Category Archives: VOCs

The road gets bumpy again

Today we sent a letter to our Design Consultant Р5 pages of issues that we have with the preliminary tender documents that are not being addressed by the builder.  There were 17 issues to be addressed, some of these are:

  • Site access issues
  • Tree root protection
  • The oven to be provided appears obsolete
  • Low VOC paint and solvent
  • In complete pricing and responses

Site access I’ve already vented about ūüôā
We have been quoted costs for tree root protection plus an “M” class slab. ¬†A “M” class slab is used for disturbed sites (knock downs and re-builds) like ours, and is already pretty thick. ¬†The tree root protection is almost another $4,000 dollars, so we asked what trees were causing the problem. ¬†We currently have a huge piece of concrete (driveway all they way along and garage) on our property, which has been there for 10 years plus and has not been adversely affected by trees. ¬†A lot of the trees need to come out for the construction, so we questioned with our Design Consultant which trees were triggering the need for root protection and advised that we would pull out every single tree on our property if we had to. ¬†We also pointed out that the site plan was wrong – neighbours trees were drawn on our property, our trees drawn on the neighbour’s property, and some trees on our property not shown at all. ¬†The builder’s response was that it didn’t matter if we pulled out any trees the roots would continue to cause problems. ¬†No comment on the incorrect site plan. ¬†We then advised our design consultant that we would be seeking our own independent assessment on the tree root protection. ¬†The builder responded by saying they needed to know which trees we would be removing before they could do a ¬†reassessment. ¬†Based on their first reply it doesn’t matter which trees we remove, and we have already provided that information – ??! ¬†Plus, there’s no point doing a reassessment unless they are prepared to come back on site and correct the site plan. ¬†There are even shrubs that have been identified as trees!


We purchased a package which included a Westinghouse 90cm oven (or similar).  The oven the builder has specified is an Emelia AL965EI which appears to be an obsolete model.  It is not listed on the manufacturer’s website so there are no specifications available and I cannot find it anywhere to buy.  It was released in early 2008 and the manufacturer’s current model is DI965MVI2 / DI965EI2.  The builder responded by sending me a picture of it.  This does not prove it is a current model and unless it can be proven that the AL965EI is a currently available model that could be purchased by us directly, it is not an acceptable equivalent to the Westinghouse DSP963S in the package that we purchased.


We requested that all paint and sealants and adhesives used on the floorboards and decking boards be low VOC (low Volatile Organic Compounds).  This is because our son already has a number of known chemical sensitiviites and intolerances and we do not want to risk building a house that makes him sick.  The builder responded that they would paint the internal walls with Wattyl ID as they have a contract with Wattyl.  Wattyl ID (if used with Eco tint Рno mention of this) is low VOC so is acceptable to us.  But we require all internal surfaces, not just the walls, and all external surfaces (no mention of these either) to be low VOC.  In response to the boards, the reply we got was that the boards were not painted ??!  In addition to their half-baked response, they also quoted an additional cost of $800 to use the Wattyl ID on the walls.  This is absolutely ridiculous since the retail price of Wattyl ID is no different than their other internal paint products.  If the builder has a contract with Wattyl their discounted price should also not have such a price difference.   There are no special tools or processes required to use it, it is just like normal paint.  And there is a benefit to the builder Рthey have less OH&S issues for the painters and other workers on site with this paint.


Our other big concern is the quality of the builder’s response. ¬†In the revised pricing document – that was sent to us to “approve” – 2 of the costs weren’t even included (one said TBA, the other was blank). ¬†Several of our amendments were not addressed or only partial addressed. ¬†Some of them were written in such a way that it was completely baffling as to what they were saying. ¬† ¬†Neither hubby or myself would accept this kind of sloppy documentation and response from a supplier in our professional capacities, so why would we accept it in relation to our most important and valuable asset. ¬†As a Project Manager myself, I would also never send something of this standard to a client. ¬†I realise we have only paid a relatively small sum of money to date and the builder doesn’t want to spend too much before they have a contract signed; however there is a certain amount of quality and professionalism that needs to be demonstrated by the builder in order for us to trust them with our new home.


Our Design Consultant has responded that he will discuss our issues with the builder next week, so lets hope the response is positive.  We have however been discussing our other options if this falls through.  And hubby is continuing to move our front garden to the back yard as I write.




Cork Tiles

Ever wondered what happens to those wine corks that groups collect for fundraising? Well apparently they are used to make cork tiles, such as those made by Comcork. ¬†We have given up on the idea of carpet for the upstairs attic. ¬†This area is likely to be a TV room initially and the only carpets we can “safely” use for Oscar will not be very soft, so not great for lounging around on the floor. ¬†Hubby came up with the great idea of Cork tiles. ¬†They tick all the boxes:

  • Low VOC and Low Toxicity (depending on the manufacturing process) – Comcork look OK.
  • It has good insulating properties
  • It’s fire retardant
  • It’s a good sound barrier, so great for 2nd stories
  • It’s hypo allergenic
  • It’s soft and warm
  • It bounces back after impact
  • It’s impermeable to gases and liquids, so doesn’t rot

Building for Asthma and Chemical Sensitivities

Welcome to our new blog site and an our first post on this site.

Our soil tests have been completed and we should have our preliminary tender in about 2 weeks. ¬†In the meantime I have been researching building materials that are better for people with asthma and chemical sensitivities. ¬†Oscar has asthma, ¬†intolerances to food chemicals and his skin is sensitive to chemicals in moisturisers, washes, sunscreens, etc. ¬† The last thing we want is to build a new house that makes him sick or break out in eczema. ¬†The things I’m targeting are paint, coatings for the floor boards and decking and carpets.

The main problem with paints and timber treatments is the VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) which can be released from products such as paint for up to 10 years. ¬†The health effects of VOCs include (from Australian Government)¬†eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system. ¬† Some VOCs can cause cancer in animals; some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans. ¬†Build-ups of VOCs in indoor environments have been associated with ‘sick building syndrome’.

Carpets are a problem for asthmatics.  At the moment we have all floor boards.  In the new house the ground floor will have floor boards throughout, but we thought that would be a bit noisy for the attic flooring.  But can we find a suitable carpet?  The recommendation from the Asthma Foundation if you must have carpet  is short loop pile with synthetic fibres.

One really useful site that I found to help with this is research is  Sensitive Choice.

The Sensitive Choice blue butterfly symbol is given to products and services that support asthma and allergy care. Products that carry the blue butterfly may be better choices for people with asthma and allergies.

Another useful resource was this Choice article on choosing carpets.

The products that we have identified to investigate using are:

Taubmans Easycoat with Microban 

  • Microban¬ģ (antibacterial) protection ‚Äď lasts the life of the paint
  • Low odour
  • Low VOC formulation

Dunlop ComfortChoice underlay

  • Green Label accredited for indoor air quality
  • Ultra-Fresh treated to reduce mould, mildew and dust mites
Karndean Flotex Carpets (Sensitive Choice)
  • Zero VOCs
Natural carpets such as coir, sisal, seagrass and jute.