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.

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Another Dip Into The Mailbag

Another Dip Into The Mailbag



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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.

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Countertop Options

Countertop Options



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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.

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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.

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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.

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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, andy@degreeofgreen.com. 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.


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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!

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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 green.realtor, green.realtor.

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.

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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.  

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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, veridian@countyfarm.com it’s a Veridian with E, veridian@countyfarm.com 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 andy@degreeofgreen.com, 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.

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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.

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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 andy@degreeofgreen.com, 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!

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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.

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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 andy@degreeofgreen.com 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, andy@degreeofgreen.com. 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 andy@degreeofgreen.com. 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.

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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. 

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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 degreeofgreen.com. 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.

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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!!

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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, www.thegreendesigncenter.com. 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.

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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!  

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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, degreeofgreen.com. 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 degreeofgreen.com/aircheck, 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 degreeofgreen.com/aircheck 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 degreeofgreen.com, 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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.  

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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 andy@degreeofgreen.com, 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.

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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.


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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 direct.com 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.


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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.  

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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.


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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.  

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 


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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!

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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.


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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!


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NTE Podcast: Taking a Pulse of the Healthy Building Industry

Jay and I were talking earlier this week about some trends in the healthy building industry, and it occurred to us that we should immediately stop talking and jump on the microphones to continue the discussion.  I’ll admit, I did talk about one or two scary trends that we’re facing (insert spray foam insulation here), but i promise that 90% of the show is positive! 

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NTE Podcast: Project Planning to Avoid Frustration

Its a common theme with many of our episodes.  Jay and I will always remind you to prepare your surfaces, prepare the area, manage your expectations!  Let me be honest, folks.  Chip and Joanna dont actually remodel a bathroom over a weekend!! It cant happen.  It takes planning and lots of it. I recorded an audio article for a magazine a few months back about this topic and I thought you all would enjoy it. After that, I’ll read a question I got from a customer I haven’t worked with since 2005.


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NTE Podcast: When Jay and I need inspiration or information

Neither Jay nor I can ever admit to “knowing it all”.  Far from it, in fact.  Both of us need to refer to others on a regular basis and of course, we rely on the internet to help.  Sometimes we need contact names for specific professionals.  Other times…we just need inspiration to get us through a rough day or a difficult project.  So when those times come…and they come often these days…here’s some of the sites we go to.

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NTE Podcast: Monthly Mailbag and New Home Project Updates

This is our monthly episode where Jay and I open up the mailbag and answer listener questions.  However, the first half of the show, Jay and I discuss some of the new home projects I’m currently working on and some of the more critical issues that our clients are facing right now.  Mold, moisture and more!  This is a really good episode and should be quite helpful to anyone who’s building now or is planning to build soon.

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NTE Podcast: Recent Formaldehyde Testing Results

There has been quite a bit of activity with formaldehyde testing in the last few weeks and I wanted to share some findings.  The average home can have 5,000-15,000 different chemicals in the air at any given time, so I suppose it seems like a drop in the bucket if we eliminated just one.  But formaldehyde is a key trigger for allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivity, so that’s our main goal here.  Its a short episode today but the last few minutes of the show you have to stick around for.

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NTE Podcast: A Substrate Soliloquy

I imagine you’ve heard an episode or two of this show, so you may know that we always emphasize surface preparation and testing as keys for a successful project, no matter the task.  The surface that a sealer, coating, floor covering, etc, is going on, is called a “substrate” and we will always insist that the substrate is in the proper condition before covering it up.  So what exact IS a substrate made of and how should you prepare it?  Thats what we tackle today.

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NTE Podcast: Adopting principals of Feng Shui to make your home a healthier space!

I’ll admit…Feng Shui has always been a little too ‘woo-woo’ for me.  And if I had to hear one more TV interior designer say ” oh the Feng Shui of this place is horrible…”, only to move a chair and say VOILA!…. Joining us today is Shivam Kohls, who is not only a Feng Shui practitioner, but she’s an author, life coach and an all around EXPERT on personal well-being.  I actually feel better myself just from listening to her! 

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NTE Podcast: Why Do We Keep Doing the Same Thing?

As the saying goes, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again, expecting different results.  By that definition, the home building industry should definitely be deemed insane.  So if we know that typical building methods are dangerous, why do we keep allowing it to happen? Probably because of the cost increases…either perceived or real. So lets have that conversation today.  

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NTE Podcast: Monthly Mailbag Bonanza

We are definitely in the midst of the construction busy season, so Jay and I are getting lots and lots of great questions coming at us.  We decided that one episode per month will be dedicated to answering questions that will help all of our listeners with current projects.  We’re calling it our Monthly Mailbag Bonanza!  Hope you enjoy!!


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NTE Podcast: LIVE at Zuza’s Way, Pt 2

Part 2 of our live event from Zuza’s Way in Thiensville Wisconsin.  This episode is the Q&A portion of our event.  Several great questions from our audience that led into some great conversation with Dagmara Beine PA-C, who does a wonderful job helping us all understand how the home is a critical factor when trying to heal the body.  


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NTE Podcast: LIVE at Zuza’s Way, Pt 1

Oh boy this was a fun event!! So fun, that we had to break up the recording into two parts for you.  Part 1 here is an introduction to Dagmara Beine and her practice, Zuza’s Way, in Thiensville WI.  Dagmara invited us to come record our show in front of a live audience so we could interact and answer questions.  This episode, we’ll hear all about Dagmara’s story and why her approach to medicine fits perfectly within the NTE framework of Mind, Body, Home.  

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NTE Podcast: Permission to Proceed, Good Time of the Year to Tackle Home Projects

Today’s episode is a fun mishmosh of topics related to household projects that are best done as the weather gets nicer.  We’ll virtually walk around your home and discuss areas that you should inspect and repair before winter sets in later this year.  

We also reiterate some of the contractor related questions and advice that earlier episodes dealt with.  Then finally, a frank discussion about project timing, expectations and what the customer needs to do to alleviate potential stressful situations.


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NTE Podcast: Careful What You Sign!

I do not talk about these issues to alarm you into hiring me or buying the materials I sell, but I know that sometimes it would seem that way.  Honestly, when things like this come up, I have no choice than to fire up the podcast machine and record the words that come out of my mouth without a script.   Some recent clients have alerted me about language that builders are using that basically allows them to use whatever material they wish, no matter the health consequences. 


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NTE Podcast: Vastu Design-The Art and Architecture of Healing Spaces

Jay and I speak with Michael Gordon, who is arguably one of the worlds foremost authorities on the subject of Vastu architecture.  From his website: The principles of Vastu science that have been used in designing India’s great and sacred temples can be applied to any building project. Michael has used these principles in designs from cottages to palaces, in schools and office buildings. The positive influence of the building geometry and layout is an excellent environment for a home or office.

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NTE Podcast: A Conversation with Holistic Nutritionist, Selina Rose

Continuing with our theme of healing, today I get the pleasure of speaking with Selina Rose about her life struggles and how those shaped her into the diet and nutrition expert she is.   She has developed a number of extremely worthwhile tools that you can access by signing up on her website.  Please check her out!!


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NTE Podcast: Let The Healing Begin

This episode is the first of a series of shows we’ll be doing specifically about the healing side of Non Toxic Environments. Today, Jay and I are speaking with Dr. Lisa Nagy of the Environmental Health Center of Martha’s Vineyard.  Dr. Nagy’s story is not only fascinating, but its incredibly encouraging. She has been through it all herself and is now working to heal the world, one patient at a time, as well as in her  numerous speaking engagements, written papers and TV/Radio interviews. 

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NTE Podcast: Interviewing My Hero, Debra Lynn Dadd

Today’s episode is a conversation I had recently with Debra Lynn Dadd.  Debra is inarguably the definitive voice in the arena of toxin-free consumer goods, and is someone I look up to and have a deep respect for.  I read her first book, Nontoxic & Natural, and it had profound effect on how I proceeded in my business.  Over the years, she has authored several more books on the subject, consulted with thousands of clients, as well as being a radio show host for a long stint.  All while continuing to build up her immense collection of technical knowledge, which she chronicles on her website.

Today, Debra will talk about new new endeavor, ZeroToxics.com  This is shaping up to be a site you’ll need to bookmark and refer to quite  often.

You can also check out her main site www.debralynndadd.com to learn about her work, find her product recommendations..even hire her to help with your situation.


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NTE Podcast: Building Way Beyond Green

If you’ve been on the fence about building a new home, this is a MUST LISTEN TO episode, folks.  Pete and Rus from Healthy Home Builders in NY, talk with us about their experiences as one of the true pioneers.  For them, building healthy isn’t a fad or a trend, its all they do, and they do it quite well.  They typically work on some really high-end projects, but the processes they’ve developed are transferable to any project.  This show is full of excellent information, so pass it along to your friends!

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NTE Podcast: March Mailbag Madness

Jay and I love all the mail we get from our listeners and clients.  So many great questions come our way, that its hard to pick just a few to talk about.  This week we tackle some questions that seem to be frequently asked.  Please excuse the audio, as Jay was coming to us from a remote location this week.  But his words come through crystal clear and compelling as they always do!

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NTE Podcast: Starting a Healthy Home Related Business

Before I started GDC almost 30 years ago, I enlisted the help of a group called SCORE.  As a resource partner of the Small Business Administration, SCORE has helped more than 11M entrepreneurs through mentoring, workshops and educational resources since 1964.

So the episode today is the presentation that I made at their monthly chapter meeting.  I hope that if you’re listening and you have an idea about starting a business, you reach out to SCORE for some help.  It’s free, but absolutely invaluable.

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NTE Podcast: Casual Conversation With a Real Healthy Home Builder

We interviewed Jen Stout from JS2 Partners a while back, just when they got started with their new healthy home construction company.  Jay and I thought it would be great idea to get an update from them and learn about their progress and how fast things are taking off for them.  Its a casual conversation between friends, but plenty of good information that you can use when you decide to pursue a healthy home build for you and your family.  

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NTE Podcast: Healthy Home ‘Hacks’

Have you ever used one of our AFM Safecoat products in an unusual application and it worked perfectly?  Or maybe someone told you about a strange way to do something around the house that you never would have thought of yourself.  We call these little educational nuggets a hack.  Just as there are life ‘hacks’ to make you more productive, there are also product hacks, to help you get things done around the home. Today we’ll talk about some of these hacks and hopefully you’ll try them out yourself!


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NTE Podcast: A Little Professional Advice

As a professional myself that deals with home health and wellness, I’m always excited to hear from other professionals about how they can learn more and help their clients.  Today, Jay and I take a call from an IAQ tester who wants to know about taking his business to the next level so that he can help his clients with the IAQ problems he has found.  Finding the problem is only half the battle.  Now what?  We’ve got some answers for all professionals about what the next steps should be.

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NTE Podcast: A Discussion about the Holistic Mom’s Network

I speak at many events throughout the year and this one is definitely going to be a favorite for me.  Today, Im interviewing Jen Norris, who is the Co-Leader of the Holistic Mom’s Network, Milwaukee Chapter.  The HMN has around 100 chapters around the US and advocates for healthy living, holistic parenting and a vibrant community.  If you are in the Milwaukee area, Im speaking at their meeting on February 19th, 2019.  See the show notes for more information.


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NTE Podcast: Oh Boy its COLD Outside

I did an episode of NTE where I listed off some of the more common materials used for insulation.  Since then, Ive received many emails about brands, etc.  So I thought since its currently -25F outside my office right now, this would be a proper time to dig a little deeper into insulation.  I’ve also been doing a lot of investigative research for clients lately, and figured you’d enjoy learning all about how the manufacturers are so very eager to help me.  HA! Just kidding. They avoid me like the plague.

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NTE Podcast: Round and Round We Go

A client asked me a while back, “what does a day for you really consist of?”  Lots of phone calls, emails and face to face customers, for sure.  But most of my day involves consulting conversations, then tons of research to back up my recommendations.  I also get to discuss my recommendations with the contractors and design team for the project, and here is where it gets…frustrating.  

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