Monday, 27 August 2012

O Healthy Drywall, Where Art Thou?

Finding healthy, environmentally friendly renovation products is like walking through a minefield. Just when you think you have the right thing, boom, there are either toxic chemicals in it, it is not available in North-America, or it is way too expensive.  Mia did a lot of research on different products to replace traditional drywall; it was my job to do the leg work and find out if any of these products were suitable and available for our project. 

Sadly, there are very limited products available as alternatives to commonly used drywall.  Mia wanted to explore the natural clay/lime plaster option but our 1950’s era home was built using a  drywall and plaster combination; there was no lath.  We would have had to build lath then find a plaster master to do it.  Time and expense excluded this choice. 

We explored two new products, Eco-Rock and Greeneboard, both made from post-industrial waste materials and both claiming to be naturally fire, mould and pest resistant.  They both claim their boards are non-toxic and accepted in landfills; they say they can be ground up and put into your garden.  Eco-Roc seems to have undergone more testing and accreditation then Greeneboard but we had concerns about the exact ingredients of these products, the general lack of information on them and their uses and conflicting reviews on the products.

Another great product that Mia found was clay board. Clay, a natural product, is made into sheets and used as an alternative to drywall. The product is made by a company in Britain but we were not able to find a distributor in North-America.

Giving up on finding alternatives, we began researching the various drywalls available on the market. A landmine to avoid is drywall made in China.  Many homes in Florida had to have their drywall removed because of the high sulphur content in it making people sick.  There are concerns that some of that drywall is still in circulation.  The other big landmine to avoid is drywall treated with chemicals to make it mould, moisture, fire and pest resistant.  Also, there is a hazard with the drywall compound when the silica dust becomes airborne upon sanding and can damage the lungs.  

Finally, desperate for finding a product and on the recommendation of a local eco-building supplier, we looked into drywalls made in Canada.  We ended up choosing CertainTeed Easi-Lite™ Lightweight Gypsum Board made in Quebec and carried by Rona.  It is Greenguard Certified, as is their Dust Away® Renovation Mud™ and easily accessible. The Greenguard Environmental Institute certifies products for low volatile organic compounds. It helped us navigate the drywall labyrinth and provided us with a guarantee that we were getting the healthiest product that is on the market.

Our drywall choice

We wish there were more alternatives available to traditional drywall but the construction industry has a long way to go in this field. We settled for the drywall that we felt was the best choice for us given our  time constraint but we would like to explore the traditional clay/lime plaster in our next project. We will keep you posted.

Drywall is going up

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