I received a letter from a reader asking where he could find non-toxic kitchen cabinetry in Toronto. The question’s a bit more complex than it sounds. What does “non-toxic” mean? It could mean (which I think it probably does), something that doesn’t off-gas harmful chemicals, known as VOCs or volatile organic compounds. But just because something doesn’t off-gas doesn’t mean it’s non-toxic. There are lots of products out there with all kinds of poisonous chemicals in them that don’t off-gas, but you’d never want to drink them. To me, something that is truly non-toxic means that you could ingest it and it wouldn’t poison you.
So, here are my suggestions for cabinetmakers in the Toronto area whose products are low VOC. If you have any you’d like to add, please feel free to do so in the comments section.
IKEA’s cabinets are all “non-toxic” in that they off-gas very low VOCs. They are stock built, so you have to stick to what they offer. If you’re using a contractor, they might be able to alter cabinets to your needs or create fillers where there are gaps. They have a 25 year warranty. They are made from MDF (medium density fiberboard), so some people aren’t keen on that fact. See a summary of their sustainability report here.
AYA Kitchens also has a green line where they make cabinets from NAUF (no-added formaldehyde), but it’s a specific order. http://www.ayakitchens.com/brand/about/greendesign.html They also have practices within the factory to minimized waste and use less toxic glues, adhesives, paints and stains.
According to my friend and expert sustainable kitchen designer, Clara Puskas, Artcraft is an eco-friendly cabinetmaker. Its showroom in Toronto at Binns. While it is a German company, these cabinets are made in Niagara Falls, Ontario. (I couldn’t find any information about the toxicity of its products.)
IRPINIA, an Italian cabinetmaker, manufactures cabinets in Toronto as well. You have the option of using water-based stains and finishes with a 15% additional charge. They also offer MDF NAUF cabinetry with low-VOC offgassing. http://irpinia.com/EN/about/gogreen/
Scavolini makes beautiful, low VOC cabinets, but they’re made in Italy and can take up to 12 weeks to get here. http://www.scavolini.us/Company/Product_Compatibility
There is an interior design store in Ottawa, Greyhorne Interiors, that imports Team7 cabinets that are made in Austria. I believe Greyhorne will ship to Toronto, but I’d check with the store if you’re interested in this line. Everything about Team7 is sustainable from their local (Europe) wood choices to waste minimzation (they burn their wood waste and convert it to electricity and heat). They use natural oils and waxes to colour the wood. http://becgreen.ca/2014/08/greyhorne-interiors-now-carrying-team-7-kitchens/ These kitchens also take 8-12 weeks to order.
If you have a cabinetmaker you already use and like, the other option is to ask him/her to use NAUF plywood such as Husky Zero Uf plus plywood, or solid wood (pros and cons using solid wood including splitting front panels in winter due to dryness), and water-based stain or paints. Ask what your choices are for a local hardwood — it will vary depending on what kind of finish you want.
My countertop of choice these days is quartz which is much harder than granite or marble, doesn’t off-gas and requires zero maintenance. For example, my daughter decided to do a class project on the counter involving glue, and not PVC (white) glue, but strong, smelly, really sticky stuff. She was liberal with it, and it soaked through to the counter. I thought the finish was ruined, but it turned out a little nail polish remover dissolved the glue but not the finish (whew!). If you’re using Arborite or any laminate counter top you’ll want to make sure to request a NAUF product for the MDF base or have them seal the underside before they install it (AFM Safe Seal is one option).
Many thanks to Clara Puskas from XL Kitchens for her help in putting together these resources.