February 7, 2010

Tile Considerations for Healthy Indoor Air Quality

Remnant stone installed as shower bench in Master Bath

Thinset, mastic, grout, sealers, and even the tile itself can contain harmful chemicals that you want to avoid in your healthy home.

While we have worked very hard to ensure only the safest products are used in THE CONCORD GREEN HOME, it only takes one wrong material to disrupt the best-laid healthy house plans.

And now, a close call story:

We noticed a strong, noxious odor after the thicker stone thresholds, jambs and shower seat were set in the Master and Hall Baths. All tile work was halted until we determined the source. It may have been a bonding additive used by the tile installer to strengthen the thinset for those heavier stone pieces.

Another view of Master Shower, with simple subway field tile, hex floor tile and the remnant stone door jamb that caused some of the fuss.

Patrick Hughes, our site supervisor, sealed off the area, opened windows and ran a space heater to “bake off” the chemical smell. This can sometimes work, as long as the heat is not stimulating off-gassing from other nearby cured materials. Hopefully, disaster averted.

This experience underscores the need to research the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for each product, and then diligently ensure that every single member of the team is on board.

Meanwhile, here are the tiling products we selected:

Thinset – Latricrete 317 Avoid using additives. (C-Cure 911 and Bostik D-5 are also worth considering)

Grout – homemade grout recipe, courtesy of Care2, with Dye Grout non-toxic pigments from the UK for color * UPDATE - we could not get the pigments to properly color the grout, and schedule was slipping, so we switched to locally-produced Hydroment Ceramic Tile Grout (CTG) recommended in Prescriptions for a Healthy House. It is zero-VOC, and has only a "pinch" of latex - 2 oz. per 25 lbs. We will not use the optional additives.

Tile Sealer – AFM Safecoat Grout Sealer (test first, but can be used on many types of tile and stone, in addition to its primary use as a grout sealer)

Grout Sealer - – AFM Safecoat Grout Sealer

A special thanks to the many people who provided invaluable guidance during the spec process:

Last, but never least, thanks to our tireless contractor Matt Ayers, of Aedi Construction, who made several rush trips over a weekend to create thinset samples for us to double check. Thank you to Matt's tile subs as well, for helping us meet this challenge.

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