Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Porcelain tiles for our modern country home

What is your ideal kitchen floor? Hardwood, bamboo, linoleum, marble, stone, ceramic/porcelain tiles, cork….? The list is almost endless and we considered all types of flooring before settling on porcelain tiles.   We weighed the advantages and disadvantages of them all, agonizing over each floor type for months. We considered their cost, maintenance, environment/health impact, look and feel. 

In the end we settled on porcelain tiles. Tiles are great. They are 0-VOC, require no maintenance or  no toxic sealers, are great for wet areas, easy to clean, very affordable and you can get them in almost any colour/style you want.  The only disadvantage that I feel they have is that they are cold to the touch. We did consider electric floor heating, but we are trying to reduce our energy usage and not increase it, so we abandoned the idea quickly. As I like walking around barefoot I might have to ask for some slippers from Santa :) Hope Misha is reading this.

Once decided on porcelain tiles, the search began. We searched for the old fashioned, stone looking tiles, but they all seemed too fake for us. We wanted the low-maintenance of porcelain tile and the look of slate tile in a modern country home. Do they exist? We weren't sure. After bringing home and trying out 5 different sample tiles from big box stores, we almost gave up on finding a tile that actually looks like real stone.

Then we came across the ONE at Classic Ceramic Tile and Marble Inc. When we walked in, we noticed the large slate/stone looking tiles with a sign underneath that said NEW ARRIVALS. It was love at first sight! We immediately knew this was it. They looked just like stone tiles. I must admit we weren’t that happy with the price, as we found them a bit expensive but given that the tiles will cover half of our living space, we splurged. No regrets!


Choosing our tiles

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Low-VOC Glue Mishap

Little Red Riding Hood

It is incredible how many toxic chemicals there are in building products and how difficult it is to stay on the path of healthy and sustainable renovation. It is easy to be tempted by quick, convenient, conventional materials but the result would be a toxic wolf once we got to Grandma’s house.  It is even more difficult when contractors are ignorant of the composition of the materials they use, unfamiliar with green alternatives and impatient. 

We decided to use  ¼” cement board over the sub floor to get a flat surface for the tiles and minimize the height difference with the hard wood floor in the living room and hallway. I asked our contractor what glue he usually used and asked for the VOC content.  He was uncertain as to the content but gave me the name of it, PL Premium, and said that he read in a flyer that it was non-toxic. We were pressed for time and I needed to make a call and decided to let him go ahead without fully researching the product or alternatives.  In the meantime, Mia had been doing her own research and came up with a product that she felt was the best alternative for us. 

Well, when I told Mia that the contractor had already used his own product,  the lavender wand came out with a vengeance.  Although the cement board was already in, I felt compelled to determine how badly I had screwed up. 

Mia’s product Lepage PL Premium Fast Grab was appropriate for the job and it was their lowest VOC glue.  Ooops!  They claim it is "virtually VOC-free" at 2% VOC by weight or 22g/l.  However, the VOC content of the PL Premium, also made by Lepage, was 44g/l.  
According to LEED's Low Emitting Materials data, anything under 50 g/l for sub floor adhesives is considered low VOC.  I got lucky and was able to plead that the product we used was still considered low-VOC. Here is the link to the relevant page: http://www.leeduser.com/credit/NC-v2.2/EQc4.1

And the moral of the story; stay on the path and no shortcuts or you may end up with a toxic wolf in your kitchen. 

Cement board is ready for the tiles