Archive for Walls

Solving the Paint Mystery

With the old wall-to-wall carpeting gone, the wood floors are finally revealed. Two of the bedroom floors plus the hall were painted. Since we don’t know when that was, it could be lead paint, which was in use before being banned in 1978. The only way to find out about these floors is to have them tested, so for this I’m turning to a state-certified environmental services company, who came out with an XRF meter to test the area. With a quick point of the meter gun, the technician can get an immediate reading on the paint in that spot, reading through 3/8″ of paint, which would include many, if not all layers.

Home contractors can’t treat large areas containing lead paint if they’re not certified as “EPA Lead Safe“.  Flooring companies typically aren’t certified, as it’s not routinely in their line of work.

Thankfully, these floors came out in the clear, and the sanding and refinishing are good to go!

Healthier Paint Made Easy

The world is full of hundreds of kinds of paints, most of which contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins and other chemicals that have no place in our homes. What to do?

This week I made my second trip to Green Depot in NYC, purveyor of healthy building products. With locations across the country and shipping available, their accessibility makes shopping for this project just that much easier. 

Ivy Coatings is Green Depot’s “store brand” of paint, which makes it a budget-friendly choice amont the healthiest paints on the market, which include Mythic and AFM Safecoat, both excellent choices but pricier.

At about $35/gallon for eggshell, Ivy Coatings is comparable to other well-known premium paints.  As a consumer, here’s one thing to keep in mind:  many brands advertise as being zero-VOC but once the colorant or tint is added, the paint is no longer true zero-VOC.  In other words, the base paint without color meets the zero-VOC guidelines, but the end product doesn’t measure up.  VOC claims aside, any “green” claim doesn’t necessarily mean the product is all-around healthy.  It can still contain formaldehyde or other chemicals including glycol ethers (“glymes” for short), which the EPA links to reproductive and developmental problems. I’ve had my own run-in with gymes while using a conventional primer that left me feeling quite sick. Sure enough, I checked the product ingredients online, and there were glymes in it. So as with everything, buyer beware.

According to the Green Depot website, “New paint smell? Beware! That odor is actually VOCs (volatile organic compounds) ‘offgassing’ into the air we breathe. VOCs in mainstream paints and wood finishes can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat; cause headaches and nausea; and damage the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. Some are carcinogens. Alternative products labeled as ‘low VOC’ may contain other toxins, including formaldehyde and acetone.”

Ivy Coatings is also locally made in Brooklyn, NY, just a stone’s throw from the Healthy Home Project.  As for other budget-friendly tips, go to the store with the contractor’s license number in order to get contractor pricing, which is often about 10% off at paint stores.  Another way to stretch reno budgets is to check out the “oops paint” table of colors that didn’t turn out just right, or may have been returned. At Green Depot, I got a gallon of Yolo Colorhouse (another healthier brand) “oops paint” for $10. Oops paint is a great way to keep mismatched paint out of the landfill and put it to good use.

So here’s to lots of painting.  I’m starting with one of the kids’ rooms this afternoon and then will progress on to the kitchen.

Day One: Family Safety During Reno

We closed on the house today!  As a single mom, I’m grateful and blessed for this opportunity.  After all the formalities, my first trip was to the hardware store to get “outfitted” for reno this afternoon with protective goggles, face masks, and heavy-duty gloves. The EPA covers the basics of what’s needed in protective gear in their “Good Work Practices During Remodeling” — definitely a must-read before starting any home reno project.

Children need special protection from the pollutants lurking in old homes because pound for pound of body weight, they take in more air, consume for food and drink more water, according to the Alliance for Healthy Homes, an essential resource for parents thinking about remodelling. Kids also tend to play close to the ground, where toxins such as lead often settle.  Frequent hand-to-mouth activity also places children at greater risk than adults.

In short, kids should not come in contact with any remodelling or construction work area.  Despite their curiosity, they need a safe space until both the work is done and completely cleaned up, whether that means living with family or friends temporarily, or sealing away the work area according to EPA standards.  Keeping kids completely off the property is the family rule for the Healthy Home Project.

With this house, the asbestos was thankfully removed several weeks ago when the boiler leaked and had to be replaced. I got the certification papers at the closing showing that the house is now asbestos-free.  When choosing an abatement contractor, the company must be licensed and have a good reputation…to avoid surprises. I asked for certification of their work on company letterhead documenting what was done.

This afternoon I took down drop ceilings in four rooms.  Two of the rooms had two ceilings each…one over another. It wouldn’t have happened without assistance from a young man who works at the local hardware store and was an amazing help!

Recapping Day One…have in place a safe family living arrangement during renovation, keeping children away from the work area, get proper protection for the job at hand, and accept help when needed!