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:

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


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