8 Materials to avoid in a remodel
While remodeling your home, it may be easy to simply let the contractor build with the standard set of materials. But is this wise? Below, we’ll outline 8 materials that should be avoided in order to stay green and healthy.
· High VOC Finishes. (Paint and Floor finishing) VOC stands for Volatile Organic Compounds, and finishes with higher concentrations lead to greater risk of cancer and other birth defects. Particularly bad are floor finishes with the product name Synteco, which is used in many commercial applications. Select products at your home store that specify low VOC (<50g/L) to give a good guideline.
· Heavy construction adhesives. Almost every building has an absurd amount of construction adhesive (the very sticky glue that comes in a tube), as it has become standard practice for many trades. The amount of toxic off gassing from these adhesives is very high, so urge your contractor to choose low VOC versions of these glues. Talk to your architect about how to detail your project to utilize mechanical connections (screws and nails) rather than chemicals. There are current alternatives offered by the major manufacturers, check with their website.
· OSB and MDF. These two common sheet goods (oriented strand board and medium density fiberboard) are found in almost every building, from subfloor, to cabinetry, to wall finishes. The problem is the manufacturing process- as they are both woodchips bound together with Urea Formaldehyde- a known carcinogen. A risk also occurs when cutting these materials onsite. Instead of using these materials, vouch for materials that uses more natural glues and adhesives, like Sunstrand Coreboard.
· Carpet flooring. In a variety of ways, carpeting may be the most harmful material that is in your home. The majority of new carpets available at your carpet store are plastic, which contain the same harmful chemicals (up to 600) both in manufacture and then in use. On top of this, carpets act as a sponge, meaning they not only contain their original chemical stew, but they will tend to absorb any other harmful chemicals, bacteria, and allergens, only to be released to the air later. The safer alternatives to the standard plastic carpeting are a pure wool carpet, without an SBR backing to be safe.
· Bamboo flooring. Though this is considered a ‘green’ material, as it is for its renewability, the problem lies in the sourcing. Most bamboo is grown and cultivated in china, thus the energy to transport this material 5,000 miles is great. Consider using locally harvested bamboo, or other hardwoods that are FSC certified.
· Non-FSC certified woods. Stands for Forest Stewardship Council, and this is a committee that certifies and checks that correct forestry practices are being utilizes when logging. The object here is to avoid clearcutting tracks of virgin forest that are ultra-productive ecosystems. Another option is to source woods only from tree farms- those that are just grown to be harvested in a short cycle.
· PVC piping. Commonly used in all homes for plumbing waste lines, this inexpensive material contains vinyl, which is another chemical known to cause a variety of ailments to the human body of long-term exposure. Consider alternatives such as HPDE, copper, or cast iron, and a lot of these may be dictated by local codes as well, so be sure to inquire.
· Vinyl siding. With the same reasons as the previous, vinyl chloride is known to cause respiratory and reproductive harm over long term exposure. As this may not apply directly to the homeowner, we still want to look at the health safety of the entire life cycle of the product, from extraction to factory worker. For a healthier and even more biodegradable alternative, try the traditional (yet more expensive) cedar siding, sourced locally if possible.
Though this is just a short list, by staying an educated consumer, you will have the power of what goes into your home, and into your body.