted as well. And in my small bathroom it’s wooden, so my walls are wooden, my ceiling is wooden. I have a terracotta tile on the floor. And then subway tile in my, I have a walk in shower, steam shower. I can step into it. I have a bench and I can sit down, I can, turn on the steam. And it’s glass enclosed. So, I open it up. Obviously there’s a lot of steam coming out, but I actually have a sliding glass door off of my bathroom that goes out into a little private area where we have our laundry facility. So the really nice thing about this little aside folks, but the nice thing about this is in the morning before I shower, I throw my towels into the dryer and I warm those babies up. And when I step out of the shower, I reach out there and grab a hot towel.

Andy: The things you can do when you live in California.

Jay: Oh boy. Oh boy. Oh boy. And so anyway, but the point I’m pointing, but I make there is that I can paint walls… and you’re right. Enamels are better, eggshells, semi glosses, they help to resist the attraction of water to the surface. But I have that door that allows for excellent ventilation. I’m never worried about it. Do you know any of the mold or mildew things that might challenge other people?

Andy: Exactly. Alright, you got your wall finishes, your floor finishes, so the comment comes up, well what if I don’t want hard floor finishes? What if I don’t want porcelain tile?

Jay: Yeah. I don’t want to slip. I’ll slip off.

Andy: All right. So a couple of things that are, that we use. I actually have natural linoleum and my bathroom. Okay. Now this is for some reason there was about 10 years ago, this internet scare on some blog posts saying that you can’t use natural linoleum in the bathroom. Well, completely folks, completely false.

Jay: What were they saying was the reason you couldn’t use it?

Andy: They said with water sitting on it, it would swell. And that is not the case actually with solvent sitting in on it, they can swell. But with water never had a problem. Matter of fact, something like Forbo’s Marmoleum, we’ve used in surgical rooms that get mopped, every day.

Jay: Absolutely no problem. Yeah. Did you go sheet or tile?

Andy: We have one bathroom, one sheet and one bathroom that’s a glue down tile. The adhesives are so advanced these days that you do not have to worry about moisture getting in between the seams and getting down to the sub floor. And so this is where it gets a little tricky. I talk about porcelain tile being the best thing for a bathroom, but I also have to tell you that you need to make sure your sub floor then is adequate for what you’re doing. And so when we look at other you use for flooring, whether it’s more Marmoleum or even cork for a floor in a bathroom or even a wood look material, which we’ll talk about in a bit, it always comes down to making sure you have a sub floor that has adequate for what you’re trying to achieve.

Andy: So we always like to find out what’s the goal here? What’s the aesthetic? I love Mar Marmoleum because it’s different. It kind of looks like stone, but it isn’t. Natural linoleum is naturally antibacterial and anti-static.

Jay: Correct.

Andy: Because of the linseed oil. I don’t know of a better material to use in a bathroom than natural linoleum. That’s my personal opinion. Because of the fact that it’s so easy to keep clean, because it is impervious to water. The the idea of doing tile to me, unless you have like in floor heat seems to be too cold of a floor for my personal taste. However, if that’s the style you’re trying to achieve, go for it. There’s healthy ways to do it.

Jay: Right. There’s patterns and color choices in the national linoleum that are very good. Hundreds of colors and patterns that you’re not limited.

Andy: You’re not limited, not at all. Do you have different things to take in consideration as far as how you prepare the sub floor? That all can be dealt with. That’s not a big deal.

Jay: Give me a relative cost just off the top of your head between maybe porcelain and Marmoleum, ballpark.

Andy: You know, I would say by the time it’s all said and done, Jay, you’re looking at about the same between the two. Now you can certainly buy porcelain tile for $15 a square foot. You can also buy it for $1.99 a square foot. Marmoleum, something like that comes in at about 4 or $5 a square foot. And with both of them you have to prepare the floor and you’re paying for the labor to install it. I think if you use a good budget of eight to $10 a square foot for your flooring, you should be covered for just about any of these, a little bit more if you’re looking for something that’s extremely unique when it comes to porcelain. But what about if you don’t want to do a stone look? What if you want to do something that looks like wood?

Jay: Yeah. Which is becoming more popular now. Wooden floors are showing up in the most unusual places. I want to hear what you have to say about this because I am interested in that.

Andy: So we have two things that we just talked about. Porcelain and Marmoleum. Porcelain comes in a wood look tile and Marmoleum has a style they call their Striato series that kind of looks like woodgrain but you know both of them, they aren’t wood.

So we’ve been working with a product called Amorim Wise and Amorim Wise is a type of floating floor. And folks, if you’ve known me long enough, you’ve listened to enough of my rants over the years, you know that I’m never a big fan of using floating floors in a bathroom. And that’s because of two inherent problems. Number one, moisture. If you have any moisture or water that gets on the surface of the floor, it could run down to the low spot somewhere and then peel underneath and effect your sub floor, right? And then you have a problem with your sub floor. The other problem with a floating floor is the toilet becomes a pinch point. Floating floors have to float in order to properly work and you have to clamp your toilet down in order to clamp it to the flange. And so that becomes a pinch point.

Well is Amorim Wise product that we started working with a few months back has become a real lifesaver in the situation because it has such dimensional stability to it that we’ve been able to use it in bathrooms. We’ve used it at a couple of smaller powder rooms where clamping the toilet down didn’t affect it whatsoever because there’s not enough material really to it and it doesn’t move. It doesn’t swell or shrink. It’s actually a high compression cork, solid cork material, that has either a layer of a cork veneer on the surface or a layer of recycled PET that is printed to look like woodgrain.

And that one it’s called the Wood Wise has become a real hot ticket and it looks beautiful. It feels wonderful. It’s a decent price. We’re talking about the same prices, regular linoleum or less.

Jay: I just jumped on the website and I’m looking at it, it is beautiful.

Andy: It is beautiful. And, and so folks, if you want something that is not only unique in look, but also has this, the attributes of natural cork, cork is warmer to the touch than wood or tile. Cork is sound-deadening cork is shock absorbent, so kind of like a kitchen, in a bathroom you spend some time there in the morning getting ready to go to work or wherever you’re going. And standing on porcelain for a longer period of time can become a little bit difficult on the joints. Well standing on cork is, is beautiful, it’s wonderful.

Andy: And so this particular product is a fast becoming one of our go-to recommendations.

Jay: Nice. Really nice.

Andy: And then of course you can use regular wood in a small powder room. I wouldn’t advise it in a bathroom that has a shower or a bathtub because traditional wood is just so affected by moisture. You’d get cupping and swelling and shrinking. It can become a mess.

Jay: So let’s climb into the shower and bathtub. Let’s talk about those a little bit.

Andy: So climbing into the shower right now, the trend is going with tile walls and either a tile floor, a stone floor. Right now I have no problem with these materials. I think they look beautiful. But you have to understand some of the inherent issues with the application or installation with this. The question always comes up, Jay, what do we do about a healthier version of grout or a healthier version of thin set mortar?

Well, there really isn’t anything. The dangers of those two things, if they’re just a dry bag mix is you have your minerals, your titanium dioxide, your crystalline silica. These are things that are always found in cementitious materials. And you can’t do anything about that.

Jay: And the problem there is you don’t want to breathe dust if it was flying around.

Andy: But once it’s mixed up, the tiles are up and everything’s set, you can always seal the grout with something like the AFM Grout Sealer. And then you’re good to go. Now an advancement to this is there’s a couple of manufacturers of porcelain tile now that make what’s called large format porcelain. Large format porcelain comes in pieces up to five foot by 10 foot. So you actually have it fabricated in panels.

Andy: You only have seams in the 90 degree corners, no grout. Yup. Those seams will receive a small bead of a silicone caulk, something like a Chemlink Durasil. And that’s it. So as we mentioned before, porcelain never needs to be sealed. It’s impervious, doesn’t stain, really maintenance free. And then for your floor you can choose to do either a tile floor or you can do a pre molded, like an acrylic or a fiberglass shower pan, right?

Jay: People worry, I think about back to the idea of using grouts and using mortars. I think people get a little too worried about it. You know, the way I think of it is, you’re putting a nice barrier on top of those materials, your tile. So, when people ask me about that, well I’m worried about thinset mortar and I’m worried about the grout. Let me explain my position here. You’ve got really wonderful protective material on top, a solid protective material that’s not going to allow… I think they think there’s the thin set mortar is gonna like off gas. Right? And so they want to protection. And I say, well your tile is as good as it gets. These is the thing people will say, well I gotta seal something, but it’s down underneath other stuff and I’m worried I’m going to have to, it’s gonna be a problem. And I said, well, a couple of things. One, it’s probably not the biggest, the problem you think it is. And secondly, even if we tried to control it, we’d have to be able to put something on it directly.

Andy: Right.

Jay: Which we can’t really do. And we don’t need to do in this instance because we’ve got the protection with the material itself.

Andy: Well you have to, you have to choose and pick and choose your battles. We say this all the time. A lot of times people when they’re looking at doing projects like this, they’re thinking of every aspect. And I applaud people for really digging into the project and making sure that all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. But at the end of the day, folks, unless you’re the one actually doing the work yourself, I wouldn’t be as concerned about what’s behind the tile. As you say, Jay, nothing’s getting through that tile. It’s possible that something could migrate through the grout, but not probable. Right. The biggest issue with those two situations with your thin set and your grout is during the installation of it or application of it, could some of that material become airborne and then travel throughout the rest of the house?

Andy: Yes. Could it? Yes. If you protect your doorways, put up zip walls to protect the doorways, cover up the return air ducts and so forth. Just make sure that none of that dust travels throughout the rest of the house. At the end of the project this will not affect anyone. But for peace of mind, which we talk about quite often, sometimes you have to check these things off the list just to make sure for peace of mind. So we do have options for those who work with us on a consulting basis, we have lists of materials that we know have been proven to be safer for our most chemically sensitive clients.

Jay: Yeah. That, that’s kind of where we start in the discussions. Most of the time. That’s our focus. That’s our main focus. That’s where we jump into the conversation at that point. The other thing too that we keep talking about here is the fact that one of the goals here is to have it be maintenance-free. And so all these materials we’re talking about push us in that direction.

Andy: Yes.

Jay: When we know that we don’t have to worry about surfaces that may be receptive to mold and mildew because we’ve used materials that are resistant to that, that is the prime objective here. You don’t want to have to worry about this stuff. Bathrooms are the place you want to refresh yourself. I call it a refreshment room. I’m in there bathing, personal care. My wife actually oils in our bathroom. She sets a blanket down on the floor and she does her oiling in there. It turned the heat up in there and get it nice and warm and she’s in there oiling. And so it’s a place where you want to take care of yourself and you want to feel nurtured in your bathroom. The last thing you want to worry about is, I have a mold problem in here somewhere. No, no, no.

Andy: Right. Well, exactly right, Jay. All the materials we’ve talked about so far are easy maintenance and you don’t have to necessarily worry about that ever being problematic. Now what about situations where people say either I don’t like the look of tile back splash or surround in a shower or a bath bathtub or, it’s just out of our price range. What do we do? So the next best thing actually in, actually I don’t even say next best thing, it’s just a different thing to do quite honestly folks. Cause there’s some really attractive pre-manufactured shower and tub surrounds out there. There are two types of tub and shower surrounds that are manmade. A one is made from cast acrylic and the other one is made from fiberglass.

Andy: We typically gravitate towards the fiberglass surrounds. Fiberglass surrounds are usually finished with these gel coats that are baked into the surface. And those gel coats, when you get it hot with piping hot water, they don’t release release much of a smell. Acrylics on the other hand, when they start to get warm, you can start to smell them more and more and more. And we’ve also found that acrylic surrounds, unless they are impregnated with Microban and other toxic antimicrobials; acrylic surrounds can actually get mold stained and that those mold stains are in the surface. The only way to get it out of there is to do some really nasty things with chemicals that we don’t want to have to do. Let’s look for the fiberglass surrounds.

Jay: Really important. And there is some worry people and I think you maybe just explain them not why not to worry. I think some people hear the word fiberglass, they may get a little bit freaked out by that. But I think you’ve just explained it well.

Andy: Well, you know, quite honestly, folks, fiberglass itself is sand glass and mineral oil. That’s fiberglass. It’s how you put it together and how you finish it, that can alter the effect of what can happen, the chemical off gassing. We’re always trying to find that tolerable sweet spot. Again, we’re not looking for perfection here folks. We’re looking for tolerable. And we’re also looking for affordable and aesthetic.

Jay: Yes. Yes. So, so let’s go back and kind of do a quick checklist here to kind of round out this cast. So we talked about ventilation being important. Yes. We talked about surface selection. That would be resistant to aggravation from moisture. Yes. We talked about the differences in the different materials you can use with stone, porcelain…  I think you’ll probably put a link on the podcast to the Amorim product. Some people can check that out on their own and get excited about that. And what else did we talk about? Oh fixtures!

Andy: We can certainly talk about things like shower doors but it’s getting a little bit into the weeds. We want to talk about the big surfaces. I think the other two areas that we haven’t talked about yet is your countertop and your vanity. Now, this is where in a bathroom, especially countertops, folks, I think countertops in a bathroom is one place that you can splurge aesthetically.

Jay: I agree.

Andy: I used to love the Ice Stone concrete and glass countertops.

Jay: I remember them. They’re no longer available.

Andy: Well, they’re available. They kind of fell out of fashion in the last few years because if you’re not familiar with it folks, think of a quartz countertop. But instead of being made from quartz and plastic resin, it was made from concrete. And then for part of the aggregate, they used crushed glass. And so Ice Stone was one of the companies. Vetrazzo was another big name in the industry. These products are still very, very beautiful, but because they are concrete materials, they have to be sealed and so they could become a bit more of a maintenance issue. However, in a bathroom you don’t have to worry as much about the countertop surfaces as let’s say a kitchen.

Kitchen countertops are the most abused surfaces in the home period. Lemon juice, tomato juice, all these acids. In a bathroom, you don’t have that. You’ve got soap and you’ve got some skincare products and so forth. But the countertop in a bathroom is a smaller area than a kitchen and therefore you can afford to be a little more aesthetically and interesting with your choices. So I love the use of Ice Stone of a Vetrazzo in a bathroom.

Jay: We’ve got the counter, but we’ve got some cabinets under those sinks.

Andy: And so with the finish off the countertops you’re looking at, Corian, which is a great choice. I know it’s 100% plastic, but it’s impervious and doesn’t off gas. You’ve got quartz, which is… we’ve talked about that before. It’s 93% stone and 7% plastic resin: does not require a sealer. You’ve got your traditional laminate but unfortunately there’s some issues with formaldehyde and so forth. What I did and one of my bathrooms, Jay I used solid cork. So a solid cork slab, inch and a half thick. We finish it with a multiple coats of the AFM Poly EXT, which is the exterior moisture resistant version of Polyureseal. And we did a drop in sink. It looks beautiful. It’s different. Taking some aesthetic challenge, but also taking on some intrigue with your choices.

Jay: Well, and I come out in the summertime, I want to come over to the house and check that out.

Andy: You got it. So underneath the countertop, you’ve got your vanity, right? And this is always a discussion. Where do you find nontoxic cabinetry? Right? Well, the short answer is you don’t. Unless you know somebody who makes cabinets, unless you buy the cabinets unfinished and finish them yourselves using the Safecoat products, you’re not going to find a production cabinet company that makes cabinetry that does not off gas. They just don’t exist. However, we found that the bathroom vanity manufacturers that are using solid paint colors, the solid color Ecolacq type finishes Jay, those products don’t off gas as much as the stain and clear varnishes that they use. That’s a nice balance to use that. But again, there’s not a lot of cabinetry, so it’s not as big of a deal as you have in a kitchen. All right.

The last thing I think to talk about would be the plumbing itself, just like anywhere else in the house. Folks, I recommend PEX for all of your potable water, and your drain lines are usually PVC.

Jay: What does PEX stand for?

Andy: PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene. It’s still a plastic, okay? But all the fittings fit together. Just press fit. There’s no adhesives required, therefore there’s no melting of the plastic. Your drain lines would be PVC. And they have to be melted together in order just to get them to stick together. But I would wrap all of those joints with like a Dennyfoil or something that keeps it from off gassing.

Jay: No, good idea. Good idea.

Andy: And then anything else that comes up in a bathroom, Jay, faucets, towel racks, towel warmers, lighting, things like that. Those, those is more incidental. Those aren’t necessarily health related things. No, but of course there’s always a question that comes up and if there is, feel free to drop us a line.

Jay: Right. And there’s myriad choices in that regard. It’s like anything, you pay a little bit more for better fixtures and you think about it in terms of longevity. Again, back to the idea as much maintenance free as we can be and we can actually afford to be a little more luxurious in our decisions because we know we can recoup that money if we… in the future. So.

Andy: Well, and you know, it’s one thing about recouping money if you sell the home, right. The other thing is… and the older I get, the more I think about this, Jay. I don’t want to have to do it again.

Jay: Exactly right.

Andy: If I put a faucet in this weekend, I don’t ever want to put a faucet in that bathroom again for the rest of my life. If I spend $80 more for a faucet, I’ve got the comfort factor of knowing that that faucet’s going to last a very long time. And so that’s kind of how I choose materials. And if you can’t do it that way, then you do the best you can. And that’s fine. We all have different goals. If the goal is to be just comfortable in the place you live, both health wise and monetarily, then then you make the choices as you need to. I mean I really think that the big thing here is, is not to be afraid of a bathroom remodel. I wouldn’t be afraid of all the materials that are going into it. There’s really not a lot that goes into a remodel. There’s a lot to think about from a standpoint of choosing your look, yes. But there’s not a lot to worry about from a standpoint of overall human health.

Andy: Well, there you go folks. There’s a topic that we’ve dealt with a little bit before over the last couple of years, an episode here and there talking about kitchens and baths and so forth. But we want to dive a little deeper today on the bathroom subject because it really is the time of the year when we get more and more people asking about it. So I hope that has helped. Obviously we couldn’t touch on everything involved in the project. And if you are interested, you can always reach out to us and either ask us questions or we do a lot of consulting on projects like this, so feel free to get in touch with us that way. All right, folks, next week we’ll be back with another episode of Non Toxic Environments. Please do us a favor and go to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review.

We’ve gotten some fantastic reviews lately and we really appreciate that it helps others who are trying to find the show. It puts the show out there so that people can find it little bit easier. We are still one of the most popular home and garden shows that relating to healthy home building. Matter of fact, we have a lot of new listeners in New Zealand, a lot of new listeners in the UK and Canada, and of course here in home in the U S we’d like to thank you all and please, please let us know what you’d like us to talk about. Alright, folks, we’re back again next week.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: The Hidden Menace

NTE Podcast: The Hidden Menace. Inside of every home, there are obvious dangers and toxins that we can address, but what about those that aren’t so obvious. Jay and I call those the hidden menaces in our homes and today, we tackle some of those.  As the saying goes, “life is a journey”. Well, living in a healthy home is a journey and one which has a different destination for everyone. We are not in pursuit of perfection, folks. We are in pursuit of tolerance, comfort and a space healthy enough to allow us to heal.

Google Play


The Hidden Menace

NTE Podcast: The Hidden Menace


Andy Pace: This is Non Toxic Environments, episode 3.04. We’re talking about the hidden menaces today, hidden menaces inside of the home that affect indoor air quality that affect us both physically and mentally today on Non Toxic Environments.

All right, we’re back on Non Toxic Environments. Jay Watts, good to hear from you this week.

Jay Watts: Andy. Pace, same, same, same. We were chatting about the idea of talking about an issue that is always present on our minds and our client’s minds and has been for, well, as long as I can remember, Andy.

Andy: And that’s the reason why we exist, right?

Jay: Exactly. I, the idea of dealing and confronting your building materials.

It’s an interesting topic because, well, first of all, it’s a topic that obviously is interwoven into just about every episode we’ve done. Every phone call we get. It’s the reason why AFM exists. It’s probably the reason why Green Design Center exists, is the fact that traditional building materials will off gas unhealthy chemicals.

Jay: Right.

Andy: And as we mentioned in the last episode we really want to start going over some topics that we have covered on previous shows, but want to dig a little deeper. And I think a great place to start would be the whole concept of off gassing. And so, let me read a little bit here for you Jay, because I want to see if you can guess where this came from.

Jay: All right.

Andy: “The topic of the little talk is called off gassing, the hidden menace. Off gassing is like evaporation only with solid materials. It happens because even the densest solid material isn’t really solid. There are spaces between the molecules and molecules can work their way into the atmosphere just like they do during evaporation, all of which will be fine if the evaporating molecules per se water. Unfortunately, they’re usually something a lot more lethal, like formaldehyde molecules. They’re also constantly bubbling away into the air you breathe. To make matters worse, today’s energy efficient buildings seal in all the toxic gases. So they accumulate.” Where did this come from Jay?

Jay: It’s got a warm place in my heart, Andy. That is right off our company brochure.

Andy: It is, and it’s a brochure that’s been around a long, long, time. It’s almost as old as we are, which would put it at about 23, 24 years. We’re a little older than that, but I think that message still resonates. I think it’s still true today. The news, the good news is that we’ve, there’s two good pieces of good news. One of the, one is that there have been dramatic improvements in the products that are available to the consumer. Now, back when we wrote that there were very few companies that were dealing with the problem, understood the challenges especially in the coating business, which our business w the awareness was very low.

And so as we’ve discussed with folks who are challenged with these things, which is honestly, we’re all, it can be exposed and we can all have the of the symptoms of exposure, but for those who were extremely exposed and extremely sensitive, that was a real kind of dark period, in the evolution of indoor air quality and the improvement of those things. That’s from our brochure. I think it kind of leads us into the discussion today about the polluters, where they are, what they are. I’m like, of course we can just touch on what the consumer knows. And that is, there’s these things called volatile organic compounds and there’s also what’s called hazardous air pollutants. The two of those in combination with each other can pose a pretty serious health challenge. Especially because we spend much of our time indoors and this is where that toxic the toxic stew that you and I have talked about where a variety of different materials are off gassing all at the same time at different levels. And those chemicals are mixing with each other. And there’s really no way to know what that combination of mixtures is actually doing. What, what’d you say? 50,000 different chemicals…

Andy: 90,000. It’s gone up.

Jay: Yeah. Okay. Makes sense. 90,000 different chemicals that are out there that we can be exposed to. And so there’s really no data or no research that could possibly pin down exactly the effects of those things. The general idea, but I think our idea here is to try to figure out, okay, we’ve got this off gassing problem, yeah. Go into that a little bit, but then talk about remedy.

Andy: Well, and the reason why I wanted to bring up that initial paragraph on what outgassing is or off gassing and we use those words interchangeably, folks. I know that I’m even in my own discussions with clients, I’ll use guests in an off gassing. They’re the same thing. You know, potato potato (Jay: interchangeable). Exactly. So the reason I wanted to bring that up though is that in today’s climate of trying to make products that are more environmentally friendly, sustainable, even some other manufacturers who are making things that are more health conscious for consumers. I think what all of the manufacturers shy away from is what about existing materials? And you know, we’ve said this for years, I think the healthiest way to build or to make sure you live in a healthy home, the best thing I can do is help you build a new healthy home.

I can verify all the materials that are going into that house. I know what they are. But from a sustainability side standpoint, from an environmentally friendly standpoint, the most environmentally friendly thing to do is actually remodel an existing, Not build new. Don’t use new materials, new virgin materials that are manufactured just for your house. So there’s these competing trends. Neither one of them is wrong. Neither one of them is necessarily the right way. It just depends on which direction you’re coming from. But if you are remodeling an existing home, you have to be concerned about the materials that are already there. And that hidden menace of off gassing. And I would say, well over 50% of the people we deal with on a regular basis, they’re not building new folks there. They’re remodeling something. They’re fixing up a bathroom, they’re repainting a bedroom, putting in new flooring into a laundry room and we have to deal with what’s already there.

Andy: And then the manufacturers that are out there promoting these new eco-friendly materials and saying they don’t contain certain chemicals that it could contribute to outdoor air pollution. They’re not necessarily telling you the whole story. Example is let’s talk about the things we can seal up is carpet. Now I’ve said this Jay, you and I both have said this on the cast for the last two years, one of the healthiest things you can do in your home is to rip out the existing carpet. I’d rather have you live on sub floors. But what if you can’t rip off that existing carpet? And what if that existing carpet is off gassing and formaldehyde is always the one key trigger that we test for. It’s the one thing that is somewhat ubiquitous. It’s an everything and most people with any type of sensitivity can react to it. We’re dealing right now with a client; it’s a commercial application and they are looking at a very well known manufacturer of carpet and the manufacturer says right in the literature that we do not use any formaldehyde in the manufacturing of our carpet. Says that right in the literature. And then I do a FRAT test and I find it’s formaldehyde coming off of the carpet.

Jay: Oh boy.

Andy: How does that work? Right. First of all, you’re asking yourself to trust that the manufacturer has your best interest in mind. And I’m not a tin foil hat person. Not saying that everything’s everybody’s out there to get you, but you have to remember where they’re coming from. And what we’re finding out is they don’t use formaldehyde in the manufacturing of their carpet. They are correct, factually correct. However, when they’re manufacturing the carpet, they’re taking pieces that have been manufactured by other companies and putting it together. So they’re buying the backend from somebody and they’re buying the binders from somebody. They bought the fiber from someone that’s already been dyed. And that’s where the formaldehyde is.

Jay: Yeah, as you’ve just started the show with the hidden menace, it’s hidden.

Andy: The hidden menace.

Jay: So there’s this whole, it’s really kind of complex. How do we do the evaluation, where is the boogeyman? How do we deal with the boogeyman? Do we even have to worry about the boogeyman? Maybe the boogeyman’s so asleep that we don’t have to worry about the boogeyman anymore.

Andy: Well, it’s interesting, it actually ties in very well to last week’s discussion on buying older homes. The hidden menace of off gassing… this is why again, a company like AFM exists, why we are around and, and so I think to be able to evaluate the surfaces that could be off gassing. If you were to go into an old home and, and close your eyes and throw a dart, whatever surface you hit could technically could be off gassing still. Carpet is a big one because carpet will contain not only formaldehyde, but anywhere between, I think it’s been estimated 600 to 1200 different chemicals and a lot of these chemicals have been deemed to be unregulated. Therefore they don’t have to be disclosed on any SDS or safety data sheet. But other things, think about, antimicrobial coatings, flame retardants, preservatives, in different materials. You know, I just read the specifications for a new commercial carpet and they are extremely excited to tell you that it contains Microban.

Andy: Microban is triclosan, which is a pesticide. And this is the chemical, now it’s being taken out of things because it is interfering with the human’s ability to naturally take care of itself from bacteria. So why would a manufacturer now, brand new product, be touting that we’re excited to use Microb=an? Just doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s a hidden menace because some manufacturers still believe that it’s a good thing to be adding this does chemistry into our lives. And therefore when you are looking at materials or looking at a home, you have to wonder, all right, what was used on this product? What was used on this surface?

Jay: Yeah. The mold fear is so great, right? And especially in an older home where you’re not necessarily aware of what may be going on it where you can’t see it. So, but there’s this, there’d be mold there. Is there mold there? So I think that’s the marketing angle for companies that are introducing mold, mildecides and fungicides as a feature. Right? So here’s the other question. I deal with this all the time and there’s no pat answer to this, but our clients will always ask us, well, how long is it going to off gas? Right? Is it going to be a few days? Is it going to be a few weeks? Is it going to be months, is going to be years. And folks, there’s just no simple answer to that.

Andy: No, not at all. Not at all.

Jay: I mean, one of the things that we’re intimately aware of is that every human has a different immune system response. We’ve talked about this over and over again. You can’t just put everyone into one box and say, yeah, folks, you guys are exposed to paint, don’t worry, you know, all things being equal, application preparation, environmental conditions during the process, all that being “normal and recommended” there will be this off gassing cycle, that’ll last from this point to this point. And then it’s done. I wish it was that easy.

Andy: I wish that would make our lives a lot easier. Jay. The best guess is it will off gas for the lifespan of the product. Wouldn’t you say?

Jay: What? That’s the lifespan of the product. So let’s just throw, let’s just use paint. So what the lifespan of paint? 10 years. 15 years? I guess I’m just asking the question.

Andy: We know based upon previous research that was done, that paints off gasses anywhere from two and a half to four and a half years. But commercially speaking, most commercial paints are essentially left exposed for about four years before they’re repainted. That’s the average. But then you look at something like, plywood subflooring, I’ve been in situations before where people have remodeled a home and they took out the existing hardwood floor to put something else in, and expose the original plywood sub floor. And now they have formaldehyde off gassing from that sub floor. That was probably 25 or 30 years old and it’s still off gassing. And it really gets down to essentially it gets down to the definition of what off gassing is and so think of a bowl of hot water. Okay. That bowl of hot water steaming. And as that steam rises from that hot water, it’s the evaporation into the air and it is less than in the amount of water in the bowl. If that water and bowl was left by itself unsealed, eventually all of that water will be gone. Eventually it’ll all evaporate.

Off gassing is similar but different. Off gassing is the release of unreactive, reactable chemical monomers that’ll come off of a surface once the curing has done. So let’s take paint for instance. You paint a wall, it’s still liquid, still wet. The water in paint or the solvent in the paint evaporates off, kind of like that steam coming off a bowl of hot water.

Andy: That steam that evaporate comes off. And then after anywhere from a week to 10 days or so, you’ve reached a full cure. No more water, no more solvent is coming off of that coating. It’s fully cured. That’s when off gassing starts. Off gassing is the release of unreactive chemical monomers that’ll never become part of the surface that poke out like little bits of dust. So if you were to put a a piece of saran wrap over that bowl of hot water and covered that in, it would condensate and build up on the bottom side of the underside of that saran wrap. But you would never lose any volume of water in that bowl. If you were to block offgassing it just stops. It doesn’t build up a head of pressure the way that water would. If you poke a hole in that saran wrap, all steam would come out of that one little hole. Off gassing in is different. It’s like dust coming off of a surface. It’s very difficult to your point earlier, Jay, very, very difficult to pinpoint how long it’ll last. And then the other thing is where it’s going to come from. You have a hundred square feet of plywood. And if I test every square inch of plywood with a FRAT test, a formaldehyde release test, I’ll get a little bit different of a result. And so it really is a difficult thing to predict, but we do know that generally speaking, on an average that plywood is going to off gas formaldehyde for at least 30 years. At least, that’s a testing we’ve done and carpet, same thing.

Jay: Yeah. So the question then comes, is there something we can do to push it? Can we force the process in an essence trying to speed it up? To tolerable, if there’s such a thing, as tolerable levels. There’s ideal conditions for this process to occur. And there’s methodologies for pushing it. We’ve talked about people doing baking where they actually raise the heat in the space, you know, elevate the heat over a hundred degrees and try to bake out the reactive chemicals.

Andy: Yeah. And I think the idea of doing that to make the overall space healthier, that that particular method was debunked a few years back. Because although it works, you heat up a space, you will excite those chemicals from the surface. They want to come off, they want to, they want to react with something in the air. But then what you also do is you create a more dangerous situation and that chemicals that normally wouldn’t come off of that surface now start to release and you also degrade the surface so that it doesn’t last as long. So it’s, you know, it’s kind of a double edged sword.

Jay: Ozone have the same effect. Ozone can have the same effect.

Andy: You know, ozone can be really beneficial for certain types of odors in a room. But once you get into the chemical equation, ozone is really bad if you have an off gassing of formaldehyde because ozone and formaldehyde together they don’t play well.

Jay: Yeah. So what would be, what would ozone be good at?

Andy: Ozone is good for if you do have smoke smell in the house. Just the derivative of the mildew smell. From like water damage. If you had a perfume odors, aromas of existing cleaning materials, ozone is really good for cleaning that out. It’s a very good purifier. But if you do have a formaldehyde problem, coming from a surface, really the only thing you can do, there’s two things you can do. Jay, you can remove the source of the pollutant or you can seal it up. And that’s of course where AFM comes in and other materials that we work with and so, circling back to the original part of the discussion, off gassing being this hidden menace, it’s not an impossible hidden menace to deal with.

Jay: Right, right, right.

Andy: And so when you’re dealing with carpet and you can’t rip it out, AFM has got a seal system that’ll take care of the bulk of the off gassing from the carpet. And again, to what you said before, Jay, it’s getting the carpet off gassing to a point where it’s tolerable and this is something that we’ve been stressing here at GDC for the last couple of years now is not trying to use the perfect home, the perfect room, whatever as goal for what we’re dealing with. The goal is let’s make that space tolerable. Because I think if we set the goal way too high, set that bar way too high, it’s going to be difficult to get there. And it’s going to be, I mean, you CAN get there, but the process is going to be unbearable for most people. I’d rather have the goal, let’s clean up this space, clean up this room, seal up, remove whatever we got to do to get rid of that hidden menace and let’s make the home livable, and get on with life.

Jay: You’re touching on something that we encounter all the time. There’s a high level of overwhelm and this is relative to a person’s know, immune system threshold and their sensitivities. So there’s this anxiety that comes in with this; there may be a problem where I may be creating a problem or a problem was created. You know, we hear a lot that jobs taken on by the contracting companies and they come in and they may agree to make changes, but somehow that doesn’t happen. And so a product that we don’t want, it gets used. And then this anxiety is really intense because now we’ve polluted the place. And so the clients are trying to figure out how to manage that. What do I do? How do I walk through this minefield now that’s been created and that’s a difficult task. So what I’ve, and I know you do it to Andy, in a situation where we’ve got a larger installation, it’s a mini room, paint job. Just use this as an example. Sometimes it’s really smart to isolate a space in the house that you can use as your test room, and figure out what your remedies are. If it’s taking out the carpets, taking out the carpet. Is it painting that room or sealing those surfaces, and then stepping back to see if the remedy is successful. Then you can take that forward to the rest of the home. That’s a great idea. Because I think a lot what can happen is some people jump in with both feet and they wind up doing a whole bunch of remediation to only find out it’s not getting it done. And so it’s more prudent to kind of chunk away at it if possible. Sometimes it’s not we’ve talked to people where they’re trying to do a space, but it’s continuous. The living room runs into the den, runs into the bedrooms, runs into the halls. There’s no way to isolate a space, so we just have to jump in and get our feet wet and get started.

You and I have alluded to this. It’s pretty simple. Tackling the big surfaces: walls, ceilings, floors, those are where most of the problems come from. And so if we can kind of peck away at those things. That’s a really good beginning. I think one of the things I just want to get back to some of the hidden menaces that maybe they’re hidden, but should we worry about them?

Jay: I’ll just use an example. So we’ve got a sub floor, uh, that we’re are going to put another material on top of it. We’re gonna put hardwood flooring on top of it. We’re gonna put a Marmoleum, Forbo Marmoleum on top of what we’re going to do. Another tile, a stone type tile. So we know there’s formaldehyde there, but we’re adding another layer, maybe several layers of what I call protection on top of that. So is that enough? I mean, is it enough to have a material do the job of a coating, for example, how do you walk that, that line? Right? Because because what I do is I try to think of it holistically, right? If someone’s going to put a tile floor down, and there’s always budget constraints, right? There’s always, always budgets were very, very few clients come in and go, Hey listen, I’m just going to write a check and you can write the number in. All right? They’re not going to do that. So I start to wonder a little bit, can we not do something we think we’d want to do? To go back to my example, and you can, you can tell me I’m crazy on this, but if someone’s doing that kind of floor, they’re putting a tile, especially if it’s a tile floor down, but they’re worried about sealing formaldehyde and the sub floor, I’m just as much prone to say do you really need to seal that? You can tell me I’m nuts about that, but I’m just thinking, do I need a seal? The formaldehyde in the sub floor. If I’m putting another really super structural material on top, wouldn’t that do the job? That’s a hard one.

Andy: That is a hard one. All right. So here’s how we typically look at this, Jay. It comes down to how far you need to take it before you have a comfort factor mentally and physically of course. But mentally with the project. And this goes to, okay, so I’ve got 18 homes going up across the country right now. Every one of those clients are at a different level as far as their sensitivity factor is. Some are not sensitive whatsoever. They just want to do the best thing they can. Because of that, we have to look at things from a standpoint of not only the action of how we do this and how long it’s going to take, but how much it’s going to cost. Right. You know, you’re doing a tile floor in your particular situation that you gave us, Jay. Well, there is no such thing as a formaldehyde free plywood that you can use for a sub floor.

Just doesn’t exist. There is formaldehyde free plywood that you can use for cabinetry, but it’s not rated to be used for a sub floor. Right. So, if you are extremely sensitive to formaldehyde, then we’d have to look at either a different type of sub floor or sealing up the plywood, then putting down your thin set and your tile. But again, this is where we have to judge that factor of how much is it going to bother you if you move into that house and just say everything’s great. You love the home, everybody’s doing fine throughout the home, but is it going to bother you too for the rest of the time you live there that you didn’t really address the sub floor and the sub floor could be off gassing and whether it’s affecting you or not mentally, is that going to be a problem?

Jay: Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s an emotional connection. It’s an emotional connection. And, and that can’t be discounted.

Andy: It can’t. And, and I know we did an episode a while back that at it was all about is chemical sensitivity in your head. And we got some great feedback on it, both pro and con. And generally speaking, the ones who gave us some bad feedback were people who didn’t wants to admit that chemical sensitivity is such a problem, it’s such a danger to people that just the thought of having a reaction to an actual physical reaction can actually trigger the brain to release the same adrenaline response. And I don’t want to go back into that, but I’ve talked with physicians who specialize in this. I’ve talked to people who had been suffering with chemical sensitivity for decades, that agree 100% with this assertion that you have a reaction to the fear of a reaction. If you truly do suffer that much from chemical sensitivity, and then you do have to make sure that the space is going to fit with you physically and mentally.

Jay: Right. You know, it’s just a hard line to walk because as you know, Andy there’s different, how do I say this? There’s some of our more extreme chemically sensitive clients or are not in a position financially to be able to do everything they could possibly do. And so it’s a real, it’s a real difficult challenge when we have to kind of base that upon recommendation, I always, I kind of go back to me, all things being equal with this, that it’s the very last things that you do. I’ve said this many, many times. It’s the things you touch. It’s the things you put your hands on. You can put your hands on. I go as far as to say it. You can put your tongue on. Because to me, that’s probably going to be your biggest exposures right there.

There may be things underneath and tucked around and down and behind that all around. But when you’re all finished and done, it’s that stuff that’s right there that you can look at that could possibly be the source of the problem. So I always try to say let’s not cut it short at the wrong time. Let’s be prepared to do the very last thing, the best possible way we can. So I’m thinking, I feel like a broken record. And I was like, yeah, Jay said that before you keep, you keep pounding that drum over and over and over again. But, it comes up because people will do a whole bunch of things and then they’ll start to ask about substitutions. Right? Could I, well, I could like to use this thing, but then can I go out into the world and put that thing over your thing and be okay with that?

Will that other thing give me as much protection as your thing. And so I’m like, it’s like a big maybe. Then it gets into this whole idea, you do this and we do this and everyone should do it is testing, testing the different materials. There’s a sample program. Our company folks has a sampling program which you see on our website and Andy and I both stress the idea that if you’re doing an analysis and you’re picking products from different companies and there is a to sample them. Absolutely should.

Andy: Exactly. And so anybody who’s, who’s been on a consult call with me, um, will, will recognize this. I always tell everybody that 90% of the indoor air quality issues you have in your home are because of things that you can see and touch. And so, you’ve got your floor finishes, your wall finishes, your cabinetry, and then your furnishings. So your furniture and your window treatments and your artwork, and your area rugs, those things account for 90% of the off gas. And that last 10% are from things behind the surfaces. So it really comes down to evaluating how much of that you need to deal with in order to create that healthy home that is livable, tolerable. And if tolerable means that it has to meet your physical and mental test for being tolerable, then we’ll take it that far. But so, you know, to kind of wrap things up here, Jay, when we’re talking about the hidden menaces in the home of off gassing and know that there is a way to either seal or cover up just about any surface in the home that is off gassing, understand that the best way to remove off gas in is to remove the source of it.

Jay: Always, always.

Andy: And if you can’t remove the source of it, you seal it, you take care of it. And I think the big thing is you have to decide as an individual, what is the goal? And if that goal is to be able to live in that home, then what does that mean to you individually? We can’t tell you, Jay and I, we can help you get to your goal, but we can’t tell you what that goal should be.

Jay: Right. And it’s, it’s really important that be a shared experience with your family so that, husband and wife talking about these goals and what can we tolerate? What do we have to have? I mean, that’s so important. Many times there can be a little bit of breakdown in the communication between couples, ones on the page and the other one is not on the page. And so those kind of front end conversations with one another are pretty vital in terms of being copacetic with each other about the direction going forward. Because Andy, you’ve talked to clients and I talked to clients and there’s one opinion on one side and there’s another diametrically opinion on the other side. And so being able to come into the middle of there.

Andy: You’ve gotta be able to come into the middle, but you really have to always err on the side of being safer. You know, because if you’re a type of person that you could fall asleep on anything, right? You could fall asleep on a pillow, you could fall asleep on a concrete floor, but your spouse is somebody who only can fall asleep on a very specific type of density surface. Well then isn’t it better to always err on the side of let’s get closer to that, right? And so, you gotta give a little, yeah. So I really encourage that.

This is a topic that Jay and I can certainly talk about forever, but we really wanted to get this out there today to talk about, again, these hidden things inside of the home.

One thing I’ve learned today just when our and our conversation is that one of the hidden menaces is actually understanding what our comfort factor is. That is a hidden menace.

Jay: I mean, very good observation. That’s absolutely true.

Andy: And so I will say this, and I don’t know about you Jay, but I love these. We’re actually recording this on a Saturday morning and we typically record during the work week. And, I kind like these Saturday morning chats, Jay.

Jay: Yeah, I do too. Andy.

Andy: I feel like my brain is… I’m not so taxed and I can kind of observe things at a different level.

Jay: Yeah, no. So maybe it’s something we institute.

Andy: Excellent. Well, and on that note, folks, if you like what you hear, please drop us a note. Send me an email, Please go to iTunes or wherever you listen to your podcasts and leave us a rating and review. We’d greatly appreciate it. And, and tell your family and friends about this. Jay and I, you know this is not something that we get paid to do. This is not something that really helps us out financially in any way. But we do it because we’ve been in the business for so long. We’ve been working with folks who are sensitive for so long that it’s our way of giving back and it helps us understand what our clients all around the world are going through and we really appreciate that. Any feedback you can give us.

Jay: Absolutely correct.

Andy: So, Jay, I think that’ll do it for this week. This was a great conversation and we will be back next week with another wonderful episode of Non Toxic Environments. Thanks for listening, folks. All right, we’ll talk to you soon.


View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Buying an Older Home

Well folks, I’ll warn you that this episode contains some extremely horrible audio. Between my cold and difficult audio connections, this one might be tough to get through. But we really wanted to get this episode out there for you because its got some excellent information. Thank you for you patience!

Google Play


NTE Podcast: Buying an Older Home

Buying an Older Home

Andy Pace: Jay and I spend an awful lot of time on the show talking about new homes, about building new homes and how to do it in a healthy way. On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about what to look for when buying an existing home, the age of the home, the construction, where it’s built, the pitfalls of buying old or building new today on Non Toxic Environments.

All right, folks, welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. This is episode 3.03. I hope you don’t mind that I’m using that new lingo, three point whatever. That’s to talk about the Non Toxic Environments, season three and Jay, great to have you here this week.

Jay Watts: Yeah, and you know, Andy, it’s okay to be a little bit wonky. I think people now appreciate this kind of a, you know, focused identification. And that’s kind of what we do in our podcast. We try to identify important issues around building healthy homes and remodeling healthy homes. I think you’re right on with that. Folks, welcome to the cast. We’re glad you’re here. Andy and I were talking today before the show about the idea of searching, going out and looking if you’re in the market for a new home or you’re planning to remodel the home you have, but more importantly, and probably more to the point of our podcast today is if you’re shopping for a new place with the things you need to be looking out for when you’re doing that, that research, the age of the home as important as anything. And Andy will allude to all the different things that come into that kind of focus when you’re doing that. But that’s kind of the going to be the focus of the show today and I hope it’s going to be helpful to you, Andy?

Andy: I’ve done this topic before; the whole concept of building new or remodeling has come up several times and it will still, I’m sure it’ll come up several times in the future because it’s a very talked about topic amongst families who are needing to make a change. And what made me think about this recently though is- I have a client that has been searching around the area for a home and they have decided they cannot wait to build… which is understandable. It’s taking between a year, a year and a half to build a new home these days. So they can’t wait for the home to be built. They’ve got to get out of the home they’re in. They haven’t expanded yet. Family home itself is not very healthy. While they’ve done some things to make it a better space, it’s just not as healthy as they’d like it to be.

So they’re looking to buy an existing home. And they actually hired me as a consultant during the search project. It was interesting because every couple of days I would get via email some Zillow listings of homes in the area they’re looking at. And it would give me a chance to pour through the pictures, go through the description of the home and give an idea of what I would think it would take to bring it up to healthy specs. Now, in that process, it allowed me to put together some sort of constant topics to look at and some rules to follow. And I say rules, you can’t see me. But I’m using the air quotes for rules because we all know that if I say a home built in 1948 is the best year to buy, it just kind of depends on what was happening in the area at that time.

Andy: Construction trends across the country start at different timeframes. So what was being done on the East coast or the West coast in 1948 didn’t hit the Midwest here until 1955.

Jay: Will this impact material selections and material access, depending on where you are in the country, you may not be able to get some things that would be available in other parts of the country.

Andy: So exactly right. And there are things that are done in the upper Midwest and aren’t done in the South and so on. These are somewhat general terms of general rules. But first of all, we have to look at homes that are built between let’s say, anything built pre war, pre World War II. So anything built prior to 1940, let’s say. Homes built prior to 1940, you would think by now have been remodeled.

So you’re not going to be the second owner of that home. You’ll probably be the, the 10th owner of that home. If you’re lucky, you might be the second owner of the home. But that then means you have a lot of updating to do, from electrical to plumbing to insulation. But the home itself will be built in a solid foundation. We’ll know that that home was built without the use of the common plastics that are used in today’s homes. So that right there is just a huge benefit, but the problems with the electrical, the problems with plumbing and then things such as asbestos in there and other strange things that could be in their lead based paint and whatnot. Homes built after the war, in the baby boom times, probably in through the late 60s. These homes are kind of in a transition period.

Andy: These are built either utilizing the materials and methods that were done prior to the war or because of the war and because of all the inventions during that time in the plastics industry, homes were starting to be built using plastic materials here and there. But you also have to remember that homes built during this time were built during the baby boom. And during the time when the boys came home from war and some needed a place to live.

Jay: And this was just the beginning of the tract home concept.

Andy: Yep. Beginning of the track home concept. Homes going up awfully fast. Matter of fact, the subdivision that I live in to this day at one point was the largest subdivision in the country. Now this is actually our second home in the same subdivision, this happened to be the subdivision my wife grew up in. So that’s her third home in the division. We love it. We love where we are. We understand the homes in this area, what they are, they were built between 1959 and 1970. We understand how these homes are put together. We know what to expect. And so a lot of it when you’re looking at homes as a general rule, if you’re looking for a home built in around the same time as the one you’re currently living in, understand that this probably a lot of the same technologies being used, if you’re in the same area. All right. And so I know in our subdivision, these homes being built after the war when plastic started to be used, we don’t have a lot to worry about except for some issues with potential mold problems in a roof because of past damage. Or in our area, most homes have basements. So most of these homes around this time, were built with basements that were not designed to be lived in. And this is a big thing for my client who is looking for homes. They wanted to be able to finish out the basement to be utilized for spare rooms. We had a quite a time finding something because homes that were built at this time, those basements were designed to house mechanicals and that’s it. The waterproofing wasn’t good. It was essentially just a damp proofing that was put around the foundation. And, if you have water in the basement, who cares? Because it’s just where the laundry is and where some storage is. If you get a home that was built around this time and you’re the second or third owner and somebody along the way finished out the basement, you can almost guarantee that there’s going to be some inherent mold problems down there because the foundations were never properly waterproofed.

Jay: Here in San Diego where I am, we live in a community just outside of downtown San Diego; we’re surrounded by craftsman homes. And then most people are familiar with what craftsman homes look like. Ours in particular is really unique because I have zero insulation in my walls.

Andy: Oh, wow.

Jay: None. I have some insulation in my attic, I have little in my wall. I have none in my walls. And it’s mainly because we’re in this Mediterranean climate where we don’t have a wide swing and temperatures. But I think what’s funny about that is when we first bought this home 20 years ago, I was doing some work and I was working inside and I was putting some screws into the wall. I didn’t realize that my walls were really only about two inches thick. And so I put a screw through the wall on the inside and then went outside. And that dang screw was poking out and the outside of that house.

Yea so, they call this style Hawaiian bungalow. I don’t know where they got that, that’s basically what it is. It was Redwood, beautiful Redwood, 12 inch redwoods, butted next to each other and then they put a in a board and batten kind of construction. And then on either side of that, some sheet rock on the inside and two layers of sheet rock on the inside. And then just the board and batten on the outside, which was painted. And that’s my wall system. And you know, we could get away with that, but that’s not gonna fly in Wisconsin. We know that.

Andy: Well, won’t fly in Wisconsin and, and really in today’s building codes, that wouldn’t fly just because of the possibility of moisture again.

Jay: Exactly. You wouldn’t be able to get a permit.

Andy: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. This is what I’m talking about. Every area of the country has different struggles and different things to look for. If we look at it big picture wise, homes built around this time up until about 1970… Now, homes built after 1970 between, let’s say 1970 and, 1980 to 85. These homes were built in the mindset of cheap, fast… And starting to become a little more energy efficient. With the oil embargo of the early seventies, people really got a sense of what it’s like when energy costs go up. So if you’re literally burning money trying to heat your home because you have poor insulation, well, builders started to recognize this. Now the downside is while recognition was there, materials and methods weren’t really figured out yet.

Andy: So you’ve got a lot of these homes again, that could be subject to mold problems. You have homes that in this time in the 70s, you’ve got a lot of urea formaldehyde being used in the plywood and plywood was not used just for subfloors, but it was also used for things like cabinetry. Cabinetry back then was not necessarily built in individual units that was then installed on the wall. A lot of times these cabinets were actually built in the house right by the carpenter and stained and finished right there. A lot of lot of toxins that go into that process. By the time you bought the home, you could argue that a lot of those finished toxins were gone, but that plywood is still there. But most of these homes also used just different installation methods. You had soffits above the kitchen cabinets that may be housed plumbing and other things, but don’t really need to be there because it’s unnecessary, just really no more than a place for mold problems to occur and for mice to live in. So in the process of doing a remodeling of this home, you’ve got a lot more than just aesthetic changes to make, which you may have some structural issues that take care of.

Jay: Focusing on the energy of course. And this is what we talk about all the time. That was fine, but it kind of missed the whole mark for indoor air quality.

Andy: You got that right. I mean, that’s the thing is again, they had the mindset of it and understood I think that if it costs more to heat the home, that’s money out of your pocket. But, at this time there wasn’t this building science that we have now and now in the, in the mid to late eighties and throughout most of the the early two thousands, the whole concept of building science and green building really became a focal point of the industry, really became a focal point. Here’s the biggest problem with homes built during that time between the eighties and I would say that the late two thousands: we had a problem with homes being built super, super tight to cut down on an energy loss, but they still forgot about the human occupants of those homes. And so what do we say all the time, Jay? What good is saving the environment if we’re still poisoning the occupants? Well, this is happening in these homes. These homes are designed to perform really well, but then unfortunately there’s no fresh air in the house. There’s a purified air in the house. And as we say, you’ve got to use all the tools in your toolbox to make the indoor air quality healthy for the human occupants, whether it’s in reducing the pollutants or the toxins during construction, air purification, air movement, natural light, all these things that make the indoor air quality better. And they just didn’t have that down yet.

Jay: Yeah. You know, me reminding me of our interview last week with Matt Grocoff of the Thrive Collaborative, folks, if you haven’t had a chance to listen to our interview with Matt, I highly recommend you listen to it because where Andy’s going with the discussion is something that Matt’s addressing with his project. And I think that the value there is that more and more people are looking for the best alternatives. And that means a combination of all the best things. Energy efficiency, yes. Material selection and indoor quality. In Andy and my book, indoor air quality is at the top of the pyramid as it should be.

Andy: Indoor air quality for the occupants of the human occupants. And of course our pets as well. But you know, the living occupants unfortunately. Our industry is full of just wonderful experts that are very concerned about the performance of the home, not from a human health standpoint, but from an energy loss standpoint. And of course that is important, but it should not be the focal point. Right. And you’re right, that interview last week, it really opened my eyes to a number of new ideas. And he’s a wealth of information. Can’t wait to have him back on the show. One of the things that he said really stuck out, and I think I might even said something at that time when he said, you know, he would have these building scientists coming through the house and they’ll say, well, why didn’t you do this down here? You should have done that. You could’ve improved your score. You could have, you know, this. And then he’s like, who cares? I mean, is it working? Check. Yes, it is. Yeah. Did I save tons of money? Am I now making money in this deal? Yes, check. So just because you can do something more doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

Jay: Yeah. I think the other thing that’s happening too is the awareness of the consumer is growing at such a fast pace that they’re now demanding these kind of things. And so you’re seeing, you’re seeing a shift in the builders and they recognize now that there’s real value in that. Their clients and customers are wanting these things. Today, most of the time it’s an option you pay extra for. But very quickly, I think in the next few years going to see all of these things that, and hopefully everything that we’re talking about are becoming, become standard features of a home. Again, Matt Grocoff’s project in Michigan is an example of where I think, and where I hope community development goes.

Andy: Well. And I agree. Of course. I also look at things like, there was and still is I believe an organization out there that’s called the Green Realtors Association. The organization’s realtors they were pushing this for a while. I really liked this concept because there are a lot of folks who are looking to buy an existing home and they want somebody on their side, an expert or a professional on their side asking questions to the seller, what type of installation did you use? What was used during the remodeling when you did remodeling 10 years ago? Just looking for those things. I’ve done it, as I mentioned before, working for clients remotely and they’re sending me pictures and whatnot. I’ve even done where we’re walking through these homes on on a walkthrough and I’m on the phone on FaceTime and they’re showing me things and I’m sure their realtor for the seller was probably wondering what the heck was going on.

But I think something like this is what will drive this narrative further. I believe the realtors who focus on not just finding the right home because it’s in the best area for your kids because it’s has access to, to this and for that. I think more and more people would like to know more about what they’re buying.

Andy: The other thing we look at when the question comes up, should I build new or buy? My response almost always is that if we’re building from scratch, I can guarantee that everything that goes into that home is something that you and I have approved that everybody has put their stamp on and says this is going to be healthy and safe and we’re going to love it. When you buy existing, you don’t know what you’re getting into because you have to peel the layers off the onion in a way. And when you start peeling layers and all of a sudden you find a rotten layer, that’s an unwelcome surprise. But unfortunately when you buy existing, this is what you deal with.

Jay: And it’s difficult too because the way people market their homes now is they have someone come in and fix it up. They paint, maybe they take really nice photographs and then you come in and everything looks great and you’re all excited because this is a new place we’re going to live in. And you know, you’re looking at and you’re going, I don’t have to do very much here. It’s all done. The kitchen’s in, everything’s painted. And that’s where, you know, you get caught up in kind of the enthusiasm and excitement of a change and potentially that could be a pretty big problem. There is the National Association of Realtors has a green component, the site addresses,

Andy: Yeah. So we’ll definitely look into that myself cause I think that that’s probably where this has progressed over the years. I think that this whole concept started probably 10 years ago. I liked this idea. I just think more and more professionals need to be trained on what to look for. So if you buy this home that that was built in the 80s and, you don’t necessarily know what to look for in. And as you say, Jay, they put on a couple of coats of paint and some new carpet. And essentially what we like to refer to as putting lipstick on a pig to make it look in sellable condition, that makes it even more difficult for somebody to determine what’s going on.

Jay: Right. Something has to break, something has to blow up and then, my God, what’s going on here?

Andy: Right? And so on the flip side of that, I’ll always consult my clients who are looking to sell their home. And I’ll tell them, if I were you, I would not paint and put a new flooring and so forth just to try to sell it because a lot of people today recognize that as a sign as you’re trying to cover something up.

Jay: Sure. And it’s very rare that someone moves into a place and doesn’t want to change things anyway.

Andy: Exactly. Right. So if you do any project in your home, I don’t care if you put in purple countertops and yellow floors, if it’s done well, if it’s done using good quality products, it’s tasteful of course. And I know that can kind of change from person to person. But generally speaking, if it’s done well, people will like it. If it’s done hastily just to try to sell the home, it’s going to causing flags to be stuck up.

Jay: How do you, I’m just thinking out loud here, you’re out there looking for a realtor that you want to work with. I mean, what kind of questions would you pose to a realtor in the search phase of this thing? Or you find somebody you think you like and you say, listen, here’s kind of the list of things I’m looking for in a new home. Do you have kind of a short list that you could suggest our listeners think about if they were gonna interview a realtor and get them on the page in terms of the kind of kind of home that they really want? Obviously price is always at the top of this list. You know, what can I afford and is it in my neighborhood? But at the same time I think might some value in saying, okay, these are the priorities for us.

Andy: Well, you raise a really interesting question, which is, if I’m interviewing realtors before I hire them… Yeah. I guess I would like to know how well they know construction.

Jay: Yeah. Very important.

Andy: Uh, do you know the difference between a a TJI joist and an open web truss? Yeah. Do you know the difference between plywood sub floor and 1 by 6 diagonal pine board sub floor?

Jay: Yeah. Because here’s the guy, here’s your realtor. If he knows his stuff, when the, when the, when the, uh, inspection comes through and you’ve got the sheet, you know, 15 pages of inspection document to go through, a person who’s got this knowledge can look at these things and see if there’s any hot spots we need to be aware of.

Andy: Exactly. If they know. And here’s the other thing, is it a realtor that’s specialized in a certain area, a certain subdivision, a certain price points, range. If I’m looking for a home in my area that’s worth $300,000, I’m going to find a realtor that that’s all they deal with. They don’t deal in the multimillion dollar mansions.

Jay: Correct.

Andy: They’re dealing with the low to medium cost homes because I want to know that I’m working with somebody who… these are the homes people are going into on a daily basis. And so, they probably have a better set of questions to ask. I would like to work with somebody who is more health conscious and I don’t need a somebody who is on a keto diet and is doing  marathons. I just want to know that I’m working with somebody who kind of understands the plight that I’m dealing with. But honestly for me, it’s all about does the real estate agent understand how a home gets put together? Therefore they’re going to be working for me to make sure they’re asking questions that I forgot about.

Jay: Right. And I think you’re right about the realtor that’s selling million dollar homes is not going to want to sell a $300,000 home. There’s not enough commission in there for them. If they were even going to do it. My feeling is that they probably just kind of be cursory in terms of the research. You’re right, I think you want to find someone who’s in that category and especially if it’s in a neighborhood you want to be in, you find that the person in that neighborhood who’s got the track record and understands, as Andy said, very importantly, understands construction. I think that’s really a big deal.

Andy: It is. It is. And so there are other things to look for, of course. Does the realtor know about the other homes in subdivision? And what I mean by that is, do we know if there’s a radon problem in the area, if other homes are requiring the need to install whole house water purification systems. There’s a lot of information out there to be had by just knocking on the door of a potential neighbor.

Jay: The other thing too, and Andy and I talked about this off-show, and depending on where you live, there may be some historical home risk or requirements that you have to follow and comply with.

Andy: That’s a big one, Jay.

Jay: Yeah. So you need to understand what those might be and the associated costs with that and the limitations you’re going to face when…. We here in San Diego have something in our area near downtown called the Mills Act. And basically if you’ve got a historical home, it’s designated under the Mills Act, you are really restricted in what you can and can’t do. They make sure you do what you are proposing to do and it falls within the Mills Act guidelines and they’ll come in and inspect your home. And if you didn’t do it that way, you’re going to have to do it over. So it’s important to make sure that when you’re considering a property, and it may be the designated historical, that you figure out exactly what that means in terms of what you can can and can’t do.

Andy: Right. On that same train of thought, there is also a home that was built in a subdivision that may have architectural controls. And of course that doesn’t really deal with the inside of the home. But if you’re doing remodeling or major renovation where the outside will be touched, you’re kind of limited to use the materials that the association allows you to use. And this is something to talk about prior to putting an offer on that house because what are those material recommendations or requirements. And is that something that you can tolerate because of sensitivities?

Jay: Yeah, and I think many times that’s as much decorative as anything else. However, I have known people who have moved into controlled community like that and you can’t leave your garage door open. That kind of handcuffing seems a little extreme to me. Well, Andy, it’s been a great topic. I think unless there’s something else that we can talk about and I’m sure this can lead to other discussions and when we bring in people for interviews folks, hopefully, be able to expand a little bit on the subject and going forward.

Andy: Well, it’s interesting you say that Jay, because you know, this is our 90th episode, 90 episodes of Non Toxic and it’s amazing. The topic comes up between Jay and I in conversation. It’s like, well, what are we going to talk about next week? What should we talk about next month? And you know, we’ve talked about a lot of things in the last year…

Well folks, I had to stop that episode between the audio problems, my cold, that I just cannot seem to shake. It really started getting to be quite annoying for me to even listen to so I’m sure sure you’re having the same technical problems with it, but we did the best we could to put it together for you. We wanted to get the information out because it is good information really is good information. But a bad delivery on our part this week. I do apologize, still trying to work through some of the technical issues with the new equipment that we have here. And again, once I get rid of this cold, I should be able to record some better audio myself. So on behalf of Jay and I will apologize to Jay and for Jay for these audio problems, but it seems to be on my end here. But anyway, folks would really appreciate you listening to the show, especially on weeks like this where we just can’t seem to get it to sound good. But the information is still there, so thank you so much. Please follow and subscribe to our show and leave us a rating and review. We greatly appreciate that and we’ll be back with you again next week with another great topic, better audio. We appreciate you listening. Thanks a lot folks.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Electrify Everything

Excellent discussion today with Matt Grocoff, an American environmentalist and sustainability advocate, writer, speaker and founder of the THRIVE Collaborative.  He is known for his work on net zero energy and net zero water buildings and for the rehabilitation of the oldest home in North America to achieve net zero energy.  Matt shares his own personal story about his home, along with the massive development projects he’s undertaking in Michigan and elsewhere.  

Google Play


NTE Podcast: Electrify Everything

Electrify Everything

Andy: This is episode 302 of Non Toxic Environments: Electrifying Everything. 

Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments everybody. This is Andy Pace. Today is a fantastic episode. We’re I’m really excited to talk to you today and share a conversation we had recently with somebody that Jay has known for for quite a long time. They’ve actually worked on some projects together and I think you’re going to be extremely, extremely interested to listen to this discussion. I will say this, you’re going to want to have a notepad ready, or you know, be in a place where you can pause and play and write things down. A lot to digest in this episode. I think today will be a very, very informative, enlightening episode. So today we have a Matt Grocoff.

Matt is an American environmentalist sustainability advocate, writer, speaker and founder of the Thrive Collaborative. He is known for his work on net zero energy and net zero water buildings. And for the rehabilitation of the oldest home in North America to achieve net zero energy. This happened several years ago and still to this day today… he’ll touch on that. Matt is a contributor to the radio show the Environmental Report produced by Michigan radio which is part of a NPR network. He’s part of the Fox news energy team and was host of Greenovation TV. And that’s how I got to hear about him years ago. He advocates for the modernized distributed, renewable energy networks and distributed water and wastewater systems that work with natural systems. He’s working on some fabulous projects, again, a wealth of information, lots to digest. We get the feeling this episode not only will be downloaded more often than our most of our episodes we already have, and have plans to have him back on the show as his projects progress. So, without any further adieu, here is my partner Jay Watts and Matt Grocoff.

Jay Watts: Hey everyone. Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Andy and I are here for the first interview of the year with Matt Grocoff. Matt and I have a little bit of a history. Matt and I met back when he was working on his home in Michigan. And by the way, let me interject by saying Matt built the first net zero home in the country back then. Matt came to our company because he wanted to build a healthy home as well as a net zero energy home and we were able to do some business with our AFM products in his home. And then, Matt has gone on a greater, greater and greater heights. And I’m gonna, I’m gonna let him talk about what he’s done with his home and what he did in between and what he’s got on the on the horizon now in a really, really exciting project there in Michigan. Matt Grocoff.

Matt Grocoff: Yeah, thanks. Hey, thanks for having me on guys. And great to see you again. We do go way back that the house itself, it’s actually not the person who had zero house, but it’s the first, historic retrofit house. So it is still sadly, actually the oldest home in America to achieve net zero energy. So in 2014, we were certified through the International Living Future Institute, living, building challenge, net sort of energy. What I say that’s extraordinary about our house is that it’s totally ordinary. In 2006, my wife and I were running by this old house on the old West side, in Ann Arbor in this historic district. And we found this house that was up for sale. It had asbestos siding and had lead paint in every room. It had carpeting covering heart pine floors from trees that were growing at the time Columbus had sailed for America. It had a refrigerator in the kitchen from 1987 and you could hear the thing humming all over the house and it had a Mueller climate trawl furnace in the basement, which was this gas fed steel plated furnace, that costs us about $350 a month to heat the house. And I use the term ‘heat’ very generously because at night we would have to stuff buckwheat pillows and put it in the microwave down in the bottom of our comforter and sleep with full sweat pants and socks on just to stay warm in the house. And then through a process, we retrofitted the house to historic preservation standards. We electrified it. So we had DT come in and remove all the gas lines from the property. We have an induction cooktop, heat pump, water heater, geothermal. So it really got actually very basic things. Just, electrify everything, unplug the gas and put up solar. And that was functionally what we did. Everything else was really just using healthy materials and things like that. For our own personal comfort. Shortly after we put up the solar panels, we were able to achieve net zero energy from that. So that’s where we are.

Jay: I’m just wondering at that time as you were doing the project and going through it, by the way, how long did it take? What was the timeframe and all of that?

Matt: Well, we’re still working on it. We bought the house in the fall, late fall, early winter 2006. And then we really started working on it 2007 and we did a lot of the work ourselves, a lot of sweat equity. We completed most of the renovation by 2010 and installed the solar panels at that time. We did not do the kitchen cause what we did was we invested in, instead of investing in the kitchen, we invested in the solar panels. By the time the solar panels were paid off, our friends who had bought an SUV the same year that we put up the solar panels, had a five-year-old SUV and we had free energy for life. And then we took that money in the energy savings, and the renewable energy credits we were receiving we renovated the kitchen. So we’ve got free energy for life and a virtually free kitchen.

Jay: Wow.

Andy: You know, that’s one of the things I was going to talk about, Matt, was the payback period for solar. That’s one of the questions we get a lot of times from our clients is we’d like to do it, but you know, how long is it going to take to actually pay back the investments? And it sounds like it was just a few short years for you.

Matt: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I think the average right now, nationwide, it’s about seven years. So it’s more or less in some communities. But if you look at other places around the world that really eliminated the soft costs, the payback is much quicker than that. And it’s not about how much time it takes to pay back. If we’re talking just purely economics here. It’s really the cost per kilowatt hour and the cost per kilowatt hour over time over the life of this system is a you as well, under 6 cents a kilowatt hour in virtually every place or some places where it’s under 3 cents a kilowatt hour. And you can compare that to what we’re paying here in Southeast Michigan and about 15, 16 cents a kilowatt hour to the utility, 2 cents of that is just for billing alone.

Andy: Wow. Well, very impressive. Very impressive.

Jay: So after going through the process, you and your wife are doing all the hard stuff. This is a story I gotta tell, I want to tell, where did that light go off in your head? I mean, were you just thinking you were going to just do this and this is the way you were going to live in, it was just going to be your story. It wasn’t the truth. I mean, you went on big, big time talking about this though as many people as you could. Did that come to you as you were doing it? Did you just figure, man, we need to tell this story? Or how did that go down?

Matt: We knew we were going to be telling a story and we knew we were one of the first. We really at the time didn’t consider ourselves pioneers. I’m not, I’m not an architect and an engineer. My background was in law, actually entertainment. I think I met you during my TV Greeninnovation days.

Jay: Yeah. We want to talk about that too a little bit. Go ahead.

Matt: Again, for us it was just a matter of renovating an old house and doing it. Like at the time Ray Anderson was in the middle of their mission zero for interface carpets. Right? And I figure if a global multinational corporation can achieve a mission zero, why couldn’t a single family home? And because I didn’t have the educational background to tell me that it wasn’t possible, we just did it. We saw, hey look, there’s a house with a South facing roof. Let’s insulate it. Let’s tighten up the windows as much as we can. Let’s make it more efficient. Let’s put up solar. Let’s just do it. We did it. We violated every rule at the time of of the conventional green building thinking. We did not insulate our basement; we couldn’t, there’s all kinds of issues there. But, what we were able to do was just, again, like they’re doing in Europe really reduced the energy consumption as much as you can, but it’s not about efficiency. It’s really about becoming all electric and then powering that with solar. And now at the time that the solar power was seven, $7 per installed watt, now we’re talking about under $2 and installed what, here in Ann Arbor and most places nationwide. But you know, the economics is really part of the story here. We know about this 1.5 degree target. We know that we’re at this catastrophic tipping point. All of the data right now shows pretty clearly, pretty compellingly, by 2030 we will likely blow past that 1.5 degree target, just by the existing infrastructure alone. And in the meantime, we keep building new buildings that are not all electric, that haven’t met the fundamental precondition of de-carbonization.

Matt: If universally cities around the globe are committing and saying, we’re in a climate crisis, we have a climate emergency and make these emergency declarations, we’ve got Paris, we’ve got all the science we need. And then we have this little girl from Sweden going around the world and saying, listen, we’re not doing what we need to do. It’s really that simple. I thought that, more than 10 years ago when we were doing this house, and I sat in a number of interviews at the time that if we’re still the oldest home in America to achieve net zero, and you five years from now, and then we failed, well, it’s more than 10 years now and we haven’t achieved it. So we’re way falling short on those goals. So if we’re really looking at a scenario where we’re blowing past that 1.5 degrees before 2030, we’ve got really dire circumstances.

Matt: The problem with that narrative is, is that we’re hearing about the wildfires in Australia. We’re, we’re hearing about these dire consequences of what’s going on. What is missing is this really inspirational narrative of what does de-carbonization look like? Is it this world of sacrifice where we’re all living in a bunch of yurts and wearing Birkenstocks and bathing in a pasta water? It’s not, nobody is presenting that vision. So, this goes to what we’re doing now with a Veridian at County farm, which is a neighborhood that we’re building here in Ann Arbor on 13 acres of land. We’re partnering with a nonprofit, affordable housing provider. And, the on the nonprofit side, they’re going to be developing 50 homes. A number of those homes where people who have formerly or recently experienced homelessness. And on our parcel of the Veridian County farm project, we’ll be building market rate homes.

Matt: Our parcel is registered with the living community challenge, which is basically a neighborhood of living buildings. So our target is that the entire neighborhood will be zero energy. It will be 100% all electric, no combustion appliances of any kind. There’ll be no gas lines connected to the property whatsoever. And while that sounds radical, again, it’s a preconditioned to de-carbonization how could we possibly decarbonize if we’re building a new building or a new neighborhood that has a gas line pipe to it? You’re immediately creating another item that you’re adding to the retrofit list. That’s something else that we have to retrofit. Every time we build a new building that has a gas stove in it, simply just the gas stove is a requirement to continue those pipelines that are running through Michigan and everywhere else. You can’t shut down those pipelines until we find a way to remove those gas stoves. So first thing we need to do is stop adding more new guests infrastructure.

Andy: You know, it, it makes me think of years ago when, when we first got into the business, I remember going to… my background is architecture and commercial construction and I started selling healthy building materials back in 1992 and I remember in 95, 96 I was president of the largest architectural association of Wisconsin. And so all my friends were architectural principal architects and business owners and so forth. People who are icons of the industry. And I remember presenting information to these folks about products like what Jay manufacturers and whatnot and their excuse of why they wouldn’t use it was, well, you know, you just got to find that customer who’s willing to accept that look, to accept that that direction, you gotta find those types of customers.

Andy: I hear that. And then I hear, why wouldn’t anybody buy all electric automobiles, because well, it doesn’t look like a regular vehicle. You know, it gets me thinking like, why are we such basic people in this world that if we would just make things, build things that look like everything else, they don’t care how it’s powered, they don’t care what it’s made from. All they care about is that it has the look. And it sounds to me like when you’re building or you’re looking at building a community of homes that people aren’t gonna really necessarily know or even care how you got to that point as long as it looks like their friends’ homes and whatnot. But at the end of the day, once they live in it, they’ll go, wow, I can’t believe I’m actually living in a home like this.

I mean, you’re living in a home that that takes, that now costs you zero for energy. And if somebody buys the home from you down the road, the benefit to them is, I’m not paying for energy this is unbelievable. I don’t care how you got to that point. So I just think that, you know, especially here in the U S it’s all about perception. It’s all about how things look and how things look to other people and whatnot. As long as everything starts to sort of mainstream in the appearance, I don’t think we’re getting much blowback from people on what it’s gonna take to get to that.

Matt: Right, right. Yeah. And again, I think what’s missing, like you said, it’s just that, that inspiring vision of what the future looks like. Right? And so I gave a talk yesterday where I basically showed the Veridian logo up on the screen, said, we’re just going to talk about a future that doesn’t suck. It’s beautiful and it’s inspiring. We’re marketing this project not so much as this an icon of sustainability, but just a place that is beautiful to live.

Jay: Andy touches on something. So in terms of this development in the architectural features, was there a committee, you guys sat together and say, how do we make these things look so people will want to buy them? I mean, how did that go down? Was that pretty easy?

Matt: Oh gosh. Design is never easy. Although it should be. We’re actually still working on the building designs. It was interesting because a couple of nights ago when I was giving another lecture somewhere else, someone came up to me, a older guy, clearly from the old school of sustainability, Very challenging and critical in saying, “well, all the roofs aren’t facing South. What’s wrong with this? How are you going to make a net zero neighborhood? None of the roof’s facing South.” I said, well, that’s, that’s a really good point. I said, everything South is a great way to maximize your solar gain, your solar efficiency. Our goal is not solely to absorb as much solar energy as we possibly can on this project. Our holistic goal is primarily that this is a beautiful and sustainable neighborhood and a function of that is that it will be harvesting all of its own energy as long as we can harvest all of our own energy maximization is not necessary.

Matt: What we’re looking to do is optimize in the same way that nature does. So I pointed out to him that if you look around any tree around here in Ann Arbor, Michigan, or anywhere else on the planet, not all the leaves are facing South. In fact, about half of them are on the North side and on the underside of the trees are stuck inside the dense canopy of the tree. It’s not there trying to create this perfect angle based on your latitude to maximize that sunlight. It’s there to harvest all of the energy that it needs and it is adapted to that site and makes it work. Because we designed the neighborhood in a very holistic fashion starting from the bottom up. And what I mean from the bottom up is literally from the soil, we’ve done over 23 test pits around the project. We were crying, we were asked to do six for the storm water management that we were doing. We’ve done 23 and we’ll probably be doing some more coming up. Cause what we want to have is a really granular, literally granular level analysis of what is underground here, what’s going on, and then build everything above that. And then really from that determining where is water flowing, where does it want to go, um, how do we replenish the aquifers and keep that rainwater, borrow it in the project and put it back into the aquifers where it would’ve gone if the development had never existed, if no development had ever existed there. And restoring those ecological conditions. We also want to have plenty of trees throughout the project. We’re going to have a 30% of the landscaping is going to be dedicated to food production.

Matt: So we’ll have street trees lined with fruit. We’ll have formed some formal gardens, we’ll have native species that are food producing and then plants. We would harvest all of these things. So all of these things become integrated into the design. So our very first design charrette that we had three years ago, which was a very intense six hour design charrette, where we had all of our team members that are still on the team, most of them are still on the team, in one room, including the people from the affordable housing saying, let’s talk with the, the biologists and the architects and the landscape architects and the engineers and civil engineers, and the affordable housing folks and the finance people, all of them in one room together. And let’s say, what do we, what are we trying to achieve? And then when you build it from the bottom up, you get this very organic like structure. And what you get is not a forest of rows of trees all with all their leaves on the South side. You get this really dynamic leaf like structure. And that’s what you see at Veridian.

Andy: That’s what you see in nature. And I think as architects and planners, we make the mistake of always striving for what we would call perfection nature itself is perfect because it’s imperfect.

Matt: So yeah, you remind me of an old line. I used to always say in interviews and in lectures, I say it’s not about perfection, it’s about performance.

Andy: There you go.

Matt: And so people would come into my basement, I would love it. All these LEED reviewers. So they would come into base and say, Oh, well, you know, why didn’t you insulate these walls down here in the basement? You put in foam in the sill plate, but you didn’t insulate the walls at all. Right? And I said, yeah, I could have done that, but let me show you our energy bill. We are  now at zero, we are achieving what we’re trying to achieve. Their home, incidentally, that person who asked that, had an insulated basement, right? They were not, they were not a net user of energy.

I use the analogy which is a more effective method, to harvest and store water for an organism. Is it the is the saguaro cactus better? Is the Burr Oak tree better? Well, it depends. If I try to go and plant a Burr Oak tree from Ann Arbor in the Sonora desert, I’m not a very good mechanism for harvesting rain water and, and so you really can’t compare the two, which is why I ended up never writing a book about our house because I didn’t really feel like our house could inform others on what they should do. It would’ve been about two pages because it’s really the principle of what we did that should be replicated, not the design itself. The design itself should be adapted to the place.

Andy: That is exactly how we look at, helping folks live in a healthy home. And the line I always use is it’s not about perfection, it’s about tolerance. It is about if somebody has severe chemical sensitivity, we’re not ever going to be able to design and build the perfect home. We want to build a home or remodel a home that is tolerable to heal themselves and their other medical issues. Those in the past, we could probably talk about people we both know from the past who did write books and then got shunned by their own community of experts because they didn’t do it right. You know, they didn’t do it the way industry says is correct; they still did it. I know one John Bauer is a client of mine and he wrote the original book and how to build a healthy home. He’s no longer in the business because, people tried his way and it didn’t work for them and they thought it was his fault. And so every job is different. Every situation is different. What you did in your home is amazing for your home and you’re exactly correct. What you are doing is encouraging people to create their own story.

Matt: Years ago I used to get a lecture called an Energy Ball modeled on Moneyball. Right? So if you ever read that book or saw the movie Moneyball… For a century baseball was, look, it’s statistics rich, right? The green building industry has no shortage of statistics. We’ve got, the HERS rating was always one of my favorites. And by the way, my house, which achieved zero energy, had a HERS rating of 47, including the solar panels. And it’s like, it’s not measuring something right here. It’s getting something wrong. Turns out years later when they finally did an analysis of the HERS rating, they found that it had about a 45% error rate. That’s how accurate it was. It was accurate in the range of about 45%, almost a flip of a coin. So, nobody had ever gone back and taken a look. It’s like, are these measures the correct measures? And like in Moneyball, if you really started looking at those things, let’s look at the team holistically. Let’s not try to get the home run hitter. And while insulating your basement might be a home run hitter, the goal is not to hit the most home runs. The goal is to get the most points on the board. Right. And that’s what we’re really trying to do.

Jay: You know, that story reminds me of the people come to us who have had an indoor air quality person come in and do an air analysis of their home, and it’s a fairly kind of ambient air test where they’re just testing what’s going around in the air, and of course, that can give you some sense of what’s going on. But then, you know, the question becomes, well, I’ve got a pollution problem. Where’s it coming from? I don’t know what surface is the offender here, Actually, there’s a formaldehyde testing protocol that Andy’s pioneering now that helps people to figure out what service in their home is actually the polluter. And then, you know, taking steps to remediate that and then moving from that to whatever other polluters may be around. You reminded me of that when you’re talking about the HERS measurement. The other question I was in my mind was, um, oh boy it went away. I got on that other tangent.

Andy: Matt, I wanted to ask you about, you briefly touched on it is what you did with Greenovation TV. And I want to bring this up and I realize that you’re no longer doing it, but it’s…

Matt: Well, you mentioned the green innovation TV as an old friend.

Andy: Right? And so what I love about it is, I love stories about things that I think we’re way ahead of its time.

Matt: That’s how Jay and I actually got to know each other. Actually we may have first connected when I was living in Santa Monica, and as soon as I moved to a small home in Santa Monica in 2001 I think it was, and tried to find healthy paint. I actually had to go… I don’t remember where I drove to, but it was far out to Echo Park or something to pick it up.

Jay: Yeah, yeah. You went out to Par Paint I think in Los Angeles.

Matt: That’s right. Yeah. So when they were the only ones that had it. When we moved to Ann Arbor, I tried to pitch a number of shows for a green renovation style shows in the early 2000s. And at the time it was really a lot focused on energy efficiency and health. Right. But what you were doing on a show like HDTV where you had this very narrow band of shows available to you, cause it was just cable at the time, there were no internet TV shows. You were basically going to be making the argument of- oh hey, all of your sponsors are poisoning your viewers and that didn’t fly. We also try to put your home also called Celebrity Greenhouses, but then when we really went through the list of stuff after you got through those five celebrities that actually had greenhouses, this series was over.

So there wasn’t much opportunity for that kind of stuff. Then when are the early days of streaming came around and I’m talking about 2000, 2005, 2006, there’s really just the infancy of YouTube. And there was really this vision that there was an opportunity to kind of start having these niche shows like this podcast. Right? This wouldn’t have existed 15 years ago. A bit ahead of the curve and while it was popular at the time. That technology was just not there to be watching shows on your television set that were streamed through the internet.

Andy: Desires to go back to it?

Matt: No, no, no, no, no. Uh, yeah, no, I think there’s other opportunities now. I think there’s really good opportunities now. There’s no shortage of good environmental programming. Now you have even, you know, if you look at Richard Attenborough’s new stuff, David Attenborough, wait, which one is it? David Attenborough’s new stuff. He’s no longer just telling you about these majestic blue whales in the ocean. He’s also telling you about the impacts about those blue whales. And that was a real change in his ability to impact the BBC frankly, and saying, I need to talk about these things. We’ve witnessed this for 40 years now in the programming we’re doing. We need to start talking about it. There’s plenty of good opportunities and ways for people to learn. And the other side of this is it’s not just going to be about educating consumers. This is not the consumers fault that we’re allowing the poisoning of their homes. We’re making de-carbonization so damn difficult for consumers. It’s not about personal choice and personal responsibility. And that’s what a lot of industry wants people to be fighting about is that this is your fault. You’re flying around the world. It’s your fault. You’ve got a big air conditioner instead of a geothermal. It’s your fault. And that’s not gonna solve the problem. What’s going to solve the problem is really these more inspiring visions. So when we came to terms with selling one off net zero energy homes, the first thing to go when every project is going to have a budget problem at some point is, well, let’s take away the solar panels. Well, let’s just do a regular heater instead of instead of a geothermal system.

Matt: So they start striking off the line items. Whereas if you create just a beautiful vision of a wonderful community and you tell them, here is a net zero energy home, we’re not going to ask you permission to not put cancer causing paint in your house. We’re just gonna do it and say, this is what it comes with. We’re not using red list materials. And what we find is those are actually beneficial from a marketing perspective. We’re selling you a healthy home that has no energy bill and by God it’s fricking beautiful and it’s in your price range. So buy it. That’s it. This becomes a much harder challenge when we start talking about affordable housing, because there’s disincentives actually in affordable housing to spend to shift costs. It’s really what it is, right? Let’s shift the cost material to get healthier materials or more efficient materials.

Matt: We’ll put solar panels up, which from your shifting costs, from an operational perspective and the affordable housing from, I’m paying the energy bills for this tenant for the rest of their lives to I’m going to install solar panels now and make the building more expensive. There’s no mechanism for them to do that. And in many States like Michigan, you also have issues with master metering laws, which basically say that you can’t give away energy through a meter that the utility company owns. So you can’t have multiple multifamily housing with solar panels. You can have solar and all the common areas, but not on the tenant areas, which is a real problem. So these are the kinds of things that need to change. And things like, renewable energy micro grids that we’re really pushing hard for and we’ve got a good chance of achieving at Veridian because we’re already deploying all of the technology necessary for a virtual power plant or a micro grid or whatever you want to call it, how I restructure it.

There’s going to be solar panels with storage. The difference now becomes with how that energy interfaces with the macro grid. And that’s done simply through basic hard infrastructure and software controlling those electrons. So now you can imagine a scenario where we have this entire net zero energy neighborhood that is producing solar electrons from solar and the ability to store those electrons from solar. And now we can give the utility company the control of that software. Where are the electrons going? So they can say, this is how much energy the grid needs right now. It’s more than you’re producing. So we’re going to push all of this energy that you’re producing into the batteries. Now it’s still too much. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to shift on some of your appliances that you need to use later, and we’re going to use your solar power or the energy that we’re producing from the grid right now and put that and use that energy.

Matt: And then we’re going to shut off the usage. We’re going to control the use patterns. We’re going to have a demand response. So we’re going to reduce the demand of this neighborhood at 5:00 PM when the demand and all the surrounding neighborhoods that are not micro grids are going to be rising. So now all of a sudden you have this highly beneficial solar that hasn’t had an extraordinary impact on the grid, reducing the amount that they have to upgrade that grid because the electrons are flowing in a more gentle fashion rather than a forced fashion. What happens now, and what a lot of people were pro proponents of renewable energy are saying, it’s like, let’s flood the grid with renewable energy. And that’s not actually a good solution. There’s the grids as they’re designed cannot take that power often. So if you drive through Ontario, just on the other side of the border here in Michigan, you’ll drive for miles and miles and miles through fields of wind turbines on a windy day.

Matt: And oftentimes half of them will not be spinning. That’s called curtailment because it is easier to shut off the electrons that are coming from that renewable energy farm than it is to shut off the electrons that are coming from a coal burning power plant. So if we can shift that dynamic and create networks of micro grids, thousands them all over the state, and then have an interconnected through the macro grid and through local micro grids, and then in each individual house can also be isolated. So you’ve got your little nano grid, so now you’re starting to scale up like nature, where you’ve got this nano grid, this micro grid, this, the bigger community level grid, and then the macro grid that can be regional. Now you can imagine where you have all these things in this dynamic control where you’ve got demand response, so you’re shifting the time of day, the energy is being used. You’ve got an energy storage and you’ve got the ability to pull those electrons out or push them back in, in a millisecond rather than this long length of time that it takes to ramp up or ramp down nuclear coal or gas plants. So it’s much, much more dynamic, much cleaner and then you can actually be curtailing the fossil fuel portion of that grid rather than the renewable energy portion of that grid. So you’re getting what I call, you know, beneficial electricity at that point. So it sounds pretty damn exciting.

Andy: It is very exciting and you are a wealth of information and I can, I’ll speak for our entire audience, especially as well Jay, I’m sure, I’m sure I’m speaking for you and I say, I think the world is a better place that you’re no longer doing Greeninnovation TV and you’re actually focusing on this.

Matt: No, honestly, it’s interesting you say that because there that was a frustration in this. It’s like, so during green innovation TV, I was out there consulting and I was partnering with my good friend Dave. People could take it or leave it when you’re consulting, right? And when you’re doing these one-off buildings. So after a decade of that, there was very little progress. It’s like I can’t convince people that an induction cooktop is better, much less looking at something from a holistic fashion. So the people who are achieving net zero energy, even if they achieved it, what would the model have been? It would have been, you know, frankly it would have been younger baby boomers who are retiring and want to do it out of the goodness of their heart. Well, that, that’s not how we’re going to change the world. It needs to be changed on a bigger scale. So that’s why we propose for radiant, let’s just develop a neighborhood that is done right. So we were able to get the county to sell us this land at a reduced price. So where other bidders had been three and a half million dollars for this property, we were able to get the land for our purchase price is $1 million. A third of the property is going to be used for affordable housing. Two thirds of it will be for these market rate homes, but we’re able to thread that needle between the conventional building process and then still do this in a living community challenge and living building challenge framework. The next shift you’re going to see in green building, in green business of any kind really of, you’re starting to see it now, even this week is, is the financing field.

Matt: So, last week the CEO of BlackRock financial, very conservative financial company, they invest money for people in dozens and dozens of country around the world. They have trillions of dollars in assets. A conservative CEO and a conservative company said, climate crisis is a very serious issue for investors. Those who are not paying attention to it are going to get burned in a very big way. It is incredibly volatile. It will shift faster than people will be able to react to it. And so they are, they announced it, they are transitioning, through a letter to CEOs of all the companies that they invest in. They said we’re going to be removing our assets from any of your companies that are not on a path to de-carbonization. So it’s pretty extraordinary. So you’re starting to see this in the real estate field as well. There’s just frankly very little product on the market for people to invest in. So what we’ve done is we’ve actually opened up breeding at county farm, just a small portion, just half a million dollars of our total equity raise, a on a crowdfunding platform called Local Stake. And we opened it up for as little as $500, so that people who live in the neighborhood can actually become equity investors in the development phase of the project, where typically you would have had to have $3 million or so to be able to invest in a project like this, and then still be able to get the same kind of return that you would get if you were one of these wealthier accredited investors. It’s a way and like everything else we’re doing in this project. It’s not just about this one project.

Matt: We have very big plans to expand this, to do this multiple times, and then educate other developers. Because frankly, if KB and Pulte and Toll Brothers aren’t doing this in the next decade, then my home and Veridian are meaningless. You cannot have a sustainable house on a dead planet. There is no such thing. There’s no such thing as a sustainable thing and has to all be part of networks. So what we’re trying to make a statement with Local Stakes crowd funding mechanism is that people are interested in investing in decarbonizing neighborhoods. We want to show that those investments can be very lucrative. Ann Arbor where we’re doing the projects is actually kind of a perfect storm to do this. Probably not the best metaphor. But I’ll think of a positive metaphor that’s the equivalent of a perfect storm. All the stars are aligning. A plot of land is actually at the corner of 130 acre park. So it’s inside of this park, it’s adjacent to neighborhoods where homes are selling for $2 million, right near neighborhoods that are selling for $300,000 houses. So you’ve got this balance of kind of income levels in the community. It’s right near the university of Michigan and research hospitals. It’s right by a Whole Foods market, walking distance to Whole Foods. So we’re able to just build a neighborhood with these beautiful homes in it, try to target different levels of price points where we could have these micro units. We’re calling the nest homes, which we can target for under $200,000, which are inside of a larger articulates on the street. And it’s a large home with a big wraparound front porch, a 10 to 14 micro units on the inside, each independent of each other.

Matt: They all have their own kitchens and bedrooms and bathrooms, but then they also share a common space that have the same kind of luxury amenities that the $750,000 house, right next door has. So you get the chef’s kitchen and flat screen TV in this living room, and you can share with other tenants in the building and still have your Thanksgiving dinner down there if you’d like even though you’ve got this one unit, this micro unit. And we’re targeting these different price points, and then exploring deeper things like mobility through car share programs. So we’ll have Evie car share. We’ll have bike share, cargo bike share, all through a little app that exclusively people in the neighborhood will be able to have access to the cars. So really encouraging either I, you know, less car ownership or no car ownership. Even that you will be able to get around when you need to on demand to anywhere you need to go in Ann Arbor. And if you need to go a further distance to Detroit, you can just pick up your app, you can take one of the electric vehicles and you can drive yourself to Detroit.

Jay: Well I’ve got two quick, I got two questions for you. First question is what’s the move in horizon? And then the second question is where can I send my a down payment check?

Matt: Oh yeah. So one of the criticisms we’ve gotten, it’s interesting you mentioned that, it’s really funny what people get angry at you about. On one side they’re like, well, you know, this is real estate. What’s the risk of you guys not selling the homes? So there’s always that risk, right? It’s real estate. But then two minutes later, other people are yelling at us, we really want to buy a home there, but we have all these people living in Ann Arbor from California! There’s not enough homes for sale! I don’t want to get into a bidding war. How are we ensured that this house isn’t going to sell for above market price? Someone’s going to want to put 50% cash down. And so they, the, the audience members came up with this idea. They said, what if you were to open up presales at your market rate price without any bidding war to people who invest at a certain level?

And so we actually broke that down even further and we’re giving this perk that if you invest $5,000, opportunity to, for presales for any of the units. And if you do $2,000 you get the opportunity to get into a presale for any of the other lower cost units. And the reason we did that was we realized that, through crowd funding, you’re only allowed to do 5% of your annual income maximum is what they encourage you to do. They didn’t want an unsophisticated investors investing half their income in a crowd fund that somebody might be trying to scam them on. This way, somebody of a lower income level could still invest in the project and get in on an early pre-sale of a unit that’s in their price range.

Jay: So when in the moving van it’s going to be able to move in. What’s the timeframe?

Matt: We’re in planning right now with city Ann Arbor. We’ve gotten very good, very positive feedback from the city of Ann Arbor. We’ve been in close communication with staff for over two years now. We hope to have approval from city council sometime in early spring of this year. Once all of our financing is in place, we’ll break ground. So hopefully this summer we’ll be breaking ground for the horizontal infrastructure. And that’s the part of the investment. Then once presales are complete, then money from that goes back to pay off the investors. And the banks and the construction, the vertical construction begins, and that is financed through everybody’s mortgages. We’re looking at a pathway for us to bypass the conventional bank structure. Through some really higher end, very sophisticated investment firms that are looking to accelerate these kinds of neighborhoods.They would basically be our bank. For us, the money is more expensive for us, but it gives us more flexibility. We’re not dealing with banks who are saying, we’ll give you this much money for your storm drains. And then we’ll give you the second half and you can build a second half of the pipe later. That’s the typical way of bank would work. The conventional finance system works. It’s like we’ll phase the money as you need to add a pipe. We’re not doing conventional pipes for our storm water. We’re not even calling it storm water. We’re calling it rainwater cause that’s what it is. So it’s rainwater management. And so our design is very upfront and very holistic. So again, it’s designed with the food production. It is designed with the narrative of beauty for the neighborhood. So all the food and the native plantings and the sidewalks are all a part of our water infrastructure need to be built all at once. So again, by opening this up, crowdfunding, this gives the opportunity to do other developers later to say, hey, what if we looked at it like other conventional developers have done and done do the entire thing through crowd funding and bypassing the conventional bank infrastructure? So if we can get to our goal of the half million dollar raise pretty quickly, we’ll be able to say that in our next project we might ask for more through crowd funding that way. Once we get through that process and vertical construction begins, we’re looking at 2021, 2022 for moving dates. And then that’s when the living community challenge would begin and occupancy. We’ll be doing indoor air quality testing. So if we’re using AFM paints, we can be assured that if there is something going on, we were going to know where it’s coming from, which we don’t expect.

Jay: All I can say is that as you just mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, there hasn’t been a vision and I think you’ve really created an incredible vision for our future exists. And I know Andy would agree. I’m seeing him shaking his head. Yes, exactly right. Andy, any other questions for Matt before we before we end this podcast, which has been an incredible, incredible podcast. I’m really inspired. I was serious when I was asking those questions about moving and money.

Matt: No, we get that quite a bit. A larger investor came to us and said, you know, I’d like to invest in the project and, by the way, we really want to live there. Can we get in? We had to put into his memorandum of understanding when he was investing that he gets first dibs.

Andy: Unfortunately, we have come to the conclusion we have, we are run out of time. However, it’s clear Matt we need to have you back on the show to, to hear how the object is going.

Matt: It’d be nice. I actually going to be doing the environment report on public radio. I’m gonna be doing a series for them using different elements of the living community challenge. And I’m happy to come back and talk about each one of those things. What are we doing for energy? What are you doing for equity, for water, for native landscaping, habitat exchange, all these really exciting dynamic stuff. And then talk about financing and things like that too. And I do want to give a shout out and if we can that, it’s a Veridian with E, or you can find me on, on LinkedIn, Matt Grocoff. Get in touch. You have any questions about investing or anything like that. It’s pretty straight forward. It’s all done through the Local Stake platform. We don’t see any of the financial information or we don’t even see your email. If you do it through the Local Stake platform. So they’re a third party broker. They do, they handle all of the investment process for us. It’s a great way to be able to use your investments to accelerate this transformation to a truly sustainable world.

Andy: So that was our interview with Matt Grocoff, excellent interview. Like I said, a lot of information and we will be posting links to the information that he’s providing to his website, how to get in touch with them, a link to the video he was mentioning throughout the interview and we will definitely have him back on the show. And as always, folks, we really look forward to getting some feedback from you about the episode and any questions that you have, anything you want clarified, please feel free to send along to us. I’m, and as always, we ask you to please go to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review. Those both help new listeners find the show. And we are still the most popular green and healthy home program on the entire iTunes podcast platforms, so we could not be more honored. So thank you very much. We will talk to you again next week with Jay Watts. This is Andy pace, Non Toxic Environments.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Goodbye 2019

We’re saying goodbye to 2019 and we just cannot begin to express our gratitude for making this such a wonderful year.  Through this show, we’ve reached so many new people and have been able to assist on hundreds of new builds and remodeling projects around the world. And while this all seems great…2020 is going to be EPIC!  I share a little bit about this in today’s show.

Google Play


NTE Podcast: Goodbye 2019

Goodbye 2019


We are back, Non Toxic Environments. What took you guys so long? Well, we’ll talk about it, actually I’ll talk about it. Jay’s still on vacation but quite honestly lots of talk about today on our short but sweet show for the end of 2019. We are back this week for a quick episode of Non Toxic Environments, and first off I have to apologize for being gone for a couple of weeks. You know, this time of the year, a lot’s going on, a lot of projects we’re wrapping up across the country. It was really difficult to find time for Jay and I both to meet and be able to lay down some, some good shows for you guys. So we just couldn’t make it happen and we just decided not to give it a half of an effort. I thought I’d come back today though with some exciting news, most exciting news for you is to let you know that Non Toxic Environments will be back with a new season three. We’re calling it NTE 3.0

That’s right. We’re going to be coming back with Non Toxic Environments version 3.0. So what does version 3.0 mean? Well what this means is obviously it’s the third year of doing the show. We will not be recording the shows as we are right now, you know 187. 188, 189. We’re going to be starting off with a essentially a new show, a new look, and NTE 3.0 is going to be similar to what we’ve been doing so far in that we’ll be discussing topics that relate to healthy homes of course, but we are going to be doing every show recorded both audio and video. That’s right! We will be broadcast these shows both on Apple iTunes, Stitcher, GooglePlay, Spotify and as a hosted podcast. But we’ll also have the shows up and available on YouTube!

We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from folks that really want to be able to see an interaction with the products and and things that we talk about. And this is also opening up a brand new avenue for us to be able to launch a new series of shows based upon some hands-on demonstrations and more interactive shows. So you know as as we bring these items out and essentially flushed these ideas out a little more and I will definitely be letting everybody know what’s all involved but let’s just put it this way; Non Toxic Environments is not, is not only not going away, but it’s getting stronger, it’s getting bigger and we’re going to offer more variety. What variety you may ask. Well, we’re in the process right now of launching what we call a GDC TV. For those of you who know my main business is called Green Design Center and we’re a supplier of healthy and building materials and I’ve been doing the consulting for quite some time now and educational events, I travel around the country at speaking events and whatnot. One of the things that that I’ve been asked to do over the years is to do more programming and more educational events that are geared towards homeowners. And I realized that all of us respond really well to visual examples. And so, we’re launching GDC TV, which is going to be our YouTube network and we’ll have different programming. We will have shows based upon industry news. We’ll have shows based upon my Degree of Green reports and reviews, and we’ll actually do hands on demonstrations of how to use products, hands-on demonstrations of doing FRAT testing. Folks, you know, you’ve been asking for these things and we are listening. This has been a remarkable year for us. Remarkable in that we believe we’ve never been in contact with so many new clients before and we believe a lot of it has to do with this show.

The numbers to me are staggering for the fact that we have a very small staff here but, we talk to a lot of people and we help a lot of people and so, we understand that this show is actually getting into the ears of those who need to hear it. But we need to do better. We need to do a better job. We are 110% committed to this. This particular equipment that I’m talking to you through right now is a new investment we made so that the show will be more dynamic. It allows us the ability to tap into a video and do things like live casting. We will be launching a a new service to have live interactive chat sessions that we’ll be broadcasting through some of the social media platforms because we want to have the ability to reach more people. Like I said, we’re 110% committed to this. We believe this is not only the wave of the future, but this is current time, this is the time we live in and whatever we can do to be of assistance, that’s what we’re here for. So I hope you are as excited about this as we are!

One of the things that we’ve been talking about for quite some time now is doing more interviews with industry experts and quite honestly, the biggest problem we’ve been having is connectivity. Trying to reach the right people. The timing of schedules. I’m a lot to blame for that, you know, fortunately and unfortunately I’m very busy so it’s very difficult for me to set enough time aside to be able to conduct these interviews. But the new audio equipment that we have allows us to bring in calls through cell calls and internet phone calls with fantastic clarity to the point where we’ll actually be able to have live recordings, so you’ll hear it recorded but we’ll be doing live call ins from clients asking questions and industry experts with those answers.

There’s so much to talk about. We’ll be letting you all know about that as moving forward. But I just wanted to get this out there to let you know we are working for you right now; kind of behind the scenes. You will see NTE 3.0, our newest iteration of the show, launching after the first of the year. Super excited about it. And as the weeks go on, especially as the new show starts to come out, we’ll be introducing some new things to you. Just know that we’re doing this all for you all and we enjoy it! We believe that it’s beneficial for all of you. It’s beneficial for us. We’re learning a lot about our client base and and about what you need and what, what we can do more for you.

Keep those ideas and suggestions coming! Please, please, please email me, please go to iTunes and leave us a review and a rating, and pretty soon you’ll be able to go to and leave us reviews on YouTube and actually interact on the shows. Folks, we are so excited about this. I’m just really happy that we’re finally at a place in, in this business that we can quite honestly afford to do this. And it’s all because of you all reaching out to us and, and it’s wonderful. So thank you all. I want to thank you all for a fantastic 2019. I have learned so much from you. The projects that I’m working on right now; eery time I work with a new client, I learn something new that I can pass along to the rest of you. And so I couldn’t be more grateful for the customers that I have. The friendships I’ve developed. And 2019 was really a remarkable year for all of that. And I just can’t thank you enough. 2020 look out! It’s gonna be a great year, a lot to share, a lot of content, and I’m super excited. So on that note, that’ll do it for 2019 Non Toxic Environments. A little bit of the new sound that we’re bringing, new attitude, new ideas, new level of excitements. Folks, we will see you in 2020!

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Great Time To Give Our Thanks

The year is winding down and the holidays are upon us.  Today. Jay and I take some time to give our thanks to those who help us, and help all our listeners.  Make sure to listen through the episode, because we also announce a new giveaway! You definitely want to take advantage of this.

Google Play


Great Time To Give Our Thanks

Great Time To Give Our Thanks

Andy: I’m thankful to have a roof over my head and thankful to have a wonderful wife who supports me every step of the way. I’m thankful I lost 6lbs on a vacation where I was eating the entire time! But today Jay and I will talk about the things we’re truly thankful for in our business and in our lives. We hope you enjoy!

We’re back here at Non Toxic Environments. Jay, today we are taking a little break from our normal activities, it’s Thanksgiving so lets give some thanks.

Jay: Yea boy aren’t we thankful. I can think of a whole lot of folks we could say thanks to. For you and me both it’s just the people surrounding our businesses. The people we count on to provide the products we recommend and folks we’re in a business where there’s a lot of different moving parts of a project.

Andy: Without a doubt, and for me, I’m thankful for my employees, really thankful the last few weeks since I was on vacation for a while and they did wonderful work while I was gone. They always do wonderful work but especially when I’m gone it allowed me to relax and have a good time they kept the ship above water and flowing towards the right direction. So I’m very thankful for my employees and I’m very very thankful the manufacturers we work with obviously your company Jay, AFM, it’s been a wonderful relationship over all these years and it continues to grow and I’m very thankful for that.

Jay: I am too thank you Andy. With us, it’s our customers, and our vendors, we’re all kind of on a team together, that’s how I feel about tit and all growing towards the same direction. That’s the goal anyway. It really makes it a lot easier when everyone’s thinking the same way and on the same page. Wanting to do what we’re here to do and that’s to help everyone live a healthier life.

Andy: And I have to say, I am most thankful for my clients and customers. Not because of the fact products they buy, or the services they hire me for, that goes without saying; of course I’m thankful for that. What I’m really thankful for is the education that they give me, that they give us both I think, and so I thought it would be kind of fun to share some of those stories and I’ve got a couple I can talk about off the top of my head and maybe while I talk Jay you can think of some that have affected you in the last year…

Jay: Let me think about it but go ahead with yours.

Andy: So I can think of all the wonderful clients I work with; I’ve said this over the years, one of the best things about my career and what I do is that I actually get to hear directly from the people who are affected either positively or negatively by the things they do in their home. And because of that, I get a direct education on the items that are healthy to use, unhealthy to use, questionable, and of course just because it works for one doesn’t mean it works for all. But it gives me an insight and so when people say… I had a customer recently who was looking at some flooring materials and he wanted to know what kind of testing is done to make sure it doesn’t offgass and I said, “Well, here’s the tests that they do, here’s the test that I do (FRAT test),” and I said, “more importantly, I have anecdotal information. I have customer testimonials who we’ve worked with for years that have worked with that product for years with wonderful success.” And he got back to me and said that anecdotal information wasn’t really trustworthy, do you have any data? And you know, that’s a good question. Sometimes there isn’t data. But when I have dozens, hundreds, thousands of people who have used a product very successfully, and can tell me why it worked well for them, and it my mind, that’s more important than just about anything.

Jay: I agree, and I fall back most of the time on the anecdotal stories we’ve heard. I like them because it’s a real world situation with a real world challenge. And I understand why people want 3rd party verifications or collaborations or whatever you want to call it, because they don’t want to think you’re just blowing your own horn all the time and would like to make sure what you’re saying is true. But at the same time because of the very challenges we have with the different client chemical sensitivity thresholds, and the projects and the complexity of those I really love to refer back to knowing what I know from the real world, from the story that was told to me, and then, you too, I notice we are our own guinea pigs. You’re working on your house all the time and the office there, and I’m doing the same thing here with us, and everything that you sell I know and everything we put together I’ve had some experience personally with. I think that’s a very powerful thing we get to share with our clients. When I tell people I’m using one of my products and I’ve used one of my products very successfully, and I explain to them exactly what I did and what they can expect, because in most cases I’ve been living with this for quite a while. So, to me that’s a powerful tool to give people a kind of confidence.

Andy: Without a doubt.

Jay: And I’m willing to say, and I know you are too, I did that- it didn’t work, so maybe go down a different trail. We can give you some suggestions on what we’ve discovered when we found something wasn’t working really well.

Andy: And on top of that too, if it’s not going to work, you and I both are going to hear about it from the customers so we’ll have to fix the problem.

Jay: Oh yea.

Andy: That’s one of the things I’m very grateful for. I can certainly point it out right now. I’m very grateful for the fact that we’ve created this company wide mantra, and you’re right along with that Jay, where we touch everything we sell. We know how it works, we know how it installs, how well it works. A lot of the products we sell are sold specifically because we know that it’s the healthiest material available of its kind. And we also know the limitations.

Jay: Well, you had to do a heck of a vetting when you put together your Degree of Green program.

Andy: I did.

Jay: And you had to vet every one of those products you sell, you had to look at them very carefully. And you have a whole metric on how to review them.

Andy: Correct.

Jay: And folks if you’re not aware of the Degree of Green program, avail yourself to that. Andy can dive in how to get into the program. A very clear eyed way of evaluating the different products you can bring into your home and the Degree of Green program has a really simple way of understanding that so that when you’re making your decisions you don’t have to make a guess about it. You can go well, I’m looking at Degree of Green, does it hit that note? That note and that note? And if it does, you can have the confidence of knowing. And if it doesn’t hit those notes you can go ‘hm.’

Andy: And I hate to use the A word, but you can go onto Amazon and buy some of these things.

Jay: I thought you were going to say apple pie! Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving!

Andy: That’s not a dreaded word.

Jay: My brother is an excellent pie maker so he’s bringing some tomorrow, so I’m thinking about it.

Andy: That sounds great, I can already smell the turkey dinner right now. So, you can go on Amazon, you can go into big box stores, and get their versions of these things but you know what you’re not going to get? You’re not going to get years of knowledge behind them. Sure you can buy, heck you can even buy some Safecoat products on Amazon and go to these other websites that tout to have everything under the sun… but you’re not going to get the education behind that and I know this to be helpful because another thing I’m incredibly thankful for is the customers who take the time to write reviews, both on our website and our podcast on iTunes. They take the time to write emails, make phone calls, heck, I have people sending me thank you cards. They take the time to acknowledge the fact that there’s something special when somebody not only sells a product but knows how to use it, AND can give me the pitfalls to look out for.

Jay: You know, you’re mentioning about people writing in… is this a good time to talk about our Thanksgiving bonus today?

Andy: I think it is, this is what we’re gonna do, it’s kind of fun folks, and Jay came up with this great idea and this is a wonderful one. You know, a few months ago we offered a free book for those who would write reviews. Well, we’re what we’re going to do this time Jay, this is a great idea, it’s your idea, and so Jay said, what we need to do is for the first 5 people, and I might even increase that because I love reading the reviews.

Jay: And the number doesn’t matter.

Andy: No it doesn’t matter, and so, between now and the end of the year?

Jay: Yea!

Andy: Between now and the end of the year, anybody who writes a review of our podcast and mentions something about giving thanks, whether it’s giving thanks to the show for what you’ve learned, or maybe a contractor you’ve worked with, maybe somebody else you’ve worked with. Giving thanks to what you’ve learned in your life and maybe thanks to somebody who gave you advice on how to do something to make your home healthier. Put it on the podcast on iTunes with a rating for us. If you email me a copy of that review and email it to and as soon as we see it up on iTunes, we will reach out to you and Jay and through AFM, what’re you offering?

Jay: Well, I think the thing that probably works for so many people and has for just as long as we’ve been in business folks is the cleaner product we make, Safechoice All Purpose Cleaner, it’s just one of our most popular products, it’s an all purpose cleaner and can be used for a whole host of different cleaning, it’s a concentrate so you dilute it with water. Which means it goes a long long way. Some of our folks who are chemically sensitive use it for their laundry, so it’s so versatile so I thought that that’s a perfect one, everyone needs a product like that. Because we’re always cleaning. Seems like it’d be a simple one. So I thought a quart of the cleaner which will last a long time as an idea. Well, yea!

Andy: I love it, it’s a great give away. Heck, it’s a great purchase. A quart of the Super Clean with shipping is about a $15-20 value, and so anybody who writes a review, and again you need to verify it with me, emailing what you’ve wrote, And so I’m going to actually amend this a little bit Jay, because yes, the AFM Safechoice Cleaner is phenomenal, I use it for everything for myself, including my laundry. But you and I have been working on a, a new product.

Jay: Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

Andy: And this might be a fun time to talk about it. It’s called Mud Puppy. A shout out to Emily here in the office because Emily’s dog Laika, um, absolutely loves the cleaner that we developed here; a dog shampoo. It’s called Mud Puppy.

Jay: And she actually named it. She has, she actually, she actually named it as well through exactly through talking to some, she’s got a very big social media presence and she kind of put it out to her social media friends. And that was the name of that kinda got the, uh, got the award.

Andy: So it looks great. The, the label looks great. Very cute. We’ll be, we’ll be releasing it, you know, worldwide, probably January 1. But, for all of you folks listening, if you write that review, and you say something about giving thanks and send me a copy, you can either get a quart of the multipurpose cleaner or you can get a container of the new Mud Puppy shampoo. And that product comes in either a scented, unscented, which is what our standard is. But, due to popular demand folks wanted some natural very light essential oils in it. And so we can talk about that, you know, one-on-one after we decide what you need. So, that’s the giveaway and that’s from now until the end of 2019.  And, we look forward to reading your comments.

You know, one of the things I’m thankful for obviously is, is hearing the feedback from customers and I want to hear what you’re thankful for, so do that and we’ll be happy to send you a one of these gifts.

Jay: You know when you asked me what I could recall in the past, and nothing right in front of me stands out. But the one thing that I get so much joy out of is when I’ll talk to a customer that I spoke to 20 years ago and they’ve come back and they’ve said, you know, we found you back then and we got direction that really helped us and our health is improved. And we’re back.

I know you feel the same way when you can talk to customers you’ve had for decades. It’s such an endorsement, and it always makes me feel great to know that, you know, the products that we’re putting together and the services we’re providing to our clients is really making a difference.

Andy: For sure. For sure. And you know, you can’t take for granted your customers and friends that they’ve turned into over the years. Right? You can’t take for granted the fact, you know, they could go anywhere. And they do, they go because of what they’re going through. They search high and low for things that work, that help. I have a couple of new clients right now and, and I of course I want to be mindful of people’s privacy, but, when I mentioned this story, they’ll know who they are.

Last weekend, last Saturday I came into the office because I had a couple and their kids drive six, seven hours to meet me from Michigan, to choose materials for a home that they’re remodeling a home that they need to be careful about mold issues. And chemical of course. But we had just a wonderful meeting. They’re here for a couple of hours, just wonderful folks. And, and again, they, they’ll know who they are when I talk about this, I’m not only thankful, but I’m in constant awe at the lengths that people will go to find, not only the materials that they need, but to work with the people they trust. And it’s amazing. It’s just amazing. So to those folks, thank you. To a client of mine I’ve been working with for the past year who her home should be complete. She should be moving in probably next week. Wow. And she went through, I hate to say this folks, but she went through hell in this new home construction. I got involved after the house was underway.

Jay: Oh boy.

Andy: And right when I got involved was when they were doing exterior framing so I couldn’t change things, you know, too drastically. However, all the lumber came to the site with mold on it.

Jay: Yeah. I think you remember talking about this.

Andy: Yep. And the builder, you know, their response was, well, we’ll get it dry walled covered up and so forth. It’ll eventually dry out. Don’t worry about. So I am thankful that she found me when she did, because she reached out last week and in just, you know, she was a new person and she is grateful to be living in, you know, moving into a home that she knows that she’ll be able to tolerate and live in. So, you know, stories like that, it just gets me every time and I just can’t tell you how thankful I am for that if it wasn’t for these wonderful customers that I work with and friends that I’ve developed over the years. I have to be honest with you, Jay, I probably wouldn’t be doing this. It’s a tough, tough business.

Jay: It wouldn’t be as much fun, there’s a lot of stress and you know, that kind of thing going on at the same time, there’s a lot of joy involved in it too. So I understand it’s worth it completely.

Andy: I mean, think of, think of the folks that we’ve known over the years, Jay, some of the pioneers who’ve worked with.

Jay: You know, and that reminds me, we’ve got a kind of a plan for that next year too, don’t we?

Andy: Oh, yes we do. I, you know that, I’m not going to announce that yet, but let’s just say this, folks that to know what your future is and where you need to go, you need to learn where we came from. Jay and I are going to do a wonderful series on the innovators, the pioneers from decades ago, and you’ll be fascinated to hear their stories and I’m looking forward to that. That’s going to be an absolute blast about that.

Jay: Well, Andy, I guess it’s about time to wrap it up.

Andy: It is. And that’s a thing we could go on and on and on about how we are thankful for what we see and hear every single day. But you know, I’m thankful that we have this outlet to do this every week and then fun. It’s really a joy first of all, it’s nice that Jay and I actually have a chance to talk like this for an hour a week and, because you know, he and I are both so busy that it’s usually cryptic texts and emails and maybe a phone call once in a while, but, the fact that he and I actually get to meet once a week and collaborate on something is a real joy.

Jay: And do that undisturbed. That’s a big, that’s a big part of it.

Andy: Exactly. Exactly.

Jay: The phone’s not on, the door is closed. We’ve got a little private cove here of communication.

Andy: Exactly. Exactly. So anyway, Jay, it’s been a wonderful year so far. We still got more episodes to come, but this time of the year where we give thanks for things, I hope we’ve really expressed that to everybody listening. And great idea, Jay coming up with the giveaway and I look forward to reading those reviews and I really look forward to shipping out some boxes of product.

Jay: Nice. Nice.

Andy: All right folks, so, um, couple of things before we go. First of all, go to iTunes and leave that review giving thanks and what you’re thankful for. Send me a copy of that Then you know, Jay and I will both reach out and a thank you for that and we’ll send you your free gift. Please make sure to tell your family and friends about the show. We are still growing at a fairly fast pace, growing in listenership. Of course. Jay and I don’t do this because we get paid for it. We do it because we love educating everyone and bringing our ideas to the world. So we can only do that through knowing that you’re listening and knowing that you appreciate the show. So we appreciate that from you.

Jay, you and your family have yourself a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Jay: Same to you, Andy, and I’m planning on it. I know you just got back from vacation. You’re feeling pretty rest, but you know, go ahead, extend that a little bit. Next four days.

Andy: Okay. I will do my best. All right, take care everyone, bye.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Navigating Winter Projects

We know how temperatures and humidity can affect the home and home projects during the warm humid summer months, but winter poses just as many problems.  Jay and I discuss these to help you avoid those pitfalls and keep your sanity while trying to get the house ready for family and friends visiting for the holidays. 

Google Play


Navigating Winter Projects

Navigating Winter Projects


Andy: Back from vacation and feeling energized and ready to go. But it’s snowing outside and it’s winter time. So let’s talk about projects around the house during the winter here on Non Toxic Environments. Well, welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Jay, I had a couple of weeks off and I’m feeling well rested. And, how about you? How are you doing these days?

Jay: Well, I’m feeling fine. welcome back. You probably learned a few more Italian words.

Andy: I may have. I may have.

Jay: We just, we just told everybody where you were. Yes, he was in Italy, ladies and gentlemen, he was in Italy. It was business, it was business.

Andy: Yes, It was business.

Jay: But at business of relaxation, you deserve Andy, you deserve.

Andy: Well, we all do. And, and I’ll be honest with you, you know, when I have customers and clients and friends saying, you seem a little tense, you really need to take some time off. So I take that to heart. You know, you’re the same way. I, we love, absolutely love doing what we do. And it’s impossible for you or I to separate what our clients are going through from our own personal life.

Jay: It’s going to be a very emotional situation talking to people who are challenged in any way. And yeah, you’re right. I mean, we get involved on many levels with our clients , and of course folks, when you have health challenges, you need someone that has an ear to your issues. Andy and I have been doing this long enough that we have that empathy that I think is important when we’re trying to figure out in the best possible way how to make things better. So yeah, you get really involved in it and I know that that takes a lot of energy and everyone needs a chance to be able to step back, as you said, kind of recharge the batteries and you know, again, maybe gain a fresher perspective on some things and then step back into the role and start doing what we do. So folks, we’re in the throws of winter 2019, Andy and I thought we would pick up on a theme that we kind of alluded to in one of our earlier podcasts and basically I think today’s show is going to be about winterizing or what would happen during winter if you were involved with doing a project or had to do a project. I think around holidays people sometimes people around holidays when they have guests coming in from out of town they may try do a remodeling of a simple remodeling job just to kind of spruce things up. So in the family or in the friends arrive, everything looks new and kind of fresh. So, but there are some challenges which we’ll get into here. There are some challenges when you’re working with at this time of year with humidity and temperatures and all of that.

Andy: Well, just as there are challenges in summer and we’ve talked about that at length humidity and temperature and so forth. In winter time we have similar challenges. Now, obviously it changes from location to location. You know, challenges in San Diego, it means that you might get a cool breeze one day. Challenges here in Wisconsin is that it gets down to 60 below. And so we have to deal with things a little bit differently. However, let’s take this from from a general approach. In the summertime you’re in cooling mood right? Warmer outside your air conditioning, cooling the inside. In wintertime it’s the opposite. What happens in winter time is as you are running your heat, you’re also drying the air out tremendously. And the air outside is usually drier too. And so instead of having a high humidity situation, you’ve got a low humidity situation and that can cause problems. Now, what also can cause some problems, and you just mentioned this before, sort of in passing that everybody wants to take on projects right before the holidays. You’ve got family and friends coming in, maybe staying at your home. And I’d really like to get this bathroom remodel before Christmas, or I’d really like to get that bedroom finished, right. And we run into the situation where we may run through projects faster than we should. And we kind of put ourselves behind the eight ball because, well, here it is almost the end of November and we only have a few weeks to get a bed, bath remodeling done before the family comes in town. And if you are involved in, let’s say a bathroom remodel and the last thing that gets done in a bathroom remodel is you get the walls painted, right? Well how long does it take for paint to cure? Two weeks.

Jay: Two weeks, two weeks.

Andy: I mean, we tell everybody that 10 days to two weeks is about the average of how long it takes a water based coating to fully cure. So what we don’t want to have is a situation where, yeah, you got the project done, aesthetically, but everything’s still curing. And so, you repaint a room and then two days later, the family’s in town. Everybody’s taken showers. The people who are, who don’t live in the home may not run the fan as diligently as you do. And now you’ve got this buildup of steam and you’re actually going to be causing a problem with the paint curing properly. And you know, chances are you’re looking at probably redoing those walls after the family leaves.

Jay: So we’re on the subject. I want to talk about… what I like to tell folks about the processes. So talking about paint here, folks. When I’m discussing this with clients, I say there’s really two events you’re going to be experiencing. I call the first event, the volatile event. That’s where the product is applied; it’s still wet and everything is evaporating. And during that process you’re going to have elevated levels of odor and you’re going to have to during that time, make sure and certainly that time and throughout the whole curing cycle, make sure that you’re managing your indoor air properly. But there’s two events. There’s that volatile event at the beginning. Typically all things being equal. What’s that mean? It means application was application, directions were followed, preparation instructions were followed, and environmental controls were followed, what we call normal. Okay. So, so you’ve got this volatilization at the beginning that, that event with all those things being equal, that event is going to usually be two to three, maybe four days. And it’s kind of on a curve. You know, if you looked at it on a graph, you’d see the beginning of the project on very high mark with volatility and then it starts to tip off the edge and go down. However, when it gets down to the bottom of that curve, we’re still in curing cycle. We’ve still got maybe seven days left in it. Full cure. And what does that mean? What do you mean full cure? I mean isn’t when it’s dry, isn’t it fully cured? No, no, no, it’s not. The coatings are going to continue to develop their strength, their durability, their scrubability, anything that you want in that particular coating;  that’s what happens at the end of the cure cycle. Now I want to be clear about this because people that are super sensitive, may notice, and Andy check me on this, but they may notice that there is a level of offgassing that’s perceivable during that cure cycle. A lot of folks that don’t have the extreme sensitivities may not notice that, they go through the first four days of volatility and then it drops off the cure cycle. And they’re not really having any issues with the volatility side of that. So, but remembering that, you brought it up when you said about people taking showers and the paint is not cured and the coating gets soft again. Right? And then they’ve tried to clean it and it’s not cleaning well, and it’s a little tacky. And so I just want to make sure that people understand, there’s kind of two events that you want to be mindful of. But at the end of that, the whole idea we want to set is the standard for the ideal conditions for the drying of and curing things. And that’s really straightforward.

Andy: Yeah, I like that. As you say with the curing of product, water-based coatings it takes 7 to 14 days to reach a full cure. Within the first 24 hours of applying a coating, typically 90 to 95% of the curing happens. And to break it down even further to nerd level, you know, curing is essentially the coalescing of the film and the evaporation of the water or solvent, whatever the company uses. That’s what causes the chemical reaction to create the film. But the last 5 to 10% can take that full two weeks. Now this is under perfect conditions.

Jay: Very important to stress that because other than perfect and you know, your timeline starts to stretch out.

Andy: Exactly. And so 70 degrees, 50% relative humidity is what most manufacturers use to calculate their cure times. Right now, let’s say it’s a little cooler because we don’t keep our houses at 70 degrees in the winter time, you know, for energy efficiency reasons, maybe we keep it at 65. Then we add in higher humidity because it’s a bathroom, right? As we were talking about before in our example. Maybe you applied two or three coats and you put them on a little bit thicker, a little bit faster because folks we’ve got to get this job done before the family comes!

Jay: Well certainly when a contractor comes they’ve bid the job on an hourly basis probably. So their whole idea is to get in and get out.

Andy: Right, and so all of this combined means that it probably will not cure in that 7 to 14 days. It means it’s gonna extend the cure time. Now, as you mentioned before, when paints aren’t fully cured in the case of like a Safecoat product when it releases an odor, it doesn’t mean that it’s off gassing and it just means that there’s still moisture trying to come out and the moisture coming out carries with it the chemical footprint of where it was. Offgassing technically speaking would be the release of uncured or unreactive chemical monomers after a coating reaches a full cure. So I make that distinction because all too often somebody calls up and says, how long does your paint off gas? Well, it doesn’t off gas. It cures. And once it cures, that’s it. Most paints and coatings will actually off gas for two and a half to four and a half years after it reaches a full cure. That’s what’s called unreactive chemical monomers. And so there is a difference there. And I know I kind of took it to a geeky level there, but it’s really important.

Jay: And I think it’s a crucial, crucial understanding there. Yeah.

Andy: Yeah. And this is what happens when you’re trying to do a project quickly before the holidays. You may extend these cure times or because you know your guests use the bathroom and this steam builds up, it slows down the rate of evaporation, it slows down the rate of cure, and you might actually be looking at some problems down the road.

Jay: So, someone’s got the situation described in the bathroom and we’re on a fast track. What do we want to tell clients in terms of an acceleration model you know, what would you tell them to do.

Andy: Here’s how you do it. We’ve talked about this and I don’t know how many episodes before you gotta set your timelines properly, you got to put together the plan and work backwards. We want the job not only done, but fully cured and ready to use by December 23rd. Okay, now let’s work backwards. That means two weeks before that date is your last coat of paint. All right. That also means that you’ve got to get the electrician to make sure that the fan is hooked up so that you can get good ventilation. You’ve got to make sure that your countertop and cabinetry fabricators or vendors are on the right schedule. You know, this is kind of going into a different direction here. You have to plan these things and realize that because it is, let’s say here in the upper Midwest winter, also plan in some, some what if time. What if we get a snow storm? What if something’s delayed in shipping, plan that into your timeframe. I cringe every time somebody calls up and says, well, we got a fast track project. We got to get this done by this date. Oh boy. Now that means… this is what we say to each other here in the office. Your poor planning equals my emergency and I mean this, you need to plan properly. I’d rather have you not do it at all then to start it and to finish it too fast. And now we’re running into problems, uh, after the family leaves and people will get all upset.

Jay: I counseled a client just the other day and exactly that. They were talking about undertaking this huge project where they were in someplace it’s winter. And I said, wait a minute, wait a minute. No, no, no. I don’t think we can talk about what to do. This is not the time to do it.

Andy: Correct.

Jay: You need to wait for all the reasons you’re alluding to and you know, there was a sense of relief coming from them. It was like, yeah, thank you. Because it takes so much pressure off of me. Right. I don’t have to figure out how to do this and who to talk to and convince this person and that person figure out where the money’s coming from and blah, blah, blah.

Andy: The problem is though, that there are too many people out there, too many suppliers and stores that’ll say, Oh yeah, no problem. And that ruins it for the rest of us. I would rather, and I have, I can’t tell you how many times I have passed on projects because I couldn’t meet their timeframe. I wasn’t going to promise them something that I knew deep down inside, it would never, never, ever happen. And I would say, I would rather do this the right way than have you mad at me because it didn’t work.

Jay: Right. Exactly. And I think your idea of working backwards is really, really, really smart. Having that date out there and saying, okay, we got to move backwards and we got to do all these things to meet that date. And so you start looking at every one of the little individual things you have to do and start planning that and getting that going so that you do comfortably move into your end time and everyone’s not crazy. Right. Just to get back into the environmental issues around the wintertime.  I had a question that came in either day and it was so what happens if your indoor humidity levels dip below 30%? Is this a no go for any of your paint projects?

Andy: Well, that’s a great question. You know, we’ve, we talk about how we need to keep humidity below 50% in order to eliminate the possibility of mold growth.

Jay: Right, right.

Andy: Well, what happens if it gets too low? It’s a perfectly good question. And, you know, the sweet spot is probably in the 38 to 42%. If I were to be able to pinpoint the perfect, perfect percentage of humidity in the air. And the reason for that is that anything below 35% starts to get uncomfortable, from breathing, sleeping, itchy eyes, scratchy throat, things like that.

Jay: Yeah. And to bring it to the coating side of it. Probably the biggest challenge when you’re working with real low humidity situations, and especially this is the case with water-based products: if the water evaporates so quickly out of the film that the film doesn’t have what’s called the ability to lay down, right. Laying down means that it starts to level itself or leveling is another way it’s described. What that translates to mean is if the water gets out of there too fast and there’s no leveling, you’re going to have tooling marks. What are tooling marks? Brush marks, roller marks because the product has dried so fast, the coating itself didn’t get a chance to level like it should. I mean this is probably more a problem in the summertime when, especially in places where it’s hot and it’s dry and people are trying to paint and you know, those conditions are so dry that they can’t get a good look. It becomes an aesthetic consideration. Now the flip side of that is with all that dryness, everything’s volatizing really nicely. Everything’s getting outta there. All that stuff that wants to evaporate as evaporating really fast. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, you’ve got to watch it. You’ve got to manage it because you want to make sure… You don’t want to paint your doors and your trim and you come back and you go, Oh my God, I’m seeing brush marks. This is awful. What happened? Well, it’s 110 outside and the humidity in here was about 22, you know, not a good time. One of the situations where you say, don’t do it!

Andy: Right. And I’ll tell you a quick story about this. Several years ago I was involved in a project, you may remember this Jay it was called the Kresge foundation. Kresge foundation is a very, very large organization in Michigan and a very large nonprofit. They are a sort of an angel investor and very good to environmental issues and so forth. Anyway, Kresge hired a friend of mine to design all of the workstations for their entire headquarters and she specified the AFM Acrylacq for the finish on all of the workstations, which is great. It was a fantastic project. We probably supplied 300, 400 gallons of Acrylacq to finish all of these workstations. The company doing the finishing was here in Wisconsin and I remember getting a phone call from their head of production and he said, well, here’s a headscratcher for you. He said, we started playing with the finish. We want to make sure all of our finishers here are comfortable with how it lays down. And he said, we put on the first coat and it dries to the touch in 20 seconds.

Jay: Wow.

Andy: Yeah. And I thought to myself, what the heck’s going on here? Well, come to find out that they had never before applied a water-based finish in the history of their company. They’ve always worked with solvents in pre catalyzed lacquers and things like that. And if you know anything about those products, you know, that the worst thing you can have in a spray shop for those types of coatings is humidity. And so what they do is they dehumidify spray booths and the humidity level in the air in their spray shop was about 5%.

Jay: Oh my God.

Andy: And so what happens is, and with water-based, again I’ll geek out a little bit for ya, with water-based coatings as the coating cures, what happens is there are what are called surfactants in the liquid. And those surfactants literally rise to the surface and they poke out the air bubbles because obviously in a water-based coating, oxygen is a chief component. And so you get little air bubbles and those have to be poked out as a surfactants rise to the surface. If the if the coating dries so quickly to the touch that there’s no time for that to happen, you end up with millions of little air bubbles on the surface. And that’s what was happening. What we did to fix the problem was I took a five gallon bucket of water and I just threw it on the floor on the concrete floor, raise the humidity to about 20 to 25% in the spray booth area and it completely solved the problem. Yeah. So examples of low humidity can cause serious problems with coatings because you need time for them to work properly. The other situation is, there’s what’s called saturated surface dry and you find this with either exterior surfaces or interior wood where in wintertime wood can be extremely dry. And if you were to put a water-based coating onto raw wood, or even worse or more importantly, let’s say a water-based stain, what happens is when you apply a water-based stain to a very, very dry piece of wood, saturated surface dry means that the wood is so dry, all of the water and the product soaks into the capillaries of the woods so fast that the pigment in the stain doesn’t even have enough time to penetrate and you get blotchiness. Or in the case of a clear coating, you end up getting almost like a cracking, dusting effect where there’s not enough time for the product to properly coalesce because the water, which needs to be in it to make it work properly, soaks into the surface too fast and it doesn’t allow it to work as a system.

Jay: That is some cool geekiness right there.

Andy: I chalk this up to being on vacation for a couple of weeks.

Jay: And what were you doing there? Were you book learning there?

Andy: I wasn’t! I just cleared out the cobwebs and this stuff comes out. But really, when you’re working with products like the AFM Safecoat products and other materials that are out there that specifically do not use the chemicals and solvents that make them more goof proof, you really have to rely on proper conditions, proper application methods, proper cure times for them to work perfectly. Solvents in products can do a lot of things that are bad for us, but they can do some wonderful things for the application. Meaning anybody who can open up a can and pour it out can probably make them look pretty good because the solvents, the toxins do a lot of the job for you. When you’re working with materials that are very, very safe, but yet they’re not as goof proof you’ve got to be more mindful of the conditions and the application techniques.

Jay: Yeah, I think for the clients that are hearing this today, they’re thinking, okay, uh, so I have to make some accommodations here. Mainly dealing with contractors who are, you know, focused on a certain way of doing things where they use solvent-based products and they’re arguing against the way of something that you want. We always fall back and I know our listeners understand this. We’re always falling back to the idea of what’s going to be the best for our health. You know, what’s going to be the best for the indoor air quality. And so, you know, I think this is what makes this discussion really meaningful because now people get a better sense on a whole different level, on the geek level, about how the physics of this works.

Andy: And, and what I don’t want to do is, and I probably already have scared people away from doing the projects or using these materials. The fact of the matter is folks, that these are the things that good quality suppliers should be telling you and should be educating you about, but they normally don’t. They don’t have the knowledge base or let’s face it, they just don’t really care. They just, they’re so used to what’s available in the industry. Just kind of doing the job for you. I’m in the mindset that I’d like to tell you these things, whether you need to know them or not because I don’t want you to find out the hard way. And now this project that maybe you did have the right time for and you know, plan right for it and you know, you can get it done before the holidays, but something went wrong anyway because I forgot to tell you something and it would make me feel horrible if I didn’t tell you. So what else can happen? You know, I went off on a tangent there. I apologize.

Jay: But let’s work the other side of the equation. Let’s say it’s really wet. You know, we’ve talked about dryness what’s wrong if we’ve got a lot of humidity? It’d probably be pretty simple to understand.

Andy: Well, and you know, and so certain parts of the country in the winter time is the rainy season, there’s a lot of moisture. What happens with lot of moisture is it also takes some time for things to fully cure out. It’s like that  steamy bathroom situation because of a shower. If things are too moist, there’s nowhere for the moisture in the coating to go. You have to also be considerate of things such as wood. Wood is hydroscopic. Wood is a sponge. It’s going to absorb moisture out of the air. If there’s no moisture in the air for it to absorb, what happens is the moisture in the wood starts to leave and so it starts to dry off the wood and wood will change based upon what the humidity is. So in winter time it’s very dry wood shrinks; in the summertime when it’s very moist, it swells, right? These are all things to keep in mind when you are considering a project this time of year. So other things to consider would heating and ventilating. You certainly wants to be able to either heat the space in the winter time, but as you mentioned, you need to keep the humidity up. Let’s see, I have a whole house of hardwood flooring. A large part of the country HVAC contractors will actually recommend that you install what’s called an April Air system. April Air system is a way to interject humidity back into the air during the drier months. I don’t mind these provided that you are extremely careful with how you use them. All too often I’ve been involved in home inspections where there are mold problems and because somebody just didn’t maintain their humidification system properly and the unit just spews out humidity 12 months a year. If you can manage these systems, they’re very, very good for maintaining a humidity level for all of your wood components as well as comfort factor for breathing. So these items can be used. Just make sure they’re used properly.

Jay: When people are in acceleration mode and maybe we may have mentioned this in another podcast and it just dawned on me that maybe it’s worthy of a comment. The idea of using increasing heat, bringing heat up. Some people will even go as far as to say they want to bake a space. And the other methodology that people sometimes use, and I don’t know this is necessarily about curing things quicker. The use of ozone to manage an installation. I’ve been of the mind that elevated heat and the circulation of controlled air is a smart thing to do. I’m not a big fan of ozone. Where do you stand on that Andy?

Andy: So I’’m a fan of not necessarily elevating heat but keeping heat at a constant level that 70 degrees we’ve talked about. The whole concept of baking out of space was debunked many years ago. Yet it’s a myth that keeps on getting pushed around. Heating up a space to 90 degrees and then opening up the windows to ventilate, has proven to actually cause new chemical compounds to form. And it has the detrimental effect of reducing the lifespan of the products that you’ve used because it accelerates the end of life. So I like to keep a space at 70 degrees. Anything above that is a waste and can cause more serious problems down the road. Ventilation though is key. Making sure you have good air movement. It helps coatings cure. It helps the aromas that can occur during a construction project. It alleviate some of those. The use of purification systems, whether it’s an air scrubber or a negative air machine just to get the dust out to get any pollutants out. Ozone… I have mixed opinions on ozone. Ozone is a very effective way of purifying the air. However, it’s not good to use ozone to purify the air when you still have coatings curing because at a molecular level it can change the overall finish.The second thing is if, you know you’re in a situation where you have a high amount of formaldehyde, so let’s say, it’s a project where for some reason or another you could not avoid the use of particle board or plywood that has a high amount of formaldehyde, ozone usage in that situation can actually cause a bigger problem: when breaking down formaldehyde it can cause some other noxious odors to be created.

Jay: So going geeky again here Andy, the geek is coming up and this is good stuff. This is good.

Andy: Well, I’m going to stop it there. I just think that because I don’t want to go too far in that direction because I can actually argue both sides of that equation. But in that situation, I’m just not a fan of it. I like ozone in a controlled way where you can, turn up, turn down, turn off. You know, the rule of thumb with ozone is if you have something on your furnace or AC unit that creates it, as long as you know how to turn it off… if you can smell it, it’s up too high. That’s the real rudimentary way of putting it. But for controlling odors during a construction project, not a good idea. I think that there are better ways to do it that are more effective.

Jay: Yeah. Well, I think maybe we’ve talked ourselves through winter almost.

Andy: I think so. What it comes down to folks is the same thing we had in summertime. Anytime you have a project, it’s always about planning.

Jay: Yes.

Andy: Making sure you’ve got the time to do it. If you don’t have the time to do it, then choose another time.

Jay: Yep. I think that’s, I think that’s wisdom right there.

Andy: And also folks keeping in mind that whoever your supplier is for materials across the country understand that a lot of the products that we deal with and others deal with can be effected freezing temperatures and negatively affected by freezing temperatures.

Jay: Yes, yes, yes.

Andy: Always make sure you have enough time for the delivery of these materials. So planning is key. If you have any questions about that, always talk to somebody, don’t just buy something online and then find out the hard way. It’s not the right product. It’s going to come frozen. So on and so forth. Always talk to an individual who understands what you are trying to achieve.

Jay: And stay on top of those tracking numbers that you get. Because as things this time of year, especially the delivery people, they are rushing up and they’re landing on the doorstep. They’re not knocking on the door and I’m looking for a signature. They’re going to drop it off. And if you’re not aware of what it’s going to arrive and it sits on your porch overnight and freezes, guess what?

Andy: Overnight? I’ve had situations before where somebody complained they never got their package and we shipped out a new one. Come to find out in spring when the snow melted. They found it behind the bushes. So yes, you’re exactly right. But yes, always be on top of that stuff again, reach out, call somebody if you have any questions.

Jay: Yeah, folks, thanks for listening. Next week’s Thanksgiving, we’ll be back next week with another show and we’ll be wishing you all a wonderful holiday. Andy, what do you want to say in closing?

Andy: It’s good to be back. You know, I missed it. I was gone for two weeks and it felt like I was gone for a year. It’s great to be back. And folks keep all those good questions coming in. I know Jay and I have been talking about for months now we’ve got these interviews lined up. Well we do. The problem is and some of these have been done already, they’re in the can as we call it in the industry. They’re in the can, but we just haven’t had the time to get things up and out to you all. We appreciate your patience. We love that you listen and you’re such great listeners of the show. If you have a chance, please reach out to iTunes and leave us a rating and a review. We’d love to hear what you think of the show. Actually while we were gone, a couple of great reviews came over and we greatly appreciate that folks that helps other people find the show because it knocks our show up higher in the search results. So we really appreciate that. You can always go to Leave us a SpeakPipe message if you have a question and we’ll be back again next week. And in subsequent weeks with some fantastic topics!

Jay: So long, everyone.

Andy: Take care.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: On Vacation

Thank you all for listening to the show…Jay and I are on vacation for a couple weeks to recharge.  Today’s episode is just a short synopsis of the year and what to expect from NTE in 2020. We’ll be back to you in a couple weeks!!

Google Play


On Vacation

On Vacation


Andy: The busy construction season is starting into wind down and so is the year. So it’s a good time to reflect back on the year a little bit and put some ideas together for what’s to come in 2020 here on Non Toxic Environments. Hey folks, it’s Andy here, by myself this week. Jay’s taking a break and I’ll actually be taking a break myself. This week will be a shorter podcast. I’m headed out of town on a vacation. It’s been a while, been a while since I’ve taken a day off… It’s been been a busy year for us and for everybody, all of our clients, a lot of projects going on, a lot of new homes, a lot of remodeling and thought it’d be a good idea just to kind of reflect back on the year. More so talk about, what we’d like to accomplish in the coming year in 2020 and our third season of Non Toxic Environments.

Uh, you know,, it’s hard being a business owner. It’s hard to sometimes to take time off. And I know that everybody always says, you gotta have the work life balance. You have to make sure you take time for yourself. And it’s easier said than done. It’s difficult. Not because customers keep pulling me back in. I certainly don’t want to blame it on all of my listeners and customers and of course not. It’s because I let it happen. I let myself stay here longer and do more and try to do more for more people and, and it’s something I have to work on for next year. Hopefully next year will be a year of being able to be a little more balanced in that. And that’s one thing I’ll be working on.

But Jay, I also have ideas of new series. I know last year I even talked about doing a new series called Degree of Green, which is more of a regular industry show, where I talk about industry news manufacturers, new materials, new projects to focus on instead of being conversational like the show has been now for the last 80 plus episodes. We want to make it more of a news program and that’s still on the docket. That’s still on our list of ideas. It’s just quite honestly, folks, we’ve been overwhelmed somewhat with the success of the show. We’re not the one most popular podcasts on the list. Of course. You know, it’s a very niche topic with a very select group of listeners.

But you all are so loyal in listening that we are historically now in the top 20 to top 30 all time of Home and Garden shows on the podcast networks, which is remarkable for a show that is so niche about healthy homes and better building materials. It’s remarkable that we’re in the 20 and right now I think today, the 24th ranked all time Home and Garden show, which is really more of a testimonial to you all.

So today it’s just a quick show to let you know that we’ll be on vacation, on hiatus, for a couple of weeks. This show, just a quick one just to let you know, next week we will not be recording or releasing anything. The following week we’ll be back in and Jay and I will have some against some great topics. We’ve got a lot of good ideas for next year.

We’re actually interviewing some of our past customers, some folks that we’ve been working with over the year or the last couple of years in remodeling or building. We’re going to be interviewing them for the show so that they can, in their own words, give their story as to how, things went for them and you know, what their pitfalls were,  what to look out for. You know, it’s one thing for Jay and I as professionals to talk about this, but to hear from other homeowners who aren’t in the business, who had to learn everything, from the ground up. I think it’ll be really interesting for you to listen to. And so of course we’ll have other things that we’ll be doing. Again, the show is very conversational. It always has been. Jay and I put, we do put effort into deciding the topics and the things we’re going to talk about but we wanna keep it conversational. We don’t want it to speak from bullet points and we don’t want to just read a blog post that we’ve written because that’s not entertaining. We want to discuss things and talk about timely topics. So, we hope to do more of that next year and we’re really looking forward to another season of Non Toxic Environments. Between now and the end of the year, obviously we have some holidays that are going to get in the way that will also delay some episodes. But we’ll have several more episodes for everybody by the end of the year. Thanks again for listening all year. We appreciate your loyal listenership and and feel free to let families and friends know that our show exists. You know, there’s 80 plus episodes that you’ll, you can search through to find ideas and recommendations for things that happen in your home. We are so happy to be able to do this and, and excited for another fresh season coming in a few weeks. So folks, thank you very much again. We’ll talk to you all very soon.

This episode of Non Toxic Environments is brought to you by the Green Design Center, Now, the Green Design Center has been around since 1992 as the nation’s oldest healthy home supplier and we’re featuring a number of products that will be on sale starting in a few weeks for the Black Friday sales. So please be on the lookout for that. Of course, Green Design Center is the national distributor of AFM Safecoat products and is a retailer of thousands of healthy home goods to make your home a healthier and safer place.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Plucked straight from the mailbag

By request, Jay and I tackle a few questions from the mailbag this week including, polishing concrete floors, sealing out smoke from the adjacent apartment and paperless drywall usage.  Keep those questions coming in folks!  

Google Play


Plucked straight from the mailbag

Plucked straight from the mailbag


Andy: Help, I think I have an indoor air quality problem. How do you deal with mold in new construction? And, what do I do if I’m renting? Those items and more on Non Toxic Environments, episode 118.

Welcome back to Non-Toxic Environments, everybody. This is Andy Pace. Thank you so much for listening to another podcast. First off, right off the bat, I’d like to thank everybody who has been leaving reviews and ratings on iTunes and other podcast websites. We really appreciate that. We absolutely love doing this podcast, and I get the feeling that a lot of folks are enjoying listening to it as well, so thank you so much.

Just a quick shout-out to the website at the beginning of the show today, On the front page top left you’ll see a little microphone. It’s called a SpeakPipe. Please leave us a message. Leave us a question. Today, in particular, we’re answering a bunch of questions from the mailbag, and you never know, your question could get featured on the podcast, and if that happens, Jay and I have these little gifts that we can send out to thank you. So, I really, really appreciate all that feedback.

First off, let’s talk about the first topic we are dealing with, which is, indoor air quality issues, and how do you know you have an indoor air quality problem in the home? And it’s obvious, besides the scratchy throat and itchy eyes and so forth, but a lot of folks will actually complain about that telltale sign of formaldehyde, which is kind of this sweet smell, sweet sensation in the home. Imagine yourself opening up your cabinets and smelling this kind of a sweet funky smell. That’s usually formaldehyde, urea formaldehyde coming from the adhesives. We’re doing a lot of consulting with customers all over the country. The big question we get is, how do you know whether it’s an indoor air quality problem or not?

So, the first thing we’re gonna do is find out if you have made any arrangements with a local building biologist to do some testing in your house. If you’re interested, I’ll put a link in the show notes so you can find your local building biologist. If there isn’t a building biologist in the area, I’d recommend you hire an indoor air quality scientist, a industrial air hygienist. There are a number of names for these folks, but they can all do air testing to determine the chemicals in the air, if there’s active mold, specifically then formaldehyde.

I’ll also recommend another service if you do not have somebody locally or you just don’t have the time or quite honestly, don’t have the budget for it. A lot of times the professionals can charge in the hundreds, if not $1,000 or more to test your air. We work with a product that’s called a prism test, and once again, I’ll put a link in the show notes. You can actually purchase these if you go to, A-I-R-C-H-E-C-K, aircheck. And, you’ll be linked to the company Prism Analytical, and from there you can purchase VOC tests, formaldehyde tests, mold tests, even a test for latent cigarette smoke. If you are worrying that the home you just purchased or the apartment you just rented, the previous owners were smokers, you can actually perform a test to determine if any of those chemicals are stilled in the air. This is really important, as we move along here, because there’s 2,000 different chemicals in a cigarette and who knows what else it combines with in the air once it releases? So, go to and order your Prism Analytical test today.

So, after your prism test is done, you now have your results that’ll get emailed to you, and what are we looking for? Well, we’re looking for what is the chemicals that are present. Do you have active mold spores in the air? And, what levels are we at? I recommend that once you get these tests, and if you’re one of our consulting clients, email it over to me and we can certainly take a look at it. But, now that you know what’s in the air it makes it a heck of a lot easier to actually fix the problem. We don’t know if a problem exists until we actually can see the data. We trust that you’re sensing something, but we don’t wanna just throw darts and waste money and try to fix a problem that we don’t really know where it occurs. Once we’ve got that, now we can move on to solving that problem. So, I hope that helps, I appreciate the numerous calls we’ve gotten on that subject.

Andy: All right, question number two comes to us from Lynchburg, Virginia, Joanne. It has to do with how do you maintain your indoor air quality. What do you do if you are not buying a house or if you don’t own a house, but if you’re a renter? And, for that, I’m actually gonna have my partner Jay Watts talk to us about that. He’s got some great ideas. So, here you go.

Jay: Hello, everyone. Jay Watts here. In previous podcasts, my Healthy Home Building partner, Andy Pace and I have discussed strategies for building or remodeling to create a healthy home, but what if you don’t own your own home? Many of you listening may be renters, without the control to ensure that the apartment you occupy or the one you’re considering, is as safe for you and your family as possible.

Here are some tips I’ve developed to guide you in living healthfully as a renter. Searching in the best location. Location, location, location. Yes, it’s an old cliché when looking for a place to establish a business, but it’s just as important when seeking an apartment. Obviously, budgets dictate where you can live but consider these basics. Reduce your commute. Less driving means less stress, and less stress must be a part of your healthy living program. Go high, not low. If you aren’t restricted to living on a ground floor, it’s always best to rent an upper unit. Reduced neighbor noise, better air flow and better views all make sense with an upper unit. Here’s a basic one, avoid flight paths and electric grid yards. That’s very simple to understand. Greener is better. Look for places with mature trees and greenery. Obviously, gentle on the eyes and provide healthier air quality. Of course, if you’re allergic to certain plants take that into consideration in your search.

So, you feel like you’ve narrowed it down to one or two places. Now, it’s time to meet the landlord. But, before you do, ask these questions by telephone or email. Was the unit remodeled within the last three months? New paint, carpeting, flooring, and cabinet rehab are often what owner do to attract new tenants. But, for someone looking for a healthier place, these improvements aren’t necessarily welcome. An honest and open discussion with the landlord about your need for a healthy haven should be at the forefront of your negotiations. For those of you who are chemically sensitive, a remodeled apartment would not be acceptable without some serious remediation.

This is obvious, but I would offer another way of reframing that statement about chemical sensitivity. People are more familiar and comfortable with the idea of allergies, so instead of admitting to suffering from MCS, say you’re highly allergic to new construction materials. Even provide a list of those products that could pose problems for you. If everything else about the unit fits your plan, ask the landlord what they would allow you to do to make the space healthier. A safe coat of paint or a safe sealer, and a good steam cleaning of carpeting can mitigate many indoor air quality problems.

Ask about your neighbors. As a landlord myself, I can tell you most applicants never ask about the neighbors. I always tell prospects as much as I reasonably know about my other tenants. As a new neighbor, it’s comforting and helpful when you do cross paths, and that basic knowledge can be a great conversation starter, too.

Okay, let’s assume the landlord is amenable to your modifications. Set a timeline for completing the work, making allowances for the curing cycle necessary with the new products. Two to three weeks after the work is completed is recommended before you take possession. Always look for products with a long track record of successful use by anyone with allergies or chemical sensitivities as the priority in their manufacturing. Many landlords will allow modifications within reason, as long as you pick up the added expense. Some may even underwrite a change if they really want you as a tenant.

If there are no options to making changes, think about investing in a whole home air purification system. The better ones will be more expensive, but how much is your health worth to you? Me? I think, priceless, and they are portable, so they can move when you do. Taking control by empowering yourself is the key in all these recommendations. If an owner is antagonistic or won’t allow changes, then you need to move on.

Finally, if you’re fortunate enough to know someone moving, and you think you want their unit, contact the owner as soon as possible and tell them you’re interested, preferring that they not upgrade. You benefit as does the landlord who doesn’t incur the added expense. If they’re intent on making modifications, suggest they start with a list you provide of the safest alternatives. In the short term, this benefits you and gives the owner a sales story to attract tenants in the future.

So, there you have it. Most of what I shared is just good common sense, but renting can be stressful. If you’re prepared to diligently qualify the landlord and the apartment as much as they are you, you can feel secure knowing that a healthy home may be just around the corner.

Andy: Thank for that story, Jay, appreciate it. I love the fact that Jay mentions telling the landlord that you have allergies to certain building materials, certain chemicals. You know, folks, I know those that have severe sensitivities sometimes cringe when we simplify the problem, simplify the disease to call it just an allergy, and we don’t necessarily mean to do that, to belittle the situation. More so we’re doing it to try to get others to understand what it is. When you’re looking to rent a space, now’s not the time to try to educate a new potential landlord about this disease that you have. Now’s the time to get them to understand quickly that you just have an allergy to these chemicals, and move on from there. It’s just much easier to understand for folks who really don’t know what’s going on, and as Jay put it, you don’t wanna necessarily scare ’em off right away. So, great stuff, Jay, thank you.

All right, the final question for the day comes to us from Steve in Sacramento, and Steve has asked a number of questions to me over the last few months about how to reduce mold in a whole house remodeling that he’s doing. Kind of hard to answer on a podcast, even if I took a couple of hours. It’s kind of hard to answer because mold is such a problem all across the country in construction that we really need to drill down to the facts of the actual project and what are we dealing with before we can give our best recommendation.

But let me give you four things that I tell every client when that topic arises. The first thing is, whatever the framing system that you’re using for the home, again, whether it’s new construction, remodeling, what have you, whatever the framing system is, if it’s standard stick framing, wood stick framing, if it’s insulated concrete form, so forth, whatever you’re using, button it up as soon as you can. What you don’t want is to have a lot of openings in the walls for doors and windows or even if you’re doing an addition where you have to add a roof on the new piece, the new part.

You don’t wanna have those open to the elements to allow rain and just moisture to soak into the new wall assembly, because then it has to get out, and the reason why mold is such a problem these days is that we build these homes so tight to allow for very minimal moisture transmission, and the use of building wraps and vapor barriers, and so forth. And moisture gets stuck in that cavity wall and when you have moisture, when you have condensation from maybe insulation that wasn’t properly detailed, or a thermal issue where you have warm air in the wintertime that travels from the drywall into the studs and hits cold temperature from the outside, because things weren’t detailed properly, and you can get condensation, and then you’ve got a food source for mold and then mold can proliferate. So, if you can get rid of a lot of that moisture to start with, or to keep it from getting into that wall assembly, that’s the number one point.

Number two, reduce excess moisture in the home during construction. So, I really advocate for during the drywalling, mudding, priming and painting phase, to bring in either an air scrubber or an air exchange system. You can rent these from locations across the country. Bring these industrial air scrubbers or ventilation systems into the house to expel a lot of this excess moisture. Again, the average new home that’s built has probably 500 to 600 gallons of moisture in the air that gets locked into the cavity wall or the flooring, what have you, just from the construction process. So, if you can expel a lot of this at the time of it occurring, it’s less likely for that moisture to travel into the wall and then help to feed that mold. And again, mold is prevalent everywhere. Mold is always in the air, so it’s not that we’re trying to prevent mold per se, we’re trying to prevent the proliferation, and the growth of damaging toxic mold. So, reduce the excess moisture in the house.

Brings me to part number three. You gotta get the furnace system, the HVAC up and running as soon as the home is buttoned up. Again, for new home construction or for whole house remodeling, as soon as the wall and the roof are weather tight, you gotta get the HVAC running, and here’s why, because of that excess moisture. Like I talked about before, with all this moisture in the air, and I’m recording this podcast in July and here in Wisconsin in July it’s about 90 degrees and about 80% relative humidity. If I were to apply a coat of Safecoat paint on my walls it’d probably take a couple of days for it to not feel tacky to the touch, and potentially much longer for it to reach a full cure. And the reason is, is that the curing process of paint is the moisture evaporating out of the liquid coating to help create the film. If the humidity level is at 80% there’s nowhere for the moisture to go, so it just stays in there.

So, you’ve gotta bring down the relative humidity in the house and that is installing your AC unit, installing fans, using those air exchange systems or the air scrubbers. But, definitely running the AC during the crucial parts of the process will make a big difference in cutting down the possibility of the mold.

And finally, this is something that’s relatively new to us. I’ve known about this product for over 10 years, and it kind of went by the wayside and I think they entered an agreement with a large manufacturer and it just kind of went away and now it’s come back to us. It’s a product called Caliwel. Caliwel is a coating that’s made with a high degree, a high percentage of calcium hydroxide, which is lime, a mineral, ground-found mineral. Calcium hydroxide raises the Ph of the surface to such a high level that mold cannot sustain itself. It raises the Ph to about 12 and a half, 13, and it keeps it that high for up to five years, and that’s really what’s really amazing about this product.

So, I recommend that you use the Caliwel. It’s called their Caliwel Industrial Coating. Use that in the cavity wall of your new construction, or your whole house remodeling, and so let’s just take traditional stick framing as our example, because this is what’s done most of the time. So, after the exterior wall is framed, your exterior sheathing gets installed. That’s your OSB typically sheathing that’s installed. And then on the inside, typically you install or put in your insulation. And so before you put your insulation in I’d recommend you spray on, if you can, two coats of the Caliwel Industrial. Caliwel Industrial will kill any mold spores on contact, and then it’ll stay active for up to five years, killing off any mold spores that may attach itself to that, or try to attach to that surface. And the reason why that’s important is because in new construction or in a whole house remodeling project, if you’re gonna have a mold problem in the exterior wall, it happens usually within the first 12 to 24 months.

So, other areas that you may consider using this Caliwel Industrial, basement walls. If the basement walls are either concrete or concrete block, I’d make sure that the walls are clean and then apply a couple of coats of the Caliwel Industrial. Again, it’s gonna kill off mold spores and keep it from coming back for up to five years. Caliwel also makes what they call a Home and Office paint, which is a finish paint, comes in about eight or 10 colors. It’s a great product, don’t get me wrong, it just doesn’t come in a lot of good colors. It’s very light pastel-y colors. Definitely use this in, let’s say, bathrooms where you know you have a ventilation problem, because mold happens in a bathroom mainly because there’s poor ventilation and there’s always a food source, dead skin cells and soap scum and so forth.

Then the last place that I like to use the Caliwel Industrial is the attic, because attics generally, if you have poor detailing in your home for air tightness, so you have a lot of air leakage because of a bathroom ceiling fan, because of recessed can lights, other penetrations through the ceilings and to the attic, and that’s how heat and moisture or cold temperature and moisture can travel, and you get condensation and then you get mold. So, I like using the Caliwel up there as well. It really cuts down on the possibility. I guess I look at it as a very inexpensive insurance policy to prevent mold problems in the future.

So, that’s it. That’s their four points that I give everybody. Folks, there are dozens of ways, probably hundreds of ways, that we can eliminate mold in new construction and remodeling, but those are the four areas that I really think that, if we just did those, it would make a world of difference in all of our homes. And, well, that’s the least we can do, I believe.

So, we got a little more time so I’m gonna answer one more question, and this is a question I get a dozen times a day. Okay, I’ll just jump right into it, here we go. “Andy, loving the information. Love all the recommendations you have given me. Why didn’t I know about you two years ago when I built my home? Or, why did I know about you last week?” I get this question, I can’t tell you how often every day. First off, I’m humbled that folks appreciate my recommendations and can really use these ideas and by experience to better their indoor air quality and better their homes.

But, don’t stress yourself. This is what I tell everybody when they ask that question, “Why didn’t I know about you?” Or, “I wish I knew about you two years ago.” My answer is, “Well, now you do.” From this point forward … don’t beat yourself up about decisions you made before you knew that there were better decisions to make. I get a lot of customers that have built homes, let’s say, in the last 10 years, and they just wish they knew more about this when they built their homes. I don’t want you to start ripping things out and replacing it right away, because I think that’s possibly throwing the baby out with the bathwater here.

Keep in mind that most things like paints and coatings off gas for about two and a half to four and a half years after they reach a full cure. Other materials like plywood and OSB and MDF and these other manmade products, insulation, carpet, can off gas a lot longer than that, of course, but don’t repaint your house right away because you think you might have a problem. Don’t start ripping things out and replacing. Let’s be mindful of this. Let’s figure out a good plan of attack. Understand that maybe everything was fine in your home up until the point where you found out that there could have been a healthier way to go. And sometimes … you know, the mind is a very powerful thing, sometimes that can immediately bring a reaction to the oh, no, what did I do. and now I sense something in my house.

So, again, understand that if you lived in that home for the last 10 years, and you haven’t had any problems, that’s great. Just understand that from this point forward you can make healthier choices when you need to replace or repair something. We offer those choices, either through Green Design Center, through Jay’s company AFM, just a variety of companies around the country that just make or sell some really good high quality healthy building materials. But, please don’t get upset that you missed out on something. So, now that you know that there are healthier options, when it’s time to change the carpet, when it’s time the wall color, install new cabinetry or countertops, you can reach out to me now and just do degreeofgreen/appointment, and book yourself a 15-minute or a 30 minutes consultation and we can go through a lot of these questions you have. It’s amazing how many questions we can get through in a 15-minute period.

That’s your best plan of attack. Don’t fret over something that’s already happened. Let’s just move on from this point. So, I hope I answered that question all right. Again, I am humbled that people actually have that feeling, when they learn that there are healthier ways to go and they wish they would have known about me years ago. I love what I do. You can probably tell by this podcast how much I enjoy helping people out in allowing them to live in a healthier home.

So, that is it for the podcast for this week, folks. Please go to, leave us a SpeakPipe message. We’d love to hear from you. We’d love to feature one of your questions on one of the future podcasts. Also, go to iTunes. I would be greatly appreciative if you would leave us a rating, give us a five-star review. We’re trying to get bumped up on the iTunes New and Noteworthy list. I don’t know how that works, honestly. It’s way above the amount of listeners that we have, I think, but you never know. If we could just get a few more ratings, a few more reviews, it would be greatly appreciated and I think it also helps people who are searching for shows on iTunes. The shows that are highly rated and have more reviews are bumped up to the top of the search engines. So, there you have it. That’s why we’d like for you to do that.

So, that’s it again for this week, and we will talk to you again next week. Have a healthy day, folks.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Common Misconceptions

You’ve heard this from your contractor, or maybe read it in an online chat group.  “That glue will never work” , “that paint only peeled because its one of those eco-friendly paints”…   Today, I’m talking about common misconceptions of the healthy building industry and I try to shed some light on these topics and allow you to breathe easy, knowing you DID make the right decision. 

Google Play


Common Misconceptions

Common Misconceptions 


Your product doesn’t work that way. I just assumed or I just thought, or how come this can’t… Forget it folks. Today we’re going to talk about common misconceptions in the green building world, both from anticipating the material arriving to an application, and longevity. So it’s going to be a quick episode on misconceptions here on Non Toxic Environments.

Hello folks, welcome back to the show. This is Andy. I am by myself this week. Jay is taking a break and he’ll be back with us next week. This episode is a little different. Well I say that every week. I think it’s a little different. We try to make them different to make them exciting, interesting for the listeners. This episode is kind of a mishmash of what I will call common misconceptions of the industry. And it’s kind of a, you know, misconceptions of how products work, how they are used, how they’re sold and received. It’s kind of a combination of both material use , availability, and the industry itself. And so in, let me start off with the biggest misconception. I believe, and I’m not gonna spend too much time on this one because, well quite honestly we’ve, we’ve talked about this quite a bit before, so I don’t need to belabor the point, but the misconception that I have to speak about most often is that zero VOC is equivalent to healthy and safe. Now I will say this, I have to bring this topic up far less than I ever have before. Our show is doing a wonderful job at informing those who are interested in healthier materials, that there is a difference between green and healthy; that there is a difference between zero VOC and zero toxin. And so I believe that the industry, the marketplace is starting to evolve finally in this direction.

When we were in the midst of the green building, boom, I’ll call it in the mid 2000s. And people were buying product that was considered air quotes “green” just for the sake of being able to tell their neighbors and their family and friends I bought a countertop made of recycled this and recycled that. It was the trendy thing to do as the construction economy shrunk, with the last recession, those available dollars to buy those things obviously shrunk. And as the funds are coming back into the market, people are a lot more concerned about how they’re spending those dollars. And, the wise choice is to buy a product that is of course environmentally friendly, but more importantly is healthier for the occupants. There has to be a bigger benefit than just doing the right thing.

And so that misconception of zero VOC is good, is really starting to sort of answer itself. And you’re finding that now with even the paint and coating manufacturers starting to change their verbiage. A lot of it has to do with mandates. The paint companies were told… several of them were fined by the FTC in the last couple of years for essentially duping the public about how VOCs are calculated, how they are tested for and if they’re actually affecting the user and manufacturers have to by law now change the way they say things. And it’s good. It’s, it’s giving more disclosure and it’s being more open and honest to everybody about what the products can and cannot do. The downside though is that there’s still this element of it being the wild west out there. And I’ll take for instance, something like carpeting.

Carpeting is being sold by many manufacturers now as being zero VOC. And I hate to break it to you folks, but you know, the chemicals that are found in carpeting typically aren’t VOCs and haven’t been VOCs because they are what are called exempted VOC compounds. So they’ve never had to be listed. You know, the smell that people refer to as that carpet smell is a chemical called trichloroethylene. And that also makes up part of the styrene butadiene rubber backing; that is actually an unregulated VOC. So it was never actually listed as one before. And so putting zero VOC on a piece of carpet is akin to calling it gluten free or fat free. It really doesn’t matter. It still contains the toxins, but they never had been VOCs. So that’s the common misconception that I deal with on a regular basis and so I don’t need to go into that much further.

Alright. Misconception number two, this is something that I deal with again fairly regularly is, the call or an email from a customer saying I was doing my research and I read on a Facebook group that AFM Safecoat paint peels off the walls, or Benjamin Moore Natura paint peels off the walls or, you know, insert the manufacturer here. So the common misconception here is that just because a paint is considered healthier, safer, lower VOC, green, you name it, that it doesn’t actually work as well as the old fashioned toxic stuff. Now, interestingly enough, there are some applications that this would be true. VOCs for what they, they are volatile organic compounds. While some are dangerous to humans, some are completely harmless, but what they usually do when inserted into a coating is give the ability for the paint to bond under duress and under bad situations. It just gives it the ability to be a bit more goof proof. And taking these ingredients out of paints makes it so that you have to be a little more exact in in your application and your preparation. So I get this call a time that says that, you know, I was going to use Safecoat, but then I read on this Facebook group that Safecoat didn’t work for this one person and peeled right off the walls and don’t ever use this product. And with a quick 30 seconds of searching, you’ll find that just about every paint manufacturer you can think of has been named on some Facebook group, some talk, you know, chat group, for doing the exact same thing. And why is that? Well, it’s because people don’t want to believe that either their contractor or themselves didn’t follow directions or didn’t prepare surfaces properly.

They always want to believe that when there’s a problem on site that it must’ve had to do with the product because the product was the only difference. The homeowner can say, listen, I’ve been painting for 30 years. I don’t know how often they paint. Of course, you know, if you’re using good product, you’d only, I should have to paint once in that 30 years. But I digress. Let’s say they paint every five years and they’ve always used different brands of paint. And the very last time they painted, they used Safecoat and they had problems. The paint peeled… I can see how if you weren’t a professional and if you are interested in and trying to find, you know, the boogeyman on this now that’d be the manufacturer. That must’ve been something wrong with the paint. And then I get a phone call saying that there’s a problem; what happened here? And find out that, well actually the problem was that the last time you painted you didn’t wash the walls before you applied paint and now that all paint has to be lower zero VOC in those solvents we’ve talked about that do certain things, it’s a bit more crucial that the walls are washed.

Maybe you’re a family that does a lot of cooking and cooking oils and greases can get into the air. And as that smoke from cooking attaches to a wall, it carries with it little droplets of oil. And if you don’t wash that off, it’s quite possible that if you’d paint over it, the paint would peel off. Or if it’s a bathroom, if you didn’t wash the walls. Or if it’s new dry wall. And you know, the drywall contractor mudded and taped and sanded all the, all the drywall joints but didn’t vacuum off properly all the dust from that process, maybe you painted right over dust that isn’t actually locked into the wall and therefore the paint just peels off as the dust falls off. There’s a myriad of reasons why paint would peel off of the surface. The one thing that’s true in just about every situation that happens though is that it’s not the paints fault paint has one job and that is to coalesce, create a film.

Now, if it creates a film on a surface, that’s what it really should do. But if that surface is not conducive to adhesion or to bonding, what happens is it’s like trying to stick paint to a sheet of glass. It shrinks and grabs and creates that film, but it’s not really bonded to the surface. So if you, if you got an edge and you started peeling it, it would come off like a sheet of dead skin. And that’s usually the telltale sign that the surface was not prepared properly. And misconception is that there’s something wrong with the paint. And this a problem that every paint manufacturer deals with. It’s almost never a problem with a paint. It’s a problem with the surface preparation. So I don’t want to beat that one and in further than I have.

Let’s see, misconception number three for today. This one came up just recently, a client came into the showroom and said, we’re looking at buying bamboo floors because they’re trying to find the healthiest flooring materials available. This misconception is not something that I hear too often lately because bamboo as a flooring material, it was trendy for awhile and now it’s starting to go away from the trend. The trend is going back towards wood; but there’s still that feeling out there that if I’m going to do something that’s really green for my house that’s really ecofriendly and healthy, I’m going to buy bamboo floors. Well, just because it’s bamboo does not mean any of those are true. Bamboo is a commodity as a raw material. And you have to really trust the source that it comes from in order to believe and know for sure that it’s gonna meet some of those environmental and health benefits you’re looking for.

But the fact that it’s just bamboo does not mean any of those are just true automatically. So if you’re looking for let’s say, a very environmentally friendly wood type flooring material, I could probably argue that material that’s harvested selectively and delivered down from Northern Wisconsin to Southern Wisconsin is probably more environmentally friendly than a container load of bamboo that’s being shipped over from China. And that’s where all bamboo is manufactured. I can also say on the flip side that bamboo that is plied together using formaldehyde free adhesives that don’t off gas would probably be healthier than wood that’s manufactured locally, that uses urea formaldehyde based what glues. So there’s a trade off, um, and you have to really look for the products that meet the criteria you’re trying to meet. But just, you cannot assume because it’s this or that, that it’s going to meet that set of criteria. You really have to work with your local supplier and ask the right questions. Again, just because bamboo is considered eco-friendly and healthy doesn’t actually mean it is.

All right, the last misconception I want to talk about today is that products that are healthy and eco-friendly just cannot work as well as the old fashioned toxic materials. Now I touched on this a little bit earlier when talking about VOCs and peeling paints… In certain situations, the old fashioned ingredients that are used for all types of building and home related goods, work better than what’s being offered to us now. In some situations. Actually very rarely is this the case. Take into consideration things like exterior paint. The old timers will say you’ve got to use an oil based primer and oil based paint for exterior wood. Well, there hasn’t been an innovation in the oil based paint industry in about 25 years. All research and innovation is going into the waterborne products. Why? Well, because they’re healthier, they’re safer. And in most cases they actually work better. But the misconception is that you’ve got to use an oil base in order for it to work.

Another one that we see quite often is the misconception that these green adhesives don’t work and the green caulking materials don’t work. And I am here to tell you that materials that we get from AFM, from Chemlink, these materials are incredibly good and they work wonderfully well. Matter of fact, I’d put them up against any product on the market for what they’re designed to do. And just because they’re considered environmentally friendly or healthier does not mean at all that you’re going to lose any performance with these materials.

But yet we’ve got to answer those questions on a regular basis from customers because their contractor said this and their contractor said that. The thing about the industry is that contractors have amazing experience in what they are used to using. And you pay for the good contractors. You paid dearly because they know what they’re doing, they can get the job done in a set amount of time. They make the project look great, but they are so strapped for time to do research on new innovations that they almost always just use what they’ve used before because they know it works. I certainly can’t slight them for this; that old saying that time is money and if they’re losing time, just doing research and trying out new products, they’re losing money. And a lot of these companies they just can’t afford to do that.

So, um, they have to trust when a supplier like myself or others across the country are saying, I know it seems like it’s not gonna work, but trust me, it’ll work. It’ll work just fine. And, um, you know, most often they’re, they’re pleasantly surprised and you hope from this point forward they might consider using healthier, safer materials for their next job.

All right. That is it for the show this week on common misconceptions. Thanks again for joining me and Jay and I would back next week with another episode of Non Toxic Environments. And once again, folks, we’d love it if you’d go to iTunes and hit subscribe, tell your family and friends about this. We are still one of the fastest growing shows in the lineup of podcasts as it relates to healthy homes. Really exciting for us in the home and garden section. We’ve been consistently about the 20th, the 30th ranked show all of podcasts in North America. So we are extremely, extremely excited about that. And it’s all because of you listening to us giving us ideas for future shows. So thanks again for listening everybody and have yourself a wonderful, wonderful weekend. Take care.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Is Chemical Sensitivity All in Your Head??

How many time have you heard THAT line…Its not real, its just in your head.  Well today, Jay and I are taking on this topic directly and we’ll actually prove that this statement is partially true.  Just because something smells bad, doesn’t mean it IS bad.  I expect this episode to get a lot of feedback, so please let us know what YOU think.  

Google Play


Is Chemical Sensitivity All in Your Head??

Andy: Chemical sensitivity. It’s all in your head. I’m sure you’ve been told that a few times in your life today. Jay and I are going to talk about this myth, but is it really a myth? There might be some reality to this where you have a fear of a reaction, therefore you actually have a reaction. So today on Non Toxic Environments, Jay and I are going to talk about this controversial topic and we’ll get to some customer questions. Jay, welcome back to the show this week. You know, it’s going to be a little bit different. Both of us are feeling like we’re coming down with a cold.

Jay: Yeah, thanks for the advice on taking care of that Andy. Appreciate it.

Andy: Well, load up on vitamin C to the point that it’s… You’ve had too much. Okay. I won’t describe how you know this. The other thing is I love the Fire Cider products and not only just the brand Fire Cider, but the homemade products as well. It’s apple cider vinegar with honey, a whole host of ingredients that are really good for heating up the body and getting it to start to take care of itself.

Jay: Well, what’s the body chemistry in terms of pH and acidity? What’s the… because that just popped into my head. Is the idea that we want to take our body to be a little more alkaline? I mean, that’s kind of generally the idea anyway. So we want to run our body. Our body chemistry wants to be alkaline, not acidic. And most of us run acidic body chemistry.

Andy: Well, and there’s a lot of information out there about using alkaline water.

Jay: Right? Which I do.

Andy: We work with a brand of water filtration systems that turns water into alkaline water. And you know, there’s a lot of these technologies out there, folks that I think that they need to be studied more. I can’t say for sure they’re great and they’re all going to work. I think anything’s worth a try. Neither Jay nor I claim to be physicians. We we’re not trying to give medical advice whatsoever but I think it’s worth trying some of these things and when it comes to just the common cold utilizing in the apple cider vinegar with a habanero and turmeric and honey, usually does the trick with me.

Jay: Yeah. And it gives you a nice little… it’s got a good bite to it too. Well, I think what you’re alluding to Andy, I think is true and I think people are aware of this now. You know, there’s more than just the Western model of medicine that we can take a look at and explore. And I think it’s really worth to everyone listening that you do, that you explore the modalities that are out there and available to you. So a lot of, there’s a lot of good information, there’s a lot of good things that are happening outside of the Western allopathic medical model. And so I’m encouraged to explore that on your own and decide what works best for you. So we’re going to talk about today, one of the things that we’ve talked about, as long as the podcast has been running in that is chemical sensitivity.

Andy: Right. And I guess, you know, the preceding message about you and I both kind of feel like we’re coming down to go with a cold here is to talk a little bit to medicine and medical issues. And again, folks, we are not physicians, but Jay and I both have been around this world for many, many years, in the world of chemical sensitivity. And you know, each of us have thousands and thousands of clients we’ve worked with and all of those clients have been able to educate us about this. And the topic that we wanted to discuss today is something that we may have alluded to in previous episodes, but it’s been encouraged to us by a number of listeners lately that we should actually bring it up on the show. And I don’t want to turn this into a discussion of, you know, again, medical ideas and practices and so forth. What I wanted to talk about is the fact that in chemical sensitivity or with the chemical sensitivity, it is well known but never really talked about that there is actually having a physical reaction to a chemical, a product that was brought into a room. You know, where this is going, but there’s also having a physical reaction due to the mind telling you to have a physical reaction. And so…

Jay: And that is just the body’s natural tendency to fight or flight. Isn’t that a part of that mechanism where the body is getting some signals and then the body’s injecting or releasing chemicals into the body to react to that in one way or the other?

Andy: Correct.

Jay: And adrenaline as such.

Andy: Let me break it down a little bit more for everybody. Um, you walk into a building and you smell a chemical or a chemical like odor or a fragrance that you don’t recognize. For those who have been suffering with chemical sensitivity for any period of time, instantly start to fear the unknown because you’re used to those odors equating a physical reaction with the body, right? So because of that, your mind says, Oh, here we go. And it causes an adrenaline response that fight or flight mode and your body can actually have a physical reaction to the fear of the unknown. So I bring this topic up very gingerly because I’m not trying to say that chemical sensitivity is psychosomatic or it’s all in your head because folks, you’ve all heard that for how many years now from your own physicians when you first started to figure out what was going on. And so the last thing I want to do is agree with those those comments, because that’s not what I’m saying at all. What I’m saying, however, is as what has been, described to me by the late Dr. Rea, by my own physician here locally Dr. Toth, and other physicians I’ve talked to across the country that the body can actually have a reaction to the fear of the unknown and it will mimic a typical reaction to a chemical or a fragrance. Does that make sense, Jay?

Jay: Yeah, Andy, that makes a whole lot of sense. And I think just to backup a little bit for folks I thought it’d be probably worthwhile to give you what a consensus of physicians have described as the definition for chemical sensitivity. This is by the way, the library of medicine, the US library of medicine and this is their 1999 consensus. I’ll just read it. The criteria for chemical sensitivity, 1) a chronic condition 2) with symptoms that recur reproducibly 3) response to low levels of exposure 4} to multiple unrelated chemicals and 5) improve or resolve when incitements are removed. There’s another six criteria that now propose of adding and that is that the symptoms occur in multiple organ systems. So that that’s just kind of a clinical description of what multiple chemical sensitivity is.

Andy: And so, you know, think about this. Again, like I said, you walk into a space and you sense something that you don’t recognize, and then you’d actually have  a reaction to the fear of the unknown.  I would like to relate this to- let’s look at even something like Safecoat paint. One of the things that has been talked about over the years that Safecoat paint actually has a more of a paint smell than some of the other zero VOC paints made by the big companies. Well, why is that? Well, it’s because they use chemical masking agents.

Jay: I went to a conference one time; there was a workshop and it was for contractors and one of the contractors approached our booth and he came up and he said, you know, I don’t really need this stuff. And I said, really? Tell me about that. He says, well, you know, I can actually buy a masking agent and I can and have just put it in the paint I’m using and the client never knows the difference.

Andy: There you go.

Jay: And I was like, Oh boy. Yup. Mind my own…

Andy: It’s kind of an interesting story. Years ago here in Wisconsin, there was a big box store. It wasn’t one we know about it is more local to the upper Midwest and they had a private label paint brand called Ed Dwiggins paint. Well, Ed Dwiggins paints came out with a paint that had a fresh lemon smell. And I remember the commercial, this is just about the time when I started selling Safecoat. So early 90s, and Ed Dwiggins paint, they had this advertising that said, well, if you don’t like the smell of paint then you should love our fresh lemon scent that we put into every gallon. So your room smells fresh and so on and so forth. Well, they took it off the market after about probably about a year. They found out that, first of all, you know, the smell of lemon over the smell of a toxic paint odor just makes for the smell of a toxic lemon paint odor. And they found that that lemon scent that they used actually turn rancid after a period of time.

Jay: Boy, Oh boy.

Andy: So, that was my first exposure, no pun intended, to the use of masking agents, and then as I started to work with Safecoat and other brands of products that we deal with now, I realized that manufacturers mastered the art of taking anywhere from 5 to 15 different chemicals and adding them into products. And it’s kinda like that old adage of yellow plus blue make green? Well one smell plus another smell can actually equal no smell.

There you go.

Andy: And that’s what a chemical masking agent is.

Jay: It’s reminding me also, and this is kind of on the side, when people are using cleaning products and the cleaning products have some kind of fragrance to them. I think it’s, there’s an interesting psychology because with a cleaner, like ours for example, ours is Safechoice All Purpose Cleaner. There’s no smell to it. And there’s an interesting thing that happens with people. They use it, but they don’t smell a clean smell, like a fragrance smell. And they associate that with it being ineffective and that the cleaner can’t possibly be working because I don’t smell that cleaner smell.

Andy: Right. I remember years ago, Jay, I forget which hospital it was that we were working on, and they were using Super Clean, the Safecoat product, and absolutely loved it. But after a period of, I don’t know, maybe a 30 day test period, they said, we love the product, but we’re not gonna use it. And obviously we questioned why and they said, well, the problem is because it doesn’t have that citrus aroma or the pine smell. We can actually smell when our cleaning crews don’t do a good enough job and don’t.. So, those chemicals masking agents that are used not only hide the smell of the cleaner chemicals themselves, but also help in, as you say, giving people that illusion that it’s a freshly clean space. It’s like the smell of new cars. You know, every manufacturer of cars has their own signature aroma. And you know, when you’re getting into a new Ford or a new Chevy or a new Hyundai that it’s that brand because it smells like that brand. And so we’re kind of going off on a tangent onto chemical masking agents. But you know, boiling all this down folks, what this means is that sometimes the mind is a powerful thing. Sometimes the mind is telling the body that there is something wrong, even if there really isn’t something wrong, but the mind is so used to certain triggers that it’s going to cause that same reaction. And so, think back to all the different episodes we’ve done, Jay, and we’ve told people, well before you do the whole job, you should test for personal tolerance, right?

Jay: Right, right.

Andy: Doing a staining job, whatever it is. One of the reasons why you want to test for personal tolerance too is so that you recognize the aromas that are created when you use these products in your home. I had a client many years ago who was building a home and we had her and her husband test every single product that was going into their house. I’m talking all the way down to the screws and the nails holding it together.

Jay: Holy moly.

Andy: And she did the sniff test. And then if she had some reaction, she would take that further to kind of determine what it was. I mean, she really was quite diligent with this. Now side note, people have asked me over the years if I could reproduce that Excel spreadsheet for them so that they had a checklist and I don’t do that because everybody is different. And I don’t want to be in a situation where just because it’s good for one doesn’t mean it’s good for all. But anyway, one of the reasons, or one of the best reasons for doing this was I knew that if she ever walked onto the job site at any given time at part of the process, every odor that would be on site would be something she’s already assessed and recognized and approved. Therefore, there’s no fear. There’s no fear of the reaction. There’s no adrenaline response. There’s no stress. You know, we’ve talked about stress being a huge impact on how our body reacts.

Jay: Completely huge. Yeah. And so she went through the process and the right way because then she could be exposed to something that someone else may go, whoa, what is that? And she’s like, nope, I know what that is. And I’m comfortable with it. I’m not going to have a reaction to it. It’s fine.

Andy: Exactly. Exactly.

Jay: That would be a that would be a good spreadsheet, even though it’s just for her. I’m fascinated with the whole idea of what a screw smells like.

Andy: Well, I don’t know if she actually, I don’t think she actually described the smell. Like she was trying to, you know, be a wine sommelier. Robust yet not overpowering. But I believe it was basically approve, not approve or maybe, and then if it went to a maybe then we’d have to go to some additional testing. In certain situations folks, that’s the only way we can do it. Chemical sensitivity is so different from person to person, yet we all understand if you have one or work within this this world, we all understand what it means. But everybody would describe it about themselves a little bit differently.

Jay: So I think the other side of the, the discussion is all those folks who, and I speak specifically about new families are having children and their whole concept is to try to create a really healthy environment for their new children. And so they’re aware of because there’s a lot of information now out about this. They’re aware of the challenges and exposures that can happen and they want to protect their children from that so that they can be calm, you know, sensitized and have all those, those, those problems that go along with it. Probably what folks are probably thinking, okay, I feel like I’m chemically sensitive now.  do I do? I mean, who do I turn to? Who do I talk to? I mean, I may even have, I have doubt within my own family of my sanity. So, where do I go? We can speak to that a little bit. The field of environmental medicine has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. Andy talked about Dr. William Rae. God bless his soul, he just passed away last year but he actually set up his clinic in Dallas back in 1977 if you can believe that all the way back then. And the whole focus of the practice there is to understand personal chemical sensitivity. You go there for treatment, they figure it through protocols, they figure out what it is you should be staying away from and then, and then you’d come back home with a program to get yourself back in balance. So I’m saying this because, and I haven’t been to their website lately, but my sense is there’s probably some resources on the American environmental health clinic website, American environmental health clinic website. This will be in the show notes anyway. But, there’s probably a resource here for physicians who may be practicing environmental medicine close to you. May be a resource for people if they’re looking to get counseled by someone other than their regular doctor.

Andy: Right. And, you know, I’ve, I’ve spent a lot of time discussing these things, not only with Dr. Rae over the years, with other physicians that I know, Dr who’s been on the show, we hope to have her back on next couple of weeks. I’m not looking to turn this into a whole discussion, but chemical sensitivity is a very, very taxing, draining, disease. Not only for the person who has it, but for the physician who’s trying to treat it. Because it’s very difficult to treat something that you can’t see. And, you know, we see this, right? You go to your doctor, say, I’ve got a pain in my knee. Well, let’s do a x-ray. Let’s do an MRI. Let’s do a CAT scan what are we going to do. And then you still don’t find anything wrong, but I still got that pain. Well, chemical sensitivity is very similar to that. You can’t see it on an x-ray. There’s no really… perfect…

Jay: Diagnostic for it. Yeah, there’s no, there’s no perfect diagnostic for it.

Andy: Right. And I think that a lot of times physicians get really burned out trying to work with folks who have sensitivities because they’ve exhausted all of their ideas and it’s still doesn’t help am so I hear from these clients who these they’ve dealt with seven physicians, you know, three psychologists now they’re onto holistic health care practitioners. And nobody can figure it out. Well, I think what happens is, again, the more you’re involved in this and the more you’re trying to figure it out, and the longer you’re dealing with this, the more cynical a person gets. Like, you know what, nobody’s helping me. Nobody can understand what I’m going through. Nobody can fix this. And everything I come in contact with is killing me. I don’t believe, and I say this with the most respect for everybody who listens to us and who is clients of ours. I don’t believe that is always the case. I don’t believe that everything you come in contact with that has an aroma is actually dangerous. However, I completely understand why you would think that and I completely understand why your body says it is because of that fight or flight response. I don’t want to come across as being that guy, you know? Oh, you don’t believe us folks. If I didn’t believe you, I wouldn’t have been in this industry for close to 30 years.

Jay: Yeah. Amen to that. I feel exactly the same way. So, yeah. So I think it’s just basically telling people, you know, just pay attention but don’t overreact. As you know, as your example of your client who did the, you know, the really thorough test, I think that’s probably the best way for you to get some kind of a handle on this folks, is to do as the duties kind of sampling experiments. Andy says it all the time. You know, it’s a mantra we have here as well knowing because everyone’s different. So within the same family, well, everyone’s different. So you have to be able to test your, own, your own situation in a unique way, and then make your determinations based upon that kind of real world exposure and experience.

Andy: And understand that just because something has a smell or doesn’t have a smell is no indication about the toxicity or any health aspects to it. You know, I’ll give you two examples. Carbon monoxide has no smell, but it’ll kill you. Cooking salmon in the oven smells horrible. It’s not going to kill you. All right. And I use those examples with customers every single day and I get them to chuckle a little bit. And that’s a part of the process too is understanding that we, you know, we can deal with us. But you have to allow yourself to believe this. You have to allow yourself to believe that not every fragrance out there is designed specifically to harm you. And some do. I totally understand that, but some don’t. Not all of them do. Okay. On the flip side, just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s safe either; don’t doubt yourself with essential oils because you know it’s going to help you sleep at night. Well, no, it’s actually gonna cause more harm than good. All right.

Jay: Yeah I think there’s some misconceptions that if it’s all natural it’s potentially all safe too.

Andy: And that’s exactly right.

Jay: And that’s not done. That’s not necessarily the case.

Andy: However, I think we kind of beat this one up. I think we did. I think we did. I think we’ve discussed it enough and folks, again, Jay and I, we are two dedicated people in this world. The last thing we are trying to do is tell you that’s all in your head. We know it’s not, we know it’s not folks, but we also know is that sometimes you need a third party to say, here’s what it could be. And I think if you actually sat down and thought about it would make a lot of sense too.

Jay: Yeah, I think that’s, I think that’s wise advice. Andy.

Andy: So Jay, we got a little extra time today. I’m wanting to maybe throw in some customer questions.

Jay: Yeah, yeah. You’ve got some there. I don’t have any in front of me, but I can probably dive in.

Andy: Well, I got one here, just came across my desk.

Jay: Yeah. Okay, good. That’s fresh.

Andy: This is from Alexandria and she says, “hey guys, we’re having a major issue with black mold growth on our bathroom ceiling and shower curtain. We’re about to purchase a dehumidifier as a temporary option to reduce moisture as that bathroom has no vent out. Which primer or product can you recommend once thoroughly cleaned once we have thoroughly cleaned the mold away. Thanks so much for your help.”

Jay: Black mold on the ceiling of their bathroom?

Andy: Right.

Jay: Well, you know when I hear these things I go… black mold doesn’t just show up overnight.

Andy: Well, here’s the other thing too. Black mold is not all toxic black mold. You know, mold is typically dark.

Jay: Yes. Right. Um, it can come with some other colors, but typically dark.

Andy: Yeah. How many species of mold are found in the home, you know, and not all of them is that that toxic Stachybotrys mold. All right. So I understand that black mold growth on the bathroom ceiling happens because you take a shower, the steam carries with it soap scum and dead skin cells that steam condenses. Rises to the ceiling, sticks to the surface, and then the next time it happens and the next time it happens, all of a sudden you’ve food sources from old. The first thing I’m going to say is, I know it says you don’t have vent. I’m going to say, put one in.

Jay: Right.

Andy: I don’t care what you do at this point to clean the surface, to prime it, to paint it. I don’t care what you do in that bathroom. You will always have problems if you cannot ventilate out the humidity.

Jay: That’s a rule. That’s the… It’s the 11th commandment.

Andy: Right, always ventilate. And so I would love to tell you which primer or product to recommend once you’ve thoroughly cleaned the mold away. You know? But honestly, it’s just throwing money away. It’s going to happen again. It’s going to happen again and again and again until you actually get away to ventilate out the moisture.

Jay: So what it was, so let’s say they go, forget it. There’s no way to do that ventilation. So what’s another way to kind of mitigate this? I mean, how about some hydrogen peroxide? I spray hydrogen peroxide in my walk in shower weekly. I don’t have a problem and I got a ton of grout too, ton.

Andy: Yeah, but that’s a different situation. A walk in shower spraying hydrogen peroxide in the shower where you have tile and grout is different than having mold growth on a painted bathroom ceiling.

Jay: Right, right. But I’m just saying… if you think you can’t ventilate, Andy, what am I going to do? What am I going to do? What am I going to do?

Andy: Here’s what you’re going to do. All right? You’re going to get a fan and you’re going to blow a fan into the bathroom from the hallway, which is going to cause currents. It’s going to eventually ventilate our push out the moisture. All right?

Jay: Okay. All right.

Andy: It’s not convenient.

Jay: No.

Andy: It’s not attractive.

Jay: No.

Andy: But it works. You could use a dehumidifier too, but that takes too long. You need fans, you need air movement, and then you do have to address the surfaces once you’ve cleaned them off. And for that, I’d recommend on the ceiling, putting a couple of coats of the Caliwel Home & Office product because as things happen, again, if you, if you’re not running the fan often, you’re not, you don’t find a way to ventilate. You’re going to get mold build up again. And at least using the Caliwel Home & Office paint that’s going to eliminate mold spores because it kills them on contact.

Jay: Well, that’s a good way to go.

Andy: Okay.

Jay: That’s a good way to go.

Andy: But you know, yes. Ventilate.

Jay: Ventilate the 10th, the 11th commandment. Well, I think we’ve kind of wrapped it up for today, haven’t we?

Andy: I think so. I think so. Folks, as always, if you have any questions, have any comments, please reach out to us. You can email me, go to iTunes or wherever you listen to this show. And if you can leave us a rating and a review, we greatly appreciate it. You know, we had a contest a few weeks ago, Jay, where we said anybody who leaves us a review from that show we had with Brandon LaGreca about EMFs.

Jay: Yes.

Andy: That we gave away a copy of his book.

Jay: Great show.

Andy: And I mailed out a bunch of them, to people for writing reviews. You know what folks, keep them coming, you know, if you’ve want to leave us a review, especially if it’s a good one. I’ll send you a copy of Brandon’s book because I’ve got a few extras laying around here and it’s a wonderful, wonderful read. So, the next few people who leave us a review, I will contact you personally and we’ll get your address and get a book on the way.

It doesn’t get better than that.

Andy: No, not at all. And folks, as always, it’s been an absolute pleasure to be in front of the microphone in front of you all. And Jay, it’s always a pleasure to do this with you.

Jay: Yeah, I agree. Andy. I hope folks that we’re sharing information, that is going to benefit your life going forward.

Andy: You got it. All right. Now remember what I said, a shot of Fire Cider or three times a day. Lot of vitamin C. And by next week, you and I both will be feeling great.

Jay: I’m excited already. I’m feeling great right now just talking to you.

Andy: Okay. It’s this show. It’s boosted my immune system.

Jay: Okay. All right, everyone. Take care out there folks. Bye.

Andy: Bye.

View Transcript PDF


NTE Podcast: The Cost of Healthy Building Pt 2

In the second part of this topic, Jay and I discuss the costs of the interior furnishings and finishes and how they can add up quickly.  Once again, we prove that building healthy does NOT increase the cost of your home.  Building with high quality, long-lasting materials does.  We discuss drywall, flooring, cabinetry and more.


Google Play


The Cost of Healthy Building Pt 2

The Cost of Healthy Building
Part 2

Andy: In part one of the cost of healthy building. Last week Jay and I discussed the bigger ticket items of the home, the framing systems, HVAC, roofing windows. This week we’re going to talk about flooring materials and cabinetry wall finishes, the areas of the home that really are important to the health of the occupants. And these numbers can add up quickly. So join us this week on Non Toxic Environments 

And here we are: part two of our series on building healthy homes, the cost of building healthy homes. You know, Jay, we’ve gotten some great feedback already in part one and so I’m hoping that part two sort of ties it all in together and gives us a really good idea of explaining the cost of these homes. 

Jay: Did anyone throw a question at you from part one you’d like to dig in on right now? Something that you went whoa, that’s something we should bring up right to the right at the beginning of the conversation? 

Andy: Well, quite honestly, yes. It’s amazing you asked that. You asked that and folks, again not scripted this question. I got an email right away from somebody and said, I understand you’re talking about big ticket items… and, exterior mainly. I know you’ll probably cover this, but what about drywall? Now drywall is always, always a big part of conversation when it comes to healthy home builds. And it always comes down to, should we use regular drywall that’s gypsum board with paper on it. Should we use paperless drywall and paperless drywall is simply a gypsum board with a fiberglass mesh embedded into it and no paper…  or should we use MGO board or magnesium oxide board? 

There are many people in our industry that are huge, huge proponents of the MGO board, mainly because of its the attribute that it is completely unaffected by moisture. It’s completely inert and there’s so many benefits of it, but the downside always is the cost. And it’s not just cost of the material, Jay, it’s the cost of handling it, shipping it, having to work with it, finishing it, and then trying to make it look good at the end. And one of those big ticket items on the inside of the home can be very costly. It is the drywall.

Jay: There’s a lot of it. There’s a lot of it everywhere. I think part of the trepidation on people’s, young people’s minds, is the debacle with all of this Chinese sheet rock that got into the country some years ago. So that was a big news item and everyone was like, Oh my God, how will we know- where is it? Did we buy? Are we looking at it right now? And not even realize it. 

Andy: The funny thing is, and I heard and I talked about this with a friend of mine in the industry, George Swanson and a number of you people, I’m sure you know George, he is one of the pioneers in the industry is specifically on the use of MGO board. And he explained this to me at length one day about how the the story of the Chinese wallboard; it really was not made in China. Folks it was actually made in Germany. 

Jay: Oh yeah. I didn’t know that. I didn’t know that. 

Andy: Yeah. So it’s this big misnomer about it. It’s there was some Chinese made drywall that was found on a job, but it was not the material that was actually causing the problems that was happening with this German made product that was actually eating away at the installation of the wires and it was causing fires and so forth. 

Jay: Oh wow. 

Andy: Because of sulfuric acid. Anyway, boring story folks are even, but… full circle. And so, he filled me in, but he’s also somebody who’s really been pushing the use of mag board and I totally understand it and I like the concept, the idea of it. But what it always comes down to is the cost of it. And I know I’ll hear from him after this episode comes out. I appreciate that because he is passionate about it and he is unbelievably knowledgeable. 

But when it comes to the cost of building healthy, this is one of those areas where it’s just very, very difficult to work it into a project. 

Jay: Right. So just for sake of the conversation here, we kind of threw note where we’re talking numbers last time and pray about how to figure out costs for thing going by square footage. So just a real quick reference. So a regular gypsum board, sheet rock down at Home Depot compared to MGO. What we talking about price wise? 

Andy: Well, let’s say a sheet of four foot by eight foot, half inch drywall, which is what’s typically used, and that’s very common. And if I can do the math in my head here, you’re looking at about a quarter a square foot for the material. 

Jay: All right? And then MGO, what’s the difference there? 

Andy: MGO board is probably be twice that. Now in quantity, yeah, you can get it down to maybe it’s only 30% more. Now the beauty of MGO board is all the other attributes that you can’t put a dollar figure on. Now here’s the downside is you have to skim coat it with plaster in order to get it to finish out like paper, drywall. And now your costs start to go up. The same thing with if you are using a paperless dry while you’ve had a skim coat to make it look good. If you want that look that you’re used to seeing with regular drywall. So these are the considerations and you can certainly build a home healthy using standard drywall. If you are using drywall mud does not have antimicrobials and it says no formaldehyde donors, if you’re using primers and paints like the Safecoat products that are free of any HAPs and VLCs, if you’re using Caliwel- this is something we talk about quite often on the show, Caliwel is a coating that goes behind the drywall behind the insulation, right onto the sheathing and the studs on the exterior walls that will kill off mold spores and keep them from reoccurring for up to six years or longer. Fabulous, fabulous product. 

Jay: I think that is such an incredible insurance policy when you’re building a wall system to be able to use a product like Calwell to give you that, not a guarantee, but I can, is going to the guarantee is you’ve got some protection behind the wall. 

Andy: It’s inexpensive insurance so that it doesn’t occur. 

Jay: There you go. 

Andy: And we’re finding that the use of that product has made a world of difference on projects across the country. Let’s expand a little bit beyond the drywall. Let’s go to the paint. When we’re talking about healthy homes obviously we think about the four main things inside of a home that could be detrimental to indoor air quality walls and walls, floors, furnishings and finishes. And then, your cabinetry cabinets. Walls or painted walls and ceilings make up 75% of all the surfaces that are exposed in the home. That’s an enormous, enormous amount of area that could be potentially offgassing. 

Jay: My analogy I use on that is the of the using the body human body as an example. So our skin is our biggest organ. 

Andy: There you go. 

Jay: So I think of the surfaces 75% of the interiors a skin. My idea is we want to try to take care of that skin as best we can. This brings up the idea of the different coatings that you can use to protect yourself. 

Andy: And I certainly don’t want to make this a sales pitch for a Safecoat. So I won’t. Everybody knows my opinion on this. But I will say this provided that you use a paint material that is free of chemical offgassing, um, and is HAP free, and this is what we’re looking for. Traditional paints and coatings that do release VOC, SVOCs, other chemicals that are not actually regulated as such. This offgassing can actually continue anywhere from three and a half to four and a half years after it reaches a full cure. So this is why it’s so important to use the right products at the start, right? 

Jay: It’s best to start with the source being the cleanest you possibly can. 

Andy: There’s some rules of thumb here, folks. And one is if you have the ability to either remove the source or of the pollutant or just don’t use it at all, that’s the best way to go, right? Don’t use any toxic paints. Don’t use any toxic insulation. All right? If that isn’t going to work because of time, money, accessibility, whatever it is, then the next best thing is to seal it up and try to deal with it. That’s the subject of other shows. All right. So, let’s finish up on that wall. And one of the costs of healthy building would be the insulation that goes behind it. 

And like we said in last week’s show, folks, this is not supposed to be the quintessential way to build a healthy home. We’re just talking about why healthy homes have a tendency to have the appearance to be more expensive and where. Why in most situations they aren’t if you compare apples to apples.

So with insulation, almost all fiberglass insulation made today is formaldehyde free. The very best insulation that I can find for projects, just about every project I work on is a formaldehyde free insulation. So the costs shouldn’t be any more in that realm. 

Jay: And the access should be easy as well. 

Andy: Easy. So now your entire exterior shell of the home is made with materials that should be readily available to your builders, so you shouldn’t have an extra expense. So what else we got Jay?

Jay: Well, we’ve talked about walls and ceilings. You talked about floors, we talked a lot about floors, but there’s a whole bunch of choices there. In the flooring world. 

Andy: There are. 

Jay: So, the hierarchy for us when we were talking about healthy indoor air quality is, we like tile. 

Andy: Yes. 

Jay: As a choice. We like hardwood as a choice. 

Andy: Yes. 

Jay: I’m not opposed and it’s become popular- concrete is a choice becoming very popular. Now we have, there’s cork and bamboo, right? There’s the Marmoleum from Forbo to name another company. So those are the flooring choices. And of course they are kind of in order of price as well. So your tile can be a little more expensive than your wood floors. Or wood floors can be more expensive than some of those other materials. 

Andy: But here’s the big picture of what you just said. What we’re advocating for are hard surfaces that are easy to clean. 

Jay: Correct. 

Andy: Specifically the ones that don’t off gas. There are a lot of great brands out there. Let’s not talk brands right now. 

Jay: Let’s just talk. There’s plenty. Yeah. 

Andy: So let’s just talk materials. Nothing you talked about would be any more expensive than what are typically used on homes today, right? So yes, you can get a hardwood floor that’s $5 a square foot for material. You can get a hardwood floor that’s $45 a square foot for material. So just the fact that it’s a healthy product does not explain why a home would cost more if you choose the exotic species of hardwood for your house and your house is way over budget. That’s why- it’s because you chose an inexpensive product. 

So just the mere fact that you are using wood does not mean it’s going to be more expensive. Again, trying to explain why there’s a difference in price. At the end of this show we’ll kind of boil it all down and give you the synopsis of why healthy homes are typically more expensive. When it comes to the flooring materials, there are a lot of great choices out there. So let’s just say we use on the average and this is what he uses all my clients, anywhere from 8 to $10 per square foot installed is what we normally budget in a home project for hardwood, tile, bamboo, cork, linoleum, just everything is in about in that 8 to $10 a square foot furnished install. And I know it’s different from area to area folks, but this is just to give you an idea. 

Jay: It’s a good reference point, absolutely correct. 

Andy: And I can find incredibly toxic flooring materials for that same price or I can find nontoxic materials for that price. The toxicity does not dictate the pricing. Notice one thing we didn’t talk about here was carpet. And yes, there are some healthy carpets on the market. We’ve talked about this in past episodes, but generally speaking, the carpets that are available to the builders and in most flooring stores are going to be made with a lot of ingredients that are very, very, dangerous to live with. And so we just avoid that conversation completely. 

Jay: Yes, yes. Okay. So floors, walls, ceilings, a big, big topic. A big, an expensive can be an expensive topic is cabinets. 

Andy: Cabinets. You know, Jay, this is the one part of the episode that I sort of dread to talk about. The reason for this is that’s is a tough one. I have to tell a lot of clients that sometimes you got to take a step backwards to take two steps forwards. Cabinetry is tough. I have tested cabinets and homes that are old, and new homes too, in these cabinets can off gas a toxic level of formaldehyde. I know this is the part of a home that can really, really be harmful to the occupants. The problem is, if you do want cabinets that are made to be healthy for the occupant, you have to find a local cabinet maker who’s willing to use healthier finishes. Because that’s really what it comes down to, right? 

Jay: That’s exactly right. 

Andy: Any cabinet maker can use formaldehyde, free plywood. It’s available. It’s all over the place, but not all of them. Matter of fact, very few of them will use water-based solvent, free finishes. They all want to use what they’re used to because woodworkers have a very, very strong opinion of how things should look correct. And it’s been really the most difficult part of my business. 

Jay: All right. And they’re comfortable with their method methodology, right? They know how a solvent is going to cure. It’s going to cure fast. There’s a volatile nature of it. So they have a shorter working time and that helps them get their jobs done quicker so they can do more jobs. I think mostly though, it’s just the fact that they’re entrenched in their methodology. This is what they’ve always done. This is what they were taught by whoever taught them, right. They know their teachers using the same kind of product lines. And it just goes on and on and on and on. To have them switch over, if you can find them, folks, it’s their gold. Because that’s one of the limitations. The other thing that’s been real popular now is these companies like Ikea. You get calls, I get calls. People- they went to Ikea and they bought something and they’re having an installed and they’re worried about something coming off the Ikea. Right? So, and there’s other companies that will do home Depot will do it. You can go to home Depot and they’ll sit down with their designer and they’ll design your whole kitchen with all the cabinets and everything in there. So, because of the cost of something custom, they’ll go to someplace like an Ikea or a company that sells a program and then they’ve got them in their home and then they’ve got issues. Right. Oh my God. You know, uh, it’s offgassing we can’t be in there and we, they’re brand new. What do we do right then? Then we’re in a treatment process.

Andy: Yeah. Well, and we were fortunate enough to have a local cabinet maker who used our finishes and did a number of projects and just did a fantastic job. And unfortunately, he retired from the business. The fact of the matter is that he proved that you don’t have to be… he was an amazing cabinet maker. He was an award winning a cabinet maker. But he wasn’t anything special in the standpoint of he was skilled in the art of applying water base. He was good at it because he practiced it and he got good at it. And he did a great job and customers loved his work. Most cabinet makers that I work with across the country, when they are forced to use a water based solvent, free coating, they fight it tooth and nail because they don’t have the time to learn. They don’t have the ability because if they’re trying to learn something new, that means they’re not actually earning a paycheck. 

I understand why they resist. On the other hand, you really hope at some point they finally say, listen, for the health of myself and my workers and my customers, I just finally need to make the switch. And when you make the switch, you’ll find that the solvent free finishes work wonderfully and they look great. You may have to change your expectations a little bit and what the finishes end up looking like because water-based and solvent-based just look different. 

Jay: They do. 

Andy: But that said customers love the look of it. And so I guess this is the one point of our conversation that I can say that sometimes healthier cabinets do cost more than unhealthy cabinets because there’s just not a lot of people out there who are doing it. That may change, as you say with Ikea and there’s other like these knocked down cabinet companies, they shipped them, knocked down, you put them together in the field and they’re starting to use UV cured finishes and those UV cured finishes are actually free of offgassing. And so as a fine and as we move forward with that material folks, we’ll definitely have another podcast just on that. I think this is the wave of the future. As you know, Jay is talking about these, these modular type cabinets. So in any event, so you know what else inside of the home you’ve got. 

Jay: So there’s not necessarily a huge spaces, but important is countertops. Countertops. 

Andy: Yes. Yes, so when talking about countertops, I know the trend is to use granite and marble and these beautiful stones. I always tell my customers, if you want a healthy home, you cannot use natural stone countertops. Why is that? Well, because natural stone has to be sealed on a, on a regular basis. We’re talking every six months. You have to use sealers and those sealers are not very safe. There isn’t a toxin free sealer made for countertops. Countertops are the most abused surface in the house between the water and the soap and the cutting and the acids that come off of tomato juice and lime juice and all these oils absolutely abused. 

Jay: I tell people the most hostile surface in your home is your kitchen counter top. 

Andy: For sure. For sure. And so what we have been telling people is a quartz. Quartz is 93% natural stone, 7% polyester. A type of poly resin never requires sealing. I don’t want to say indestructible, but they sure do take a beating, easy to clean up with soap and water, about the same price as granite when granite first became popular about 10 years ago. What’s happened now in the industry is that you had countertops, like laminate tops that were all used to the Formica countertops and let’s say those Formica countertops for about 20 bucks a square foot installed, to give you some numbers. Corian, which is what’s called solid surfacing, it’s a plastic material. Everybody knows the Corian product that or other materials out there like it now. That comes in and around the 50 to $60 a square foot installed range. Granite used to be in the 80 to $100 a square foot range. That has dropped significantly in the last few years, probably to, to about the same price as Corian. And that’s because so much of this material is coming from overseas and they’re bringing in in bulk and it’s not all of it is of high quality. It’s sort of substandard. It’s being used so much now that the price of it just came down tremendously. Quartz is now at about the 80 to a $100 a square foot range. But it’s one of those situations where you would definitely get what you pay for. 

Jay: Yes. Well if you take out the idea that you have to constantly reseal it, I think you can start to see it make some financial sense when you realize that, yeah, we’re going to spend this upfront but we don’t have to deal with the other things down the line. So we can take that out of the future budget. Which means we can use it now. Kind of a strange way to think about it, but if you look ahead and go, well, if we are going to have to spend $200-300 every time to put a new sealer on there, let’s see, let’s do the math on that. So a couple of years we got to do it against three in another couple of years in a 300. I mean, we’re starting to add up all this maintenance stuff and you say, wait a minute, let’s just eliminate that from the equation. Let’s put all that money that we going to spend in the future and it’s going to cost us more in the future anyway. Let’s just put that money into it now and do it right here and save ourselves a grief and aggravation of all of that. 

Andy: Without a doubt. And then, coupled that with the fact that the sealers are not healthy, right? So now you’re subjecting yourself to all that solvent, right? And the time it takes to do it, and the disruption in normal life… 

Jay: And is it food safe? 

Andy: Right, right. Yeah. And so imagine clean off all your countertops with all of your appliances every six months to seal your darn countertops. 

Jay: I don’t want to do that. No. 

Andy: And so, it starts to justify the cost of it. Now there are other things that pop up. Caulking materials, sealants, heating fixtures. 

Jay: All your knobs, your plumbing fixtures that are fancy, ones that are coming out of the wall and all that. Lighting.

Andy: Lighting: there isn’t really anything when it comes to lighting there, there aren’t any lighting materials that I would say are healthier than others. So that’s one of one area where we just don’t really have a lot to choose from. On the other hand, it comes down to the bulbs you use and how you use them. 

Jay: I guess if someone was really persnickety about lighting, if they wanted to have full spectrum lighting, you can get it, but it’s not the norm. But for those of you folks out there to really think you want to have a more of a natural sunlight type experience indoors, right? There’s full spectrum lights, but you’re right, Andy, it’s not a big deal as let’s say plumbing fixtures… 

Andy: I will say this, when it comes to actual plumbing fixtures, I’m talking like, your faucets and your shower heads and things like that. I know everybody wants to go online and get a deal from one of these faucets or something like that. I don’t know who that is, one of these companies or go to, one of the big box stores and pick it up… the fact of the matter is that plumbing fixtures, this is another prime example of you get what you pay for. 

The materials that are out there that are at a discount are discounted solely because they are not made as well as the higher priced units. 

Jay: Correct. 

Andy: So you might be able to get a kitchen faucet for $120, but I guarantee you we’ll be replacing it in five years. If not, you’re just biding time before you have to and now it’s the cost of hiring a plumber and the disruption of it. In some municipalities you got to pull a permit just to change a fixture like this. Spend $250 folks get the better one. Don’t buy from discount houses to get plumbing fixtures. Buy from reputable plumbing and bath supply stores. They are the ones who are selling the better versions of the products you’re finding online for a so-called deal, right? 

Jay: Yeah. Good advice. Good advice. Again, the whole idea of looking at it in into the future a little bit and realizing that if you can, if you’re not going to make the wise decision now you’re going to wind up kicking yourself later or sure. Because for a couple of reasons, A) if you bought the good one today, I’m trying to buy that good one tomorrow. Guess what folks, it’s going to cost you more… going to cost you more, because things keep going up in price. So that makes sense to try to make those great smart decisions at the front end, not having to back in to it and pulling your wallet out and ringing it dry because you’re, you know, you’ve got to spend more money than you normally would have had to. 

Andy: This is kind of the culmination now of these two episodes. Yes, you just hit it on the head, which is you try to do your best, you try to buy the best you can and when you’re building a healthy home, it’s not just the cost, the initial cost of the material, but you are also looking at the long term of- it’s more detrimental to the health of the occupant if you have to seal your countertops every six months. If you have to change your plumbing fixtures every five years, you have to repaint every five years. If you’ve got to reroof every 10 or 15 years, all of those things can be harmful to the indoor air quality and of the occupants. So if you are buying better quality materials because you want your house to last longer without having to maintain it, this is a more expensive home. 

So when the industry starts to throw around this idea that healthy homes just cost a more, that may be factually correct, but it’s not costing more because it’s healthy. It’s costing more because it’s better quality and the industry does not want people to talk about this because it exposes the fact that the way we build homes here in the US is atrocious. We build homes out of sub-quality materials and just look at it, look at what happens when, somebody does use a drywall material that contains sulfur, Glue Lam beams that use a flameproof coating that happens to off gas to toxic levels of formaldehyde and exteriors sheathing that’s not moisture proof and therefore you’ve got mold buildup. I mean, there’s so many, 

Jay: I’m hearing you and it’s making me sick. I know what you’re saying. 

Andy: Building a good quality home that’s going to last a hundred plus cost more because those materials costs more to make. It just so happens to be healthy as well. 

Jay: Probably the final thought I always have on this subject is how important is your health to your family, right? And to yourself and what does it cost? If you think about the cost of healthcare and boy it’s on everyone’s lips these days, isn’t it? When you think about the cost of healthcare and you think about what you can do to ensure that you have good health, this is just as much a part of what you eat and how you exercise and how you, all those things you would do to keep yourself healthy. This has to factor into that. What do they say? We are 80% indoors? Something like that. 

Andy: 90%. 

Jay: 90. There you go. 

Andy: At least here in Wisconsin.

Jay: And we spend a little more time outside. I get a little more time outdoors. I do. But I guess the point folks is this is an important thing. You know, that if you’re going to have to go to a healthcare provider for something that you could have prevented, it’s going to cost you. So let’s just not do that. Let’s not go there. 

Andy: So the now the questions we’ll get right after this episode comes out is, sure, okay this is great, but how am I going to afford to build a healthy home then because I can’t afford to build a custom home? I can’t afford to build a home at $250 a square foot. I can only build a home at $150 a square foot. 

Jay: Okay, so what we do, so what we do is we make two lists, right? We got the list of what we would like and then we’ve got the comparable stuff on the other side, which maybe we don’t like so much. And then what we do we- it’s like those old puzzles where you drew a line across to match. Match column two with column one, right? So we look at column two and go, I want that this is the healthiest. I look across to its counterpart, where is that? Oh, it’s drywall, MGO or drywall. And then you can kind of reference back and forth and say, okay, well we would like that, but can we use that? Oh yes, we can use this. It’s going to be cheaper. We can use this because we have another plan for that. Down in our list here, a down bottom, it says oh, safer paint safer coatings. Okay, that can line, can go up to the drywall, we can connect safer coatings to drywall is cheaper and maybe we’re not so happy with. So that’s how I’m thinking about it. What do you, how are you thinking about that? 

Andy: Well, this is really what I do with my consulting business and this is one time I will actually use this as an advertisement. I call it healthy value engineering. In the industry there’s a term called value engineering and that’s when the contractors try to cheap it up the cost of the building, but try to maintain the integrity of what the architect was looking for. I do it from a standpoint of of human health. And we look at all of the different numbers that it put together on the bid- 30 different categories of different prices that come into the, into the bid. And I can look at it and say, all right, well we might be able to save some here if maybe we do use instead of a metal roof, we use just regular dimensional shingles, asphalt, dimensional shingles, because ultimately that’s not gonna affect the health as much as something else… Would save $40,000 there. But then we can afford to do the MGO, right? Then we can afford to do better windows. 

Jay: We can do those quartz countertops. 

Andy: So what we do is we shift priorities, right? And so I call that healthy value engineering. And that’s something that I do with all of my clients. We’re building homes. We look at this and say, where is that money best spent to optimally affect positively the human health of the occupants? 

Jay: Folks, we’re going this direction. It’s going to be mainstream. It’s not mainstream yet. But what Andy suggesting will hopefully in our lifetimes be be mainstream. Why? Because it just makes good sense. 

Andy: It makes good sense. And I know you can’t build like this with spec home builders that are building 200-300 homes a year. Cannot do it this way. I understand that they have to work on economies of scale. 

Jay: Correct. 

Andy: Now, if that builder came to me and said, Andy, we need to price out paint, flooring, insulation, whatever you can provide for 300 homes, I guarantee you we can get to some pretty good numbers. Will it be as much as what they are user as low as what they’re using now? No. Well probably not because our quality level is higher. Right? But you know what, it’s going to be more affordable. But builders don’t do that. They want it, as you said it before, Jay, they want to use the products that they are used to because it makes life easier. There has to be this paradigm shift where builders don’t look at the price first, but they look at the impact first. 

Jay: Right? I think, I think our listeners are part of that group growing group who are aware and want to push the envelope and change the paradigm and develop a new model. We’re all working together on this folks. Andy and I, and all of you listening to us who have this as a part of what you want to do. We have a lot of great people in our industry that are pushing this idea. We try to interview some of those during the course of the year in our podcast interviews, and we’re going to have some good ones coming up. So remember that, we’re all pulling in the same direction in this rowboat we’re in. 

Andy: Well, here’s the other thing too, folks. It’s still a practice, and we’re still learning. We’re all still learning. There is no such thing as a perfectly healthy home. There isn’t. It’s impossible. And the phrase that I use and I’ll continue to use it is: you’re going to drive yourself to the poor house or to the nuthouse, one of the two or both trying to achieve perfect healthy home. It’s not possible. So we try to do is get you the best we can for what you can afford to do. 

Jay: We’re gonna make the best compromises that are available. 

Andy: You got it. So, alright, on that note folks, I know you’re going to have questions from this. I expect an email from George. He’s writing it right now. And at some point I would love to have him on the show to discuss these ideas. 

Love that. That’d be great. He is just a wealth of information, and others who I work with, as you do too Jay every day. We’ll have those folks on as well. But if you do have questions about this, feel free to reach out, leave us a SpeakPipe, send us an email. If you like what you hear, give us a rating and review. We greatly appreciate that. We seriously love our listeners and we’re so happy that we’re getting some awesome feedback from you all. It’s really heartwarming. 

Jay: I agree completely. 

Andy: Jay, this has been a good two part series and I hope that people really understand it now why homes that are healthy are not necessarily more expensive because they’re healthy. It’s because they’re just really good quality. So folks, we’ll be back next week with another fantastic episode. We appreciate you listening and have a great week.


View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: The Cost of Healthy Building Pt1

There have been three myths about healthy building that are still believed to this day: Its too expensive, the products and systems don’t last as long, and you have very little options to chose from.  This episode is part 1 of 2 that will be dealing with the cost myth.  Healthy building is not more expensive.   Quality is more expensive and most healthy homes are built to a higher quality standard than the average home is.  We tackle the big ticket items today, like framing systems, HVAC and windows.  

Google Play


The Cost of Healthy Building Pt1

The Cost of Healthy Building
Part 1

Andy: Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Jay, it’s good to be with you this week. 

Jay: It is indeed Andy as always. We’re recording on Friday today, folks. So yeah, you don’t have to leave that in and he can cut that out.

Andy: I’m going to leave it in because I believe it’s important to tell everybody that as much as we absolutely love doing this show and we love our listeners and we’re grateful for them, both Jay and I have actual 9-5 jobs. 

Jay: Is it just nine to five? I don’t know. I, you may be cutting it short Andy and it may be a little longer than what I call it nine to five. 

Andy: All right. Okay. It’s more like a 7:30 – 7:30. Okay. And this week has been a rough one. It’s just been really busy. Construction season in the United States has historically been from mid to late April through the end of September, and then it kind of slows up. Well, this year it didn’t slow up as September started coming to a close and now the beginning of October… it’s just as busy now as it was in June. 

Jay: And the other thing that we know this happens to people, especially as we get closer to holiday season, all of a sudden jobs pop up that people want to do a little bit of late decorating right around the holidays because they’ve got family coming in and we make sure everything looks great for the, you know, for grandma, grandpa, whoever’s coming over. So that gives us a little push back there too. So, today I think we were gonna talk a little bit as we have in some previous casts about the cost of building a healthy home. 

Andy: Right. And, and this really is apropos because of what’s going on right now across the country in the construction industry. We’ve gotten a lot of feedback from our clients and listeners all around the country. Unfortunately some bad feedback that construction costs are staggeringly high. I know we’ve talked about this because we mentioned the reason for that is two fold. The cost to build with the materials fluctuating, and probably more so the cost of labor because of an extreme labor shortage especially for skilled labor within the construction industry. When we used to have thousands of people in an area who could install flooring or install cabinetry… back in the late 2000s, early 10s, in that last big recession we lost a majority of that workforce. And now that the industry is as busy as it was back then, the labor is not there. So that’s really the biggest reason why we’re seeing construction costs on the rise across the country. But what we wanna really talk about today is I think this, this concept that goes back from to the beginning of the green building era, which is green building costs more and more specifically for you and Jay its healthy building costs more, right? 

Jay: That’s correct. Okay. That’s correct. I think when, when you’re talking about the cost of building a healthy home, there’s two facets there. There are all your material expenses and then there’s a labor expense. So one of the things that I’ve thought about over the years is how people think about the cost of things, especially in on our side of the equation, which is the coating side. It’s always in a square foot number. And so I started thinking, well, why can’t we appropriate that in a little different ways? So my example here folks is, take a $55 or $60 gallon of paint and that’s pretty much what you’re going to expect to pay for a good quality, healthy, nontoxic coating. So when you hear $60 a gallon, most people immediately referenced whatever their familiarity is with the cost of paint. And of course the cost of paint has gone up significantly over the years. But usually people have a kind of an idea of what a car, a gallon of paint should cost, right? Right. So they hear a number like $55 or 60 and they go, Oh my God, it’s so expensive. So I thought, well that’s just what it costs. But maybe there’s another way to reference it. And I think this makes a sense across the only paint and coatings, but also across other categories. But why don’t we just break everything down into a square foot number? The simple formula folks, for any coating, every coating, any coating, you’ve guys gonna on the back going to say coverage and it’s going to say 350, 450, 550 whatever it says. So what you do was really simply as you take the cost of that product, let’s say it’s $60 a gallon and you divide it by that coverage number, that’s going to give you some some cents. 

Not dollars, but usually it’s going to be cents with coatings. It’s going to be sent so when you hear that it’s going to only cost you 35 cents a square foot for the material versus $60 a gallon, you see there’s a subtle change there in terms of the perception. It’s the same thing, but just the way we talk about and the way you think about it can make it a little bit of a difference in terms of your psyche and your emotional response. The other thing too is when you have all your square foot numbers together from flooring and paint coatings, whatever you’re doing, then you have a square foot per square foot number for it for your materials, which then you can butt up against the square foot number for the construction or labor. And that labor charges Andy alluded to is going to, it’s going to vary from place to place here on the west coast it’s more, some places in the country it’s less. And Andy of course alluded to the idea that there’s a workforce, a change in the workforce going on right now. People are coming into the workforce and things are costing more. There’s a learning curve involved with new contractors and learning new skills and learning new products that can all add up to more costs on the labor side. So there’s just a way for me to think about it in a different mode so people have a different reference point. 

Andy: Well, it certainly does help to break things down into familiar terms, into something that you can compare apples to apples. That’s really what I always talk about is when you’re trying to look at the cost of building the healthy home versus the cost of building a traditional. And let’s not say even say traditional, let’s say a typical American home. It’s hard to compare apples to apples these days. And the reason for that is mainly when you’re building a healthy home, I would say 9 out of 10 times this is going to be a custom home, right? Very rarely do we build a spec home, something where the builder builds 30 or 40 of the exact same floor plan every year. And just switches out the materials from from typical to healthy that happens every once in a while. I might have two jobs a year where this is happening and this is not necessarily truly chemical free, toxin-free healthy home. This is the best we can do with what we’re faced with.

Jay: Well aren’t more builders trying to work in some of these things now because they use them as a sales point. Right. And it’s been mostly focused on the energy saving benefits. 

Andy: That’s exactly, yeah. 

Jay: That’s about as far as it goes. Right. It doesn’t really go beyond that very much. And there’s a lot more distance they could travel there. But right now that this is not happening yet. 

Andy: I had one of the largest green home builders in the Midwest in my showroom a couple of years ago as I helped them build or work on a truly healthy home project that I was the consultant on. And after about three hours of the owner of this company being in my showroom, he said, we don’t build really don’t build green homes, we build energy efficient homes. You understand green, you understand healthy. And he said, we do not do that on the regular. And he got it. Never changed the way he did things, of course, for the one project he did because he was under contract to do so, but didn’t change their procedures and and products for the next 200 homes that built because they didn’t need to. And that’s the thing is, is that even to this day, builders are looking at the energy efficiency of a home in lieu of the health of the occupant of that home. Now there’s nothing wrong with building energy efficiently. Of course not. I mean everybody wants to live in an energy efficient home. 

Jay: Yes, yes. 

Andy: Even if you say you don’t care, you do care because it saves money. 

Jay: Yeah. Because utility bills are going to keep going up folks. Of course here in San Diego we’re getting an increase, I think starts next month. One that’s not going to change. It’s going to increase and increase and increase. Right. So yeah, energy efficiencies. Here we say those two words again, common sense, common sense, common sense. 

Andy: So, when we’re trying to compare apples to apples, we have to compare quality level to quality level. So, which means a healthy built custom home should not cost any more than a traditionally built, custom home. Right? Let’s just use an example. 

A project I’ve been working on lately, it’s not a very large home. It’s about 2,400 square feet. It’s a custom sort of farmhouse looking project. Beautiful, beautiful design. 

Jay: People are downscaling people are downscaling. So 2,400… some people are gonna think, man, that’s a mansion. But go ahead. 

Andy: Well, for a larger family, they had looked at a building, a home over 3000 square feet and they actually said, we don’t need that much space. Let’s bring it down. This house has pricing out at the $500-600,000 range to build. Here’s the difficulty folks. 

We’re talking to people all over the world. A $500,000 home in Wisconsin is a really nice home. A $500,000 home in San Diego, you know is a shack.

Jay: The $500,000 home and Wisconsin is going to cost me close to 2 million. 

Andy: Well there you go. There’s a difference there. know it’s hard over the air to talk about prices and this is another reason why it’s incredibly difficult to answer that question. Is it more expensive to build a healthy home than a standard home? Because it’s different. 

Jay: I’ve got to interrupt you because I’m laughing at myself cause I’m thinking, I just revealed the difference and people in San Diego, man, we’re moving to Wisconsin. We’re gonna get on that list for that $500,000 home in Wisconsin! 

Andy: I’ll tell you what, anybody listening who lives in San Diego who wants to sell their $2 million home and build a half a million dollar home here in Wisconsin, I will personally work with you. 

Jay: There you go. 

Andy: And I’ll help you make it perfectly healthy and you’ll still have a nice nest egg 

Jay: And he’ll teach you how to shovel snow in February as well. 

Andy: Exactly. In any event, this is why it’s really difficult to talk prices and it sounds like Jay and I are kind of speaking around and around here, but it really is tough because when somebody says, is it healthier to be more expensive to build healthy? There’s so many questions we have to ask before we can even get to the point of talking numbers and where are you located? What is your vision of what the home’s going to look like and so forth. But I will say this, if you’re comparing apples to apples quality level to quality level, there is no difference in building a healthy home. And I truly believe that. 

Jay: Yeah, no, it’s absolutely true. And I would just add to that folks, when you’re thinking about building a healthy home, it’s really important that you team up with someone who knows the business like Andy Pace and there’s other folks out there that do it. Andy does not quite as good as he does it, but there are folks that do it and that’s what you want to do. You need some guidance here, need to have someone that knows what’s going on. Who’s been in the business a long time. To kind of walk you through it because there are ways to save money. We can build a really healthy house. So we just have to kind of look at the plan and decide where can we spend our money most effectively. There’s ways we can maybe not spend a whole lot of money, maybe do something a little more traditional right there. But at the end of the day, we’re going to have the healthiest home we can. But there’s ways, once you get a consultant working with you to help you figure out those little nuances in the plan, we know we don’t have to spend a ton of money right there. We can save some money because we’re going to reappropriate that money that we saved in another place where we really want something top notch. 

Andy: So that’s a great, great point Jay. And thank you for the endorsement and obviously we’re not looking at this to be an endorsement of any either one of us, but let me just say this: building a healthy home also comes down to making sure that the home is healthy for the individuals to their level. I’m working with a family right now who has a child who had a very, very rare form of cancer, and healthy now, but still it kind of puts the parents in a position of do everything possible to protect their child. 

I’m working with other clients who are like, you know, here’s what we’d like to do. We’d like to make it as healthy as possible and good enough is good enough sort of thing. We’d like to make sure that we are working at a price point of materials and services and so forth for the house that commensurate with what we’re trying to achieve. And so it really comes down to having those conversations. Now let’s look at some individual things in a home that can really seriously affect the overall price of the home. And this will not change from location to location. It’s always going to be this way. 

Jay: This is good. This is good stuff. 

Andy: All right. For years I used to advocate insulated concrete form as the method for constructing the exterior shell of the home. 

Now in a perfect world, I would still use insulated concrete form on all of the health houses that I get involved with. However…

Jay: Let me interrupt really quick just to… tell everyone what that is… ICF, real quick. 

Andy: Insulated concrete farmer ICF is essentially putting the exterior walls together. They’re almost like hollow Lego blocks made from typically an expanded polystyrene with either plastic or a galvanized metal reinforcement. And you pour concrete in between in the hollow spots. And it makes a for an incredibly durable, soundproof, hurricane proof home. I love the concept of it. I love the idea of it. But in the last couple of years we have seen the prices for these types of homes skyrocket and mainly because it’s difficult to find contractors who price it properly because you really need it. Somebody who is a combination of concrete flat worker, an engineer, and a carpenter. And these people are really difficult to find and the price just goes up. A substitute for this would be to do traditional stick framing, which is just framing lumber and sheathing. But making sure we’re choosing certain materials and methods that just make the home a healthier space. 

I’m not going to go into great detail here because this will requires conversation with the client based upon the project. But what I can say is making that change from insulated concrete form to more traditional stick frame has reduced our construction costs for that home by close to 50 to $75 per square foot in the overall construction costs. 

Jay: That’s huge. You know, I’m just having this thought, and this is going to be another podcast folks; you’re making me think about the great movement now in prefabricated homes. There’s a huge movement in prefab across many spectrums from a shipping container to having a healthy… as an example here in the west coast, there’s a company called Living Homes. Steve Glenn is the owner of living homes and their whole ideas are building high-end prefab. Now people think prefab, you think trailers? No no folks. It’s, it’s much better than that now. So Andy, we’ve got to think about having a podcast devoted to prefab and talking about these same issues about prefabrication. So go on. 

Andy: So, Jay, there’s so many different ways that you can do this. Traditionally we’re looking at in a standard stick frame home, you are getting your best bang for the buck because this is what the industry knows. In a perfect world with a with an unlimited budget, we would do things like, insulated concrete form or sips or even prefab as you talk about. I love that concept and that needs to be pushed hard in this industry or in this country. I think prefab homes are the wave of the future, but it’s just not catching hold yet. Because there’s not enough demand for it. 

Getting back to the, the big costs of building healthy; another big cost of building healthy comes to your heating and ventilating system. Now again, when it comes to energy efficient and high performance homes, the industry is going to try to get you to look at things like solar, geothermal, all these amazingly efficient forms of heating and ventilation in your home. The downside is it’s expensive. And I know there are some tax benefits for going with solar and so forth, but at the end of the day, if you’re building a home and you have a lender that’s going to be lending you money to do this, they’re going to have to give an appraisal of what the build cost is. And if they look at it and say, well, you’ve got an $80,000 geothermal system tied into a bank of photovoltaic panels that that’s going to heat just as well as a $25,000 forced air furnace. So we’re going to give you the value of that $25,000 forced air furnace. You’ll have to come up with the rest out of pocket. 

Jay: No, that kills it right there. 

Andy: So we have to look at those things. You can take an a standard forced air system and make sure that it has purified air, fresh air intake, so on and so forth. And keep those costs down to where it would be for any other home.

Jay: Another thought here and I’m just kind of being futuristic, but I’m thinking, boy, there’s another podcast tucked in here about financing and who and we can do a little research on this folks and we’ll come back later in the year and next year maybe talk about institutions that we think are a little more green building centric, are willing to work with you in that regard. So that’ll be a little research job on my part, I’ll take care of that and then we’ll have a show around financing a healthy home. 

Andy: Right, right. Finally, when it comes to other bigger ticket items, things like windows and, and you know… this is probably a show of its own at some point. Quick and easy folks, when it comes to windows for your home, there are four main styles: vinyl, wood, fiberglass and aluminum. It’s in that order of cost. It’s in that order of health. If you build a custom home these days people want to use wood windows because you can do custom wood windows and it looks beautiful and so forth, but they’re also very expensive. They’re also full of pesticides because all the wood has to be spray with pesticides to be used in windows. 

Jay: Right? And you’ve got to decorate them properly so that they don’t degrade quickly over time. So there’s a lot… Depending on where you are in the country, if you’re in a four season area, those windows…. you’ve got to do some really good protection on it to make sure it doesn’t fall apart too soon. 

Andy: Well, that’s it for part one of our discussion on the cost of healthy building. We actually had a stop it there because this is a somewhat live recording of this podcast and we had some technical issues due to weather here, but it was a good place to stop. Our episode next week will be part two of the cost of healthy building where we actually take a deep dive into the interior furnishings and finishes part of building a home. And while these big ticket items that we’ve talked about today, the construction methods and materials, windows, things like that, heating systems that are the big numbers, there are far more smaller numbers inside the home that add up quickly and can add up to be a real reason why healthy building seems to cost more. But if you do the comparison, it’s actually pretty equal. 

So that’s it for this week’s episode of Non Toxic Environments. Thanks again for listening. Folks please, either iTunes or wherever you listen to this podcast and hit the subscribe button. We’d appreciate that that way you get the new episodes directly to your listening device on a weekly basis. Also, we would very much appreciate it if you could share this with your family and friends. One of the things I hear is that people want to build healthier. People want to live in a healthy home, but their family and their friends discourage them from these ideas because they just don’t understand what it means. And maybe this show would help them understand, and maybe this show would help you live that healthier a home life you’re looking for. And so by having the support of your family and friends, you would make that much easier and much more obtainable. So please pass along our show. Feel free to leave a review on the show and even leave us a five star rating if you so inclined. We’d greatly appreciate that. That’s it for this week’s episode, folks. We’ll talk to you again next week. Bye bye.


View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: New Fall Product Releases

Here in Wisconsin, our summers are typically a bit shorter than most of the country.  So we embrace the days or warmth and sun and take every advantage of what those days hold for us.  Residential construction spikes during this time, but when fall arrives, we finally have a chance to take a deep breath and go through some of new, fresh product ideas that have been presented to us throughout the year.  

Google Play


New Fall Product Releases

New Fall Product Release


Andy: Fall is definitely in the air. And you know what that means, folks. It means that it’s time for new products! Usually spring and fall are the two times of the year where I get to review new products and decide what we’re going to bring in here to our showroom and other retail stores. So today we’re going to talk about a few of those things and some updates right here on Non Toxic Environments

Well, hello everybody. This is Andy pace with Non Toxic Environments coming to you live by myself today. Jay’s taken the week off but definitely will be back with us next week. 

So today, since it’s just me here, I decided to give you a little update about what’s going on with new products that we’re bringing in. Usually the spring and fall… September, October, March, April… two times of the year where I actually have enough time to sit down and start to review materials that we’d like to potentially bring in and eventually offer to our clients. 

It’s not an easy process because as you know, we’d like to do our FRAT testing and everything that we sell to make sure that there is at least no formaldehyde off gassing. And that takes some time and takes a commitment of blocking off a time during the week and so forth. And I ask a lot of questions with our vendors, end up having discussions with their lab techs and chemists and so forth, whatever it takes to make sure  we’re offering the right product. I want to talk about a few of the materials that we’re going to be bringing in that we’ve tested for quite some time now and are extremely, extremely happy with. 

So first off, let’s kind of get out of the way. Some of the new AFM products. Last year AFM introduced a new matte finish for their Polyureseal BP and their Acrylacq. They brought out a matte finish mainly because over the years… there’s been two finishes. They had the gloss and the satin started almost morphing into one. What I mean by that is as raw materials change, sometimes, so will. the level of gloss that you’ll achieve them with the finished product and their satin finish has just got a little too close to the gloss. There wasn’t enough of a difference. And so AFM brought out the matte finish to be more of a true flat as it relates to a clear a wood finish. And it’s been a just an enormous success. A matter of fact, they brought out that same sheen with their Ecolacq, which is the cabinet paint and it’s a sister product to the clear Acrylacq. So now Polyureseal BP for hardwood floors comes in a gloss and a matte. Acrylacq for doors and trim, over stain or over just raw wood- gloss and the matte. And then Ecolacq, the painted finish for cabinetry in furniture in gloss and a matte.

What this means, however, is that they are finally discontinuing the satin finish. And I know for some folks that might be a bit of a shock, but it really had to be done. The products were just getting too close to one another, like I said, and in order to relieve confusion and not have dealers across the country giving inaccurate information to clients, they decided the time was right to finally get that get that discontinued. So inventory that we have here in Wisconsin, inventory that they have in California, in inventory at dealers across the country, will be dwindling. As of October 15th, they will no longer be manufacturing any of the satin finish. Anything that’s left in stock in the country will be it. 

Now, don’t despair if you do have a larger a need for it. Let’s say you are a manufacturer of a furniture and you love that finish. That’s what you’ve built your specs around, then just reach out to our us or to AFM and they will be able to make the product. There will be a minimum order quantity, but if you’re using it at that amount anyway it shouldn’t be an issue. So again, just to clear up some confusion in the marketplace. That said, their stain, their water-based stain for years, it was called Durostain. But a year, year and a half ago, they came out with their Durotone stain, which is an upgrade in quality, in the color selection and so forth. And they will also finally be discontinuing the Durostain product around that same time, October 15th. And again, if you really need it and you’re a user of it for large scale projects or continuing projects, reach out to AFM and they will be able to assist you. But for the general public and to all the dealers, the product will no longer be available once it’s finally sold out. 

All right. Might as well stick right now with a AFM for a second to introduce a new thing that we are offering. We meaning- Green Design Center. What we’re offering is a new service to finally supply tinted paint samples. You heard that right! Tinted liquid paint samples. It’s been our mantra for the last, how many years that if you really want to test a color, you need to get a sample of it and try it on your wall because paint colors will adjust on the wall. It takes on sort of the persona of the room it’s going into. So the light source, the light direction, the other colors in the room, the porosity of the wall, the tool that you use to put it down, the amount of coats, the sheen, all of those things can overall effect the color that you achieve. And so if you really need perfection of that color, we definitely recommend you order a sample. Up until now,  a quart was the smallest that we could tint accurately, that we could sell for a sample. You’re looking at know, a $20 to $25 per quart or more, based on shipping all in. We have been offering 2oz samples, but that’s for white and just to test for personal tolerance or adhesion. Well, we enormous investment to bring in a new piece of equipment that allow us to tint half pint samples, so 8oz instead of 32oz. What that means is that we’ll be able to offer it to our customers for $9.99, that’s a delivered price for any of the AFM colors as a paint sample. 

Unlike many co companies that do already offer these types of samples, we’re not limiting this to one sheen. The fact of the matter is folks that when you put paint on a wall, the sheen makes a huge difference in how the color is perceived. And so with AFM has four different sheens, flat, pearl, eggshell, semi-gloss. We decided that if we’re going to do a sampling program for tinted paint, we have to be able to do it in all of the sheens because there will be a difference. Semi-gloss versus flat, the exact same color will tint differently. And we thought that we needed to do justice to the line and to provide the best possible scenario; to be able to tend to everything. This also means that we’ll be able to tint samples of Acrylacq and Ecolacq, our  concrete floor paint, exterior paint, really anything that we provide that can be tinted, we can now do a half pint sample of. 

So we’re really excited about that. You all are the first to know about this. The Non Toxic Environments family of listeners here. We haven’t announced this to anybody. We haven’t put it on the website. There is no information about this anywhere, but now that we’re talking about things that are new and exciting and I was just anxious to tell you all. So if you are interested, at this point you’ll have to reach out to Green Design Center directly. This is something that will only be offered through GDC. It’s not going to be offered through any of the other AFM dealers. It was quite the investment and we want to make sure that the program is administered properly, so it will all be done through our store. 

Another really exciting thing to talk about is a joint venture between GDC and AFM. We have developed a new pet shampoo, shampoo for dogs and cats. I don’t know, do even shampoo, you know, shampoo cats? Well… I don’t have any animals in the family. I don’t have any cats or dogs… I don’t even have fish. I tend to have my business here and, and that’s really my entire pastime… Anyway, but it was designed as a dog shampoo. It’s essentially a formulation change, of the AFM Head & Body Shampoo that they’ve had for years. And we’ve had AFM formulate the product a little bit differently to be more suited for animals. 

And what I mean by that it’s just a different type of skin oil. We’re dealing with different types of issues in cleaning and rinsing, and we think it’s going to be a hit. It’s a new product called Mud Puppy and that’ll be available in quart sizes and; the pricing hasn’t been established exactly yet. It’ll be very competitive with all the other natural more organic products that are on the market. What makes this one unique though is that it is essentially it’s a Safecoat, Safechoice product in that it’s gonna be safe enough not only for the animals, but also for their, their owners. All of our clients, most of them anyway, are people with chemical sensitivities and so, it’s easy to make a pet shampoo that is considered dog friendly and are healthier for dogs. But a lot of those products still have health warnings on the labels because of what it can do to humans. And we just thought that wasn’t fair and we wanted to make something that will be safe for both. It’s come in unscented of course; that’ll be our number one seller. Feedback through some market testing suggests some people do want some organic, essential oil fragrances. So we’ll be offering a couple of those as well. Obviously if you are chemically sensitive we’d recommend the unscented, but always test for tolerance. That product that will be coming out this fall. Again, that’s called Mud Puppy and we’ll be blasting that on our website as soon as it’s available. 

Okay. So that takes care of all of the AFM related materials. 

What else is on the agenda? Well, a couple of new products that we are bringing in, which we are extremely, extremely happy about. One is a new sealer for interior and exterior concrete. It’s called Radon Seal. What makes this product unique is that a Radon Seal is a clear, colorless, odorless, sealer that does not leave a residue. You essentially spray it onto raw concrete, let it penetrate, spray on a second coat, let it penetrate, it’s done. What this will do is- it’ll actually block radon gas from coming up through it. It’ll block water vapor. It will give the concrete more of a higher strength, more dust proofing to the concrete. It is just a wonderful material. We’ve been testing it for several months now and really just hitting all the high notes for us. So that particular product Radon Seal and then Radon Seal Plus is available right now on the GDC website. 

We stock it in five gallon containers only because typically with this type of product you’re doing larger applications. There are versions that you can use interior or exterior. I won’t get into great detail about it. You can see it on the website, but just know it’s available. This is a situation that we have been seen for several years now with moisture in the basement that the more we researched this, the more we work with clients all over the country we realized that it’s a bigger problem than even I thought it would be. It’s really crucial for good indoor air quality in the entire home to make sure that the basement is good and dry. If your home has already been built, there’s not really much you can do at this point to waterproof it. If it wasn’t done properly, or with the best grade materials during construction… you know, unless you want to excavate your foundation, there’s really not much more you can do. And so Radon Seal is going to give you that extra benefit of keeping that moisture vapor from coming into the basement and then affecting the indoor air quality throughout the rest of the home. So that is on the website. 

All right, finally I want to talk about a new flooring material. We don’t bring in new floor materials that often because well, quite honestly it’s been hard to find ones that fit our requirements. The last big product we brought in was the Cali Bamboo Vinyl PRO. I think for those who have used it, you would agree it’s just a wonderful product. 

We’ve used that in several health houses across the country now and with just wonderful success. There are some drawbacks of course, as there are drawbacks with everything. It is a vinyl product, at least the the top of it is, the core is a limestone material. If you’re looking for that perfect product, to hit all the notes of being eco-friendly and human friendly, even though it doesn’t release any phthalates, even though it doesn’t release any formaldehyde, people will still say yes, but it’s vinyl and that’s obviously… It’s a personal issue, personal choice. 

So if you’re really concerned about that, you’re gonna love this. It’s a new product made by Amorim. And if you don’t know who Amorim is, Amorim is like the DeBeers of cork and they own about 70% of the world’s supply of cork Oak trees and they have several brands of cork floors like a Wicanders is one of them. Ipocork is another one of them. And so on and so on.

They sell all cork for all different types of things… for countertop materials, for gasketing, for insulation, of just a whole host of uses for a wonderfully sustainable cork Oak bark. The new product is called Amorim Wise. Amorim Wise is really a remarkable innovation in taking old and new technology and putting it together old technology in the fact that they used granulated cork new technology and that they’re using now a new non PVC type plastic, or plastic type material that gets laminated to the granulated cork core and then print it on to look like wood. It is beautiful, for those who like the Cali Vinyl Pro but are looking for something that doesn’t have any vinyl in it, here it is. This is your choice. 

What I really love about this product is that because it is for the most part, almost all cork, it gives you wonderful sound-deadening. It gives you warmth. You know, it’s a very warm floor to  walk on; cork stays more ambient temperature. It’ll always be warmer under foot. It’s considered… they call it a waterproof flooring. Now that doesn’t mean you can use it in the bottom of your pool and put 30,000 gallons of water over it. What they mean is you can use it in a bathroom or a kitchen and water on the top side of it is not going to affect it whatsoever. Comes in several different woodgrains, that you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and real wood folks. It’s really a beautiful product. The real kicker is it’s going to be in a price point that I think will be making a lot of people happy. It’s going to be under $5 a square foot for the material. I think that sweet spot if you’re looking for a new wood floor, or a new tile floor or something like that, or even a new vinyl floor, this is going to possibly give you some new options and give you all the benefits that cork used to give you or still could give you. But this gives you the look of wood and certainly the durability of something like that Vinyl PRO product. So that is called Amorim Wise and that will be on the website coming here shortly. 

All right. The last thing I want to talk about is actually my company Green Design Center. For those of you who know my story… I started the company back in 1992. It was a situation where we were working on a commercial project in Milwaukee. And at the time I was working for my family’s building supply company and we supplied a water-based floor coating for a below grade parking structure. And after the primer coat was applied, several of my own workers had to be taken to the hospital because of inhalation complications. They literally couldn’t catch their breath because the product as it was starting to cure on the floor was literally just gobbling up all the oxygen in the room. It was a scary situation. It was really early on in my career. 

I had started in the family business in the late 80s. And so we’re talking about a few years after I started this happened. And so it really affected me deeply. I realized back then that we needed to do something to change our industry because people are getting sick and if our workers were getting sick and these are folks that work with industrial coatings all the time, if they were getting sick, imagine what would happen with our clients! This is what I was thinking at the time. And so, at the time I started a company called Safe Building Solutions. I don’t know if I’ve ever talked about that on this show, but, well, there it is. So I started a company called Safe Building Solutions in 1992. Safe Building Solutions was a catalog company. A company that sold out of paper catalogs that we mailed to customers all across the country. 

Back then, folks, the internet did not exist, which means podcasting was not a possibility. Times have changed. 

Safe Building Solutions, about the year 2000, we changed the name over to the Green Design Center. Why do we do that? Well, we are trying to reflect more of what was happening in our industry. What I mean by that is that throughout the 90s and 2000s, I was heavily involved in commercial construction and architecture. I was actually president of one of the largest architectural associations in Wisconsin a couple of times. Green building became a popular discussion. We changed our name of our retail store to Green Design Center to sort of capture that market. Well, it never really resonated in my opinion. 

What I mean by that is we never really focused on green building materials, folks. We focused on common sense, healthy building materials, Safe Building Solutions was probably a better name for us. But you know, we were jumping in with the times and we decided to throw green in our title somewhere just to get that audience interested. Well, times are changing again. You all are the only ones know about this so early on all of our loyal listeners. Back in, let’s see, 2012, 2013, I acquired a company out of Carbondale, Colorado called Building for Health. If you’ve been around in this for this industry and have been interested in these things for a while, you probably know Building for Health. Building for Health was a store out in Colorado that was started by Cedar Rose back in the mid 80s. 

When Cedar really… she was the innovator. She was the first one to start selling these types of building materials nationwide. It was awesome because I was one of her suppliers actually, as the distributor of Safecoat, I would ship her her stock to the store. Several years ago she decided that she wanted to move on and do something different and a new phase in life and a was going to retire. I approached Cedar and asked if I could take over the name because first of all, they have such a great name- “Building for Health.” It’s just a great name. It completely captures what we do here. Also she built up such a wonderful reputation and the industry and everybody who’s involved owes a great debt of gratitude to Cedar for all the time and effort she put into furthering this. 

So as a thank you to her, I wanted to keep the name going. If you’ve noticed on our Facebook pages and some things we have been sort of morphing over to GDC/Building for Health. We are going to continue that movement. We’re going to start using GDC/Building for Health on all of our literature, websites, marketing pieces, and eventually we’ll probably just settle on the name Building for Health because folks that really captures exactly what we want to do. It’s all about the health of the human occupants. There are other companies that really want to focus on green and that’s great and the world needs that. But my passion lies in with the health of the human occupant and I feel that it’s necessary that the outward appearance of the current company be that Building for Health.

A brief announcement on and again, to all of our loyal listeners who will hear this, just look for that. As time progresses, you’ll see more of that. So that’s about it. Folks, it’s just a day where I talked about some new things. Rambled on a little bit, probably too long. I apologize. Lots going on here and hopefully these are all some interesting, exciting developments here at GDC/Building for Health. And with that I would just like to thank you all for listening. 

I really want to thank everybody who reached out from our last episode. Our last episode we had Brandon LaGreca on to talk about electromagnetic fields and other issues related to that. And we had a little contest with anybody who receives our weekly emails. That people who wrote a review about the show and put it up on iTunes would get a free copy of a book that Brandon wrote. 

And we had a great response. It was excellent, folks, we will be definitely sending out those books shortly. We have several to send out. So thank you so much. 

That has really pushed our podcast up the charts. We’re now, as of this week, like the 20th ranked podcast in the home and garden division of iTunes. So thank you so much for your loyal listenership, for reaching out, for your reviews and your ratings. Keep it up, folks. We couldn’t do it without you and we really appreciate you. 

I had a client this week who did a consult with me and they said, wow, I can’t believe we’re actually talking to you! And you know, I said the exact same thing back. I just have to pinch myself anytime somebody says I was listening to your podcast. It’s just truly remarkable that people actually listened to this show. And I’m so glad that you all get something good out of it, good benefits out of it. So we will continue to do it for as long as I can. So thanks again folks. I hope you enjoyed the show. We’ll be back again next week. Jay and I with another fantastic topic. Take care.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Electropollution: The Silent Carcinogen

We have been SO EXCITED to bring you all an episode all about electropollution and we were finally able to land author Brandon LaGreca, who joins the show today to discuss his story, his new book and most importantly, how we all can protect ourselves with simple changes we all can make in our daily routines.  Pass this one along to your friends and family!

Google Play


Electropollution: The Silent Carcinogen

Electropollution: The Silent Carcinogen

Andy: Electromagnetic fields, 5G, smart meters, dirty electricity. These are words and phrases we hear all the time about things we should be concerned about in our own households. But what do we do? How do we start to make our homes healthier? Well, today we’re going to talk with Brandon LeGreca who is an author of a book called Cancer and EMF Radiation. He’ll join Jay and I today to discuss things we can do around our home to protect us against these and other serious issues. 

Hello everybody, this is Andy Pace. This is Non Toxic Environments. And before we get going with our interview today, just wanted to set this up. You might know that I’m on the board of directors of an organization called the Building Biology Institute and it’s really the organization here in the US that’s creating setting the standards on electromagnetic fields that we should protect against in our own homes. And I’ve been hoping to speak with an expert for quite some time now, to get somebody on the show to talk about EMFs. But I’ll be honest with you, the lot of the experts that I know and I trust, they are so knowledgeable that sometimes the information comes across a little too difficult to process. And, today though we have Brandon LeGreca coming on the show and Brandon is a local customer. He is a licensed acupuncturist. An expert in Chinese or Oriental medicine. And has a really fascinating story to tell about why he kind of went down this road to write about EMF radiation. And what I really like about Brandon is that yes, he’s also another one of these really knowledgeable experts on the subject, but he has a great way of putting it in layman’s terms and in ways that I can understand and I can then relate to my clients. So I hope you enjoy the show. Jay and I talking with Brandon LeGreca.

Andy: Brandon and is so great to have you here on the show. Jay and I’ve been talking about these topics for quite some time now, probably since we started the show. And even before that, it is obviously an incredibly, incredibly important topic of discussion and you’re…  the direction you take it is from not just an interested consumer, not just a knowledgeable expert on field itself, but from a whole medical side. You have a great story though to tell us. So please, introduce yourself to everybody here. 

Brandon: Oh, thank you Andy and Jay for having me on your show. It’s a pleasure in Andy. I’ve learned so much from you as a pioneer environmental medicine. So I’m happy to humbly share whatever I can on this topic. 

Andy: Awesome. Yeah, thank you. 

Brandon: So I come at this topic as a clinician, I have managed an integrative medical clinic here in Southeast Wisconsin and have been a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine for the last dozen years. And I’ve always had this kind of vague notion that there was something missing from what I was taught in graduate school. And there’s a lot of beautiful things to say about Chinese medicine, but the one piece that I think is absent is an understanding of the environmental influences and how drastically our environment has changed in the last specifically 50-60 years. T8he topic of electromagnetic fields is one of them, but there’s many things we can say about that. 

And so this all came to a head and became very real for me in 2015 when I had gotten a cancer diagnosis. So I was happily going about my, my clinical life, my home life until this, this big thing just hit me. And so, and because the diagnosis was lymphoma and of all the cancers, I seem to think lymphoma has one of the strongest ties to environmental pollutants. Obviously it’s your lymph that is trying to filter things out that are coming in from the outside. So with that knowledge, I really dove deep into environmental medicine and you know, I feel like of all the topics that I can write about, and of course this book that I’ve just recently written is, even though the main audience is the cancer population, I felt like this was the elephant in the room. This is something I wanted to tackle first. Really the book just came out of a series of blog posts that I had written previously. And then I just kept coming to call upon more research and more research and more research. And before you know, it just kinda grew into a book and there you go. So that was the start of it. 

Andy: The way your book has put together, it makes it a lot easier for the lay person to understand. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of technical information in the book. 

Brandon: Yeah. By necessity. 

Andy: It’s out of necessity. And I think the problem exists where there’s a lot of misinformation out in the world and we have to sometimes re-educate and then provide the correct information. That’s what Jay and I do on a regular basis here. 

Brandon: Yes.

Andy: And your book does a wonderful job of that because you understand now what the true problems are… individual issues in the home that exist. You lay out some really good plans on how to put together the strategy to take care of those issues. 

Brandon: Absolutely. 

Andy: And it’s folks we’ll be sharing information about Brandon’s book. It’s called Cancer and EMF Radiation. We’ll be sharing information about the book on the show notes and through our emails for those who are subscribed to the show. There’s even going to be a contest on winning a free copy. We’ll put that information in the notes. But if you haven’t read the book already, folks, this one is a must read. 

Jay Watts: Brandon, this is Jay. I just need an idea, of a question that popped into my mind as you would you two were talking there. Maybe you’re going to address this later in the podcast, the idea was… is there much like there’s climate change deniers, are there EMF exposure deniers? I mean, are people kind of skeptical of… or is there enough research and enough anecdotal and enough proof that this is something really serious? You understand what I’m kind of asking? Are there skeptics out there? Again, all, it’s a bunch of hooey? I think maybe part of that is our incredible attachment to all our electrical stuff. Yeah. 

Brandon: Yep. That’s part of it.

Jay: So yeah, go ahead and I just wanted to hear what you thought. 

Brandon: I mean the, the biggest deniers are just the actual telecommunications industry. And I point out that it really, this whole thing is kind of going down somewhat analogous to tobacco companies and cigarette smoking where in the early days we had magazine ads, which doctor was was touting this brand of cigarettes and it’s really the same thing. And now we’re seeing the rollout of 5g telecommunications industry are the first ones to plaster all over billboards, how great their services and they claim that radio frequency radiation is safe, but they’ve been saying that for decades despite mountains of research. So it makes you wonder a little bit how much their vested interest in their industry is playing into that as a bias. And certainly there is some controversy along those lines in the research as well. 

So you know, and to your point, Jay, there are your technophiles who just love everything and want their house to be wired or wireless to the gills in everything communicating. So those people are going to be akin to someone who is addicted to cigarette smoking. They’re not going to be so keen to want to look at evidence to suggest that there might actually be harm. I’ll tell you a funny story, kind of the early days of my research into this subject, I kind of field tested this material and I did a live lecture to a computer club in the area and it didn’t go over exactly as I’d planned. And in retrospect, it probably wasn’t the smartest move in the world because here I am walking… it was analogous to walking into a bar and saying, you’re all a bunch of alcoholics and you need to kind of cut down on this a little bit. And I just walked into a room full of people who were absolute computer tech savvy people and said, you may want to reevaluate your relationship with technology. So obviously those people are always going to exist. And we just have to do our job of educating people with the evidence that we have at hand. 

Andy: Brandon, that reminds me of a quick story. When I was, this is probably 18 almost 20 years ago, I was giving a presentation to the Paint and Decorating Contractors Association of America. And I made the mistake; I called it a calculated risk to mention to the audience of 150 painting and wallpaper hangers, contractors. I said, well, you realize that there is a documented connection between painters and substance abuse because a lot of the chemicals found in just everyday water-based paints are actually classified as narcotics. The room went silent and maybe went on for another 30-45 seconds on this topic and then dropped it. After the talk I probably had half a dozen people come up to me, kind of sheepishly, without their friends being and said, you’re spot on. I have several friends that are alcoholics that have died from alcoholism, others that are on harder drugs. Understand that painters are the first ones to be on the job site in the morning and because they, they need their fix when they’re not getting the fix  there’s substituting with other narcotics and so I feel your pain there when you drop some knowledge onto a group that probably understand and they probably agree but they would never ever let you know that. 

Brandon: And another point to this, I guess most deeply concerned about, again, it’s similar to cigarette smoking. I mean no one at this point would question that cigarette smoking is THE leading cause of lung cancer and it’s because we’re on the other side of that research curve. You know, we have enough epidemiological research, we have enough decades of people clearly getting lung cancer from cigarette smoking. No one would question that. But wasn’t all that long ago was probably 15 years ago when I was traveling through China and working there in the hospitals where I saw medical doctors smoking in the hospital rooms. So it makes you realize, China is on the front end of that curve. We’re on the other side. My thinking is, we have to be a little bit more forward thinking about this issue. We have to look at the evidence and say, okay, probably the most clear risk we have when it comes to radio frequency variation, specifically cell phone use is brain cancer. Now we’re on the front end of that curve. Is it going to take another 20-30 years just like cigarette smoking before we really realize that we are seeing dramatic increases in brain cancer on the same side of the head where you’re using your cell phone. That’s my main concern. We have to be a little more forward thinking and how we approach the issue. 

Andy: You know, I think we’ll all help is… I just read a story that came out this morning that Switzerland was one of the first countries in the world to deploy 5g countrywide. And they have a hundreds and hundreds of 5G antennas up across the country. I think somewhere in the neighborhood of 350. There still hasn’t been definitive health studies to show that 5G is any worse than 4g. Now, I’m not saying that as an excuse that say that 5G is okay. Contrary to what people have written about things I’ve said in the past, I believe that 4G is bad too. To me wireless communication is bad news when it comes to human health issues. I think what’s going to happen, Brandon, to your point is as soon as we have that, some of these studies coming back, it will start to click. Now beyond though the whole wireless communication issue, electromagnetic fields are what we find in the home are created from appliances, from wiring, from dimmer switches, from lamps and so forth. 

And these are the things that, not only do we not need research studies for, but these are things you can take care of this afternoon when you get home from work. 

Brandon: Absolutely. Yeah. 

Andy: Talk to us a little bit about that. I know there’s a lot of focus done on the wireless communication, but from what Jay and I see inside of the home, what are some things people can do around the house just to make it a healthier space, electromagnetic wise? 

Brandon: Sure. So first let’s define our terms. There’s three main sources of electropollution that most people will encounter. The first one which we’ve talking about all along is radio frequency or microwave radiation. That’s your cell phone, your wireless Bluetooth cell phone towers, cordless phones. 

The second is extremely low frequency and this would be the 50-60 hertz frequency that we are being exposed to from just your household wiring. Electrification as it’s as we’ve had it for the last hundred years. So we think of that and measure that as alternating current magnetic and alternating current electric. 

The third one is voltage transients or the other name for this. Some people might have heard as dirty electricity are basically harmonics on top of your clean 50-60 hertz energy coming into your house that’s in the kilohertz. The low megahertz range and all three of these different kinds of EMF are measurable. 

This isn’t where you can make it up. You can buy meters to measure all three of these kinds and all three of them have their own different kinds of ways that remediate them or mitigate them. So I would say the one that is in some ways the easiest frankly is the radio frequency. Most people have a wireless router in their house and they’re broadcasting 24/7 when we just recently bought a house and we moved in and before we did, I brought someone on who is an expert in networking and we just ran Cat 6 ethernet cables throughout the entire house. It really wasn’t all that difficult. It was a days worth of work for sure. But now everywhere that we have a computer set up we have ethernet cables. It’s very reliable. It’s very fast, it’s very secure and there is a way, there’s lots of resources out there that you can take ethernet connections and use that with mobile devices. So there’s a way you can make connections for, for instance, a tablet or a or a phone that you can use it without wireless at all. And it works pretty flawlessly. 

Andy: That’s really the one thing that people talk about when they say, if we get away from wireless we’re so beholden to our mobile devices and using just a connector, something you can probably get a Best Buy or Amazon, you can hook up to a wired connection and eliminate that as a possible carcinogen. 

Brandon: Absolutely. Yeah. Even if you are so utterly convinced that you can’t live without your wireless router, at the very least, put a timer on it and shut it off. One, you’re sleeping right now. There is at least some very good evidence that one of the mechanisms by how radio frequency radiation causes cancer is it suppresses melatonin and melatonin is the hormone that our pineal gland releases to help us wind down to sleep peacefully and it also acts as a potent antioxidant to clear up free radical damage. So even if you could just shut it off at night, which again, you don’t even have to micromanage: buy a simple $3 timer from the hardware store shuts off when you go to bed, turns off when you get up in the morning would be a compromise. Now we didn’t choose to do that in our house, but that’s something that you can certainly choose to do. 

Jay: That’s what we do. That’s when my wife and I do, we just shut it off at night. We shut it off most of the time we only turn it on when we’re going to be doing anything and then the rest of the time we keep it shut down.

Brandon: That’s another option. Just have a switch on it, turn it on when you need it. You know, you’re using a 20-30 minutes, turn it right back off again. And I would say that’s probably where most people are being exposed to radio frequency radiation. I mean, obviously you could live next tower and that’s not ideal, but you have control over what’s inside in your environment. 

Andy: Well that’s true. The question we get quite often as we’re building a new home and we just want to protect ourselves against the cell tower that’s a mile away. I like to know data and I like to know what we’re trying to actually protect against. So I like to have somebody come in using the correct meters to find out what we’re dealing with and then we would recommend, even walk the land… where is it coming strongest from? How should you situate the home on the land to shield most of that? There are things you can do in construction, either by putting up something like a Denny foil aluminum foil in the wall that’ll block RF… window films to block RF. You can even put up a netting material, essentially create an a cage around your bed that completely blocks you from any of that. So there are ways to do that. The thing I always think about is a hundred years ago when electricity first started getting wired across this country, Americans had a life expectancy of about what, 43 years? And today our life expectancy is 30 years greater than that. To Jay’s question earlier, when they deny that this is a problem, this is the one thing I always think about is that if you make the argument that says that electricity is bad… since the days of modern electricity to now our life expectancy is getting longer and longer, that’s essentially their argument back is, if it’s so bad, then why are we living longer? I really appreciate the way you put this Brandon and the information you’re providing. Medicine has gotten better. Medicine has extended our lives. Our diet has gotten better. Just our ways of living. We’re not living such hard lives as we used to a hundred years ago, but we’ve gotten to this point now where for the first time in a hundred years, life expectancy of newborns now is, plateaued, right? According to the experts. This is where, where I think that modern living, and wireless, and everything at your fingertips is now becoming a problem. 

Brandon: Yeah, absolutely. And furthermore, again, it’s funny, people often ask me, I’ve been interviewed a lot about this book. That one of the questions that comes up, and I can kind of understand the question is, do you think that EMF specifically caused your cancer? And I have to honestly say, no. For the kind of slow growing cancer that I had, it probably developed when I was a kid before a lot of this really got ramped up. So people think I have a bone to pick specifically and that’s why I picked EMF to write about. But I have to say, cancer is such a complex issue and it has so many variables associated with it, so many environmental aspects to it and epigenetic influences. And so really my main thesis here is to, is to say to people, EMF is one source of electrical pollution. It’s one source of being a carcinogen. And you have to factor that in. So if you were someone who was recently diagnosed with cancer and you’re looking to clean up all the different, these things in your environment, this is just one aspect of many. And it may not even be the bigger driver. I mean, for all we know, it could just be having a diet full of pesticides and herbicides. It could be a body care products, it could be, formaldehyde exposure, mold exposure, radon exposure. We can go on and on and certainly Andy, you have done a great job, you know, teaching people about a lot of these things. But the point is, is this is one more thing we have to kind of add to the tally now is something to look at as being a potential carcinogen. 

Andy: Well, it comes down to if we have knowledge on better ways to do things and it’s not really inconveniencing you, well why don’t we just do it? Why don’t we just take these, you know, make these changes in our lives? 

Brandon: Absolutely. 

Jay: Oh, that’s common sense, Andy. My God, let’s not employ common sense. Do you guys have smart meters out there? 

Brandon: We do in Wisconsin pretty much everywhere across the state. To my knowledge, they are digital meters. Now, some of those digital meters are weaker in a sense that they only transmit to the road and that’s found more rural areas like where I am. And then more in densely populated areas, they have what I would call a true smart meter, which they’re a little bit more powerful. They transmit a little bit further away. They’re read at a distance. Even here we still have a car that has to drive down the road to get signal. So there’s different kinds of digital meters. They all generate some form of RF radiation. They’ve been blamed for just about everything. They are a source of radiation but it’s sometimes hard to justify, one thing is being horrible and when you know a person is still talking on their cell phone in the other room. In some ways we kind of have to, as people in the field, we have to kind of parse out again, you know, what is the real problem? And I think the solution here is really get down to the evidence, get a meter and measure. You can very clearly measure how far signal from a smart meter is coming into your house. If it seems to be a problem, you have two options. You avoid being basically on the other side of that wall in that room where it’s going to be the strongest, or you could shield that part of your wall and that in that case you’ve talked to someone like Andy or another EMF mitigation specialist. But I think one of the bigger issues is where you have an apartment complex where you have a whole bank of smart meters together and it’s the person who’s on that unit, on that wall and the other side who is really being most strongly effective because then you’ve taken whatever that radiation is from that smart meter multiply device, 6, 8, 10, those meters all going off at the same time. That’s the one I’m particularly worried about, looking at people’s houses and and such and where they live. 

Jay: Yeah. The city of San Diego some years ago had a big push on smart metering and so, they come out, install the smart meter and so we thought, okay, this will do that. Well, the meter in our little house is right outside our bedroom, literally less than three feet away from our bed. So once we got clued into the challenge with this stuff, we call it a utility backup and we said, get out here and take this thing out. Which of course they’re resistant to do on my God, you don’t realize this, we don’t care. Get it outta here. And of course they’d wound up charging us a little fee, but we went back to the analog. So if somebody comes in my yard and does a reading, like they used to in the old days. We just decided hey, let’s not take a chance. But I think you’re right. I think it’s, it’s that, and there’s so many other sources and we need to be aware of all the different sources and certainly these ideas you’ve been sharing here with us about how to mediate is really, really important. 

Andy: So, Brandon, how do you utilize, or do you use this information now in how you go about your acupuncture? Because I know so little it except it’s been done on me. And, I know that both acupuncture or dry needling in the PT world; we’re always looking at ways to change these micro-electrical currents within the body. 

Brandon: Yes.

Andy: So you utilize some of the, the research and knowledge you developed on this in your own medical practice? 

Brandon: I do. It’s actually funny you should bring that up. Because I think in some ways, part of my interest in electromagnetic fields is because I do kind of akin acupuncture and my work with people like I’m an electrician and I’m using these needles and I’m stimulating points and I’m flipping switches in some areas and causing changes in another. And certainly we know that’s true even from the research of acupuncture and acupoint basically where we’re stimulating is an area of the body that has a lower resistance, higher conductivity compared to the surrounding area. So there’s something electro sensitively unique about acupuncture points and we’re quite sure at this point that these signals that are transmitting in the body have some relationship to polarization of the cells and such and how they conduct electricity. Certainly now if you look at more modern research and things like the healthy size of the healthy side of EMF, like a PEMF, which is pulsed electromagnetic field therapy, we’re actually using certain frequencies to actually cause certain beneficial healing responses in the body. And this has gone back from Robert Becker’s work from decades ago. We’ve known that obviously not all EMF is bad. We live in environment where we have an electromagnetic field surrounding the entire planet. You know, now that field is DC as opposed to AC. But we’ve evolved with these frequencies, certainly even infrared from the sun and ultraviolet. So our body is dependent on being in a certain kind of electromagnetic field environment. And so that’s part of where I kind of start the conversation with my patients is saying, okay, well you’re having sleeping problems. Maybe we should think about one, getting sun exposure during the day two, shutting off all your devices at night, taking maybe your alarm clock, which is too close to your head and usually alarm clocks and one of the worst offenders. Maybe moving that a little bit further away from where you are so it’s not blasting your head as you’re trying to sleep. Again, you can measure that with a meter. All things like that. Just getting to get people in tune with what their exposure is and how different that is from the ancestral environment that we’ve evolved in. 

Andy: It’s really a fascinating way to look at it. Brandon and it’s just opened my eyes. I’m thinking of two analogies. One is probably the easiest analogy is that the body is a high performance computer. Imagine any glitch in the electricity coming in, anything that’s wrong with one of the components, it causes it to slow down, bogged down, maybe a little energy spikes. And the body is reacting to that all day long. A well made computer can work its way through it. It’ll still operate, but it might be affected from that point on. I also look at it at the body being a high-performance automobile. From a more of an analog standpoint, you put in gas that’s not the right octane. Maybe you’re a little bit too hard on it one day. You gotta look at it at the these ways and a lot of my clients, it’ll help them to sort of visualize things in a way that they understand. All of these analogies, it all comes down to making sure that the system is operating properly based upon the the surrounding environment, what you put into it and how you take care of it. 

Brandon: Absolutely. To that point of your computer analogy, and I don’t get into this level as to sophistication with my patients, but I identified several mechanisms of how electromagnetic fields can be influencing the human body. And the one that I think is the most compelling is the work of Dr. Martin Paul. He wrote a series of papers showing that EMF exposure very clearly increases tissue calcium levels. And then the membrane of our cells, we have these structures that are called voltage gated calcium channels. So the voltage, literally, there is a small amount of electrical force that is responsible for how calcium is flowing in and out of the cell. And so what Dr. Martin Paul was able to very clearly show is in the presence of EMF fields, there is a derangement in these voltage gated calcium channels. It causes an increase of tissue calcium and from that derives free radical damage. Free radical damage is really, that is the key to cancer in general. Wherever you see free radical damage, you have the potential for DNA damage. You have the potential for cancer formation. So very clearly, we are seeing this connection now on a cellular level of how electromagnetic fields are affecting basic human mammalian physiology. 

Andy: Wow. Fascinating. 

Jay: Andy, remember when we did our Feng Shui interview and of course, the model of Feng Shui we’re working with energy working with chi. I’m interested, Brandon, in your thoughts about the connectivity between the ideas of Feng Shui for the home and how EMF might have an impact on, and this maybe this is so esoteric, there’s not much that we can talk about, but it just dawned on me that I was trying to make that connection between Feng Shui and the actual force itself. So what’s your thoughts on that? 

Brandon: I can say a few words about that. You know, obviously Feng Shui is kind of one of these sister disciplines to traditional Chinese medicine in a sense that we’re looking at the health of the environment. I’ve studied it a touch. I’m not certainly an expert in it, but some things are very obvious. For example, in functionally we want to avoid furniture and such, the sharp corners because of how energy flows around it. Well, to me that’s a very practical thing. If you just fall and hit your head on that sharp corner, it’s going to air as opposed to having a rounded corner where things are smooth, especially if you have a little tykes running around your house. The Chinese are very… it’s interesting culturally and having traveled and worked in China, they do still kind of talk about chi, they talk about the energy of an environment or the energy of a food or the energy of a person. The way that we think about vibes or how something feels to us. In their world, that’s just the reality. For us it seems like EMF, even though we can’t perceive it per se certainly is having effect. It’s having an effect on our environment. One of the things that I find most interesting is when someone does shut off their wireless router at night, how much better they sleep or when they’re not tuned into their devices all the time and they’re getting stressed out from social media and how much more calmer they are. So to me it’s like this isn’t rocket science. There’s certainly ways that we interact with technology that change our relationship to our environment. Anyone who is versed in functional way would probably mirror that same sentiment. 

Jay: That makes sense. Makes sense. 

Andy: So, Brandon, what’s the future for you? Are you working on anything new that we can talk about? 

Brandon: I’m working on the second book right now. It’s tentatively titled Cancer Stress and Mindset. And I plan on writing a series of books, hopefully one published every year that really dives into different subtopics in cancer. I think in several of them probably will deal with some form of environmental issue. Again, this book that I’ve written is, it’s primarily… And all of the things my blog included are written more for the cancer community. However, if there was a second so to speak community that would be interested in this kind of work. It’s people that are tied into environmental work but maybe aren’t as fluent in electromagnetic field stuff. 

And so I wanted this to be as much of a working book. The afterword of the book actually was written by an EMF specialist who’s been doing it for 20 plus years and giving his recommendations to what kind of meters to buy, how to walk around your house or your office and start looking at this. I want it to be really practical. I want all my work to be practical that way. I want it. Basically, again, if you were someone who was wanting to prevent cancer or let’s say someone was diagnosed in your family and you just wanted to pick up one resource to kind of cut to the chase on what you can do to start making changes and do it in an afternoon, then this is the kind of resource I wanted to provide for people. 

Andy: Fantastic. Brandon, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you on the show today. We look forward to having you on the show again when your next book comes out, if you’d be so kind to come back on. 

Brandon Wonderful. Yeah. Thank you Andy and Jay.

Jay: Thank you for the education I appreciate that. I’m going to be getting your book and reading through it, so thank you very much. 

Andy: Wow. Just fascinating, fascinating stuff from Brandon. We just can’t thank him enough for being on the show and it’s really nice because he’s from our backyard too. He’s right from Southeastern Wisconsin. He’s also a client of mine. And so I get to speak with them quite often these days. He’s going through a home that home remodeling he talked about. But in any event folks, I hope you enjoyed that episode. We really, really enjoyed having him on and we hope to have him on as soon as that new book comes out. 

Folks, please let your friends and family know, especially about this episode. It’s an important one. I believe there’s a lot of good information here that folks need to know. So please send this along to your friends and family. Please reach out to ’em, go to iTunes and give us a five star rating and review. We’d greatly appreciate that. And with that, we’ll see you next week.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Hiring the Right IAQ Professional

You’re investigating noxious, unfamiliar odors in your home and need to hire someone.  Where do you go?  Who can you trust?  All too often, we get suck in “analysis paralysis” and either get recommendations from too many people or we hire someone who claims they can find the problem, but is woefully ignorant of the best testing methods.  Today, Jay and I discussing how to find the right IAQ professionals for troubleshooting your home, and I talk about some current projects that you can probably relate to.

Google Play


Hiring the Right IAQ Professional

Hiring the Right IAQ Professional


Andrew Pace: While Jay and I have our personal favorites when it comes to hiring indoor air quality professionals to sleuth out problems in the home, it’s obvious that there’s a large area in this country that aren’t really covered by these professionals. And so we get that call quite often from listeners who do I call to find out what’s going on in the house. So on today’s episode we’re going to talk about hiring the correct professional and sometimes hiring the correct professionals to sleuth out the problems in the home and get you moving in the right direction. Today, on Non Toxic Environments.

Hello everybody. Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Jay, we’ve got an interesting topic today. Well, they’re all interesting.

Jay Watts: I hope so. I hope our listeners are feeling that way. I mean, I’m always interested in what we’re talking about, but you know, I’ve kind of some skin in the game here as you do. So last week folks, we talked about adhesives that kind of, as we described, a sticky subject, sorry for the bad pun, but had to say it today. Today, I think we would like to talk about kind of a bar in the broader context of indoor air quality and most specifically, how do we go about ascertaining whether or not we need a professional to come in and help us do our indoor air quality testing? Or are we going to go out to the do it yourself world and find the little testers that we can use ourselves to bring in to figure out what we’re dealing with or their indoor air quality? So I know, Andy, this is a subject that’s right up your trail. Why don’t we just dive in and start talking about it?

Andy: Well, you know, it is, and, and you know, full disclosure, I’m a consultant for healthy homes and healthy home remodeling and sometimes just for a person to throw ideas off of and maybe act as a little bit of a counselor with some families. There are professionals across the country and all over the world that specialize in indoor air quality, but they come at it from different points of view. And I think that’s really the gist of what we wanted to discuss today because all too often someone would contact me, we’ll be involved in a consultation, we’ll find out that they’re dealing with a mold situation or something else even more dangerous. And it’ll come down to having to do some actual testing, you know, boots on the ground, getting into the guts of the home and finding out what’s actually happening on site. Not a lot that I can do here between a hundred to a thousand miles away. Although we have had many… several times now, successfully utilize the prism testing systems to give us an idea of where we’re at for VOCs, formaldehyde, even active mold in the house. But most often these situations require somebody to come out and actually visualize the space and test for specific contaminants. And this is a little bit more difficult and I would love to say today, all right, here are the three people you should call and here are their phone numbers and their websites and that’s it folks. We’re done for Non Toxic Environments today, but it’s just not that easy and it’s a subject that requires a lot of background investigation- obviously where you’re located, what is the job situation, what do you think at the outset, what are we looking for? Honestly in these situations, and I’m going to talk about a couple of specific projects that I’ve worked on.

Jay: That’s good. It’s always good to bring like a project at hand to kind of share it.

Andy: It is. And the reason why I’m going to bring these particular projects up is because of having to bring in multiple experts because one has a specialty in mold, the next one has a specialty in formaldehyde. The next one has a specialty in something completely exotic. And you’ll find that sometimes in order to get down to the root of the problem and actually fix it. It’s an all hands on deck situation.

Jay: So I hear this and I’m starting to see the cash register start to spit out a big number at the end of that… I guess you’ll get into that later when we talk about relative costs and pretty basic terms. I’m hearing the cash register starting to ring; i’m going to have a mold guy come out and then there’s going to be a guy coming out formaldehyde and someone coming out for this and that. And boy, I got a whole team of people in my house trying to figure out where it’s coming from and what it is. We’re going to discuss this, what do we do about it?

Andy: And that all comes down to you. You need to utilize the tools and services that are proper for the situation. I don’t like to have somebody who is a quasi-expert give $1,000 worth of reports only to find out that, well, that particular person really didn’t know exactly what to look for. Now we’re going to bring somebody else in.

Jay: Is there a university of this for IAQ experts? Is there someplace that these guys go to get certified or how’s that?

Andy: There are organizations in the Building Biology Institute for instance, they will certify, and it’s a hands on in the field, educational, and correspondence. They will certify Building Biologists, and a Building Biologist is going to be very well trained in how to use equipment to detect electromagnetic fields for instance, or to detect mold.

However, a building biologist is not an industrial hygienist. All right? And it’s not somebody who can now take slides and look at under the microscope and find out exactly what microbiome we’re dealing with. It’s always best to talk to somebody who has a broad base in all the different types of contaminants in the home. And then this is why I’m saying you really need to, in a lot of situations, bring in a second expert in. I’ve been involved in a couple where they’ve had three or four experts and you look at the cost of a home, you look at what it takes to remodel it, fix it up to how you like it. And then having to do that again because somebody missed something. So I’d rather just rather be safe than sorry, and let’s get it done right the first time.

Andy: So let me just bring out an example because I think it’ll help everyone understand where I’m coming from. Working on a project in New York over the last year, and this couple they expected their first child. Now they have a young child and they are remodeling this old historic home. It’s just a gorgeous house in a really interesting neighborhood. The story is great and it was an area that used to be used in old movie sets in New York. And so it’s considered a historic preservation area. Well they hired me as their Building Biologist and healthy home consultant and doing everything obviously remotely from Wisconsin. And we started digging into the guts of the home and they had a local fellow who was an indoor air quality specialist and also the contractor, the remediator.

And he and I would work very fairly closely on trying to seal up the crawl space, trying to take care of some mold issues in the house. And I was helping them with materials… and low and behold, a crawl space that has been covered up for decades got opened up because they wanted to make sure that there was no water to deal with. Opening up that crawl space opened up a literal can of worms. Everybody in the family, just instantly flu like symptoms. Dizziness, can’t be in the house, a whole host of symptoms. At that point she decided to hire another specialist, somebody who can actually do testing of dust and find out what’s going on. Come to find out that the home was treated for termites decades ago. Well, a termite treatment prior to 1988 was a chemical called chlordane.

Andy: Chlordane lasts in the soil, in your house for decades. And it’s extremely dangerous to the point where it’s actually been banned for use in this country since 1980.

Jay: They use a different chemical now in most of that work, don’t they?

Andy: They do, they do. But this particular one is notoriously bad. Yeah. Well, in order to pinpoint exactly what they are dealing with the chlordane, they ended up hiring another specialist. And this other specialist is somebody who worked particularly with chlordane and had certain test protocols. And so we’re finally getting down to the crux of this and knowing all the information we know now, she’s going back to the various experts that she’s hired to put together a list of things that need to be done in what order. And everybody’s having a say, not only in how it’s done, but the materials being used, the processes being used, the equipment being used.  So that all the way along the line there, nobody will be using anything that is going to circumvent what we’ve done already. And put us back into a situation where now we’re behind the eight ball again and we gotta take care of another issue. So this is working out well, for the fact that this will be dealt with and taken care of properly.

But is it expensive? Yeah, it’s very expensive and I make no bones about it. I know she has spent thousands of dollars on experts on testing and that doesn’t even count the remediation part and the remodeling.

Jay: But the thing to have the peace of mind of at least understanding it at a deeper level, it’s gotta be incredibly helpful. I just remembered the gas that replaces chlordane now they, well it’s popular, it’s got a trade name called Vikane. But the the chemicals is sulphural fluoride, okay. That’s what it is. So it’s, that’s what they use instead of chlordane now.

Andy: Well, and so hopefully we won’t find out 20 years from now, that’s just as bad. Like replacing BPA with BPB, when that BPB is just as bad or worse.

Jay: That can happen. So thousands of dollars down the pipe at at least, now we have some sense of a trajectory forward. We know what we need to do, or at least we have a good idea of where the problem is and how to treat it. And so of course there’s always opens up the discussion about more focused analysis. Right. But anyway, finish your story. I didn’t mean to interrupt the story. Go ahead. Not a problem.

Andy: So here’s that the second part of the story. We are in the process, right? And this is happening right now folks. We are in the process of going through the protocol to make sure that what will be done will not harm the occupants in any other way. We’re all taking turns on making sure that it’s going to be beneficial for the end project. Discussion has started, would it be better to button the house up, clean out what you can and put it up for sale? And I know this is not the happy ending that people are hoping for in a story like this, but it’s real. I believe that you need to go into these situations with more of that open mind. This is not the only project like this folks. I have probably a dozen projects in the last two years where our clients decided to at the very end, you know what, it’s time to cut bait and move on.

Andy: And that’s what they did because some situations are not going to be 100% fixed for you and your family. It might be fine for the next family. You provide full disclosure, this is what we did. Here are the test results. The test results are far below industry levels and well in the safe zone and so forth. However, as we all know, once you become sensitized to something, whether it’s a physical reaction or a mental reaction, it’s hard to get away from that. And if you’ve been dealing with this day in and day out for the last eight months and then you cannot get rid of the problem 100% and guarantee that, I don’t know if you’ll ever have peace of mind,

Jay: I would say no.

Andy: And I have found that as a consultant, it’s my duty to bring this to the client completely unbiased and say, I believe based upon what I hear, you’re never going to find closure here and I think you should just sell and move on. So we’ll see, decisions have not been made yet on this particular project.

Jay: It takes time. You have to sit down with your family and, and go over the information and look at the dollars and look at what to expect and then make the tough decision. So, what’s your other story that’s related?

Andy: A client I’m working with right now… they were in the process of designing a home and got all the way to the point of going out for bids. Project went out for bids and all the bids are coming back far higher than they had budgeted for. They realized that they probably put into the design a lot more than… it was all their wishes. They weren’t being frugal with how they put things on the blueprints.

Jay: Yeah. This is the dream house.

Andy: It’s the dream house, but once those start to come off, the numbers just weren’t coming down enough. And they’ve also started doing some additional investigation into the area where they’re building. They found that a farm about a half a mile away, which was an organic farm, recently switched over and got rid of their organic certifications. Unfortunately the farm is a little bit west of them. So the prevailing winds would bring all of that pesticide and other things into their yard. So they had to make the decision. First of all, are we going to build this house as is? How are we going to build in this area? And what they did was they sold the land and they bought an existing home. Now we’re in the process of doing remodeling project. These are the things that as a consultant I’ll help people with, but when it comes specifically to indoor air quality again, we’re talking about very specific things that we deal with, whether it’s chemical, mold, electromagnetic fields. It’s all about making sure that you bring in the right people based upon the situation.

Jay: Yeah. And so it kind of leads me to the next side of the equation here with this. And that is- there are a do it yourselfer kits, testers that you can bring into to try to help you analyze your hair. I know that we have the formaldehyde reduction or the Yanagasowa sensor for doing very specific formaldehyde analysis. So briefly, the idea of these units that are out in the market you could buy on Amazon. I think we both kind of agree you have to be ‘buyer beware’ with those. Right? Right.

Andy: Well that is a big thing right now. You and I Jay have a mutual client and the situation we’re running into is: a product was used in their home and it was an adhesive. Because of the past health issues, they own a couple of handheld VOC meters and formaldehyde meters.

Andy: According to what we were told, they applied some adhesive and their meters just spiked in formaldehyde, absolutely spiked. This is a dangerous situation, not only potentially because of health, but potentially because of inaccurate information getting broadcast out to the world. So I jumped into action right away and I brought out our FRAT system and I found a tube of that particular adhesive. I laid some down and did a FRAT test on it and it came out at zero.

As you’ve probably all heard me talk about this in the past a number of times, I didn’t do it once, I did it twice, because I always want to make sure that the system is done properly. So two times- I know that I’ve got the correct result. You start to break apart all the parts of how this process happens. And I think Jay, you brought up a great point about this is that it’s quite possible that when this adhesive was put onto the surface that it actually caused flushing of formaldehyde coming from the plywood it was put on. And that makes absolutely perfect sense. Because when I do it here I’m doing it with a material that I know is formaldehyde free. It’s approved cardstock that when I put the material on no flushing occurs. The discussion became right away all right Andy, you got to fly out to California and do this test in our house. Unfortunately it’s just not possible nor is a practical. We did the testing, we actually videotaped the entire process to show here’s how it’s done. This is the product, these are the results… kind of case closed. And so that’s a situation where it would probably be a very, I would say a little too judicious…. not a judicious use of funds to bring in an expert from 4,000 miles away to conduct a 30 minute test.

Jay: Right, right. And I think you said something really important. We’ve stressed this before and that is when you’re trying to do an analysis of a specific product, you always want to make sure that you don’t create what Andy just described as a flushing effect.

Jay: So you want to use an inert surface. I use glass or I’ll even use tinfoil. Then I’ll put the product of choice on that surface. I’ll let it dry and cure and act like it will act when it’s done dried and cured. And then I do my analysis and to figure out is this a product I can be around? So I think that’s probably good. Words to the wise for all of these listening, if you’re getting ready to… if you’re in the discovery stage of your development and you’re looking at products, you want to make sure that only do you read as much as you can and get as much of that information as possible, but then you have to finalize all of that by getting samples of everything.

And I’m speaking specifically of coating type products and our adhesives and glues, that kind of thing, where you can actually take the material itself from whoever company you’re looking at and put those materials on your inert surface and then go through your whatever protocol. Some people have sensitivities and go to doctors and they have different modalities for understanding what the challenge is. Some people do muscle testing, most people just do a basic inhalation test. One of the things we do aside from the initial test is we also put the product testing sample in our bedroom. We actually sleep with right by our nightstand, which is right by our heads. So, if my wife and I wake up with any kind of symptom, then we can kind of decide maybe that’s not the product that we want to bring in.

So it’s very personal. You have to kind of figure out folks which modality you feel comfortable with, but in terms of doing your due diligence to make the right decisions, it’s a smart move to make.

Andy: It is. It is. And so, and on that note there are other, I think you had mentioned this, there are other kits that you can buy FRAT test is something that’s normally done in the house, right? We do have clients and a lot of listeners to the show actually have sent me samples of materials that they’re using in their home and they want me to give them a test result.

Jay: Oh, fantastic.

Andy: And it’s worked out great. So for awhile there I was just allowing people to send in samples. Now, unfortunately, because of the amount of it, I actually have to charge for it because it is expensive for me to do these tests.

Jay: Oh yeah. You opened up the door there and I think it’s wonderful that people want you to do that. Maybe you have to hire a little assistant to help you out with that.

Andy: Exactly. And so, the other types of tests that are available: there is a product called Prism test. They develop this test kit after hurricane Katrina to test… actually at the time RV’s that were loaded with formaldehyde. They needed a way to test multiple locations very fast with this equipment that was obviously really sensitive, but in a way that didn’t require their own IAQ professionals to be on site.

They developed this test kit and it’s pretty awesome. Folks buy the test that you want to do, whether it’s a VOC test, VOC and formaldehyde, VOC, formaldehyde and mold. They even have one for latent cigarette smoke. So if you move into an apartment and you know you smell something, but they say it’s a smoking free apartment, you can actually test it and it’ll give you the results of all the thousands of chemicals that are found in cigarette smoke. They send you the test kit. Essentially they have a couple different versions. One has a low vacuum pump. You put in the tubes and run for 20 minutes, put the tubes back in the box and it’s sent back via two day air. There’s another one that has actually a tape test for testing dust.

Andy: But the point is that these tests are under $300. You get amazing detail of what is in your air. And I use these very often. If I’m doing a FRAT test of somebody’s home, I’ll require them to do a Prism test first so I know what I’m working with. You know, if I walk into a home, it’s like walking into a home blindly. Whereas if I know that there’s an elevated formaldehyde and a certain level, I know what I’m looking for, so I’m not just throwing darts.

Jay: This is a show note.

Andy: Yup. It is. It is. And I’ll have links to these. I’ll have links to all of this in the notes. Anybody can go right on and in purchase their testing. Here’s a really, really great thing about the Prism test: I like using prism tests before and after projects. Buy a house, immediately do a test. Now you’ve got a baseline right now. Do all the repairs, renovations, improvements you want to do and hopefully you’re doing things healthfully. And if I’m involved, and we’re using Jay’s products and we’re making sure that the houses as toxin-free as possible, then do another test and compare the results. Because I’ve seen this side by side before and it’s truly amazing. Hmm. And so again, a for a few hundred bucks, it’s peace of mind.

Jay: No, absolutely. And that’s a big component here. Well, I think we’ve kind of done a nice job with that IAQ analysis. Why don’t we dip into our mailbag Andy and kind of round out the show with a few Q and A’s here?

Andy: Yeah, we’ve got time for a couple of questions.

Jay: Yeah, I think we do. I’ve got one right here in front of me. So this customer has a, and this is unique. You don’t see this a lot, so I like this one. They have natural Adobe floors. So they used a linseed oil on them and we could predict this: the floors turned dark and the color isn’t to our liking. Would it be possible to use a floor paint over the linseed oiled floor as long as it was primed first with some kind of a primer? Or is this, forget it, no go, thanks for your help.

Andy: That’s a good question. Because I can tell you in 30 years I’ve never gotten that question.

Jay: Adobe floors are not that most part. I mean, where do you find Adobe floors? In Arizona and New Mexico, right?

Andy: Parts of Colorado and so forth. I actually have a client here in Wisconsin and has done it for a couple of homes. So it looks beautiful. But obviously when you put linseed oil or in these case, boiled linseed oil on an Adobe floor, it’s essentially just a compact earth floor and it’s going to darken up because that’s what oils do. Here’s the situation. The problem we’re dealing with, even though it’s a compacted earthen floor, there’s still a, an element of flexibility to the linseed oil that’s on the surface. And the fear is that the current surface will be more flexible than whatever paint you put over it. As you walk in the floor and wear the floor down, you’ll actually be cracking the floor because those two surfaces don’t move at the same flexibility level. But on that note, it’s quite possible that through some adhesion tests, you may be able to get the AFM Transitional Primer… and I’m gonna say, and you may not like this recommendation Jay, because, well, it might not be what you might be thinking. I’d actually say the exterior satin paint for the fact that it exterior paint is more flexible. It’s not going to wear as well as your concrete floor paint. But it’s also not as hard and it gives you a little bit that flexibility. So sand, then Transitional Primer and then a couple coats of the Exterior Satin and it’s quite possible it could work, but you’d really have to test it.

Jay: Yeah. I think that’s kind of the common word folks when we’re talking about, doing these kinds of transition type jobs. It’s always really important that you do some small analysis, some testing to make sure that the concepts you’re hoping to apply going to be successful are going to be successful and the only way you can do that is by finding an inconspicuous area someplace to run some analysis.

Andy: Correct. Yeah.

Jay: Okay. Here’s another one. Our house contains large amounts of rough cut cedar wall paneling, about 400 square feet of it. It was our vacation home, but we have retired to live here full time within the last year. My wife seems to develop the severe reaction to something here. She is better when we can open up all the windows or when she’s outside. We’re suspecting the cedar. Are there any products that can be effective in sealing Cedar? This is from John in Missouri.

Andy: I was just going to ask where, where does John reside? So Missouri, we’re dealing with humidity, correct. We’re dealing with the fact that Cedar contains tannic acid. Tannic acid can be very problematic for some people. Problematic for anybody.

Jay: Pine and Cedar, they’re the big culprits out there in the wood world for people with different challenges.

Andy: For sure. So generally I’ll tell people that it’s impossible to seal up natural aromas. The chemistry behind a natural aroma is truly magnificent. So magnificent that I have never found a synthetic or natural product out there that can totally seal it up. Yeah, there are some caveats here. I’ve had some luck and it doesn’t happen all the time folks. It’s, it seems to be very job specific because of how old the Cedar is. Or pine is another thing you mentioned. Cedar, the tannic acid and Cedar can leach out for months to years and now if we were dealing with an exterior deck or a fence, I’d actually tell them, let it weather for a full year and then put a sealer on there for color and waterproofing and so forth. Inside of the home because there is not a lot of weathering happening inside the home.

This doesn’t happen as fast, so you have to let the wood naturally dry out and that can take years. The older it is, the more likely that using either the AFM Acrylacq or pure shellac [will work]. And you know, you and I have talked about that before. Jay, you did a lot of experiments with pure shellac.

Jay: Yes.

Andy: And it’s very effective at sealing up wood odors.

Jay: Yes.

Andy: But not everyone can tolerate shellac even once it’s cured. So you would have to do shellac and then the Acrylacq over that.

Jay: Right. So that’s what I’ve suggested. That seems to work well. I haven’t experimented with that and with good success. Yeah.

Andy: So I think that answers the question. I think the other thing is, keep in mind that humidity tends to activate those aromas more. I know opening the windows feels like the right thing to do because you get ventilation, but an actuality, if you’re bringing in more humidity, it’s just going to prolong the problem.

Jay: So maybe dehumidification of some kind So you know where it looks like we’re kind of running a course on our time here. So why don’t we wrap it up for today and look forward to next week. So take us home Andy, take us home.

Andy: I hope that the discussion of IAQ professionals and hiring the right people is helpful. I purposely did not name names because there are so many individuals I’ve worked with across the country who are absolute experts in their field that I would be afraid that if I named six, I forgot the name of the seventh. And I don’t want to do that to any of my friends and colleagues across the country. They’re all good who’ve I’ve worked with. They all have their strong suits.

Matter of fact you can listen back on some of the podcasts that I’ve been on this past year and I’ve been interviewed by a couple of these indoor air quality experts on their shows. So I’m sure you’ll be able to find those in some of the previous show notes. But if you are interested in specific names and areas, please feel free to reach out., you can go to our website and leave us a Speak Pipe. Then finally folks we have been getting a lot of feedback from customers that they are just avid listeners of the show. I had two listeners in the last week tell me that the entire family sits around the computer and listens to the show.

Jay: That’s great.

Andy: Matter of fact, one of them I did a consult with earlier this week and her two year old asked to go on the phone so he could hear my voice because he’s so excited about listening to the show folks. If you have a child like that, please make sure they get in touch with us. Cause Jay and I could use an apprentice.

Jay: But you know what that means, we’re going to have to work on some lullabies here.

Andy: Well, I’m sure many of our words can put children to sleep and adults too. So thanks for listening.

Jay: We hear you snoring folks.

Andy: Okay, that’s right. My point is that a lot of avid listeners, people love the show. What I’m encouraging you to do is go back to whichever device you listen to our show. Hopefully it’s something like iTunes and you can leave us a rating and a review because, you know, even just clicking that little five star button once, it takes two tenths of a second and it does a world of good for us because that helps others find the show as well. That’s my little ask.

Jay: I’m hoping everybody can help us out. I think folks that even look at it this way, there’s a big flagpole up there, the healthy home healthy building flagpole, and our little flag is starting to go up the flag pole, right? So the more you can give us some words to it, put some wind into that flag and get our little flag to start getting further, further up there. So people more people see it. Maybe the flag gets a little bigger and who knows it. Good things coming to that.

Andy: That’s fantastic. All right, folks, thanks again for listening. We’ll be back next week with a wonderful episode of Non Toxic Environments. Take care, everyone.

Jay: Bye. Bye.


View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: The Glue That Keeps it All Together

If you think about all the items that go into a new home build, most people kind of forget about the glues, adhesives and caulks that are used during the build.  Caulking around doors and windows, adhesives under the sub flooring, glues for the cabinetry, etc.  While the amount of actual material doesn’t add up to the volume of paint you would use, it can certainly make for harmful indoor air if the wrong products gets used.

Google Play


The Glue That Keeps it All Together

The Glue That Keeps it All Together


Andrew Pace: This week on Non Toxic Environments, we’re going to be talking about the glues and caulk materials that keeps your home together. These small bits of material that are used in various applications that could mean a huge indoor air quality problem if you use the wrong materials. So sit back and listen to this episode of Non Toxic Environments on caulks and glues.

Hello everybody. Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Jay, today we’re going to caulk about, excuse me, we’re going to talk about caulking and adhesives.

Jay Watts: We’re going to because it’s a sticky time of year, isn’t it?

Andy: It’s a sticky time of year.

Jay: It’s as humid as humid out here on the West coast and it is, I guess it’s not so humid where you are, but that’s okay. And you need a break from the humidity we do.

Andy: Yeah. It’s been a wild ride this year with the weather. Yeah.

Jay: There’s a lot of talk about glues and glues are a pretty important building product. It’s used every day, all over the country, all over the world. I’m sure.

Andy: Well, you know that, that the old saying, the glue that holds this together… think of a house, think of your office building and really look at the products that you’re surrounded by and you start to realize that boy, there is a glue adhesive, a caulking material, a sealant on a lot of these materials.

Jay: Yeah. And I can’t see it, but I know it’s there.

Andy: It’s there. Right. And unfortunately it’s also off gassing for quite some time. You know what folks, we’re not going to talk about every single glue that’s used in your house today. We wanted to kind of hit the high notes because glue is… let’s face it folks, it’s not very sexy. It’s kinda boring. Kind of boring. It’s kinda boring.

Jay: But they tried to get us to try to give an interesting, they tried to give it really cool names, right? They call it like liquid nails, liquid nails. Right. That’s a really good name. I have to admit that it’s a great name. That’s one of the better names that I’ve ever heard.

Andy: It is. It is. So we thought we’d talk about the materials that we know best. AFM, Chemlink. Some other brands… there used to be a brand called Eco Bond. They are no longer in business.

Jay: What about Bostick?

Andy: Bostick is still around. I think they’re owned by a company- Franklin adhesives. And so we’ll even talk about things like Elmers glue, you know, why not?

Jay: So I’ve got an interesting use for Elmers glue I’ll share.

Andy: Okay. Alright. Alright, so let’s talk about, let’s talk about caulk first. Caulking is kind of a generic term that’s usually used a liquid, gunned in or tooled in flexible material that’s used to fill gaps inside and outside. Where do we use it in our house? Well, we use it around doors and windows. We use it in bathrooms around sinks and sometimes faucets and showers and toilets and things like that. It’s also used quite a bit in painting because it’s used to fill in the gaps between woodwork so that it can be smoothed out and painted really nice. Yeah.

Jay: It’s why it’s one of the last things you do.

Andy: Yeah. It’s a finished product, right?

Jay: Yeah, it’s a finish.

Andy: Exactly. So I recall years ago, my background actually in architecture commercial construction, one of the first jobs I had was selling a brand of high-performance industrial caulks and sealants.

And the term sealant is actually more of a term that means a higher performing caulking material. And so a lot of times people use those two terms interchangeably, but the term sealant really is used for exterior situations where you need a lot of movements, glass wall panel systems, large masonry units where you need that flexibility.

Jay: Yeah, I think just the idea pretty simple in when you have different materials laying side by side with each other and you need to seal that, does that seam in between, there has to be enough inherent flexibility in the material. So that when those surfaces are moving around, which they will do at a subtle level between we know with heat and cold contraction expansion, that material has to be flexible enough so that it doesn’t break that bond between.

Andy: And so one of the key points of this is understanding the the dynamic of that crack or gap that you’re trying to fill. And what I mean by that is, is this a gap that is static? So it’ll always remain that quarter inch wide, or is it dynamic? Is it moving? And so when you know  what it’s gonna do, you can choose the correct product and make sure you have the right flexibility. So let’s look at something like, you know, Safecoat has what’s called their multipurpose caulking material. Safecoat as it says, it’s neither fish nor fowl. It’s not a latex caulk, which means it’s not made with acrylic. It’s not a silicone, it’s not even a polyurethane, it’s actually a technology called polyether.

It’s another type of resin folks. It’s not a term, it’s just a resin. And the beauty of this particular resin that it can be used in a material like this without the use of solvent. Right? And so when you, if you have a quarter inch gap that you’re gonna be gunning in a bead of caulk. If you put down a quarter inch, it stays a quarter inch. It doesn’t shrink. And why this is so important is because years ago, Safecoat had a multipurpose caulk that used a latex and acrylic base resin. Right? And as a cured, it’s shrunk a little bit. And that threw some people for a loop. Well, as of how many years ago now, you guys switched over to that new technology, right? And it has made a world of difference.

Jay: Oh yeah. It’s incredible. You know, the other thing too about it is because it’s what’s called moisture cure. You might, you might explain that a little bit, but moisture cured. Well, anyway, my point here is that, people worry about VOC content and everything and it’s zero though, and it’s zero, unless you were to bake it at 220 degrees or 230 degrees or something like that, which is never ever going to happen. And at that point, I think it really would release like 19 grams of VOC.

Andy: That’s actually a really good point to make Jay because every once in awhile people will say, well, what if I bake out my house? Won’t that I’m get rid of the off gassing? Well, no, it actually causes new chemical compounds to form and this is what’s occurring in that test. If you get it up to 270 degrees, this new VOC comes off because it’s not supposed to be at that temperature.

Jay: You’re right.

Andy: You had mentioned moisture cure. What this means is that moisture in the air actually activates the curing process. So unlike a traditional water-based caulking compound, if it’s really high humidity, it actually cures faster, right?

Jay: Which is kind of counterintuitive to everything else we talk about where we don’t like a lot of humidity because what is is, water-based products take a long lot longer when there’s a lot of moisture in the air. But in this case you want that moisture cause it helps that coalescence process for it.

Andy: And it’s a right and trick of the trade here folks is if you want to get it to cure out faster in more of a cool dry situation, spritz it with a little bit of water.

Jay: I was going to say mist it, mist it with some water.

Andy: So what’s the downside of this? Well, water makes it sticky. Water makes a cure faster, which means that’s not water cleanup, right?

Jay: It’s alcohol. Isopropyl alcohol. Okay.

Andy: And so usually in the trades, whoever’s doing the caulking would lick their thumb and then run that down the bead of caulk to smooth that out. If you tried that with this product, you’d have a lot of choice words.

Jay: Or your contractor. If he’s this type of guy will actually spit out a little vodka he’s been drinking during the working process and the alcohol vodka will actually take care of it. No, I’m kidding folks. None of our contractors do that.

Andy: Not anymore. But if you want to smooth out the surface of the caulk bead, you have to use that isopropyl alcohol. Not on your thumb, but on a tool. There’s tools specifically for this. And so I love this material Jay because it really is, it’s multipurpose. We use this inside and outside around doors and windows. Can it be used in bathrooms? People ask this question all the time. Here’s my standard answer. If you’re looking for the least toxic caulking material that you can use in your home, this is it. If you’re looking for caulking material that is really more mold resistant and it performs okay, this is not it.

Jay: Okay. We’ll talk about that. Well, let me share this. I do use our caulking compound in my showers, yes, twice because I have two. Working great. It’s working great.

Andy: That’s great to hear. And it’s working great. Well and I say that because the question we get all the time is, is it mold resistant? And folks, no, it isn’t. It’s not mold resistant, but it’s mold resistant naturally because of the resin. The resin is not a food source for mold the way acrylic is.

Jay: Here’s what I say about that. Folks, if you have a mold problem in your bathroom, shower, you are not paying attention. I’m sorry, I have to be blunt, but you’re not paying attention. You should be able to…. these things don’t happen unless you’re not paying attention.

Andy: That’s true.

Jay: Especially when you can see it. I mean, it’s the mold that we can see that’s the problem we need to worry about. But when you can see it, you should not be able to see mold in your shower. It’s either you’re not paying attention or you’re not showering enough in either case, change that up a little bit because you should not have a mold problem.

Andy: And so here’s the thing, and I know it’s a technical way to describe it, but the resin that that’s used in this particular caulk is not necessarily a food source for mold. However, as Jay put it- soap scum, dead skin cells are carried in the showering process and it sticks to the mold or sticks to the caulking material. And then if that’s not cleaned off on a regular basis, you can get mold forming on that material.

Jay: Correct. That’s the food source. That’s the food source. It’s not the caulk, the caulk isn’t the food source. It’s all those things. Organic contaminants you just mentioned. That’s the food source.

Andy: Exactly. And so we make this distinction because there are caulking materials in the market that actually use mildewcides that actively help to keep that caulk joint clean, even if you don’t clean the surface very well. And those are inherently toxic to humans, right? Because they will release formaldehyde. So that’s why I say if you’re looking for something specifically that’s going to kill off mold, and you don’t have to worry about cleaning the surface as Jay put it, then this is not the part for you. If you’re looking for the least toxic that’s out there, this is it.

Jay: So what’s the one you were talking about that’s got other inherent mildewcitic properties, what are those ones that you like?

Andy: Well, I don’t like any of them. And that’s the thing. Because of that, I would rather just do a better job cleaning the surface and being diligent. And if for some reason I miss something and mold does start to grow in the caulking material because of how that penetrates in, I’ll cut it out and replace it. I’m not going to take the chance and surround myself with all these formaldehyde based mildewcides.

Jay: No. You know, folks, I have a walk in shower in my bathroom and my home, so I’ve got a ton of tile. It’s enclosed. That’s a steam shower so I can really get the humidity up there. So what I do is I have a little bottle of hydrogen peroxide I keep, I have a little bench so I can sit on it in my shower and maybe you don’t have this, but what you can do is you can keep a bottle of hydrogen peroxide very close by. So you just spray everything with a little hydrogen peroxide. It’s so simple. It’s a sterilizer. It works really well. It’s nontoxic, easy to do. Buy it at the drug store, keep a little bottle near your shower. Once or twice a week after you’ve showered spray everything with hydrogen peroxide.

Andy: Great idea. All right. Let’s move on to another brand that we like. It’s called Chemlink. Chemlink is cool because they actually use very similar technology, the polyether, but they also have a wide variety of other materials. We refer people to the Chemlink products when… the AFM product is available in white, and it’s available in 10 ounce tubes. There’s an awful lot of it that gets used every year. But sometimes you need something clear or another color or the Chemlink line is a good second choice. And, they make a product called Durasil, which is actually a silicone replacement. And I like this in situations where you need more flexibility, the Safecoat products going to give you about a 35% elongation. The silicone will give you more, close to 50%. It just has some different technical things about it that make it useful in different applications and more commercial situations.

Regarding caulk, what else do you have out there with caulk? There’s what’s called polyurethane caulk. Polyurethane caulk is also a water-less caulk, but it contains the polyurethane resin, which means it contains an isocyanate and not necessarily safe. I don’t know of a safe polyurethane caulk on the market.

Jay: I don’t think there is one.

Andy: All right. Then there is what’s called just acrylic latex caulk. There’s a number of brands of this. The downside with acrylic latex caulk is that acrylic latex, because it’s a food source for mold, they have to put mildewcides in it. You just gotta be concerned with that. I started mentioning this earlier, Jay, when you are choosing the caulking material for the situation and you’re looking at the size of the gap that you’re going to be filling: rule of thumb is anything that’s over a quarter inch wide, you need to use what’s called a backer rod. Now I know folks, nobody ever does this in a house. People just, they see a gap. If it’s an inch wide, where does it start to caulk it? We’re going to fill it. What happens is you lose performance, and I won’t get too wonky with this description because I used to sell these things and so I could talk about this idea for 10 minutes, but anytime you get over a quarter inch, if you use a backer rod, it’s a soft foam rod that gets pushed into the gap and ideally you’re leaving yourself with a gap that’s a quarter inch wide and a quarter inch deep.

Andy: If that gap was a half inch wide and it was a half inch deep, well you’re going to make it now to only a quarter inch deep. With that backer rod.

Jay: Where do you get the backer rod? What are you buying things at?

Andy: Any hardware store. Sold in bags of a 50 to a 100 lineal feet.

Jay: Man, that is a cool, cool thing.

Andy: And you’re going to save yourself material and you’re going to improve the performance because as we know with just about everything we work with, if you put things on too heavy, too thick, they take longer to cure. They don’t cure as hard. And it’s the same with caulk. You want to make sure that it only cures to about that quarter inch deep.

Jay: So, when you’ve got a moisture cure product, is there shelf life issues? I mean, once you crack that baby open and you start using it, what can we expect from the tube once it’s open, Once you’ve opened the tube and you started using it, okay, now you’ve stopped and you haven’t used the whole tube up yet. What I try to do is seal that sucker up. I don’t have any way that moisture can kind of get into that, into the end of it.

Andy: Yeah. I mean to two to six months at the most. Even even unopened folks, because Safecoat doesn’t use preservatives and it’s a moisture cure, once you buy it- six to 12 months at the most, yeah.

Jay: Chemlink doesn’t do it either. They don’t.

Andy: No, they don’t. They don’t know. Here’s the other thing too. Another trick is, when you get it, and if it’s in the colder months, specifically put the tube in a bucket of warm water before you use it, it’ll actually loosen it up and make it easier to gun out.

Jay: That’s an excellent recommendation.

Andy: Now, contrary to that, I had a contractor call up about a month ago and he had a box of these in his truck and he said he opened up the tube and it just started squirting everywhere. And so I told them to actually ice it down, put it in a bucket of ice water.

Jay: It was that hot and it just started going? Oh man.

Andy: Yup. And so he put it in a bucket of ice water. It’s slowed it down at work. Great. Yeah. So it has little tips. So you know what else we got with for caulking?  In general, it’s going to be painters caulk, painters caulk is usually an acrylic latex. The reason for that is it’s easily sandable. You know, acrylic latex caulk or painters caulk is not designed to be high-performance. It’s not supposed to keep up moisture or water or fill a gap that stands ahead of pressure. It’s supposed to just almost be like a more of a flexible, easier to install wood putty. And it dries fast at sands easy and you can paint over it. Yeah. All right. So I think that kind of hits it for caulking materials. Jay, let’s jump into the glue. So where else do you use glue in your house? Well, you, you said it right away. Liquid nails, right? Liquid nails is what’s called a construction adhesive. Construction adhesives come in very similar caulk tubes. They also come in a larger, what are called the quart size, the contractor size tubes. You use these in various locations where you don’t see, so you’re using a construction adhesive underneath your sub floor when you’re building a new home or remodeling is when you what’s called glue and screw the subfloors. And so Chemlink’s got a product we use called Wall Secure for that. I know it says wall, but trust me, it works. It’s essentially a less toxic to nontoxic version of liquid nails. We use construction adhesive when we’re installing doors, exterior doors, because you have to glue down the thresholds. We use construction adhesives a lot exterior when you’re installing brick work around your house or doing retaining walls made of masonry construction adhesive is used for that. Countertop glue down for sure.

Andy: We love an AFM product called Almighty Adhesive for this. We sell a boatload of this product. It works wonderfully. Almighty Adhesive was a name kind of a blast from the past. You guys had this 20 years ago and you came back out with it, but in a tube in that gun-able version. It’s a wonderful formulation, right?

Jay: Yeah. We had it in a can before and yeah, this is a better iteration of it for sure.

Andy: Right. And so other adhesives around the house… wood glue is another adhesive that’s used. And AFM doesn’t strictly have a wood glue, although people can use the 3 in 1 Adhesive mixed with water and that does work. But a lot of times people use something like Elmers glue, right? Elmer’s is a classic what’s called a PVA adhesive. What that means folks that’s made from polyvinyl acetates.

Jay: So this is a good time for me to share my little tip. About Elmer’s glue or glue like this, a PVA glue. So I was talking to an old contractor one day and we were talking on the subject of dealing with knots, wood knots in pine. Wood that have knots, the knots themselves folks, and it’s different. Pine is probably a good example. That knot is loaded up with a terpene and terpenes are very water reactive. So when you use a wood species that had a lot of knots, if you don’t seal those knots correctly, those knots will bleed through and it can bleed through dramatically. And I know this from personal experience because I have pine in the ceiling of my bathroom, which I mentioned earlier, which has all that moisture. And guess what? I didn’t seal it properly and the paint job looks good, but I’ve got about a dozen knots that are just like black eyes sticking out, man. You walk in, you look up and you go, holy moly, what is that? So the old guy tells me, Hey listen, I got a simple fix for that. And I go, yeah, what’s that? He says, seal those up with some Elmers glue. This really just spread some Elmer’s glue over those knots and then paint it and you’ll problem will be solved. And I thought, really? I’ll go for it. I did it and it worked. It worked well.

Andy: So now that you say this and I think about it, it makes perfect sense. Boy, that’s a great tip. Yeah, it makes sense because it’s a PVA. Right? All right. Polyvinyl acetate. Now you gotta be careful with PVAs because PVAs can be problematic if you’re applying them in high moisture situations or high humidity and you don’t give them ample time to cure. Correct. They can be a food source from mold, just like a current, some water-based paints can be, right.

Jay: Generally people are working pretty quickly here though. It’s atypical that you would wait, you’re doing something and you’re going to follow it up with whatever. And step two is exactly, but the good point made, it’s like if you’ve got the situation, we’re going to use it. You don’t want to let it sit there for like a week or two or something like that. And, you know, right. Stay away from that.

Andy: But I’ve used Elmers glue myself in a number of applications where just nothing else really would work or it would just be too toxic and it works wonderfully. And you know, so that’s a great all-purpose product. The real wood glue that’s used in a cabinet shop is also a PVA, but it’s usually modified with other ingredients.

Jay: Is that Tite Bond?

Andy: Tite Bond is one of them. Yeah. One of the things that you get with Tite Bond is really good moisture resistance, much better moisture resistance. The downside is it releases just a ton of formaldehyde.

Jay: Yeah. I’ve tried it sometimes and I guess the other thing about this and people get, I think sometimes folks, it may look a little scary out there. Glue is one of those things that I’m always a little bit… I don’t want to talk about it like I do some of the other things that are out there that are, or things we need to really worry about. But glue is something where in essence the glue is gone. And what I mean by that is once you glue something together, the glue is not there.  I mean, you don’t see it anymore. It’s not like, it’s not like a coating that’s topical where it’s actually off gassing and you can actually put your hand on it, you can touch it, you can’t really touch glued together surfaces. So I try to relieve the anxiety a little bit by saying, let’s pick the safest product, but let’s not overreact to what potentially is not a problem as you think it might be because he surfaces are bonding together. So there may be other bigger fish to fry when we’re talking about, home improvement and what we’re doing at trying to do to create a healthy home. W’ve talked about this in other podcasts where he’s trying to reference, what’s the most important thing we need to do here? Where do we need to spend the smart money? It’s always about spending the smart money. So that’s just something I want to add too.

Andy: I really appreciate that Jay, because how often have we said the biggest offenders in the home floors, walls, cabinetry, and furnishings and finishes? You can have a product and I’ve tested some of the Tite Bond products. I’ve tested some of these. One thing we haven’t talked about a wallpaper adhesives. That release just unbelievable amounts of formaldehyde. But in the grand scheme of things, how much of that actually gets into the air? It actually becomes problematic? If you had a 20 foot by 20 foot area releasing 4,000 parts per billion of formaldehyde, like some of these things I’ve tested, we’ve got a problem. But if the wood glue, the surfaces that actually have the glue are sandwich together, and so what’s actually exposed to the actual elements of the surface are 1-64th of an inch wide. And then it gets coated with four or five coats of AFM Acrylacq yeah. Folks that as not going to get into your air. And if it did, it’s at such a minute level that there’s probably a higher level of formaldehyde in the outdoor natural air. So that you’re exactly right, Jay, you really need to look at this, kind of step back and say, yeah, maybe it’s a high level if I tested that one surface, but in the volume of air, unless you are extremely sensitive and I know there’s a lot of you out there that are, and I’m please, I’m not belittling the situation, not at all for the majority of customers who are just trying to live in a healthier home. This is not an area where you really need to be super concerned of and less there’s a specific health issue where we’re dealing with.

Jay: Yeah. And then the other thing that I think about here, and we’re talking about this and folks, we understand that getting our type of products is not always the easiest thing to do. They’re not widely available. We wish they were, but they’re not. And so you’ll many times you face a situation, you’ve got a timing situation with a contractor. You’ve got a budget situation. I think if you can stand back and say, okay, the contractor needs to do it now, the contractor can only get this, this product and it’s the product he’s comfortable with. I think there’s some times when we don’t want to, but we can we can compromise a little bit and we can say, okay, you know, it’s not the best decision but maybe we have to use that conventional product because we need to get this done. We need to go forward. The contractor is comfortable and we can’t wait. And so Andy and I both agree. I think we agree. Andy, I know you do that. Sometimes you have to go into that what I call the other side, the dark side, if you want to call it that, the conventional world, you got to go into the conventional world. But with your eyes wide open.

Andy: It’s the take a step back to take two steps forward mentality tackling.

Jay: You what you’re looking at the risks. And what we’re suggesting is in this particular case, the risks are probably fairly minimal. All things being done correctly, right? If the guy slopping glue around and you see glue or caulk hanging out outside the whatever he was supposed to do, then there’s some different story that, right, different story. But if things are done properly and those things are done where the material that we’re talking about is being hidden away. Caulks not that way. Caulk is widely exposed and we’d already talked about that. You don’t really make any substitutions with caulk. You pick the safest one. But with glue it’s a different story because glues are invisible. They should be.

Andy: So on that note, let’s talk about two other areas for adhesives. You really set this up perfectly for what I was going to say about these other areas. Installing something like a natural linoleum like Marmoleum. We get this call at the time. Do you have a non toxic glue that I can use to install Marmoleum? Well folks, I actually rather side on caution here, err on the side of caution. I want to use something that’s going to be fully warrantied by the manufacturer. If I’m spending a lot of money on a really nice floor that’s going to last 50, 60 years, I want it to be warranty properly. So I’m going to use what the manufacturer provides.

Jay: Correct.

Andy: And I will say it’s a very safe product. We’ve had very little issue with it over the years. It’s underneath the floor. It doesn’t off gas, it can’t off gas cause it’s completely covered. But it also maintains the warranty. So that’s another issue to take in consideration. You want to use something that the manufacturer and the installers all will appreciate and can use and will maintain the warranty.

Jay: Yeah, perfect point.

Andy: And the last area would be installing wood floors. Again we get the call: do you have a water based adhesive that I can use to install my wood floors or my bamboo floors? Now quickly, Jay, tell a story about when somebody tried to use a water based adhesive to install a bunch of bamboo floors.

Jay: Oh my, what a horror story that was. So the problem with the water based adhesive, when you’re using a very porous material that can actually actually absorb water, what can happen with those types of glues as there’s enough moisture in that glue that it wicks into the flooring, which means it’s going up in, the flooring is like a sponge and it sucks up the moisture. And when moisture hits that surface, the wood starts to move. And typically what it does is it expands. And so we had many years ago we had an installation where a bamboo floor was installed and it was installed over a concrete sub floor. So there was no place for the moisture really to go into the concrete. It had to only go pretty much one direction, which is up. And it went into the bamboo and the bamboo basically started to swell. When they walked into the room, it looked like a little mountain was in the middle of the floor, a little mountain where there’d been so much moisture absorption into the bamboo, it had just kind of went up and everything and they had to rip it all out.

Andy: Well that’s the exact story that I thought you’d tell, because I remember that one too. Well, and so folks, what Jay is saying is when you’re installing wood floors, you cannot use water based adhesives if you have to glue it down. So you’re stuck with having to use what works and what does work? Polyurethane glue, you have already talked about this. It’s not the safest thing in the world. They do make them low VOC. Doesn’t mean it’s actually healthy, but that’s kind of what you’re stuck with. And so I guess what I’m saying is that if that is your only choice, then you might want to reconsider your installation method and look at maybe a floating floor or something else. Because sometimes you have to use what is going to work and if that means you’re going to be adding a lot of toxicity to the installation, I would strongly look at something else then.

Jay: So I’m hearing it right now. One of the clients has gone guys, what about carpeting? Am I going to glue down my carpeting? Wait a minute. Carpeting’s it’s not like linoleum or wood. It’s, more open. I mean, can the glue that I’m gluing my carpet down come through the padding and come through the carpeting? Will I be exposed to all that glue? I mean, they’re going to glue all this whole thing down.

Andy: Well, yeah. And so first off, carpet is only glued down in a small percentage of applications.

Jay: Typically it’s usually tacked around.

Andy: Correct. Typically glue down carpet is reserved for commercial application. Whether you use a foam back, a built in pad, and maybe some other applications where they use what’s called a pressure sensitive adhesive. It’s more commercial, again. So in residential application, you’re doing a what’s called a stretch and tack method that can be done on either a wood sub floor or a concrete sub floor, but if you have to consider an adhesive, AFM’s 3in1 Adhesive works wonderfully actually for a carpet adhesive.

But you use as little as humanly possible because you don’t need a lot of adhesive to stick down carpet, but what you need is a little bit of tack, right. And traditional carpet adhesives that you find in a regular big box are a horribly toxic, fullest solvent. And they flash off really quick. They get sticky really quick. The Safecoat product is water base and so you have to let some of that water evaporate. And so you have to let a tack up. Yeah. And that could take 10, 15 minutes depending on the temperature and humidity. Once it starts to tack up, then you can apply the carpet and roll it out and make sure it sticks properly.

Jay: When we’re doing a tack strip around the perimeter of a room, are we using the Almighty Adhesive underneath the tack strip to glue that to the sub floor

Andy: If it’s been done on concrete, yes. If it’s being done on a Woodson floor, those actually just get nailed down. So without belaboring the points here, there are a healthy alternative just about any type of caulk or adhesive used inside the home. I hope we touched on enough of them that made this show interesting for you. And we really appreciate Jay, your insight, from the manufacturer’s perspective. It’s a really, really good stuff.

Jay: Yeah. The fact that you’ve got your experience and being able to deal with all the other products that surround us. I think that’s so helpful. And like we said, folks, Andy and I are all about making sure that you’re clear about your best options. And they may be from companies like mine or companies that Andy represents or maybe other people out there. And so if you have a question about that, you’ve got some specific questions you need to forward to us. We were open to that and he’ll tell you how to do that right now.

Andy: You got it. Send me an email, Otherwise go to the website and hit the Speak Pipe app and leave us a voicemail message. And as always, we would appreciate any ratings and reviews you could leave us, especially the good ones will be awesome. We’re still growing fast and appreciate your listenership, your loyal listenership and please tell your family and friends about the show because, there are so many more topics we have to talk about. We’ve got a whole list of topics coming up in the next few months that are just going to be absolutely fantastic and so look forward to presenting those to you every week people. Thank you so much, Jay. We’ll talk to you and everybody next week.

Jay: Sounds good. Andy.


View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Should I Build New or Remodel?

Jay and Andy get many questions like this on a daily basis, so they thought why not have the discussion on the podcast for all to hear!   Do I rip out and replace my cabinets, or can I refinish them? Can I seal the off gassing of my countertop or should I just get something new?  Do I remodel my entire home or just start from scratch. There are definitely pros and cons to both side of this topic, so lots of great information in this episode.


Google Play


Should I Build New or Remodel?

Should I Build New or Remodel?


Andrew Pace: Is it better to remove and replace or should we just seal what we have? Or how about: do we remodel this home or just build a brand new one? Today, Jay and I’ll be answering those questions in more here on Non Toxic Environments.

Hello folks. Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Jay, we’re headed into a holiday weekend.

Jay Watts: We are indeed.

Andy: And I know you want to get away. I want to get away. I haven’t had a day off…. we talked about this last week. I haven’t had a day off in almost a year.

Jay: It’s funny about Labor Day. A lot of people work on labor day. No, I’ve always been confused by that. I guess we’re taking it off, but it’s Labor Day. So what are we doing here? You shouldn’t be working or should we be relaxing?

Andy: Yeah, my wife usually gives me some grief about that. A day of labor. That’s what it is for me. But not this year. Not this year. I’m gonna work on some projects around the house that I’ve been meaning to get to for quite a while.

Jay: Okay, well that’s a laboring, but just a different kind.

Andy: It’s a different kind of labor.

Jay: It’s a labor of love, labor of love.

Andy: So, you know, and this actually ties in well to what we wanted to discuss today, which is how do you know it’s a good time to either fix or remodel or just say, I’m done with it? Let’s start from scratch and build new. So this is a topic that you brought up, Jay and I think it’s a fantastic topic to talk about.

Jay: So many times people are calling in, they’re in a project and they’ve got some challenges and the smaller challenges are usually fixable challenges. But when the project starts to get bigger and we start looking at all the different facets of a project, and then that becomes that time where you’re like can I fix this and get what I want as affordably as possible without the stress that’s induced from these kinds of things? Or is it just better to demo whatever we’re trying to do? Rip out the stuff. And here’s a good example. I had a client that the road in the other day and she was wondering about some drywall that she said was smelling and the drywall is in a stairwell. So getting into the stairwell to treat the dry wall, her intention was to try to treat the dried drywall, to seal, she wasn’t clear about what it was that she was experiencing other than it’s smelled. Well, you and I both know that smell can mean a million different things. And so she was trying to figure out, should I try to seal it or should I just pull it out?

And of course, you know, when we talk about demo, it starts to become tricky and how much is it going to cost and can we do it or do we have to hire a contractor? So all of these usually come up. But I think there’s some times when when there’s mysteries involved, we don’t know what that is. Can we really seal it? Do we really want to spend the time and money to decorate it or seal it and find out that that didn’t really get it done? And then we’re back to square one and then we’re like, why didn’t we just demo it and start with fresh material? Andy and I are always talking to folks about the best method for any of this stuff is to start with a clean source. Don’t start with a dirty source or a source you’re unclear about and then come back later and say, Oh my God, that wasn’t the best thing to do. Now, what do we do?

Andy: Well this is a common common problem. So you really hit this one out of the park Jay because boy, every single day… calls, people in the showroom, and people discussing things. And let’s use your example of a smell coming out of the drywall. I equate this to peeling the skin and then different layers of an onion, right?

Jay: I remember you using that analogy before. It’s a good.

Andy: And so you peel the skin off. Well, guess what? The next layer still smells right. Still smells like an onion. And every layer could give you a different smell, a different look, a different set of problems to deal with. It is inevitable that when you start a remodeling project, big or small folks, it’s inevitable that you are going to run into something that you did not expect, right? And what it comes down to is at the end of the day, if you think you took care of everything, do you know you took care of everything? Are you 100% certain that you got everything that could have been problematic and causing this odor? And a lot of times my recommendation will come down to what’s going to give you the best peace of mind. And folks, let me tell you, I’m sure everybody listening knows this. Peace of mind is remarkable when it comes to believing and feeling like you’re living in a healthy space.

Jay: It’s so important. It’s that connection. We talked about this before, the mind body connection and there’s a big component here in what Andy’s alluding to. I’m thinking just as you were talking about that, uncovering the onion. I think one of the things folks, that if you’re in that situation where it’s a mystery, one of the things that would argue for demolition or removal is the possibility that you will uncover that you wouldn’t have uncovered if you had just done a bandaid approach to it. There could be something in the system somewhere, whatever that system may mean. There may be something there that’s much worse that would be undiscovered unless you pulled things out the look right? You don’t wanna like put the bandaid on and think, Hey, if the smells kinda gone, I think we’re okay. And then days, months, weeks, years later there’s something really bad that went on and we didn’t catch it. And now we’re way down the rabbit hole.

Andy: Well, that’s the thing. So you think of a remodeling project and you think you’ve got it all right. And then four months later the smell comes back. Well, why did it come back? Could it be the fact that as we’ve talked about before, temperature and humidity can bring out more odors. So maybe at the time of you doing the remodeling or the remediation, you didn’t really get everything because you couldn’t smell it at that time. And this is one of those peace of mind things. Well, if you don’t know you actually got it, sometimes it’s a really hard fact to learn. It’s a hard lesson to learn. And now you’re talking about spending double to either repair it again or rip it out and replace it again and you end up spending so much more than you would if you just would’ve started from scratch.

We did an episode, I think I did that one solo. You were traveling. It was our, our episode 169 Project Planning to Avoid Frustration. Essentially this is one of these things I talked about there where you have to realize that you almost have to go through the entire process and project in your head. Write down everything that’s involved. And this is where clients will hire me as their consultant to help them through that process. And it’s almost like doing a feasibility study on the project to say what’s involved and maybe it’s a small bathroom remodel. So what’s all the materials involved and what are we trying to fix? What do I trying to protect against? At the end of that process, you may find that, you know what, instead of just doing a slight remodel, maybe we should be a complete gut job.

Andy: Or you know, if we’re planning on doing this in every bathroom in the next year or two and we’re going to remodel the kitchen is eventually as well, maybe we should just look at the idea of building something new. And I know you’re talking apples and oranges when it comes to cost folks. But in the grand scheme of things, I can present to you materials that will be a healthier alternative to what’s normally used for just about anything that goes into the home building project. In a remodeling project, you don’t know what you don’t know. And I don’t like using cliched terminology, but you don’t know what you don’t know and you won’t know what’s involved until you expose something. You go, Holy cow, now what? Yeah. It can be something as bad as asbestos. It could be lead, it could be something worse.

Jay: Yeah. I think the idea of having a checklist and having someone that can help you make the checklist that has explained like you do with your consulting business and there’s others out there to do the same thing, but folks not as good as Andy Pace. I’m a low pitch for him. It really helps to have someone who can guide you through the analysis. And then when you have to make the big decision, you’re doing it as smartly as you can because you’ve got all that evidence and information right in front of you. And then you can make those big decisions. Out here on the West coast, if you’re building from scratch, you’re looking at

$300 to $400 a square foot. Now I’m in Southern California. So, that’s where the pricing comes from. But it can be expensive. So that’s something you have to think about. But at the same time, understanding that that might be the kind of bite you have to take for what Andy is suggesting, which is that peace of mind knowing that you’ve dotted every I and crossed every T in terms of what you’re trying to accomplish.

Andy: But you know this brings up what’s happening right now with a lot of our clients and we’ve been talking about the use of the Caliwel product to prevent mold from occurring in cavity walls or behind wet walls. Folks, a lot of people are using this product now, just in case…  it’s an inexpensive insurance policy because we all know that if you’re going to have a mold problem in the cavity wall or in the exterior wall of a new home usually happens within the first few years because all the moisture that is locked in that wall. Well if you can’t see what’s going on in that wall, there’s no window into that. There’s no lighting that shows you can see everything, right? You have to just trust the process.

Well, if you’ve been injured, chemically injured for a long period of time, even for a short period of time, you’ve been suffering from chemical sensitivity, somebody in the family has been, you know, how debilitating it is, how painful it is, how difficult it is to live with this disease. The thought of crossing your fingers and hoping that everybody did their job properly so that you don’t have mold in that cavity wall it’s difficult to think about, is difficult to live with. If you were told for X amount of dollars, and it’s hard to say in the project, but let’s say it’s an extra $2,000 to coat all of the cavity walls with the Caliwel product and now you don’t have to worry about mold in those walls. That’s one more thing that allows you to hopefully sleep a little better at night, right? It’s that insurance policy. So this is what we’re talking about folks. If you are very, very concerned that you’re just not going to get it all, you’re not going to do it right, you can’t get to the actual root of the problem, then you’re better off considering the new project: a complete gut job instead of a small repainting project. Taking up that step further that allows you to get that good peace of mind.

Jay: You know, folks, Andy and I aren’t afraid to tell it like it is. If we think that you can, and we’ve got the experience, so we’ve both been counseling for many, many years now. We have the experience to know through our anecdotal storytelling and what we’ve seen happen. There are situations we can feel real comfortable telling you this is a fix.

But then there’s going to be some, after we hear the evidence and we’re going to say, forget the fix, right? You gotta you gotta tear it down. You got to pull out. You’ve got to start with some new material, right? Otherwise it’s going to be a study in frustration and a waste of money.

Andy: And I’ve dealt with over 20,000, probably more, chemically sensitive clients over the years and each and every one of you gives me a different perspective and I also, I mean really it’s hard not to feel every single situation to heart, you know?

Jay: Oh, it’s so difficult. I’d take it all to heart and yeah, especially understanding and certain situations, that financial burden that it places on the person, it’s inconceivable.

Andy: Right. And so because of that experience and I know you have the exact same thought on this Jay, same experiences, which would be- if somebody asked me what is my educated professional opinion to do this or do that, the last thing I want to do is sugarcoat it or, or tell you what you want to hear. I will tell you what you need to hear. And sometimes it’s a tough pill to swallow. If it’s tough for you to swallow, imagine what it’s like for me to say it because I don’t like being the bearer of bad news sometimes. But on the other hand, it needs to be said and case in point: I had a client just today, they’re designing a home and their builder is really pushing them to use spray foam. And you all know what I think about that. It’s toxic sludge. They said, yeah, but the energy efficiency in the sealing you’re going to get. And I said, you know what, if you save a dollar a month in your energy bill because of spray foam but it off gases for the next six years, or you really think you’re really helping yourself with an energy savings?

Andy: And I try to put it into something that they’ll understand; you’re saving 10 bucks, 15 bucks a year in energy. What’s the upside? And sometimes when clients hire me for a project, um, not everybody in the household is on the same page. And we’ve talked about this before, Jay, one or the other has a severe sensitivity or just has more of a concern than the other. I certainly won’t point any fingers, but it’s, generally speaking, us fellows of the household, we feel that, sometimes these issues are a little bit exaggerated. The mom in the household will say yes, but what about the kids? They have smaller lungs, they have smaller immune systems to begin with. I mean, if we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. The difficulty is talking shop to both of them, talking facts and figures to both of them, and making sure they understand each other.

Jay: Going back to your concept of having an analysis that provides information that everyone can take a look at and understand. Not speculation, but here’s the facts. This is what we’re dealing with. It’s this and this and this and this and this and this. And once we have that, then both parties in the decision making are educated enough to make a logical decision as opposed to one that becomes very, very emotional. The idea at that point is you want to kind of take the emotional quotient out of it and be more factual and logical about it to say, okay. And then step forward from that position. But you never want to be in a combative kind of mode with one another. When you’re making these ideas come to fruition, you’ve got to say, okay, let’s get the facts and let’s make the best decision for our family, for our health. I don’t know anyone that’s going to argue with that with the health idea. We don’t want to be healthy in this house. That doesn’t make sense. Of course it makes sense. We want to be healthy.

Andy: Well, and here’s where it comes down to as well, is through this process, you may actually find that there are some things that we look at and say, I just don’t think it’s worth the investment. We may get a slight health benefit for this or that, but at the end of the day, could those dollars be used somewhere else in the home to make a bigger, healthier impact? There’s a term that’s used in our industry, it’s called ‘value engineering’. So value engineering comes from the commercial building industry, which means that the client has a budget of $10 million to build this office building. The estimates come back and it’s at $15 million.

So the general contractor or the construction manager will say, well, we’ll value engineer this. We’ll get rid of those five, that $5 million. And essentially they go through all the bids and they find less expensive versions of what the architect and the engineer drew up. As long as it meets the intent and it looks the same. Let’s see how we can make this less expensive and make it affordable. Well, I call in our industry, I call it healthy value engineering. If it’s gonna cost you $40,000 to put a metal roof on the house and $15,000 for an asphalt shingles, is that $25,000 extra for the metal roof really going to impact the health of the occupants of the home? Generally speaking? No, it’s not. So you can either save that $25,000 or use that for other things in the home that will have a direct impact.

Jay: Right. Spending the money in all the right places. Exactly. Wasn’t there a song about that? Finding love or looking for love in all the wrong places?

Andy: That’s right. This is all kind of ties in together Jay in that when you’re looking at a project larger, small, these are the considerations that you have to have. And you know, and we’d like to talk about especially with our consultations because we want to make sure you’re thinking of these things so it’s not a, Oh, I wish I would have thought of that, at the wrong time.

Jay: You know, we’re going to have some interviews coming up here later in the year where we’re talking to builders and they’re going to be really interesteding because they’re going to be able to share some of the stories that they’re developing and the experiences are having as they’re doing what they’re doing, building healthy homes. And so getting a perspective from the builder and themselves and when we have that interview, we’ll be able to bring up the subject, talking about where’s the money best spent and all of that. So that’s going to be some exciting future podcasts coming.

Andy: Excellent. So I think we’re gonna leave it there folks. It’s a very, very important topic. We don’t certainly want to go overboard with this, but we wanted to stress that when you’re looking at these projects, you always want to look at different sides and make the determination. How do you make that determination which way you should go? Well, it all comes down to these conversations that you have with everybody in the household who’s got a thought on this and then reach out to me and reach out to Jay and hopefully we can kind of boil things down in a way that is very understandable. Something you can jump on when the time was right.

Jay: Couldn’t say it better myself partner.

Andy: All right sir. So you have yourself a great holiday weekend.

Jay: You too. I will.

Andy: And folks, we really appreciate you listening to the show. We’d love it if you could give us a five star rating and a review on iTunes and tell your family and friends about the show. We’ve gotten a lot of new listeners in the last couple of weeks, received a number of emails Jay, from people who never heard the show before and they were just shocked to see that we had 70 some episodes already. We’ve been working. It’s really, really exciting to, to hear from folks all over the world who are enjoying the show. So pass it along to your family and friends and we look forward to coming back with you next week.

Jay: Adios everyone.

Andy: Adios. Take care.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: New Flooring Options and Trends

On today’s episode, Jay and I talk about flooring options for your home.  We break down the “green” and human friendly attributes of various floors like cork, bamboo and wood, we discuss colors and trends, then we top it off with a quick guide to pricing so you can know what to expect as you start your research.  So if you’re designing a new home or remodeling your existing space, this is definitely an episode you don’t want to miss!

Google Play


New Flooring Options and Trends

New Flooring Options and Trends


Andrew Pace: Past episodes have dealt with items that you should not use in your home because of human health issues or other environmental concerns. Today’s episode, we’re actually going to start a new trend of telling you what you should use or what you can use in your home, starting with the floors that we walk on; today on Non Toxic Environments.

Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Jay, we’ve got an interesting topic this week, don’t you think?

Jay Watts: I think we do is something that we all kind of walk on every day, day in and day out. We’re going to talk about flooring today folks.

Andy: Nice. You know, when Jay and I were putting together our show notes and as you all know, we put to put together exhausting notes that consist of maybe three or four bullet points and we say, all right, we’re going to talk about this for half an hour.

Jay: Yeah, that’s exhaustive, all right.

Andy: But we know each other so well. We kind of know what we’re going to talk about even before we utter the words, right? But the question comes up all the time… For those of you who know, sort of the history of me and my company years and years ago when I developed what’s called the Degree of Green rating system, Degree of Green was born out of the necessity to educate my own staff about the nuances of green building materials. But in a way that answered the question which product is more green? I mean, that’s an impossible question to answer. We know this.

Jay: We’ve talked about this before and it’s really the idea that there’s green and there’s eco and there’s sustainability and there’s all these words that are buzz words. The one that we’ve always centered on is health. What is the health metric? Andy, the Degree of Green rating system is really genius because it prioritized that at the very top of the rating system and then everything else comes in behind that. And folks, we really believe that’s the right order of things. Some of the other metrics out there they’ve kind of flip flopped. Some of this stuff and some of the LEED, for example, I think LEED has moved the health quotient up a little bit in the list, but everything started with like energy efficiency. That was the number one thing, right? Kind of resource management and then indoor air quality kind of fell down in the list. Andy and I have always believed that that indoor air quality stuff should be moving up.

We’ve believe it should be at the top of the pyramid, not at the middle of the pyramid or down at the bottom of the pyramid. And I think thankfully people are recognizing that now in our industry and are starting to move it up. I still believe it doesn’t have the hierarchy that it should, but it’s getting close.

Andy: You know, what I’ve always said is that healthy building is, or actually we used to say green building back in the day, it’s not a left issue or a right issue. It’s a front. It should be the front issue. Yeah.

Jay: It’s neutral. Politically neutral.

Andy: Exactly. But when it comes to that question, what is more green than something else? It boils down to, well, what do you think green means to you? And so as you said, Jay, we believe that the human health component of the Degree of Green is the most important because without that there is nothing else.

Well you set that as the pinnacle of your research, and then everything else can come in behind right behind that. And we don’t want to discount the idea that we want to try to use sustainable materials when we can. Resource management as a part of that equation, but the idea that, as has been said over and over again, we spend almost of our time indoors. So absolutely want to have the best quality air we can for our own personal health.

Andy: Excellent. So we’re going to kind of use that Degree of Green today to talk about flooring trends. We want to kind of set the table with what the direction we’re coming from here because we’re going to talk about several materials that are for sale today, in our store, other stores across the country, flooring stores that are out there. And we may discuss an idea of green from a standpoint of energy efficiency or where it’s made or how healthy it is. But just understand that these are all generalities. And I say this because if you are designing a home and you live in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and you have five kids and three dogs, we’re gonna want to talk to you about your specifics, about what is going to be good for your family and for your home. What we talk about today is more generalities. And so we’re not saying these in any order. We’re not saying these that one’s better than the other. We’re just gonna give you an idea of what’s available and just kind of see where the discussion goes.

Jay: I think there’s a lot of regional input here in terms of where you are in the country and what’s popular. And then of course, design trends. Here on the coast, on the West coast and East coast, there is a fairly strong, a modern, quote unquote modern or postmodern movement. So you have a lot of… how do I describe it? The traditional idea of flooring, what’s the traditional idea? Hardwood is a traditional idea, tile, right? Are the kind of the traditional ideas. On the coast where we have this new modern aesthetic and we’re gonna talk about this, one of the flooring that’s popular is this concrete.

Andy: Yup, exactly. Yup. No, I totally agree with that. Matter of fact, we just jump right in there because as soon as you said the word modern, and I’ll say this too, even here in the Midwest where we’re kind of sheltered from the coasts and the trends, we’re doing an awful lot of projects now where concrete is becoming the finished floor. And what I love about it is,  it’s what you can do with it, given the right talent of contractors, doing something like a topical stain and acid stain, and then even doing some more exotic type of metallic finishes. It’s really an inexpensive way compared to other flooring materials. To put some absolute style into the house.

Jay: You know, when people are thinking of materials… I forgot to say carpeting, but, is that a word we want to use?

Andy: We’ll talk about it.

Jay: Yeah, of course. But when I’m thinking is when people are considering the flooring, part of the equation for them is comfort. What’s the comfort factor, right? When you think of when people, some people think of concrete, they think, it’s really hard and it’s going to be cold.

People are using radiant floors these days and it’s certainly possible to put a radiant floor in that slab and have that baby just cook and feel so comfortable, even though it’s a solid concrete floor. And you’re right on with this idea that there’s so many decorative approaches with concrete.

Andy: Right? And you know, and think about the fact that the Colosseum in Rome was built 2000 years ago out of concrete. If concrete is done correctly, the house will fall down around it.

Jay: I know, it’s funny about that. I walk around my near, I live in an old neighborhood, folks here in San Diego, and what I really love is in around my neighborhood on the concrete sidewalks the contractor that was hired actually puts their stamp in the concrete. So I’m walking around and I’m looking at Joe blow 1908. Bill’s concrete, 1915. I’m thinking let’s 15 and 50. And that’s a hundred and another four. There’s 104 years and the concrete looks beautiful. It looks great. Of course it’s not smooth trowel like you would an interior of a home. But in terms of what it’s, it looks probably just exactly like it looked when he poured it, except it’s a little dirtier.

Andy: Right. And that is so cool. That’s the thing about a product like that, the history of it, the longevity of it. That’s just a hundred years ago there was no, the technology was not there. It was just contractors who had the knowledge, they did things the hard way, but it was the right way. Today one of the problems that we have, and we did say at the beginning, we’re going to talk about kind of the pros and cons of these things. One of the cons of concrete of course is the fact that concrete that is provided today a lot of times contains an ad mixture that’s called Fly Ash. We’ve talked about this before and I’ll just mention it again for those who may have not heard those previous episodes. Fly Ash is the sludge that they scraped from the smokestacks of the coal fired energy plants. So from an environmental standpoint, it’s fantastic because it’s recycled material that is normally hard to dispose of. And years ago they decided that they could mix it in with concrete and it actually adds to the performance of concrete. And nowadays it’s just a way to get some LEED points. It’s a way to get rid of this problem product. And I’ve got a client right now I’m working with and in mid central United States and they’re building a new home and she’s gotten two bids on the home so far for concrete work. One contractor wanted $1,500 more to pour all the concrete without Fly Ash. The other contractor wanted $8,000 more. And that’s because it’s becoming harder to find concrete plants that will not use Fly Ash,

Jay: If you’ve listened to us long enough, this is Andy setting us up for a big BUT right here.

Andy: In addition to so far, all right, Fly Ash. The reason why we don’t like it folks is because Fly Ash releases mercury. That’s the bad news there. BUT, if there’s no option to do concrete without Fly Ash, you can always seal up the surface. And if you’re going to be doing a decorative concrete floor, something like a Kemiko acid stain or some of these other things that are out there, you can use the AFM Mexeseal over the top. And it’ll not only seal the stained concrete, but it will seal up the Fly Ash.

Jay: There you go. And I think that the thing, any comment on this, the other thing about concrete is, if you wanna change your flooring in the future, it’s not necessarily this huge deal like maybe in some other situations. So are you thinking that that’s true, that if you’ve got a concrete floor and in the future, go, hey I want to carpet it, or hey I want to do this. I mean, obviously there’s some issues that take into consideration when doing that, but seems to me like I having a basic concrete floor. And we know we get people to call us and go, hey I don’t have enough money for my other floor. I’m going to do concrete, I’ve got a slab, I’m just going to do the concrete. We can talk about that and give him ideas like we’re doing right now and sure. And then in the future, they’re good to go if they want to do another flooring and we can obviously help them figure out what the best way to handle that is. But I kinda like it as kind of a foundational idea.

Andy: Well, and that’s the thing, you can treat it such as just a foundation. You sell the home, the next home owner can put down a floating floor, right. Carpeting, tile, you name it. It just gives them options. Right. Now contrary to a wood sub floor…

Jay: Let me interrupt you, just one last thing and I don’t want to forget it. One of the other things about concrete is very easy to clean.

Andy: It is very easy.

Jay: The maintenance on this idea is really good because there’s not a lot to do.

Andy: Sealed concrete is about the easiest service in the home to take care of.

Jay: Oh my God. And if folks, guess what, what if the washer overflows? No biggie. You know, it’s like get the big squeegee out. Okay, and a bucket. It’s not like, Oh my God, my carpet, my hardwood floor, everything’s ruined. Okay.

Andy: Now, there’s a lot of benefit to it now. Areas where it’s not going to work, would be areas where, let’s say you live in a part of the country where you have a basement or a crawl space. Because now you have a wood sub floor and then to pour concrete on top of that wood sub floor, it’s actually adding to the cost of the construction. So generally speaking of areas where we’re doing slab on grade construction. Although I get a job in Seattle right now where they’re doing I think two or three floors of concrete because they just liked that look. So it is possible.

Jay: Is it a high rise?

Andy: It’s a three story home. They’re doing wood sub floors, but then they’re going to their pour two inch topping, concrete on top because they want insular heat. And they want the look. So let’s say you like the idea of concrete, but maybe you have a wood sub floor or maybe you just want something a little more finished and that’s going to be a tile floor. And when I say tile, I’m talking about either a ceramic or a porcelain tile.

The difference between the two folks, all porcelain tile is considered ceramic, but not all ceramic is porcelain. The difference is porcelain tile meets a higher standard when it comes to moisture absorption and movement and so forth. It just a better product. So typically speaking, porcelain is used on floors. It’s used for exterior applications. You can even use porcelain for large slab countertops. Ceramic is normally used for walls, right? Some ceramics can be used for floors and light traffic areas, but usually that’s going to be a porcelain. Here’s the beauty of these tiles. They are inert, the materials are fired at about 2,500 – 2,600 degrees. Anything that is in there that could be problematic is out. And I don’t mean baked out in the form of like off gassing I mean like burned out, right?

Jay: When you get it, it’s gone.

Andy: It’s gone. It still has to be installed using thin set mortars, grouts sometimes adhesive, sometimes different subfloors so on and so forth. So there are some caveats here. If you are chemically sensitive, you’d need to work with us to make sure that we’re providing the right products for your situation. But this is an option. And I will say even with our most chemical sensitive clients, historically speaking, porcelain tile has been their go-to. Yes, yes. Because they know there’s going to be no issue with the material itself. It’s an inert, right? The trends when it comes to porcelain tile right now is most tile manufacturers are making material that looks like hardwood. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And we’ve done whole houses with it.

Jay: I’ve seen it. It would fool the most dyed in the wool hardwood floor man, for sure, for sure.

Andy: And the beauty of it is unlike hardwood, that dense easy that warps that you talk about a leak in a dishwasher… tile, there’s no problem with that stuff. It’s hard on the joints.

Jay: Is Cali Bamboo doing something with that? With this kind of material?

Andy: Well, they’re doing something kind of in a hybrid and we’ll talk about that in a bit.

Jay: I didn’t want to distract, but it just popped into my mind.

Andy: That’s a good thought because they’re kind of taking the best of both worlds in that regard. There are some brands that utilize a coating that’s called an active coating. It raises, it actually has a high level of titanium dioxide in the surface so that it’ll kill mold spores and viruses and so forth on contact. That’s kind of cool. But for the most part folks, tile is tile. You do have to be concerned. Some of the tiles made in China and other overseas countries can have lead in the glaze. So ask your supplier, is this a tile that has lead an or not? They have to disclose that. But beyond that, it’s going to be a very safe floor from a human health standpoint. It’s just not very comfortable yet.

Jay: We haven’t factored in and we’ll do it later. I think folks, just the cost analysis side of this because there are variances in the cost. The nice thing about tile, obviously everyone knows about tile, color and pattern and shape, color, pattern and shape. I mean there’s just so much variety and it’s just a boy. I know my wife is a designer and when she gets into the tile world, oh my God, we’re gone for weeks looking at tile catalogs and looking at what’s what’s available and what people have done with tile. Obviously there’s a huge, huge, huge, wonderful, beautiful history of tile that goes back centuries.

Andy: Well, and that’s the thing too with the hand painted tiles and hand glazed. They are pieces of art really. Yes. And so I like to incorporate tile into every project we do, whether it’s a little or a lot to just kind of depends on the project.

So let’s go to something else that we also recommend quite often. I guess I’m doing this from a standpoint of hard to soft. Okay. To give everybody an idea of what I’m using as our guideline here. So concrete obviously very hard. Tile very hard. So what’s really hard but not quite as hard. That would be like a wood or a bamboo? Alright, so wood or bamboo?

First of all bamboo is not wood. It’s grass. It’s grass. It’s fabricated, very similar to wood. It cuts sort of like wood. It finishes sorta like wood. So in the grand scheme of things, when we refer to bamboo, we usually refer to it as a wood floor. Just I want to say that because sometimes it causes confusion

Jay: When people hear grass and they think grass is not going to hold up.

Andy: Well, they think of like sea grass, sisal and things like that. The softer materials. Right. So here’s the thing about bamboo. Bamboo has gone through quite a bit of change over the last 10 years.

Jay: It’s evolved.

Andy: It has evolved and materials that are available now are much more durable, much more dense. I love the look of it for a lot of applications. What’s coming out lately is just stunning stuff. But one of the misnomers about bamboo is that people bought it originally because they thought it was a very healthy green floor. Well here’s that discussion we had earlier. Is it green from a standpoint of sustainability? Yes. It grows very fast. It grows very tall. The harvest is a much more bountiful than it would be from wood in that same time period. And so from that standpoint, it’s great. It’s all grown in China, all foreign material. Our bamboo that’s used for flooring has grown either China or Vietnam or that part of the world. It used to be… I shouldn’t say used to be, you still be kind of careful. Some bamboo products out there are made using urea formaldehyde in the adhesives. So that is something to be concerned about. So from a health standpoint, I can’t just blanket say that all bamboo is healthy cause it’s not, the same way that all would, is not healthy.

Jay: It kind of puts the onus on the user to do some research and take a deeper look into it, into exactly what’s going on with the manufacturing.

Andy: Exactly right. And so there are good products out there. Refer to your local dealers, the ones you trust and they’ll refer you to the right product. But bamboo products that we see nowadays are twice as hard as Red Oak, if not three times as hard, very durable, long lasting, great finishes. It’s an option with wood and bamboo, they give you a warmth to the floor that you don’t get with concrete and tile. Downsides, well, bamboo wood products, they’re more susceptible to moisture issues as you talked about with that leaky dishwasher. Well, a wood or a bamboo floor is going to cup or curl or warp with that type of water. So you’ve got to be careful. All right. Beyond that, the nice thing about wooden bamboo is that they’re refinishable. So that’s something to think about longterm. A stained concrete floor, you can’t really refinish very easily. Tile. You certainly can’t refinish, you crack a tile, you got to replace it. With wood, any type of wood flooring product, you can actually fix it like a piece of furniture. So there’s some resiliency there. Beyond that it certainly gives you a certain look that you’re trying to achieve. There are some more contemporary styles. I think there’s a style of wood for really any person.

Jay: Oh yeah, yeah. There’s no limitation in terms of what’s available out there. There’s Virgin material and there’s also a whole world of reclaimed wood that’s out there that’s can be incredibly beautiful. It’s a big, big wide world. And in the wood flooring category for sure.

Andy: And so the question we get all the time is, what do you recommend pre-finished or unfinished? Well, there’s pros and cons for each. Pre-finished flooring is nice because you cut it, install it, and you can walk on at the same day. Other issues with pre-finished flooring, generally speaking, the finish is going to be much more harder than an on site finish. It’s going to be more durable, longer lasting. You’ll get long warranties. But there’s a trade off for that. You need to understand that most pre-finished wood is going to have a little bevel between the pieces because you can’t sand it down smooth. It has to account for some inconsistency in the sub floor. And so you’ll have to understand that you’ll see the wood pieces more than if you did a site finish where it’s sanded smooth.

Jay: The other thing I think just crossing my mind, talking about prefinished I think you get the question I get the question is, well, what about that pre-finished coating that’s on there? Do I need to be worried about that?

Andy: Right. That’s a good question. Generally speaking, the finishes that are UV cured in a factory, the UV curing process will completely catalyze the finish. Those no free monomers left. There is no off gassing. However, if that pre-finished wood is glued together using urea formaldehyde, it’s going to register as containing formaldehyde. Yeah, it’s not the finish. It’s the glue. Again, trust your source, trust the company. Get this from ask the questions, do the work. Make sure you’re getting the right product right. But you know, understand that the pre-finished products, generally speaking for people with extreme chemical sensitivity, I go towards the pre-finished because you don’t have to deal with the dust.

Jay: I agree with that 100%. The other thing folks is when you’re actually talking to companies, make sure that you get the answers you want. Don’t get put off by someone who just gives you kind of a general answer. If you don’t feel like the answer is detailed enough for you, then find someone who will give you that answer. You deserve it. You’re the consumer. You’re the buyer and you don’t want to come away from a conversation thinking, Hey, am I feeling comfortable about that? Do I know everything I need to know? Right? You need to know everything you need to know.

Andy: That’s a great point, Jay. I think in today’s day and age, unfortunately, we get a lot of salespeople, just want to get you off the phone and they also don’t know. I’ve always have always been in the mindset that if I don’t know an answer to a question, I’ll find out and I’ll call you back.

Jay: That’s the right answer.

Andy: Exactly. Now beyond would would be a product called cork flooring. Yeah. Cork is the bark of the Cork Oak tree. All Cork Oak trees are grown in Spain, Portugal and parts of Italy. So all the flooring you get that it contains cork it’s partially coming or all coming from that location in the world.

Jay: Good flooring, good wine, good food. You got it.

Andy: You got it. And very, very resilient. Very warm, very quiet. Cork flooring is awesome if you like a soft, warm floor, but you don’t want carpet. Cork is generally sold as a floating floor product these days. There are a couple of fabricators of what’s called glue down homogenous cork. It’s harder to find. It’s actually even harder to install. But floating is what we normally see and that’s going to be an eighth inch thick veneer of cork over an MDF and then a very top veneer of the actual color and style of cork that you’re choosing.

Jay: So, Andy, for our listeners, a floating floor is basically literally really floating on the sub floor.

Andy: Exactly.

Jay: It’s not mechanically attached to the floor. Right?

Andy: Yeah. And so what happens is it clicks and locks together or it gets glued at the tongue together, but it doesn’t get fastened or glued to the floor itself. And it has then the ability as a whole to move with the seasons, moisture and dryness and so forth. These are usually easier to install, the accept a wider range of preparation of the subfloor that doesn’t have to be as perfect as a glue down situation. Generally these are the floors that most people are looking for these days because they want ease of installation. And so a lot of the materials we talk about today are available in a floating version. Cork kind of runs hot and cold. Trend wise right now we’re kind of in the cold season for cork. People are looking more towards tile and some other products we’ll talk about in a bit, it’ll come back. It’ll come back because cork has been around for, in our country for over a hundred years. And some of the oldest buildings in downtown Chicago, in New York will have the original cork floors down. They last a long time.

Jay: Yeah. The whole second floor of our arts museum here in San Diego. The whole second floor is all cork.

Andy: Oh, beautiful. It’s beautiful. Just fantastic. I mean, it’s a shock absorbing. It’s an insulative product, so it’s warmer. Cork stays warm to the touch. So here in Wisconsin in the middle of winter, the cork floor will be the warmest floor of your house. It’s just beautiful. Alright. Onto natural linoleum, we deal with a product called Forbo Marmoleum. It’s been around for 145 years. I mean, it’s made the same way. It’s a combination of linseed oil, pine resin, wood flour, mineral pigments spread onto a jute backing. It’s the original resilience sheet flooring. My grandmother used to tell me about the linoleum that she had in her house growing up and she said that she would be able to pick up the flooring sweep underneath and put the flooring back down again. And so that just goes to show back then the adhesives weren’t really that good.

Jay: Well, actually she had a little safe under the floor too. And so she had to make deposits, say she had to get through her safe.

Andy: That’s the way she kept all the rolls of quarters, I guess. But you know, folks, linoleum flooring used to be called battleship flooring for a reason. And that’s because a lot of the old Naval ships had linoleum as the flooring material. It gets harder with age because linoleum has linseed oil in it. As linseed oil evaporates, the flooring starts to harden. That’s also what gives it the antibacterial and anti-static properties. So far you’ve heard a lot of good things about linoleum, haven’t you?

Jay: Yeah, I mean, it’s a great product. Again, you’ve got color and you’ve got pattern. It’s come a long way from the original battleship linoleum.

Andy: It has.

Jay: Your design options are just a myriad. I mean, you’re just not limited here in any way.

Andy: Right? And so here’s the downsides of linoleum. Downsides of linoleum would be if you have chemical sensitivity, be very, very careful with this floor because it contains linseed oil and some pine resin. If you have extreme sensitivities, even if you have allergies, you gotta be careful with it because it has a smell that never goes away. Right? All right. I don’t mind it. I have it in my house. I absolutely love it. The smell of the linseed oil is what gives it that antibacterial and anti-static property. But you’ve got to understand that that smell will never go away. Every time you wash the floor, the water evaporating brings back more of the smell brings it. And a linoleum floor is designed to last 50 years in a commercial space, in a residential space the house will literally fall down around it. This is a glue down floor that we talked about folks. It’s also available in a floating version, like the cork, fewer colors, fewer design choices, won’t last as long because the installation is not designed to, it’s more of a 15 to 20 year floor. I love the glue down linoleum floor. I think that value-wise it’s one of the best values in a new home construction for flooring materials.

Jay: And what’s the word on contractor’s a comfort zone with these product?

Andy: I think it’s probably pretty good these days. It is these days. When people say the word linoleum, nine times out of 10, they’re actually referring to vinyl. So when a contractor says, Oh, I do a linoleum all the time, no- they do vinyl. Linoleum was a little different installation as specifically the seaming processes is little bit different. But folks, if you have a good quality installer who understands directions and follows them properly, they can make linoleum look beautiful. Beautiful.

Jay: Yeah. There’s really no excuse anymore, folks with all the YouTubes that are out there and all the videos that are done by the companies that sell the products. The good companies have really good training information in these kinds with these installations. And then of course, if you find a reputable dealer, that can also kind of help you through understanding some of this stuff and you’ve got a good contractor, you’re home free.

Andy: You got it. We can probably go on for an entire show on linoleum. And matter of fact, we probably will.

Jay: It’d be kind of fun to do a show on like each one of these and kinda dip in, really get deep into it and talk more if we can about it.

Andy: Well, and I think, we’ll see where the comments come back. We get every comments from every show. And so people tell us the good, bad and the ugly and we love to hear it all. Tell us which ones you want to actually hear a show on and we’ll definitely make that happen. So we’ve got two more products to talk about before we end today. One is carpet and I know carpet is… I have a love hate relationship with carpet. Yes, I’m sure you probably feel the same way. It’s comfortable under foot. What else can I say about it?

Jay: It’s pretty easy to get and it can be fairly inexpensive.

Andy: There you go, it’s, it heals a lot of wounds because it covers up some imperfections on subfloors. There’s two types of carpet, only two healthy carpet and the rest of it. And the problem is, is that the truly healthy carpets are expensive compared to regular carpets.

Jay: Give a reference point to that, Andy, give me some numbers.

Andy: If I were to furnish and install a chemical-free synthetic-free natural wool carpet with a pad, you’re probably looking at at minimum $60 to $70 per square yard. Plastic carpet, your nylons, your polyolefins, your PLA is all these other, you know, sustainable type solvent carpets that are out there now, the corn based stuff, you’re looking at half of that. So what do you get for that? Double the price. Well, you get a product that lasts three to five times longer. Wool carpet will last like linoleum. It’ll last as long as the house, in other parts of the world, linoleum or excuse me, a wool carpet is not installed as a wall to wall carpet. It’s put down as a large area rug. And when they ever move, they’ll roll it up and take it with them. Because that’s how long wool carpet lasts. Yeah.

Jay: So that’s a value. If you start to project that out, this is another thing, folks, there’s all those longterm cost analysis. It needs to be a part of your decision making where you look in your gulping because you see that big number, then you have to factor in the fact that, hey, I can put this in now. Bite the bullet now. Spend the money now. I won’t have to spend the money down the road. And guess what folks? Money spent down the road with inflation is going to be more expensive.

Andy: It’s sure will. And I will say too that because wool carpet lasts so long… I work a lot with the folks at Nature’s Carpet up in Canada, great company, great company, beautiful product. I’m just absolutely stunning stuff. A home that’s built with that product in it will actually have an easier time selling because wool, unlike a plastic fiber; plastic fibers are, if you look at it under a microscope, are relatively translucent and then the dye it to give it some color, but you can still see through it and at a microscopic level wool is totally opaque. That natural fiber is totally opaque. And so what that means to the homeowner is when the carpet gets dirty, you actually only see dirt on one side of the fiber. So with plastic carpeting, the same amount of traffic on both carpets, a plastic carpet will look dirtier, faster, you’ll see dirt on both sides of the fiber at the same time. Wool, unlike what you hear, wool is actually very easy to maintain. Very easy to clean. There’s just a process and the steps, what you take to clean every type of stain imaginable on wool. Truly synthetic free wall is nothing more than a natural fiber, with no chemical dyes, no pesticides, no flame retardants. The backing is hemp, jute, cotton or a combination thereof and natural latex right from the rubber tree. So it’s a very safe material unless you have a sensitivity to latex to natural latex or unless you have a sensitivity to lanolin. Lanolin is the oil that’s found in wool and most people know it as just a type of oil you can use in your skin for dry skin.  But some people have a sensitivity to it, so you gotta be careful. Okay.

Jay: I was going to ask about that and that you just answered it, so that’s good.

Andy: So beyond that, anybody who installs any other type of wall carpet can install a natural wall carpet. There’s no difference. I’s very warm. It’s very soft, very comfortable. So it’s like a softer version of cork like to say that.

Jay: Nice. Nice. So let’s, let’s move on. We’ve got one more category here. It’s the vinyl plank category.

Andy: Vinyl plank category. So you started alluding to this earlier, Jay, when you’re talking about that new product that Cali’s got. You know folks, when vinyl was invented as a sheet flooring material, really back in the fifties is when it became really popular. It was a wall to wall glue down sheet of vinyl. Over the years it has morphed because of ease of installation because of durability, because of environmental regulations, because of health regulations. Several years ago a product came out called an LVT luxury vinyl tile. And what luxury vinyl tile is essentially a thicker, harder, plank of a tile maybe six inches by three feet that gets glued down and gets put together almost like a ceramic tile floor without the grout. Well, companies like Cali Bamboo and some others out there have taken that one step further and they turned it into a floating floor. And instead of using an a medium density fiberboard as the core, they’re using limestone. And this is super cool. If anybody wanted to know, what’s our number one selling floor nationwide right now? It’s this product.

Jay: I’ve seen it folks. I was in Wisconsin last spring and it is remarkable.

Andy: About a year and a half ago I was working with Ryan and Teddy Sternagel. They built a home to be a healthy home for their son Ryder who was going through cancer treatments. And they wanted to build an absolutely perfectly healthy home for him and their family. And they had me on what was called the Toxic Home Transformation show to talk about the things we did in their home. Well, this is the floor they chose for their house and just a remarkable product because it doesn’t off gas. The limestone core is a solid core, so that your durability factor is higher longevity factor. There’s no off gassing from it. You can use it in semi-wet areas. This past winter, I believe they even lost… their furnace stopped working. It got so cold they had to heat the house completely from a woodstove. And the cool thing is that because the limestone core, that floor remained a little warm. It’s just a really, really effective flooring material and a relatively low price point. We’re talking well less than any of the products we’ve talked about so far except for stained concrete.

Jay: Yeah. You know, right at the end of the show. I think before we close out, maybe what we could do is just real quickly and you can do this better than I, we’ll quickly go back through the floors and just kind of get a rough idea of square foot numbers just for our listeners. Go on. Go on.

Andy: Perfect. And so the next iteration of this floor Cali has a product called Geowood, Geowood Oak specifically. They actually take that limestone core, that geo core, and instead of a vinyl top on it, they put on a real wood veneer. So now it gives you a floating wood floor with the durability of limestone that’s completely moisture resistant. And every one of these floors, folks, I have tested personally with the FRAT system and they’re all zero formaldehyde off gassing. And this is what I find remarkable is that the industry of vinyl and floating floors using MDF and glues and all this stuff, the fact that these floors did not release any formaldehyde is truly remarkable. So you can see, I’m very excited about that product. I believe that manufacturers now will be following suit. We’re already seeing it. There’s some other manufacturers of product called Cortech and some others that are making these, limestone core floating floors. I think it’s one of the best technologies to come out and flooring in decades.

Beyond that, they’re there. I mean, there are some other materials that are out there that are used very infrequently and you know, recycled rubber floors is one of them. Or what’s called virgin rubber floors or virgin vinyl floors.

Jay: There’s earthen floors.

Andy: Yea rammed earth, definitely. So I think we’d covered the pretty much the basics today, Jay. So want to talk about pricing? Let’s run down to be with the product. You give me a product and I’ll give you a price.

Jay: Start at the top with stain concrete.

Andy: So stain concrete, the cost of the materials will be less than a dollar a foot. That’s going to be your stain and your sealer. The expensive stain concrete comes in the concrete itself. If you have to pour it, obviously the preparation requires a lot of scrubbing, rinsing and scrubbing, rinsing. Or if you have already something stuck to it, you have to blast it off and get it down to raw concrete. So the preparation could be more expensive.

Jay: But once that’s done and you’ve got your idea figured out, then then you’re home free because basically it’s going to be maintenance-free. It’s going to last a long, long time. So again, going back to this idea that you’re looking at your cost analysis, you’ve got to look long term as well as short term for for real.

Andy: Yeah. That’s a perfect way to say it. Yep.

Jay: Okay, so next wood and bamboo.

Andy: All right. Wood and bamboo… average folks just talking average, decent quality wood or bamboo floor, furnished and installed should run between eight to $10 a square foot.

Jay: Okay. Okay. That’s simple. Let’s go to cork.

Andy: Cork flooring, pretty much the same. Eight to $10 a square foot, maybe a little less because most of those floors are floating. If you’re in that $8 range for a budget purpose, you’ll be covered.

Jay: And installation costs on top of, that’s pretty much the same with those two?

Andy: Well, I’m figuring installation in those prices, Jay. I figure about between three and $4 a square foot for labor.

Jay: Okay. All right. All right, good. So tile.

Andy: So tile is one that you can spend $20 a square foot and you can spend 99 cents a square foot. So it comes down to what you want. A labor is a little trickier too, because it really is dependent on how much preparation needs to be done. But again, I’m always in that mindset of that eight to $10 a square foot range. It’ll be pretty much covering just about anything you need.

Jay: I think that’s good. That’s nice. That kind of give it just a general sense of folks to them when they’re thinking about their decisions, they can go, okay, we can kind of use this number to kind of keep us in the comfort zone, relatively speaking in the comfort zone.  So they don’t like get a big surprise. Oh we like that floor, but Oh my God. Okay. And of course, excluding the idea of wool carpeting.

Andy: Yes, of course.

Jay: Because, because then we’re telling a bigger number, but we’re also talking longterm as well.

Andy: You got it. You got it.

Jay: How about, how about a linoleum? We already talked about the natural linoleum.

Andy: A natural and linoleum is, again material-wise I’ll separate this one to material wise. You’re looking in about the $4.50 to $5 square foot range. Labor can range anywhere from a dollar a square foot to $4 a square foot. Depends on the application, how much preparation needs to be done to the sub floor. So that one I got, I have to give you a bigger range on.

Jay: Yeah, sure. Okay. I guess last is the vinyl, the luxury vinyl tile.

Andy: Luxury vinyl plank, the floating stuff. Cali’s stuff. Yeah, folks it’s pretty remarkable. You’re looking at less than $4 a square foot for the basics really to up to about $5.50. For the top of the line. And then your install… you’re installing a floating floor, so three, four bucks a square foot or less if you do it yourself. And so honestly when I’m involved in new home construction, unless I know I have a customer who’s going to pick the most expensive things in my showroom, I usually tell them budgets somewhere around eight to $10 a square foot for just about any flooring material. You’ll be pleasantly surprised if you could decide to do concrete in the lower level and you budget $8 a square foot. And then in areas where you want to splurge, well maybe it’d be a little bit more that, but if you average eight to 10, you should be covered.

Jay: Yeah. You just touched on something, I think is important. You will find varieties of flooring in the same home. Yea definitely sure. Definitely going to see, maybe not with concrete, but you’re definitely gonna see tile and you’re going to see wood. And if you have the money you’re going to see wool. You may see linoleum. I mean it’s possible, right? Usually people kind of tone it down a little bit. They’ll have tile in the bathroom and in the kitchen. And then in the other rooms they’ll have wood, right? Or they’ll have wood and they’ll have carpet in some of the rooms in some of the rooms and tile in some of the rooms. So it’s always going to be kind of a mixed match kind.

Andy: It is. Especially nowadays people want to show their individuality and sometimes every bedroom will have a different color. And I mean that’s a nice thing. You can do what you’d like and there’s a healthier alternative for just about anything you can imagine. One of the last things I want to touch on or I think the last thing because we’re getting really long here folks and thanks for tuning in. Trends… right now the trend in flooring is, I think I briefly touched on this. Cork is not really one of the current trends, although it’s coming back a little bit. Current trends would be wood or a wood look like the wood look tile, muted browns and grays are really, really popular right now. The really super dark mocha colors have kind of gone away now. We’re getting to those muted tones, earth tones. But trends are also going to low maintenance, low maintenance. People don’t want to have to spend time cleaning their floors. They’d rather spend time going for a walk with the dog and teaching their kids how to ride a bike. They don’t want to have to worry about maintaining a floor.

Jay: No, they want to dance on it. Being West coast here, that that’s a big, big selling point for concrete because boy, once it’s down and it looks good, maintenance is really easy.

Andy: You got it, you got it. And so as always, folks, if you have questions about the episode today, please feel free to reach out. Go to the website Leave us a message right on the website. Then the top left is what’s called a SpeakPipe and right through your computer you can leave us a voicemail and every once in awhile those voicemails make it to a show. So hopefully we’ll hear your voice on an upcoming episode.

Jay: We’ve got some great interviews coming down the pipeline to folks, so stay tuned.

Andy: And as always, we encourage you to go to iTunes or wherever you listen to our show. And if you can, if it gives you the ability to leave us a review and a rating, we would be oh so happy. If you could leave us a five star review or a rating and give us a review, drop a few words in there. Why do you like the show? What have you learned from the show? Those little things go a long way in helping others find Non Toxic Environments because there’s a million podcasts right now, and we’re just one small fish in the big ocean, so we’d really appreciate it if you could help others find us.

Jay: Thanks everybody for listening in, Andy, it’s the weekend. Well maybe it’s not the weekend everywhere people, but it’s the weekend for us.

Andy: Weekend for us. Have a good one, folks. We’ll be both in next week. Sounds good.

Jay: Bye bye.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Constructing a Healthy, High-Performance Home

Water is essential for life, yet can cause so much destruction.  Building a healthy home requires the use of many materials, very few as important as what we’ll be discussing today.  Etienne Gubler of Siga North America joins us today to discuss how his company’s tapes, wraps and membranes can eliminate the destructive element of water intrusion, and allow our well-built homes to last far beyond the typical service life we get here in North America.  Plus, we take a few questions from the mailbag.


Google Play


Constructing a Healthy, High-Performance Home

Constructing a Healthy, High-Performance Home


Andrew Pace: Jay and I talk an awful lot on the show about keeping moisture out and controlling humidity in the home once it’s actually in there. But how do you actually go about doing that when building a new home? Well, today we’re going to hear from an expert. We’re going to hear from the CEO of Siga North America. Siga manufacturers custom tapes, high-performance raps to keep that humidity out. Then we’ll take a couple of questions from the mailbag. Today on Non Toxic Environments.

Welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. Jay, good to be with you this week. This is actually kind of an interesting show for us.

Jay Watts: Tell me how Andy.

Andy: Well, the other day I’m on the phone with Etienne Gubler with Siga, Siga tapes and building wraps and so forth.

Jay: Say that name again? Say the other name that was really good French. What was that?

Andy: Etienne. Etienne Gubler.

Jay: Perfect. Wow. Okay. I’m excited.

Andy: Okay. I know at Etienne is correct. I’m probably slaughtering his last name. Etienne if you’re listening, when you are listening, I apologize. My French is not very good. Etienne and I were discussing his products and I thought ‘I’m going to hit record. Do you mind if we hit record?’ So it was a really good, a really good interview. Just talking about the high performance building industry and how their products kind of fold into it.

Jay: Man. I want to hear it. I want to hear it.

Andy: Well. All right. Tell you what, let’s hit play and you can let me know what you think. So here it is.

Jay: Okay.


Andy: Etienne, it’s so good to have you on the show today here in Non Toxic Environments. I’ve been really interested in speaking with you for quite a while now ever since one of my clients introduced me to your products probably close to a year ago. We’ve found that the idea of using custom tapes, custom wraps and so forth on a home to eliminate mold, eliminate air and water intrusion, this idea is not only good timing because we have a lot of projects throughout the country right now that are kind of at this stage. But we’re looking at this as really the wave of the future, the wave of the building future. So first of all, thank you for coming on the show today.

Etienne Gubler: Thank you for having me Andy.

Andy: If you can just give everybody a brief synopsis of what Siga is all about and a little bit of history of the company?

Etienne: Yeah, absolutely. Well, once again, thanks for having me and for the opportunity to be here today. So Sega is a space family business that was founded in 1966 and we have one clear mission and vision that unites all of us and we strive for a world of zero energy loss buildings. So this has been a part of our journey from the from the get go. I couldn’t agree more with what you just said that times are changing right now and what’s also changing is the environment. We do need to act, we have to really start thinking about how can we build more sustainable for the future so that there is a future, a livable future? Therefore, I’m once again really thrilled that we can have the conversation.

Andy: For all of our listeners who been tuning in for our 70 some episodes, you all know that my focus has always been on health of the human occupant. But in that process, as we talk about things like energy efficiency and global environmental concerns, as I’ve always said, those two items are also very important. This is one of those products, or I believe product lines that sort of dips into all of those aspects of green. So it’s not just human friendly but it’s environmentally friendly energy efficiency. That’s why I believe this is a fantastic topic for today. So if I may kind of jump right into it with Siga, one of the most talked about issues right now is the use of spray foam insulation in building, especially in residential construction. Again our listeners know that I’m not a fan of spray foam because of the inherent toxicity of it. But one of the reasons why the building community is really promoting spray foam is because it helps to seal in gaps that helps to take care of some issues during construction that are just problematic for builders. I see this as a perfect opportunity for your product. So do you think that the use of the Siga products would allow us to get beyond spray foam? We eliminate the spray foam and go to other ways of insulating our homes?

Etienne: Yes, I do believe that. I think if we look at spray foam and in the relation in our products, we kind of have to separate. So spraying foam as an insulator, right? And spraying foam as an air sealing strategy, as an insulator, and that’s probably your explanation by the industry currently still really likes to promote the product or use the product because you get quite a high R value per inch of spray foam. That’s kind of why. Everyone loves it because they are cheaper, they give you a relatively high R value. So in that regards, that’s going to be a little bit more challenging to come up with without the products. But it’s totally, totally doable. My concern and our focus at Siga is we are a tape manufacturer. We make tapes, we make membranes to air seal homes. I have a few points, concerns with spray foam in general. In particular, two things that can happen with spray foam is spray foam or foam in general cracks over time. I’m not talking about year long, I’m talking about 20, 30, 40 years down the line. Also something that actually a lot of the foam manufacturers will tell you- that foam shrinks. Over time. So now if you fill a cavity with your foam and you rely on that on, on being your airtight seal, then that stuff can shrink and it can crack. Because if that happens you all automatically introduce air leakage into your building. So that’s kind of where the taping has as a durability advantage for sure.

Andy: That’s a really great segue here. We’ve been discussing on previous episodes of the show, the idea of doing things such as… I’m a big fan of formaldehyde free fiberglass and I really liked the blown in blanket systems that are available now. And in order to make those really effective, you have to still go through the process of air sealing, all of the typical penetrations where wood meets wood, and it could be an uneven joint. Again, this is where spray foam helps the builders because they see it fills it all up, as you say, 20, 30 years later, when things shrink a little bit, those gaps now become problematic again. So does Siga make products that can be used in a blown in blanket system where you can literally tape all of those connections or those potential air intrusion points before the installation process?

Etienne: Yes, absolutely. You just mentioned the most crucial point before the installation process. If we talk about air tightness, actually we need to talk before we start framing. Okay. That’s extremely important because you can make your life so much easier by having your air strategy figured out before you start to frame and with a few tricks you can actually avoid a lot of the added labor that can happen if you just basically have completely framed your house and then you start thinking about air tightness. So to answer your question and yeah, absolutely. We do have tapes, we have interior vape retarders and I got to talk about them a little bit later. That can be used in combination with blown in insulation such as blown in cellulose or the formaldehyde free fiberglass that you just mentioned. There are three major strategies and if we talk about air sealing and I can make it very simple, you can either have your air barrier interior of your wall. So that will be, for example, if you use a vapor control layer, like a vapor retarder on the inside of your of your starts, option number one, option number two is you can have so-called mateable air barrier. You can use your shealing and tape your shealing, and that’s going to be your dedicated air barrier. For example, some of your listeners may have heard of the Huber Zip, something like that, that’s, that’s kind of midair barrier, mid wall barrier that they could use. Or you can use your tape OSB or something like plywood. Or you can also have your air barrier outside of your walls on an exterior by utilizing a weather resistive barrier any other materials that will then go on top. So these are your three options.

Andy: Up here in the upper Midwest, it’s a building code that you have to have a vapor barrier on the warm side of the installation. So it’s got to be on the inside of the insulation before you erect your drywall, right? But then very commonly what’s happens is you’ve got your exterior sheathing, whichever product you use, and then builders will use just a common building wrap that by definition or theoretically, it keeps wind out right and it keeps rain out. But we all know that these homes under construction are left open to the elements for a few weeks or longer before your siding goes up. The building wraps start to lose their effectiveness because the wind gets at them. It starts to tear a little bit. You’ll get wind driven rain between the seams. What happens is moisture gets into that cavity wall and now you’ve got a vapor barrier and the inside, a vapor retarder on the outside with the building wrap and a lot of moisture in the cavity. And so ideally what we would like to do is, and there’s two schools of thought here: one is to build a wall that’s completely air tight. The other is to build a wall that breathes, I think that down to where in North America you’re building, because I think it changes from region to region. What are your thoughts on that? If we were to use a Siga product on the outside as a vapor retarder, I know you’ve got some larger membranes that can do that, correct?

Etienne: So here I have to say we currently… Maybe they do not have an exterior vapor retarder in our current portfolio, the majority of our products are used in mild to cold climates. Clients that are heating dominated, such as a where you are right now, right? So where we have cold winters and so I’m talking about, I would like to address what you just said. You basically have two thoughts of school. You can have breathable walls or non breathable walls. Non breathable walls,this is kind of playing a part, like the comparison of playing Russian roulette, it can go very well and nothing happens or you can actually have a big, big problem because if you have a leak in a nonpermeable wall, that moisture will stay in there and it has no chance to really get out and your structure can actually rot away. So that’s kind of what we don’t want, but we really promote in all our products are very clearly designed for that other world, the breathable wall, the permeable wall. And so you saw also some of the differences and I have to make sure that we get the terminology right. You can absolutely work, with multiple air tightness layers so you can have more than one dedicated air barrier in your wall. . As long as you have a more permeable layer on the outside. That’s very important. Let me give you an example. If you use a very permeable weather resistant barrier system on the exterior wall then on the interior of you all use one of those smart vape retarders you may have heard of it. If you use that combination you and you tape all the seams and everything and we totally recommend you to do that, tape it on the inside, tape it on the outside, you will actually have two air barriers. But these are not vapor barriers. They are vapor permeable so that moisture can actually leave your cavity to the outside. And in summer when the diffusion comes, when it’s more wet and humid on the outside, your wall can also dry back. So that’s kind of the best case scenario in my opinion. If you can build a permeable wall that allows, that is designed to maximize the outward drying. We want this moisture to go out, but you have a little bit of backup plan by using or utilizing a smart membrane that if there ever is some moisture in the wall during those summer days that it can also dry back. So that will be the best.

Andy: So that brings up a really interesting question. I believe we’ve dealt with a couple of projects across the country where the HVHC systems were specifically designed to create an amount of pressure that pushes against the walls and pushes the moisture out. And so as you’re talking, you want it to dry to the outside. So with your products, this actually would be a very good scenario to use that type of an HVAC system along with your products to facilitate that.

Etienne: Well, I think at the end of the day that pressure is generated. It’s a physical process, because basically if you have a warm humid climate, let’s say winter scenario and you have a cold exterior, that moisture will automatically move. It always flows from the warmer, more humid to the colder and dryer environment. That’s the diffusion flows. So that’ll happen anyways. Yeah, but what you are describing to me sounds like almost over pressurizing your home a little bit. I don’t fully know about that or where the air would come from. I guess that would be kind of a big one. And then keep in mind if, if this would be the system to rely on, um, air always goes both ways, right?

Andy: If it can come out it can go in. Well, and that’s, that’s the key really is in construction is to control sort of when and where that air comes in. And if we know that, if we plan for that, then you can design a structure that will be standing a hundred years from now. If and then that’s really goes back to the way we used to build homes. When everything was sort of open. We didn’t really care about air tightness. And then all of a sudden in the late nineties, early two thousands builders decided to start tightening up the homes. I mean, started happening in the 70s with the oil embargo in commercial construction. But in residential, it really started to be done an earnest and the in the late nineties, early two thousands. But what what builders forgot about is the fact that, Oh yeah, there are humans living inside of this house and they actually need fresh air. And so that’s when they started incorporating the use of energy recovery ventilators to bring in that fresh air. What you said just earlier really struck something for me, which is ideally in a perfect world, if we could build walls that were guaranteed 100% airtight, that would be the best way to build because you could specifically control when and where fresh air came into the building. But because we can’t, because the laws of physics don’t allow for it, we have to then do our best to make sure that the walls properly breathe. And that’s where your products really come in well.

Etienne: Absolutely. I think, if you allow me to segue a little bit, you did mention though, a mold. And I think mold is a very important topic that we should talk about. Just for fun let’s look at mold quickly, what I call it the recipe for mold. How do we make good mold? We need three major ingredients. Okay? We need a food source. A good four source would be cellulose. A lot of things have cellulose in it. You’re talking about mainly wooden frame buildings. There is already something. It could be your insulation, it can be your dry wall. There’s a ton of potential food sources that we have. Next we need is moisture. And moisture can come in either through leaks, it can come if we have a very high humidity level or it can also introduce moisture into our walls if we have condensation happening.

Etienne: And then last but not least, we need oxygen. So we need some air in order for that mold to grow. Usually we need an air flow for those mold spores to start sitting on our surface. Right? So if we look at mold, you mentioned early on, in the early days of air sealing, unfortunately people didn’t fully understand enough about it, right? They in good faith sealed up their homes, like made them super airtight. They did kind of two mistakes, right? Mistake number one was, they trapped themselves with some very harmful chemicals. It was kind of air tightness, how we get there, kind of like the spray foam as scenario. I don’t want to talk bad about spray foam. But I mean there are definitely spray foams out there that are very chemical and they off gas. That’s not great for you. Especially if you’re sensitive to these chemicals. Then it’s just kind of, Hey, you, you just trapped yourself out. Congratulations. You’re home is super airtight in the beginning. Right? But I mean, you sit in this chemical chamber, but that being said, so back in the days they made it super airtight and the issue that I see is, they didn’t fully understand- you trapped something and if there’s ever any moisture getting into those walls that it can’t dry out. Now maybe you didn’t have leak, but guess what? Everybody who ever frame the home knows the wood is pretty wet when we build it. When you move in into your house, your house is not dry. They may be calling it dry but it’s not, it takes more than a year in some cases up to three years for a house fully to dry out. So you basically just enclosed that moisture and that’s sitting there right now. So, and you mentioned perfect airtime. This is difficult, right? To achieve. And yeah, there you go. So mold can happen.

Andy: Let me just jump in there for a second because this is again a common theme in our podcast is that the average home that’s built today has anywhere between 400 to 600 gallons of moisture in the air. That’s just from the building process, the building materials as you say. Knowing that construction is taking longer, right now because of labor shortages and material delays and so forth, these homes are open to the elements for weeks if not months longer than normal. You get three, four, five days of rain and then the first sunny day that comes though they’ll start slapping on the siding and the roofing and all that moisture is locked in those cavities. And so you’re exactly right. I mean, as much as we’d love to say that homes are being built using kiln dried wood and it just doesn’t happen. Just as a side note here, we’re finding lumber arriving to job sites already with mold on it. The framers are just using it because well that’s, that’s the material he sent, that’s what I’m going to use. And so you talk about having a recipe for mold. Well one of the main ingredients is the actual mold spores themselves and the framers are literally building that into your walls. And so it’s even more crucial to have the ability to get the moisture out.

Etienne: Right, right. So yeah, for me actually, I mean first of all, don’t let any moisture in regards to use a very high quality weather resistant barrier, tape that barrier, think about connections that you have, be aware of penetrations that go through that vapor through that moisture barrier to really make sure. If you just put up a, let’s say a building paper or a self adhere membrane or something like that and you start to drill like a bunch of holes in it and nail in it, just think about what is this going to do. What’s going to happen if ever any moisture gets behind my siding> And that’s possible. So you have to think about and you have to address those penetrations and tape them properly, uh, just to ensure that you won’t get any leakages, you know?

Etienne: Um, so I think that’s an important one. And then the second point for me is really how do you avoid condensation in your wall? And that’s kind of when it gets more tricky because then we have to talk about how much insulation are you using? Are we shorted? We don’t have major thermal bridges. Generally speaking for our climates, by using exterior continuous insulation, you can already eliminate a lot of the thermal bridging happening. So that’s kind of like a more or less an easy fix in some parts it’s code that you need these exterior insulation. So that helps. Right? But then also thinking about, well, what about the moisture source that we have from the interior? And here, once again, I come back to our smaller vapor retarders or, or some sort. If we talk about interior vapor retarders, I think what’s important for everyone here is listening today to understand this, that there are different ways on how you do this. You can rely, for example, on your paint as being your vapor retarder slash air barrier, right? But as soon as you start hanging pictures or you start to do stuff and you start penetrating that quote unquote finished layer, you’re already damaging that.

Andy: You’re breaking that seal.

Etienne: You’re breaking that seal. That’s right. Exactly. You’re breaking that seal. I’ve moved into different places I never really consciously thought about, Ooh, actually that’s my vape retard, my air barrier here. Because one thing that will happen before that water pressure that we have…. you mentioned 400, 600 gallons, a lot of moisture. Or just generally when we breathe and cook and dry clothes and shower and whatever we do, right? We’re generating moisture. So that moisture once we heat the room, that generates a ginormous pressure and convection. So convection is the transportation of like hot, humid air through air, right? For example, if you cook water and then the steam rises and carries water, we call this convection. This is what we are most worried about. And actually one of the biggest reasons for building damage, because if you don’t properly air seal, let’s say for example a shower or something like that, that’s so much moisture every day that can get into your wall. And if that warm air, that moisture air finds a cold surface, you end up with condensation. And that is one of the biggest problems when we talk about mold, avoiding condensation in your structure.

Andy: Well, and here in Wisconsin, last February it got down to 40, 50, 60 below zero at night for a period of a week. Imagine your every day living in this home, cooking, showering, washing clothes, just perspiring in the home and that moisture has got to go somewhere, as you say. Imagine the cold temperature from the outside of the home pushing just doing everything it can to push through your walls. This is why you get, even with new windows in a new home, you’ll get condensation on the glass, on the inside of the glass because there’s so much moisture in the home. Older homes, that condensation, especially in winter time turns to frost or ice. This is what’s happening inside your walls, but you just don’t see it. And in springtime, when everything warms up, a water starts to collect and as was just stated moments ago, that process can occur if you’ve got the right environment, to create mold in the walls. So, the last thing I want to touch on because this is really interesting information and I will definitely link to a Siga in the show notes. We want to make sure all of our listeners have good information on this. But one thing I wanted to touch on to sort of end this is there, this doesn’t seem to me like rocket science. This seems to be something that the general public who are interested in building a new home or builders themselves can understand these materials and these methods very simply, however, the problem we have in our industry is the somewhat refusal of the building community to adopt anything that they consider to be different. And as we know right now, and I’ll use Wisconsin as our example here, here it has to be plastic vapor barrier Visqueen on the inside of the installation before your drywall on the outside, it’s OSB in a building wrap. If we had clients who wanted to move over to your products which are smarter, more technologically advanced, are you going to face a backlash from the building community or have you? And how do you sort of combat that?

Etienne: Yeah, that’s a very good question. I would say generally speaking as always and with everything in life, whenever we as humans need to change or change is happening or something new comes, you have kind of two types of people, the ones that fight it and the ones that embrace it. I would say the embracers are definitely not the majority. And so, have you had backlash? No, not really bad I think and I really want to give also credits too to some of or many of the builders out there I got to meet here in North America. There are a lot of folks who really want to do a job, who are very proud of their work they’re doing and doing a fantastic job in trying to wrap their head around, it’s a lot to take in. The market is crazy, crazy saturated. There’s so many different players, many almost thought schools and I think it’s hard to navigate for builders in general, what to use and what’s good to use, to start with. Overall my observation is once we present them our product, they see that they are kind of easy to work with. You’re not really reinventing the wheel. I think we are very detailed oriented and that’s what you need. In order to build a good home, you have to think about all connection details. There is no room for just improvising on the job site. Air tightness and then of course the whole, let’s call it vapor and moisture management. These are concepts you have to figure out before you start to build. You need to know what are you building, how are you building it, how will this wall work? And I always say challenge the status quo. I know the Wisconsin wall as you described, it’s still standing and in some case nothing happened, right? But there are better that are better walls out there. And I think if there is a push from the homeowner who is involved, who wants to build a passive house, maybe even go that route or says, Hey, I don’t want that foam inside of my home. I want more like more natural products. I want something healthier or you’re forced to because of allergies. And that’s usually when people start to pay much more attention. We are here, we love these conversations. We have a team of 15 employees in the US and in Canada. This is for me kind of daily business walking people through through the product line and talking about different details, connections, people send us their plans and ask about, okay, how do I seal this? How do I do that? We have a huge online resource and our homepage that people can download for free some details. We’ve created this really awesome system guidelines with 3D renderings and just really to kind of take the guesswork out of it as much as possible. So yeah, I don’t have any scary story or angry people calling me, telling me, what are you guys doing here? Usually they call us and say, Hey, you know, I saw this product for spec or someone asked me about it, or I had a call the other day from Atlanta, a big shout out, a young lad there who just said, Hey, I believe this is the future I want to get on top. I know no one here does it that way, but I want to be an early adopter and listen, thanks so much for calling can’t wait to chat more.

Andy: Oh, that’s fantastic. This is great. I’m really excited about this and I know we’re going to have you on the show in the future because we’re in the process of designing some new homes right now where we’re going to be incorporating your products into the new home construction. So as those projects start to move forward we’ll definitely have to have you back on the show to discuss. Etienne, I can’t thank you enough for being on the show today. Folks, everybody will be getting the link to his website so you can download those details. We’ll have more information available for you at Etienne, thank you again for being here today and I look forward to speaking with you again.

Etienne: Absolutely Andy thanks so much for having me. And I’m looking forward to our next conversation.


Andy: So, Jay, here’s the thing. When Etienne comes on the show next time you’re going to be joining me because I know based upon what we just heard, you’ve got a lot of questions for him as well.

Jay: You bet. I do. I’m very excited about this. You know, these cutting edge products with people that are really pumped up and excited about it, it gets both of us excited. It’s kind of this where there’s a synergy happens, they’re excited about what they’re doing. Their products look really fantastic and sound fantastic and fit a real niche in the market. This is the stuff we kind of live for it.

Andy: It is. And you know what I really, really appreciate about his, his products and his company vision and so forth is that they understand… and of course he even said it in the interview when he says that, we have got to be careful about what we are doing in our industry because, folks, we only have one planet, there’s only one that we can take care of. Let’s do our best. Right? And so from an energy efficiency standpoint and a resources efficiency standpoint, we need to do our best, but they also understand the whole health component. THat’s why I thought for sure that this fits right into what you and I talk about.

Jay: Yeah, you bet. It does. Well, you know, the box is always full. Our mailbox, I’m referring to everyone.

Andy: Oh, the mailbox of course.

Jay: We appreciate all these emails. You’re flooding into us and we love to answer them. Every once in a while we’ll dedicate a whole show the mailbag. Let me start it off here Andy, I think I a dissertation here. It looks like it could be almost considered a short novelette. I’m just gonna I’m just going to read it as it is here and we’ll tackle it:

Hello, am a 40 year old woman who has struggled with chemical sensitivity for 20 years now. Mostly triggers migraines from smells of chemicals. I rent a home and I’m trying to solve a problem in my bedroom. The landlord had gross carpet that I noticed was moldy, so I ripped it out since there was a nice vintage hardwood floor underneath… I’m going to interject here, but it always blows my mind how we cover up these beautiful materials with carpeting and folks, if you’ve listened to Andy and I before, you know our feelings about carpeting.

Andy: Yeah, exactly right.

Jay: So let me go on. So he ripped out this gross carpet and I noticed that walk away or he didn’t notice there was mold and on the hardwood floors underneath. The problem, and I’m sure why he had the carpet there is that he was covering a large gap on one wall between the floor and the wall, probably four inches was the gap where the floor meets the wall in one corner. My house is real old so it shifts a lot and I have no basement. I could see yellow insulation stuff in there but didn’t touch it as I wasn’t sure what was best to do. My mom helped me stuff of bunch of activated carbon in the gap and then we got two pieces of wood and nail them in to fill the gap, but the issue is I still smell what they can only assume is the insulation. It’s like a gross, sweet chemical smell.

Andy: Ding, ding, ding.

Jay: Hard to describe it, but it instantly triggers migraines and makes me nauseous. I thought we’d solved it by sealing the gap with the wood pieces, but I can still smell it through the wood smell it through. And the worst part I realized just now the gap was mostly covered by the wood, but the sickening sweet smell is still what I’m assuming is in the insulation. I realized was it was super strong when I had my nose near the electrical outlet, I’m resigned to the fact that I may not be able to use the outlets as I don’t know how else to seal off the smell. Right now I’ve just put like five layers of activated carbon and taped it around the outlet to seal it off. It looks ugly to have a taped off outlet and the bummer, cause I can’t actually use it, but if that’s the price I have to pay to keep the smells away, it’s worth it.

So would it help? Yeah, I told you it was a book.

Would it help in the tiny gaps between the floor where we pounded in the wood to cover the big gap? It was really hard to totally seal it because we can only pound the woods so far in and there’s still tiny cracks where I feel the smell of seeping out. Just wondering if you have any suggestions. I would love for the first time in years to actually be able to use my bedroom and sleep in there on a bed instead of my worn out couch. Trying to keep hope that there’s a solution. Thanks so much and I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Carmen.

Andy: Well Carmen, that is a great question. First off, thank you so much for being so detailed, right. I don’t have any other questions for you, which is unique. Usually after a question like that I say well what about this and that, I don’t understand this. Honestly, folks, this is common in older homes that used hardwood as the original flooring material. Back in the day, when carpet first became popular, people were just ecstatic to put wall to wall carpet in to cover up the old hardwood floors because hardwood in a lot of instances wasn’t the masterpiece installation that we have today.

Jay: Correct.

Andy: And that hole could be there because of an old radiator or an old piece of duct work that no longer exists. There’s many reasons why these holes could have a gap in the flooring like this and up the wall. So your first thought of filling it in is obviously the best. I think if you choose different materials to fill it with and wood does obviously makes a great base, what I would call it a good nailer or something to then attach another material to it. But you need to use something that would be considered a true vapor barrier, because what I believe you’re dealing with is insulation.

Jay: Right? I agree.

Andy: And that the yellow material could be one of many different types of insulation. First it could be old fashioned, a urea formaldehyde fiberglass insulation. It could be what’s called polyurethane foam insulation. It could be as simple as a can of great stuff from Lowe’s or Home Depot, just that the last person’s sprayed in there to help try to fill that gap and found out the hard way that you probably got six cans worth of gap to fill. And then they just covered it back up with carpet. All of these materials we talk about are releasing formaldehyde.

Jay: Well, that was that when we both kind of acknowledged that sweet chemical smell, that’s the big warning sign. A formaldehyde present.

Andy: Well, and it makes sense that you are now sensing that exact same smell through the outlets. Chances are the outlet covers, or the electrical boxes themselves aren’t gasketed, they’re not airtight. So actually this is what I’d recommend: if you can’t actually change out the electrical boxes themselves that hold the switches or outlets, you need to either get gasketed covers for them or just simply use a toxin free caulking material, something like AFM multipurpose caulk and put that behind the outlet cover and put the cover back on again.

Jay: Screw it back on, then that gives you a seamless barrier there that seals it all up.

Andy: Exactly. Now it just makes sense, right, that it’s something having to do with formaldehyde just based on that description of that sweet smell that’s causing that type of reaction.

Jay: And there is no way they can get into the wall cavity at this point in a meaningful way. So the only option is to do what you’re suggesting, which is treat the outlets themselves.

Andy: Treat the outlets and treat that gap that’s still there, the pieces of wood that you shoved in there, that’s a fine idea. But you also have to put a true vapor barrier covering the whole thing. So at this point, you may even consider getting something like a Denny foil product or tape that can be applied over the wood over that gap so it’s completely air tight and that should minimize or eliminate that odor from coming through there. Unless there’s any other gaps and openings that we haven’t discussed that should take care of the problem.

Jay: Yeah, I think that’s really wise advice. You know, folks many times and this situation is pretty clear cut, but there are instances where we’re not quite sure where the pollution is coming from. We’ve got a whole bunch of suspects and so what you do, they’re very logically, she’s kinda chop away at them one at a time, select the one you think is the most offensive and try to deal with that and then to step back and see if that made a difference. If it did, then you’ve taken care of the big one. It may not solve the problem completely, but at least you’re taking it one step at a time and you’re not overwhelmed. I think this is the part of the problem, especially with people that sensitivity who have been struggling. It’s real easy to get overwhelmed.

Andy: It is, it is, and you have to look at it as basically through the process of elimination, right? Taking care of these issues. Now, the other thing too here Jay is that once somebody has sort of sensitized, to that chemical offgassing, it’s going to be a little more difficult to get rid of it completely because now where you didn’t smell it before, didn’t sense it before because you got a big rush of it into the air… even if you got rid of that big area of it, you may still sense it. So you’re going to have to use the power of your nose and your best judgment to try to figure out, kind of sleuth out where else it could be coming from.

Jay: My clients don’t always like to hear this from me, but I tell them, if you’re off balance right now, if your sensitivities on a red alert, then the wisest thing you can do is to try to get yourself back into balance before you try to do some analysis. Because like you said, Andy, you’re not going to be really ready to be on that level of perception where you’re going to be able to solve all the problems. They don’t like to hear that because, well, how long? How long is that going to take? I mean, I got to stay away out of my house for like a week, two weeks, three weeks until I feel better? Yeah, you do. Why? Well, one, you want to feel better than get the heck out of there and two, you can’t go back and know anything unless you feel better. They’re always a little frightened below, I’ll go back, I’ll feel good and then I’ll get sick again. So it’s really hard, folks. I mean, Andy and I have dealt with this for 25 years now, and it’s in our hearts go out to everyone. But of course sometimes you just have to pull up your bootstraps and just kinda go for it. But I just want to bring that up because I know it’s difficult when we talk about having to solve these kinds of tricky problems. There’s a whole bunch of boogeyman and in the woodwork, where are they? Who is it, how do we get rid of them so well?

Andy: And you know, it brings to mind a discussion I had today with a new client. It’s when you’re dealing with chemical sensitivity, you’re so used to everything you come in contact with causing a reaction, everything just depressing your immune system more and more and more. And it’s just so hard to take. So I understand the level of skepticism that comes from folks who’ve been suffering with this for years or decades.

Jay: Well, the skepticism is at home too, right? I mean they’re feeling challenged and their mates at home, whoever they may be, may be highly skeptical, right? So you’ve got that skepticism too. So it’s a rocky road.

Andy: It is. Hey you know what else? One other thing I want to say here, Jay, because it just popped into my mind based upon this conversation with a client earlier today. A question came up like how do I test if I’m sensitive to a product or not? We’re going to have somebody on the show coming up soon that we’re going to talk about this because everybody will test differently. But what it comes down to is if you are dealing with a physician that you are comfortable with, you need to actually establish a set of protocols with your physician. How do I test to make sure that products are going to be safe, or are going to react? Whether you’re doing a muscle test, whether you’re doing some other type of tests that is, is giving you some indication that there is a sensitivity to it. Obviously, you know that the FRAT testing, mold tests, prism tests that are out there. These are all important. You’re gathering your facts, you’re putting together your decision making process of how you move forward, but you really need to work with a physician or an alternative healthcare physician who can help you determine if you are having a physical reaction.

Jay: I know who you’re talking about for an interview, you’re talking about our wonderful friend, Dr Lisa Nagy.

Andy: Yes, of course.

Jay: That we need to have her back.

Andy: Exactly. I’m just a wealth of knowledge. I’m thinking to myself, if I asked her this question, she would give us 25 minutes of an answer.

Jay: We’d be like on bated breath with all that.

Andy: Exactly. So, I got one for you. Rochelle Birmingham emailed us right after one of the last podcasts where we talked about the carpet care system. And she said, I’m asking a question specifically for the podcast. We are building a new home and cannot afford wool carpet. We currently have no sensitivities in our family, but we’re just trying to be proactive right now. If we put conventional carpet in just the bedrooms and use the AFM Carpet Cleaning System, is there a conventional carpet that’s a little safer to use and responds best to the AFM system? Thanks in advance.

Jay: I’ve never been brand centric about responding to this.

Andy: I understand.

Jay: I’ve only kind of in a way couch the answer by saying we developed that product for synthetic carpet. Which is kind of a broad way of describing carpet, but that’s generally how I’ve explained it. What would you add to that Andy, if you were trying to give them a more focused answer on exactly that kind of carpet?

Andy: Sure. First off, this is a very, very common question that I think people would love to ask. They just sometimes they don’t know how to put it into words and Rochelle puts it into words perfectly. Here’s the thing. We’ll carpet is generally going to be more expensive than synthetic carpet. Now it lasts eight to 10 times longer. But that upfront cost is prohibitive for most people.

Jay: That’s what their problem is.

Andy: Exactly. Yeah. Here’s the other thing too, folks. Not everybody can tolerate natural wool. Carpet wool carpet contains lanolin. Lanolin is an skin oil from the sheep and lanolin can be problematic for people with sensitivity. So there are many reasons why some people would just say no to wool carpet. I to like to stay away from recommending a brand here because I’m a big believer that there is no such thing as a healthy synthetic carpet. What I will say is I always look for nylon as the synthetic fiber, I believe nylon, whether it’s virgin nylon or it’s what they call nylon six, which is a recycled material and recyclable, nylon itself as a synthetic plastic is a fairly clean plastic. So the biggest problem we’ll have to deal with is the backing that holds that fiber. And that’s where the carpet cleaning and sealing system will really come into play.

Jay: Right? Folks that information is on our website, under the carpet cleaning and a section of our website. So the details are there. You can check that out and then if you have questions further, then you can always shoot us an email and we’ll be glad to do a followup on that. So I think just to answer a question succinctly is, look for a nylon carpet. Then if you may find one that might be fine. You never know. Sometimes it’s fine, sometimes you don’t have an issue. I like the proactivity of their decision making. I think that’s really wise. I would say if you did make a decision on the carpet, you get it into your home and you’re having a problem, then you can look to us for a maybe a solution to help control the emissions.

Andy: There you go. And that’s quite honestly, this is a very common way of doing things. If you don’t remove the source actual source of pollutant, you seal it up. But I would also add that when it comes to carpeting, it’s one of those materials in the building and remodeling industry where you really do get what you pay for. The higher the price, generally speaking, the better the quality. So if you’re going to install carpet and you want to do it once and you’re going to go through the process of the sealing of that carpet, and that’s a very labor intensive process. I don’t want to sugarcoat that, right? There’s a lot of work involved in doing that three step system. So you purchased the best quality synthetic you can find because you want it to last the longest, so you don’t have to do this again.

Jay: Correct. So I have one. Let’s round it up with this one. It’s a little shorter than the one I introduced. All right. This is from, actually it’s from down under, it’s from Australia. It’s Marisa in Australia.

Andy: We really have a lot of listeners down under.

Jay: We do, we do she’s asking, I am looking for a nontoxic sealer for a concrete shower floor. I need something that will obviously handle pooling water. Okay. What can you recommend?

Andy: It should be fairly simple to recommend something here, but this is one of those situations where I would need to know a little bit more. Generally if it’s a concrete floor that has either a waterproof membrane underneath it, we’re not dealing with any moisture vapor issues like a head of pressure coming up from underneath. I’d probably recommend something like,, well there’s a couple of products. It depends on what the finishes that you’re trying to achieve. I liked the Penetrating WaterStop. I like the WaterShield. I think those two products are probably your best bet. Penetrating WaterStop by AFM will not leave any surface coating whatsoever. The WaterShield leaves a little bit of a surface coating, but it actually gives you more resistance to things like skin oils and so forth.

Jay: Right, right, right, right.

Andy: So I would say those are the two that I would recommend. I’d probably get a sample of each and see which one reacts the best for you.

Jay: Yeah, I’m kinda leaning towards our Penetrating WaterStop.. Just because I’ve seen it under a pool of water. It’s quite amazing. You’ve got a pool of water where the surrounding wet part of the concrete is very dark in color, but wherever the Penetrating WaterStop has been applied, the concrete there looks like it’s dry. It can be under three inches of water and it looks like it’s dry.

Andy: Excellent. So there you go. I liked that too because it doesn’t leave any surface coating and all that could get slippery when wet.

Jay: Right. It’s invisible. You don’t know it’s there.

Andy: Fantastic. So there you go. Penetrating WaterStop.

Jay: Well, Andy, I think that pretty much puts a period to our day to day, doesn’t it?

Andy: It does. And so we started off with a fantastic discussion with Etienne and Jay for sure next time I get a chance to speak with him you’ll be joining us so we can pepper him with questions.

Jay: Looking forward to that.

Andy: All right folks, and once again, thank you so much for joining us on Non Toxic Environments. Jay and I look forward to this day, every single week. It’s really a thrill for us to be here with you and to answer your questions and to be that, as folks have told me, that beacon of hope, that they can actually live in a healthy home.

Jay: Well think of us as your sounding board too.

Andy: Exactly. We really appreciate if you go to a and sign up for our newsletter, as the summer months go away and we get into fall and winter, that newsletter will be ramping up even more and we’ll be sending out more information. Also go to iTunes and make sure to give us a rating and review that will help others find the show. Finally, make sure to keep on sending those questions in. Maybe we’ll feature you on one of the upcoming episodes of Non Toxic Environments.

Jay: Be well everybody, we’ll talk to you next week.

Andy: Thank you so much. Take care.

View Transcript PDF

NTE Podcast: Offgassing….The Hidden Danger in our Homes

Jay and I today take a deep dive into the extremely important topic of chemical offgassing. Folks, I know that I believe every episode of NTE is important.  But this one it at the top of the ‘important’ list!  In my eyes, the elimination of offgassing of your building materials is the most crucial aspect of healthy home building or remodeling. Whether you’re painting your home, replacing the carpet or just want to keep the indoor air as pristine as can be, this episode is for YOU!


Google Play


Offgassing....The Hidden Danger in our Homes

Offgassing….The Hidden Danger in our Homes


Andrew Pace: In the world of healthy building, there are many issues that we have to deal with, but the one

important issue that we deal with on a regular basis, whether it’s new homes or a remodeling, is off gassing. What is off gassing? Where does it come from? How do you prevent it? How do you avoid it? Today on Non Toxic Environments Jay and I take a deep dive into this topic and we’ll give you plenty of ways to protect yourself.

Hello folks, welcome back to Non Toxic Environments. This is Andy Pace and as always, Jay Watts. How are you this week?

Jay Watts: Andy It’s been a good week. It’s been a good week. It’s been a fast week. It’s Thursday already. And boy, where has it gone?

Andy: It’s been a very fast week. It’s actually been a very fast summer. I can say that for the first time all summer, I actually did something last weekend that reminded me of summer!

Jay: You did? You took a dip in your pool in your backyard.

Andy: Well, yes, but more importantly I got the kayaks out.

Jay: How did that fit in the pool?

Andy: Very good. Yeah.

Jay: Oh, well, good for you. So you went out and kayaked on a one of those mini lakes that are surrounding your home?

Andy: That’s right. We live in what’s called Lake country here in Wisconsin and there’s dozens and dozens of lakes and a lot of them are connected. And so we had a great afternoon of starting in one small lake and going to a couple others and it was just a great day. And, I can’t complain at how it’s been a very busy summer and this is the busiest time of the year for projects and so forth. But, it was definitely well-needed and had to get out there, experience some nature and just kind of ironically ground myself in a big pool of water.

Jay: Sounds fantastic. So, you’re leading into our conversation today, you’re talking about an aqueous environment and I think today we want to address some of the issues around a gaseous environment.

Andy: Ooh, yes. What we mean by that folks is building materials. Actually we’ll talk about an aqueous environment cause we’re gonna talk a little bit about moisture and how moisture, humidity, vapor pressure can also increase off gassing. As we always do, or I would say quite often if we’re not providing an interview with an industry expert, we’re actually kind of interviewing each other. And I’m going to be leaning on Jay quite a bit today because we’re going to talk about sealing up one area of the home, which as loyal listeners I speak against all the time. I don’t want you to put carpet in your house, but folks, if you have it in your house or if you’re renting or if it’s too nice to get rid of, Jay’s going to talk to us about a process that will seal up the chemical off gassing up to 90%, which in a lot of situations, folks, that is just enough to make it livable.

Jay: Yeah. So the word off gassing is probably not new to any of our listeners. You have the basics of what that is. It’s basically the evaporation of chemicals in the coatings that are used in the materials that are used in building and remodeling. And what this off gassing is basically gases that are emitting into the atmosphere. Now, of course you’re also probably familiar with the fact that people are worried about VOCs, volatile organic compounds. Our government many years ago decided it was important for everyone and so the EPA under the auspices of EPA, they created regulation based upon notifying everyone and anyone if there was a regulated VOC, and I used to use the word regulated in quotes.

Andy: Oh, air quotes. I did the exact same thing when you said regulated. Yeah.

Jay: Yeah. The idea was that the EPA was going to make alert everyone to the fact that there was an ingredient in a coating material that could evaporate into the atmosphere that we needed to be worried about that. The EPA list of regulated volatile organic compounds which is I think a little over 300 ingredients. There are unregulated, exempt VOCs that do evaporate as well. And Andy and all kind of get into that in just a little bit. But anyway, the basic idea was, and how it works is, and what they were concerned about fundamentally was whether or not these pollutants would create outdoor air pollution. Their focus wasn’t really on indoor air pollution even though we spend 90% of our time indoors. So, it was all around the Clean Air Act and all of the things that were being discussed at the time.

The idea is if there’s a chemical that when it evaporates, mixes in the atmosphere with some other nitrous oxide type chemicals, that mixture, that combination can then turn into low-level ozone or smog. So the idea was we want to cut down on that and we want to make people aware of that so they both consumers and manufacturers and at some point want to cut down in that kind of emission so that we can prevent ozone and low-level smog from polluting everyone. So that’s kind of where the law got written. But the fact that there are ingredients that are not good to be around, we call those hazardous air pollutants, HAPS. They’re there. There are those exempt HAPS that show up in quote unquote zero VOC products. And this is where the problem lies because due to just the messaging that’s been going on for years, most people believe that they’re looking for, and not completely incorrect, but they’re looking for zero VOC products. And, and we don’t argue with that. We think that’s fine. But at the same time, it’s important to understand that that zero VOC designation is not a necessarily a promise that it’s not toxic.

Andy: What I was going to say here, Jay, is that your description here so far is just spot on and at no point do we ever advocate for using high VOC materials. One of the things I’ve heard from some listeners would be, you say that VOCs aren’t important. And if I ever say that, please know that I don’t mean that as the final statement. My statement is, as it relates to indoor air quality and human health, the VOCs aren’t the important metric. The important metric would be these other things that we’re going to talk about today. But, you’re exactly right Jay.

Back in the mid nineties, when VOC became regulated because of outdoor air pollution, global environmental issues, trying to reduce carbon emissions. Folks, these are all important things. It is certainly in our best interest as a society to reduce volatile organic compounds in our atmosphere. That said on the inside of a home, there isn’t enough, nitrogen nor is there enough VOC to create smog, which is why the EPA regulates VOCs. So Jay you’re right on with your description and I think that as we discuss these issues, just remember that we’re always looking at the health of the human occupant first, the way we approach things.

Jay: Exactly right. That’s the whole foundation of what we’re doing here. Just taking an example, and so I just want to just jump back for a little bit and I think it’s ironic that sometime ago it was an irony that the Environmental Protection Agency decided to remodel or rebuild a whole new building for themselves. And shortly after that construction was completed and everyone walked away, they had an indoor air pollution problem, right? All of the new materials were off gassing and I like to describe this off gassing is a toxic stew.

Andy: I’m sure it was.

Jay: Yeah. And so in the problem there is there’s so many different chemicals and they’re all off gassing. There’s absolutely no research that tells us what those chemicals are doing when they mix with each other. It is possible to sequester the ingredients on a one on one basis and kind of get an idea. But when you start mixing, you know, chemical with A, B, C, D, Z and all the way to the end and you’re going, what is that doing? No one knows what that doing is doing other than the fact that people start having the symptoms of chemical exposure. And this is what happened at the EPA offices. All of a sudden there, everyone was like, we can’t work here. We’re sick. We’re feeling badly. And it was like, Oh my God, look what we’ve done. We’ve created an indoor air pollution nightmare.

Andy: Well, and the balance of that story is Jay, that the culprit was the carpet. The carpet was thousands and thousands of square feet of new carpet that was installed. And at the time there was something like 1600 employees of the EPA that had to essentially stay away from the building because of the sick building syndrome of this toxic soup that they had. And to this day, some almost 30 years later, or over 30 years later, there are still a couple hundred people on permanent disability because of that episode.

Jay: Oh, that I didn’t know. Yeah. Wow.

Andy: That’s actually a perfect lead into this discussion here today, Jay, and talking about not only VOCs but carpet. One of the things we’re gonna talk about today is carpet. You had set up before that when something off gasses from a surface, just imagine- close your eyes and you think about steam coming off a bowl of hot water and that steam rises into the air and it mixes with everything in the air. This is what’s happening in an off gassing situation, although the difference is off gassing is not really akin to steam coming off of a bowl of hot water. It’s actually more like dust particles coming off of a surface and floats into the air and it’s so microscopic you don’t see it, but it can attach to other microscopic chemical monomers in the air and form new chemical compounds. And so off gassing is such a difficult issue to deal with because nobody really knows the extent of how and what can be created once something new comes into that space.

So think of it, an average home that’s built today has between 10 and 15,000 chemicals in it. And there’s been estimated at that over over the period of several years now with different studies. That’s just from the building process. All right. Family moves into the house and this happens all the time. Family members start to feel sick, feel ill and they all chalk it up to, well, you know, it was a tough move and does a lot of stress and everybody got the flu and so forth. A lot of times it comes down to the building materials that you’re all subject to. But let’s take this one step further. Let’s say somebody in the house is a smoker and they don’t smoke at home, but they smoke in the car or out at the office and they come home and you know, cigarette smoke has another 2200 chemicals in it. And as that clothing then sort of mixes with the air of the home, we don’t know how many new chemical compounds are forming because of this toxic soup that we’re in.

Jay: Right? And so to combat this particular smell problem we have and we start to introduce fragrances to mask the smells and that’s doing the exact same thing you’re talking about with nicotine.

Andy: And somebody, somebody came up with the brilliant idea years ago that what we should do is a aromatize a bunch of essential oils. And okay, and that’s kind of a shot at the essential oil crowd. But I think that this is a topic for another show. There are benefits of those, but I think people overuse it, abuse these and it’s causing other problems. But I’ll leave it at that for now.

But look at something like dry clean clothing, that’s another 600 different chemicals that gets added to this. One of the items that professionals have problem solving ways of taking care of this has been a process called ‘baking out’. Now, in theory, baking out a space is, essentially closing up all the doors and windows, heating up the space, to 90 degrees, 95 degrees, sometimes hotter. And what that does is from a chemical standpoint, it actually excites these molecules and they start to evaporate off of surfaces, right? This is what’s called baking out. Here’s the downside and this is why baking out was debunked over a dozen years ago, is because you’re heating up these materials to temperatures that they’re not designed to be at. And you know how we talked somebody walking in the house with cigarette smoke in their clothing and it creates new chemical compounds? Baking out does that in spades because now you’re giving these chemicals a healthier environment to combine in.

Jay: Yes. And if that doesn’t scare you from baking out, I’ll share a little quick little story about baking out. Tother side of what it can do, which is not good because you’re turning the heat up, and this is very simple physics. When you turn up and get some surfaces hot, guess what it does, it expands. And then when it cools, it shrinks. So in a situation where I was involved and I came in at the end of this, there was a project north of us here, a very expensive, multimillion dollar home on the coast, all new construction. The owner was chemically sensitive. All the coatings were causing a pollution problem that was recommended that they bake the house. They baked the house and post baking, the owner came back and discovered that all of his very expensive cherry woodwork had expanded so much it was cracking. All there were cracks down the middle of all of his kitchen cabinets. The doors were not shutting and he still had a pollution problem that he couldn’t live in the house. This is the other bad thing in my own simple explanation and experience. This is the bad thing about baking. But Andy’s right, you’ve created this whole other monster when you bake.

Andy: Right. And so what we talk about is flushing out of us of an area. And flushing out makes more sense because now you’re opening up windows. You are using air movement, air movement to a wick away moisture, which wicks away chemicals. That’s a better method. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it improves the situation of it.

Jay: I also suggest that’s the really first immediate step you can always take whenever you have a pollution problem like that and you’re not quite certain the direction you’re going to take. The first thing you can do is just get a lot of motion, get a lot of air moving around, try to dehumidify your air and keep trying to keep that air as clean as you can while you’re making decisions on what your next steps are.

Andy: Exactly. Right. You brought up perfectly the next topic to discuss in this whole off gassing issue, which is humidity. Now we’ve brought this up in other shows before, as humidity rises in a surface, or in a room, and then moisturizes in that surface as the moisture then comes off of the surface, it carries with it little chemical monomers, little chemical footprints. And which increases the amount of off gassing. Just this week we were involved in doing some FRAT testing for a client and we’re finding that the carpet in one room of the home, it’s exact same carpet in the entire house, but in one room of the home, the carpet was off gassing at 10 times the other rooms. We’re looking at 160 parts per billion for most of the house, which is high, for carpet its not that high. The safe level we like to target is 50 parts per billion. But the carpets had 160. In this one room it’s at 1600. Why is that? Well, the client has some health issues, needs to be in a higher humidity environments because of some sinus issues and she runs a humidifier in that room. So increasing the humidity has increased the off gassing tenfold.

Jay: What was her humidity level in there, by the way?

Andy: 60 to 65%.

Jay: Oh, boy. Yeah.

Andy: No, you want to keep it below 50 to avoid mold growth. Keeping it below 50, even around 40, it will also cut down on the amount of formaldehyde off gassing. Interestingly enough though, we’re involved in another project where there the protocol was written by a mold prevention and remediation specialist that the HVHC system for the home should not be turned on until the entire project is done for fear of contamination of the duct work. And unfortunately, well, unfortunately everybody took that as as gospel. Well, what happens when you paint and finish woodwork in the middle of summer in Chicago with no ventilation,

Jay: You got a pollution problem.

Andy: You got a pollution problem, you have stickiness problem. And more importantly, you got 5,500 square feet of Brazilian cherry that’s all warping because the humidity’s at 65% in the house. This is not designed to scare the heck out of people. This is designed to be a, hey be careful. Just because you’re making a great recommendation for all of these things, you got to think through the process and look at the what the end game is here. I would say the end game is to make sure that the home is a livable, healthy space for the clients and if you’re causing problems because of wanting to fix other problems, you might have re-look at the entire process.

Jay: What about ozone as a treatment?

Andy: Yeah, ozone is a treatment has its place and I am one of the people that actually believes that ozone when used properly in used in a controlled method is extremely beneficial for good indoor air quality in the house.

Jay: What do you mean by controlled method? That sounds good. Andy controlled method. What is that? What does that mean? Controlled?

Andy: Well, it’s like having two hands on the wheel, at 10 and 2, you’re always in control of your vehicle, never looking down to text or to change your radio station. Well, the same thing is with ozone. You don’t want to turn it on and leave it on and leave the house, right? You can do that if the ozonator or you’re using is set to a specific timeframe. So on a timer or if it’s set to a specific ozone level, which once it hits that level, it shuts off. That’s really the method I like to choose is actually we want to hit a certain benchmark of the ozone production and then keep it at that level for a certain amount of time. Ozone is an extremely efficient method of purifying air. It’s so efficient that you can over create ozone and ozone if you’re not exactly familiar with it as essentially, oxygen is O2, ozone is O3, so it’s oxygen with an extra leg to it and an extra oxygen molecule. So it’s very active. It’s very reactive. And if it doesn’t attach itself to a chemical or an odor in the air, it’ll attach to itself and create pure oxygen. Pure oxygen can be really harmful to people who have asthma, who have breathing difficulties already. This is why you have to make sure when you’re using that it’s being done in a controlled environment, in a controlled method. But here’s the other caveat with ozone, if you have a situation in your home that’s specific to let’s say formaldehyde off gassing, formaldehyde and ozone don’t mix very well and can also can actually cause some other chemical fumes to be created. I like using ozone for smoke damage. I like using ozone for kind of a musty smell. If you have a moldy smell. But if you have a specific formaldehyde off gassing issue, ozone is not the right product to use. 23:59

Jay: Where would a one of our listeners go to get more information about how to ozone properly? Is there a website they can go to or some information you’re aware of that they could, they could find out about on our show notes?

Andy: You know, that’s a great question. I don’t know specifically, but if I find something Jay, I’ll definitely put it in the notes for everyone.

Jay: Yeah, I’m just thinking about it out loud cause I think that’s the next question. People now saying who’s going to do it? Who’s going to do it? I don’t know that I can do it right. I may have to have some consulting on this. Someone’s got to help me.

Andy: Sure, sure. And that’s the other thing too, if you have a piece of equipment, typically these ozonators are portable purifiers. Make sure that wherever you’re buying it from or renting it from, we have one here in the showroom that we rent out to clients, but it’s got a timer on it and then you can set the amount that it creates and you can set the timer. There are also units that you can hook up directly to your heating and ventilating system, that are set like a rheostat so that you can actually adjust the amount that it creates. Rule of thumb is if you’re using ozone on a regular basis as just one of your purification methods in the home, the rule of thumb is if you can smell it, it’s up too high. The common telltale smell is a very sweet, sweet oxygen aroma. It’s almost as if you’re walking outside right after a big lightning storm. It’s got that really sweet, sweet air and that’s the telltale smell of ozone. If you can smell it, it’s up too high.

Jay: That’s very helpful. Very simple too.

Andy: Quite often when we talk about off gassing, we’re talking about not only a variety of building materials and we know that there’s over 90,000 chemicals used in the production of building materials and home goods and so forth. We talked about VOCs, we talked about those volatile organic compounds, that can come off of a surface for a period of time. And other HAPS. The one thing we strive for in any of the homes that we’re involved in is to reduce the formaldehyde off gassing to as close to zero as possible. And why is that? You know, why do we focus on formaldehyde? And quite simply, it’s because formaldehyde is one of the key triggers for chemical sensitivity, for asthma. It’s a key trigger asthma attack or for someone that has extreme chemical sensitivity, for anaphylactic shock. Formaldehyde is a carcinogen. Formaldehyde also has a very specific molecular size and weight to it, so that if formaldehyde is coming off a surface, we also know a whole host of other chemicals are also being released from that surface.

Jay: Formaldehyde is ubiquitous. So it’s another reason why it’s a big target for what we do.

Andy: It is a big target and, and the telltale signs of formaldehyde would be your flu like symptoms. So when you move into a new home or a home with though is just freshly renovated and people get this itchy, scratchy throat, they feel run down, their eyes are itchy or puffy. You feel like you got the flu. That’s the sign that is a typically from formaldehyde exposure.

Now formaldehyde does not get added into building materials always as an ingredient. I know it’s kind of a tricky way of saying this folks, but bear with me here. Urea formaldehyde is the one we are always talking about. Urea formaldehyde is added to things like plywood and particle board and OSB as part of the adhesive. And that’s what binds all that together. Formaldehyde can also be naturally occurring in wood because it’s always found in decaying plant matter. Formaldehyde can also show up, and this is what we’re finding now even more so than urea formaldehyde, formaldehyde is showing up in many building materials, many household materials, because the ingredients that are being used are what are called formaldehyde donors or formaldehyde precursors. And I don’t want to get too wonky with this, and too technical, but what a formaldehyde precursor is essentially- let’s take a gallon of paint because that’s what I’m most familiar with. And you too Jay. Manufacturers took formaldehyde out of their ingredients list and paint 40 years ago. There hasn’t been a paint made since the 70s that had formaldehyde in it as an ingredient or formalin. But ingredients that are used in paint can be things like antimicrobials. It could be flame retardants, other types of curing agents, odor masking agents. And these ingredients are not formaldehyde, but they are a certain classification of chemicals that will combine with other chemicals that are used in the paint. We talked about how off gassing from a surface can combine with other materials that are off gassing to create this toxic soup in the air in your house. Well, what happens in paint is in a liquid state, these chemicals are not detectable. But when you paint the wall, the chemical, curing process begins.

That chemical curing process triggers this combining of these different precursors, which is why we’re actually finding in doing FRAT testing that these paints are releasing formaldehyde during the curing process. And as we all know, paints and coatings and other building materials can release these chemicals for the lifespan of them. They reduce every a little bit every day, but they’ll still release these…it could be for 50 years.

Jay: And so that’s the problem with them not knowing this. There’s no way to scientifically safeguard ourselves against these things because no one knows how long these things really, as Andy alluded to, it can be many, many, many years. There’s no background on this to be able to say, well, this is always a question that you get Andy all the time. When will it be over? When will the pollution problem end? There’s just no simple answer to that because of the issues that we’re discussing today.

Andy: That is correct, there’s no rhyme or reason to it. We know based upon historical data that paints and coatings can off gas for a period of three and a half to five years after it reaches a full cure. Water-based paints takes up to two weeks to reach a full cure, then the off gassing starts. So maybe that’s another point to talk about here folks, is that off gassing is not curing. Curing is the process of creating the film. Once it’s fully cured and all the evaporations happened and the film has fully coalesced, now the off gassing begins and off gassing is the release of unreactive chemical monomers that’ll never become part of the coating. And that can continue for years. In the case of something like plywood or even carpet, I’ve tested materials that are over 30 years old that are still off gassing toxic levels of formaldehyde. It really has no rhyme or reason to it. And even more frustratingly, about this is, in a 12 foot by 12 foot room, I can test the carpet in five different areas and get five different test results. Now they’ll all show an amount of off gassing, but they’ll all be different. And that’s because chemical migration from surfaces really has no rhyme or reason to it. Sure. So we create an average. All this comes down to something needs to be done about it. In the form of paints and coatings and building other hard surfaces. We’ve talked about the Safecoat finishes before and, and how the Safecoat paints will seal up chemical off gassing and it doesn’t off gas itself, but one of the items that we’ve talked about at length from a standpoint of removing is carpet, and you just heard me say before that carpet can off gas toxic levels of formaldehyde for 30 years! But what if you move into this house or it’s a rental and you have no choice, you’re kind of stuck with it? Then what is the alternative? And the alternative is something that you guys developed many years ago and that’s your carpet shampoo and seal system.

Jay: All of all of our development kind of rolled around the notion that there was these pollution problems from different areas of the home. And our goal was to try to solve those problems as efficiently as we could. And as Andy alluded to, carpeting is one of the bigger surfaces in an installation. I talk about these things like the skin in our body. Your floor is a big skin and so when you’ve got many square feet of carpet and you’ve got a huge pollution, potentially a huge pollution problem on your hands. So as it’s consistent with our other coatings, we’ve been able to develop formulations that not only are nontoxic when they’re used, but they’re also good at sealing in things that are underneath them. And in case in point, so you have a whole plethora of chemicals coming off carpeting. And our concept was can we do a containment of those chemicals through a development of some sealers. So what we came up with was basically a three step process. Real quickly, that process would be to clean the carpet and we make a shampoo. And the shampoo has twofold purpose. Obviously if you have soiled carpet, you want to take the dirt out and so it’s good at doing that. But when you have new carpet, it’s not really not soiled. But the idea of using the shampoo helps to start the process of eliminating some of the chemicals at the very beginning of the process. And we recommend that when you do that you use hot water and an extraction process or steam cleaning.

Jay: In essence, setting the stage for the second step. And this is where the sealers come into the equation. We make a product that’s called Safechoice Carpet Seal. And what it’s intended to do, is you spray it on, apply it with a garden sprayer or Hudson sprayer and you infuse the carpet fibers and you actually massage the coating, the sealer into the fibers. What we’re doing there, was we’re trying to get the sealer itself to migrate through the fibers. Also by doing that attach itself to the backing of the carpet on the top side where the fibers and the backing are intersecting or any weaving with each other. What that’s doing is it’s infusing the fiber and it’s putting a layer of the sealer on the backing and that’s setting up the protection that we need from the off gassing that’s coming from those two surfaces.

And then another sealer that’s a booster as it were for the Carpet Seal, but more importantly, and it’s called Lock Out by the way. More importantly, what its function is to kind of fortify the fibers against a dirt pickup. So it’s kind of a dirt repeller in essence, it was designed in our concept was designed to replace Scotchgard. That’s the three steps. And as Andy said at the beginning of the podcast, the success rate has been pretty good. I want to be clear about this folks. We don’t bat a thousand every time. Depending on situations and people’s sensitivity thresholds, there are some times when installations are an improvement, but based upon the perso