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2009 June » Our Sustainable Home
Archive for: June, 2009

Madawaska Doors arrive early!

June 25th, 2009

After searching for weeks for alternatives (none of which we liked) we decided to bite the bullet and get the fine folks at Madawaska Doors to build us a set of front doors. (Since sidelights are about as expensive as doors, we decided just to go with two doors.)

Unfortunately, by the time we ordered, the doors weren’t due to be finished until the early July but they knew we had some time pressure and were able to deliver them well ahead of schedule.

We’re going to need to seal them as soon as possible to avoid them coming into contact with the drywall dust, however; It’s apparently very bad for the door.

I should pass on a quick tip here as well for others on a restricted budget: Madawaska Doors has a clearance center in Schomberg where one can buy doors that are either slightly damaged or for some other reason returned by their former owners. They don’t come with any sort of warranty but are at least half price! We picked up a dozen knotty pine interior doors there. We’re going with a bit of a rustic look for the interior finishes so the knotty pine should fit right in.

The clearance center was probably also a contributing factor in our decision to have them make the doors for us. (After seeing HUNDREDS of beautiful wood doors, but none quite right to be our front door, it was hard to think of our front door being steel or *gasp* vinyl.)

We’re VERY happy with our purchases both at the clearance center and the front doors they made just for us!

At the moment, we’re looking at using raw Linseed Oil for the kitchen countertops, baseboards and doors, but will probably need something else (more weather resistant) for the exterior door.

Posted by Colin
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Strike!

June 22nd, 2009

Well, this isn’t good.

Our inspector is amongst those who have gone on strike today. Before that happened he indicated a few areas that need to be changed in order for us to proceed with drywalling:

  1. The loft area needs the standard 45 minute fire rating between it and the neighbour’s house. (But that’s why we’re using 5/8″ drywall — the standard way in which a 45 minute fire rating is achieved.)
  2. The loft area is using spray foam insulation and he want to see it vented. (But it is commonly understood that 2lb, closed cell spray foam is its own vapour barrier and therefore doesn’t need venting.)
  3. Our HRV equipped bathrooms need a separate fan system. (But the HRV is a centralized fan system.)

So these are all things it would be great to talk about in case they were just misunderstandings. (I’m going to assume/hope they weren’t flagged to front-load the backlog of construction projects in the city before a probable strike.)

There may be ways around these (e.g., engineers reports) but I’m not sure. I’ll know more when our builder gets back from Cuba (he thought he could leave because drywalling was going to be starting for 3 weeks).

Posted by Colin
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Plants for better indoor air quality

June 21st, 2009

I just saw a very short but fascinating TED Talk by Kamal Meattle called How To Grow Fresh Air.

It describes the 3 plants you need to take with you when living in a sealed bottle (or any other environment where you’d like to improve the air quality) and what they do:

The Living Room Plant
Areca Palm (Chrysolidocarpus Lutescens)

  • Converts Carbon Dioxide to Oxygen
  • You need 4 shoulder height plants per person.
  • The leaves should be cleaned once per week
  • It should be taken outdoors every 3-4 months.

The Bedroom Plant
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevierio Trifasciata)

  • 6-8 Waist High plants per person.
  • Converts co2 to o2 at night

The Specialist Plant
Money Plant (Epipremnum Aureum)

  • Removes formaldehydes and other toxins

I’ll need to dig a little more into this but it looks very interesting.

Posted by Colin
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Much Ado About Windows

June 19th, 2009

Generally, I’m not someone who takes any satisfaction from the acquisition of things (a car, new stereo, TV, etc. — they’re mostly just functional, to me).  The arrival of these windows, however, I find deeply satisfying. I feel really good about our windows.

Some background explanation is probably required here.

Rewind about 2 months and you’ll find us talking to the builder about ordering the windows. As with each new product being introduced to the house there were decisions to be made about colour, style, features, etc.  Because of budget restrictions Greg had (at our request) changed from fiberglass to vinyl windows, and had sourced some good quality vinyl windows.

There are areas where reasonable arguments could be made that vinyl is actually the best product for a particular purpose, despite the ecologically unfriendly consequences of manufacturing.

I’m sure you can do your own in depth research so just to hit the highlights: windows seem like an unwise area to be using vinyl because:

  • Seasonal expansion and contraction of the vinyl frame reduces the efficiency of the seals.
  • Vinyl is not a strong material. There are some amazing efficiencies to be gained by using a triple glazed pane, but over time, vinyl will struggle to support even a moderately sized triple-glaze pane.
  • Vinyl has a relatively short warranty period which makes it pretty safe to say, we’d be going through the expense of replacing all our windows much sooner than we’d like.
  • If it must be used, Vinyl is better as an outdoor material because of off-gassing issues. Most of the off-gassing is in the first month or so, but the idea that I’d, say, only be poisoning my 1 year old ‘a little’ isn’t in the least bit reassuring.

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you felt something wasn’t quite right, that’s exactly how we were feeling. Despite the pressure to get the window order in to keep the house build on schedule (which is critically important — construction schedules are the slippiest slopes you’ll come across) we started pushing for more time to do some last minute research.

The research felt somewhat pointless at first because we knew the reality was our project was already over budget. The philosophy used for of every other major component of the house was to select the highest quality product, as long as it paid back in time. Fiberglass windows are exactly such a product… but still have to be paid for in the present.

But then the alternative was to settle for vinyl and that seemed… unsettling.

We went back and reviewed who were the big/established companies in Fiberglass Windows, quality of the products they make, what sort of warranties they offered, etc.

One of our calls found us talking with the very amiable and excellently accented Steven Hall at Fibertec. He had reviewed the window plan I had sent over and prepared a quote for us that was, as we expected, astronomically out of our budget.

He then said something quite interesting: “I know you’re under a time constraint and if this window plan can’t change then there’s not much more I can do for you. But if you’re able spend some time working on this with me, I think we can do much better.”

This is already a long post so I’ll summarize by saying: there was about a week long process of discussion, revision, evaluation, hand-wringing, re-revision, more hand wringing and ultimately the stunning realization that together we had developed a window plan for the house that was:

  • far more sensible than our original design
  • would create a home that was far more comfortable to live in
  • maintained our home’s somewhat stringent ventilation plan (for cooling the house without AC)
  • and was now only “significantly more than we had planned to spend”

But we *could* do it! We could actually get these unbelievable triple-glazed, krypton filled fiberglass windows for our home! We wouldn’t have to poison the planet or ourselves (even if only ‘a little’) and our house would be a much more comfortable place to nestle down in, while the windows ever-so-gradually returned their purchase price (and more) to our pockets.

Fibertec Fiberglass Windows installed in the back windows.

From the moment we committed to buying the windows we felt great about the change. And now seeing them in place I have no doubt it was the right way to go.

Posted by Colin
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Weblog Bankruptcy

June 18th, 2009

This blog has become woefully out of date as I desperately try to keep our house build on schedule (and help out with our young son, and try to hold down a job, and maybe, just maybe: sleep). Interesting and/or exciting new things are happening all the time that aren’t getting discussed here because I’ve been trying to find the time to fill in the older entries first.

That effort has been underway for over almost two months (!) and its simply not happening. So…

By this post, I hereby declare weblog bankruptcy. I will resume current coverage of the build starting today. I’ll be covering the past aspects of the build through discussion of current events.

Posted by Colin
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