Monthly Archives: June 2013

Good free help is hard to get!

Or, it was for a while at least. There were a couple of weeks there where the trailer was only half demolished, and (sorry, neighbors!) it looked a heck of a lot worse than it did when it was in one piece.

As it turned out, the first guys we gave the job to came to us and told us that they couldn’t finish it. But they brought another man with them who said that he would be happy to finish the job…which was fine with us, as long as somebody took care of it before we wanted to break ground! Without the trailer gone we wouldn’t be able to get construction vehicles onto the land without running over lilac bushes, which I would REALLY like to avoid! Lilacs are one of our favorites 🙂

So today a new group of people were out there working away, and now the trailer looks like this:

Trailer Take-Down

Wonderful progress!

Almost there now! (Please don’t let that jinx us…)

And since it’s been a couple days of lovely (not too hot) sunshine, Baby has been out there enjoying it. That’s his grandfather in the picture.

Grandad and baby

Hey, a hat!

Grandad and baby II

It looks better on me, right?

Formaldehyde-Free Flooring (and Roofing and Walling) Part I

This is OSB/Chipboard. Picture stolen from Wikipedia.

This is OSB/Chipboard. Picture from Wikipedia.

This is MDF. Picture from Wikipedia.

This is MDF. Picture from Wikipedia.

As you know if you’ve been following the blog, we’re committed to building a healthy house. Guess what gas makes up most indoor air pollution? (Hint: it’s right in the title of the post…) Yup, it’s formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a component of glues used in making most types of engineered wood products: plywood, OSB (aka chipboard), MDF, particleboard, etc. Formaldehyde is used because it’s cheap and strong. Unfortunately, it’s also toxic in large quantities and can cause cancer in small quantities. More importantly, various types of engineered wood can outgas formaldehyde for years and years after they’re made.

Also unfortunately, engineered wood is everywhere! Major sources of formaldehyde indoors are:

  1. Furniture. Pretty much all furniture nowadays uses particleboard, and particleboard leaches formaldehyde. Of course, Megan and I haven’t gotten around to furnishing our house yet, but when we do we’re going to try and use as much solid-wood furniture as possible. Some of it we’re going to make ourselves, some of it will be re-vamped antiques and some of it we’ll buy new. Believe it or not, there are a couple of companies out there that make ready-to-assemble furniture out of solid wood, and they’re not even that much more expensive than the particleboard stuff.
  2. This is a composite wood I-beam. Picture from this website.

    This is a composite wood I-beam. Picture from this website.

    Walls. Specifically, the sheathing, which is the layer around the outside of the house to which the siding is attached. Fortunately we’re building with ICFs, which means we’re not using sheathing, so this is not a problem! (By the way: the expanded polystyrene — EPS — used to make ICFs also outgasses. But it outgasses pentane, which is nowhere near as toxic as formaldehyde and has no long-term health effects.)

  3. Floor Joists. Traditionally, floor joists were just great long boards of untreated timber that came straight from the lumber mill and didn’t outgas anything. Nowadays, wooden I-beams have become very popular. Their advantage is that they can bridge larger spans without needing extra support (such as our wide-open dining room/living room area). The disadvantage is that they use engineered wood, which means formaldehyde-based glue.
  4. Sub-floor. In older houses (such as the one we’re living in now), these were just regular untreated boards nailed down over the floor joists. Nowadays, plywood is used because it’s cheaper, flatter and changes less due to swelling, drying and warping. Plywood releases formaldehyde.

    Workers putting down roof sheathing. Tarpaper and shingles go over this. Picture from this website.

    Workers putting down roof sheathing. Picture from this website.

  5. Hardwood Floor. We want to have hardwood floors throughout most of our house. The traditional way to do this is to nail down regular hardwood boards and then finish them with some kind of sealant. But you can also get engineered floor, which has the advantages of being less work to install, easier to soundproof and doesn’t have to be sealed (most sealants outgas as they cure), which are all important things for us. The drawback? Most engineered floors use plywood bases.
  6. Roof. Roof sheathing, which is the outer layer of the roof to which you attach the shingles, is usually some kind of engineered wood.

So what are we doing to deal with these sources of formaldehyde? Several things! But I’m leaving that for another post, because this one is getting long.

And now, we interrupt our broadcast to bring you pictures of a beautiful baby:

"This shovel doesn't contain formaldehyde, does it?" "No son, it probably contains BPA instead..."

“This shovel doesn’t contain formaldehyde, does it, Dad?” “No son, it probably contains BPA instead…”

Guess what Baby’s got his hands on…

Drum-roll please…………………………………………………………


That's right!

That’s right!

In other (brief) news, the people who are in the process of tearing the trailer down have suspiciously disappeared since last week. Granted, it was raining for about half of the days they’ve been missing, but the rest of the days have been sunny and not deathly hot or anything…where are you, fellas?? That half a trailer is calling your name!


How to Get a Trailer Taken Down for Free and Other News…

So if you recall from our earlier posts, this thing is sitting on our land, and needs to go:

Sorry that the photo is a little blurry.

Sorry that the photo is a little blurry.

Now, it’s not the prettiest (inside or out), but the walls and roof are sound, and it’s a “trailer”, right? So my first thought was that maybe someone could use it to live in and I put up an ad on Craigslist offering it for free to anyone who can get it out of there. And I got some interest. A few people came out to look at it. Unfortunately, transporting a mobile home is pretty expensive unless you already own the equipment: thousands of dollars, depending on mileage. So ultimately, that got no takers.

At the same time, I got several offers from people who wanted to pull it down for scrap. So after giving it a week or so, I called up the first person who e-mailed me about that… they also promised to clean up and not leave a mess, which was the main reason I picked them. They got to work pretty soon. These pictures are from day 2:

Trailer Tear-Down Day 2


We’ve had some heavy thunderstorms for the past few days, so the work has been on hold, but the trailer should be torn down with plenty of time to spare.

By the way, to get this thing torn down by a professional demolition crew is around $3,000 – $3,500, and you need to get a demolition permit. I know because I asked one of the guys who was giving me a quote for excavation and septic. So I think everyone got a pretty good deal.

In Other News:

  • The building permit application was submitted on Friday, May 24.
  • I have another ICF block to consider, which is Fox Blocks, mostly because of their “Fox Buck”, which is a neat and elegant way to make door and window bucks. (When I first heard the term “window buck”, it sounded vaguely unstable and dangerous. Like a bronco or something. But actually, it’s the frame that forms the window opening to which you attach the actual window when you install it. And ideally, there is no danger involved.) Anyway, bucks are kind of a weak point in the ICF construction process, at least so far, though a few companies are coming up with better ways to do them. I’ll be writing in more detail on the subject at some point.