Search This Blog

February 21, 2013

Monarch Works with Sage to Decontaminate a Deer Park Home

Recently, Monarch Kitchen & Bath Centre president Neil Samson was asked to consult on a decontamination project in the Toronto neighbourhood of Deer Park. 

The project was run by Sage, a Toronto-based studio that specializes in helping homeowners and small businesses make informed and practical choices about incorporating sustainable architecture, interiors, products and services. They write about it on their site ( and have given us permission to share their blog post here:

Mommy it’s raining in my bedroom!
She awoke to her daughter’s soft voice “Mummy, it’s raining in my bedroom.” 

In fact it wasn’t rain, but an overflowing toilet from the third floor that had run all night and not only ‘rained’ into the little girl’s second floor bedroom, but all the way down to the first floor kitchen and even into the basement below.

This beautiful semi-detached 3-br home in the Deer Park neighbourhood had just recently been renovated, but the disaster recovery crew that came to ‘clean up’ after the leak, actually made things worse. In the end, the house had to be gutted in order to ensure there was no contamination. The family’s goal was to put the house back together again, but they also wanted to ensure that their home was as healthy as possible.

We started with the kitchen, a hub of this family’s daily activity. Neil Samson of Monarch Kitchen’s was brought in by the interior designer Cameron MacNeil. It was a pleasure working with both of these gentlemen on the project. 

Neil was immediately sensitive to the need to reduce the toxic load on the house and showed the client their line of NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde) cabinets. Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, yet it is still commonly used in building materials and press-wood products, such as kitchen cabinets. Formaldehyde can easily off gas into your home and is a major cause of poor indoor air quality. NAUF cabinets use phenol resins rather than urea resins, and therefore emit less formaldehyde. The doors and boxes were factory painted and sealed with low-VOC paints and sealants and installed with water based adhesives…oh and they’re beautiful and you’d never know they were “green” – just healthier!!

Cameron suggested using Caesarstone for the kitchen counters. Caesarstone is versatile and durable composite counter made from quartz. It is a low-VOC product, meaning it doesn’t off gas toxic chemicals. However, this and other countertops are often installed using epoxies that contain the endocrine disruptor bisphenol-A, so we suggested trying some alternatives recommended by healthy building material guru Kevin Royce of Eco Building Resource. He recommended LePage’s Greenseries 400 water based subfloor and deck adhesive (ultra low VOC and Greenguard certified) for the installation and LePage’s ultra clear acrylic sealant for the joints. Although Caesarstone is very tight with almost no porosity, it can be sealed with Metacreme. All of these products are available on Kevin’s website and he ships throughout Canada and the US.

The client decided to open up the space between her kitchen and dining room, but in the process exposed some damaged and unfinished portions of the homes original hardwood floor. Luckily, the contractor made quick and brilliant work of fitting new floor boards to the existing and we recommended refinishing the floor with water based stains (from Saman) and sealants (from Vermont Natural Coatings). The client was hesitant to use water based products for the wood floor in the kitchen, but just recently she told me it’s one of the products she is most happy about…especially since the family, that had been living in rented accommodation for months since the flood, didn’t have to move out of the house for a few days to “air out” the normally toxic fumes from traditional hardwood sealing.

When we think of Indoor Environmental Quality we often overlook two very important factors: visual quality and acoustic quality. Here we have a picture of the ceiling in the refurbished kitchen. With the renovation, the client removed a frame surround that separated her kitchen from the stairway upstairs. Although this added a feeling of openness, our concern was that noise would now travel more easily from the social areas downstairs up to the daughter’s bedroom on the second floor. That’s why we recommended adding recycled blue-jean batting between the kitchen ceiling and the upstairs floor. At the same time, the client opted for LED lighting throughout the kitchen. The pot lights above provide ambient lighting, and 12-volt LED strip lights under the upper cabinets provide strong and clear task lighting and use very little electricity.
Although I understand wanting the feeling of soft, cushy, plushness underfoot, I’m not a huge fan of wall to wall carpeting, mostly because I’ve seen it removed. You’d be amazed at the accumulation of dust and dirt that lurks beneath even the most meticulously cleaned carpet. It does, however, provide warmth and comfort and slip resistance to stairs, which can be an important safety precaution, especially with kids or elderly people in the house. If you opt for carpeting, go for the most natural fabric you can afford (to avoid offgassing) and for pete’s sake – make sure the pad underneath isn’t more toxic than the carpet above and have it tacked down instead of glued down with toxic glues.

Mattresses get me all hot and bothered…mostly because they can be full of toxic flame retardants and petrochemicals. A natural latex mattress with an organic cotton cover is a hefty (and weighty!) upfront investment, but if you consider the amount of time you spend sleeping in full contact with a mattress, in my mind there’s no better alternative. Tony at Soma Mattresses is very knowledgeable about his product and helped these clients choose a mattress that will leave them sleeping healthily for many years to come.

How can we help you make your home healthier?