Ambient Bamboo Floors has been selling high-quality bamboo floors for over 25 years. If you’ve had any experience with bamboo flooring you will know that its durability depends on many factors. I have spoken with a few people who’ve installed it believing they were choosing a well-priced environmentally friendly product. Within five years, however, they had to tear up that floor and put in a completely new one due to wear beyond repair. How environmentally friendly is a floor that needs to be replaced after five years? The old adage remains true: you get what you pay for. If you cut down on price, it usually means quality is lowered as well.
Archive for the ‘Wood’ category
Well, five months after my deadline, my kitchen is finished. I’ve promised my friend Nancy Peterson, CEO of Homestars.com, that I will write a post for her called “Why I will never be my own general contractor again”. Let’s just say it was an eye opening experience. This post, however, is not about the mistakes I made (and there were plenty!), it’s about whether or not I achieved my green kitchen goals.
I would say that I accomplished some green goals but failed miserably in others, in particular with indoor air quality. For many of you, this will be the one area where you will probably not want to compromise. I, on the other hand, seem to be willing to sacrifice mine and my family’s health for the sake of aesthetics, and in some cases, durability.
Two years ago I attended the press party for Nexterra LivingHomes. I was pretty excited about the concept of a green modular home that achieved the goals of being lighter on the planet, but was still functional and gorgeous. The house is now ready and, since I was in Toronto to attend the GreenLiving Show, Gary Lands of Nexterra, took me on a tour of the nearly completed and furnished model home. There are three other homes that will be built at 20 Senlac, blue prints and property positions are available on the Nexterra website.
The Nexterra LivingHome consists of 6 prefab boxes: four large boxes and two smaller ones. The finished home is a spacious three plus one bedroom, meaning three bedrooms on the second floor with a fourth in the basement. Ceilings are 10′ tall on each level so there is a real feeling of space — even the basement ceilings are 10′. The home has wonderful flow, with windows used both strategically and liberally so that there is plenty of natural light.
Laura Felstiner, involved with establishing Nexterra’s partners, told me they are targeting LEED Platinum certification, but won’t know until the house is completed and systems are operating, in order to monitor energy consumption.
Some of the features of the home:
Building envelope and HVAC system: The building is tightly sealed, with R35 insulation in the exposed walls, and R30 insulation in the basement walls.Insulation is Heatlok Soya, a sprayfoam insulation made from recycled water bottles and soy. It’s an excellent insulation with an R-value of 6 per inch. The key to Heatlok is that it doesn’t lose its R-value over time. Many sprayfoams lose a little of their insulation value due to natural shrinkage of the material.
There is easy accessibility to the roof via the third floor stairway, which also acts as a heat stack. When days are hot in the summer and (hopefully) nights are cooler, opening the door to the roof, while opening lower floor windows prompts cool air to be drawn into the lower floors while the hot air escapes through the open top floor door. There is also space for a whole house fan in the roof which would accomplish the same thing if the lower level windows are open. The roof is also solar PV panel ready, and there will be a roof deck as well.
Geothermal heating system by Geosmart provides both heating and cooling for the home. In addition, because the building is tightly sealed, there is a Heat Recovery Ventilator and air purification system by Water Furnace, that keeps the air clean and circulating through the house.
Windows have fiberglass frames, made by local Toronto business, Inline Fiberglass, and are double-glazed, low-emissivity, filled with argon gas. These windows are some of the best insulating windows on the market today. You can read more about the advantages of fiberglass windows in this article.
Kitchen: The cabinets were done by Scavolini, an Italian company that takes sustainability very seriously. Not only are the cabinets NAUF (no added urea formaldehyde), but there are thoughtful additions such as a recycling centre built into the island. The company itself also practices sustainability during the manufacturing process. The two manufacturing plants run almost entirely on electricity derived from the rooftop solar panels on their factories, waste is minimized as is the amount of water used in manufacturing. While the cupboards are manufactured in Europe, they are shipped by boat and flat-packed, and are assembled on site. Flat packing items allows companies the opportunity to ship more items in one container, lessening the number of cargo holders needed.
Countertop: Caesarstone “Quartz Reflections” with up to 42% reclaimed quartz and with particles of recycled mirror and glass which adds a very nice sparkle.
Euro-Line Appliances provided all the appliances and the stainless steel sink. The sink is by Franke and includes a prep bowl and strainer, as well as a built-in compost bin. Appliances are by AEG and include an induction cooktop, and a wall of ovens consisting of a microwave, convection oven and steamer oven. The dishwasher is also AEG. European appliances use significantly less electricity than standard North American models and will lighten the electricity load for the house, Faucet is by Franke.
Mudroom: Between the garage and the kitchen is a mudroom to which barnboard has been added for a great rustic touch. Barnboard comes from Muskoka Timber Mills, and was installed by Andrew Reesor, a local artist.
Powder room: Just off the mudroom is a smart little powder room containing a dual flush (3/6 litres) toilet by Toto Aquia II, and a vanity and sink by WETSTYLE, featuring a proprietary WETMAR material for the sink basin. It is completely recyclable at end of life and can be made into new WETSTYLE products.
Other features of the main floor: The welcome mat at the front door is actually an inlaid cork flooring provided by Jelinek. Wood flooring through the rest of the house is Kentwood, FSC engineered oak. Engineered flooring is often used because it behaves more consistently than solid wood, not being susceptible to expansion and contraction.
LED pot lights throughout the house are 4″ Halo, 5Watt lights. When Gary was showing me around the house he asked me what was my favourite feature. I told him the LED potlights (he might have been a little disappointed with my answer). I thought they were 50W halogens because of their light temperature (colour) and brightness. I had no idea they were LEDs. Not only will these lights use 10 times less electricity than their halogen counterparts, they will likely not need to be replaced for 15 to 20 years. Now that’s great lighting.
The pendant lighting in the kitchen and over the dining room table is provided by Eurolite.
Furniture in living room is provided by Gus* Modern. Pillows are provided by Bev Hisey and are Goodweave certified. Goodweave is a not-for-profit group with the aim of ending child labour in the carpet industry while providing education opportunities for children in South Asia. Second life rugs were provided by Elte.
The fireplace is provided by Jotul, model F 370 DV. Jotul manufactures this fireplace from recycled iron in one of the cleanest foundries in Europe.
The desk in the home office was constructed by JM & Sons out of recycled metal and reclaimed wood. Gary explained that the home’s interior is set up so that if someone has a home office, any clients they might receive can stay in the main part of the house. This eastern-facing wall has large windows so that lots of natural daylight can stream in.
All art throughout the house is provided by the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Rental and Sales department.
The second floor consists of a Master-ensuite with floor to ceiling closets on the end walls providing lots of storage space. The washroom has been outfitted with Wetstyle tub and sinks and vanity. Other storage cupboards also come from Wetstyle.
Faucets and showerheads throughout the house are low-flow from Aquabrass. I should also mention that while all toilets and faucets are low-flow, they’ve also built the house to be grey-water ready. Grey water, water that comes from the shower drains, can be used to feed all toilets in the house, literally helping to reduce your water use in half.
The two other rooms on the second floor are set up as kids’ rooms, one with a crib, the other a set of bunk beds. These rooms are bright and spacious and putting furniture in the rooms shows that they are big too — there is plenty of play area in both rooms. The kids’ bunk beds and bookshelf are made by Oeuf out of Baltic birch and eco-MDF and low VOC water-based finishes. The table in this room was made by Heidi Earnshaw, a local artist.
The crib and dresser are made by Kalon from FSC domestic maple and low VOC food grade dyes and stains.
The paint throughout the house is white, zero VOC provided by PARA paints.
What you notice when you walk through this house is not only is it a great example of a green-designed beautiful contemporary house, but also there is an absense of “new home smell” — ie., no smell of chemicals off-gassing into the air. Neither the products that were used to construct the house nor the furniture installed for modelling the home contain toxic chemicals providing a comfortable healthy indoor air environment.
If you’re at all interested in modern, low impact homes, take a look at this one. It will be available for sale at some point, right now it serves as the model home for three others to be built down the same laneway.
For more information on the home, visit the Nexterra website.
For more pictures of the home, visit BEC Green’s Facebook page.
I contacted Alison Ostner at The Cork House a few weeks ago and asked if I could come and have a tour. The Cork Store is the company store for Jelinek Cork Group which includes not only cork flooring but also cork furniture and accessories. The store is located in Oakville, not far from Jelinek’s world headquarters so you could say it’s about as local a cork company as we Canadians are likely to get!
The Cork Store is located in the oldest house in Halton. It’s a white clapboard house located on Neyawaga Blvd. in Oakville and provides quite the contrast to the strip mall stores in the same complex. The house has been completely restored and renovated by Jelinek and now serves as their showroom.
Cork is a great material for so many things and, in fact, Jelinek’s primary cork business is still wine corks. The flooring, furnishing, bulletin boards and other cork items they manufacture were developed from the leftover cork “waste” after the corks were made.
Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree which grows primarily in Mediterranean countries where the climate and soil conditions are the most suitable. The bark is stripped off the trees after no less than nine years and used to make a variety items. The trees are left to regrow their bark, and then it is harvested and used again. This cycle continues for up to 200 hundred years per tree. For more information on the cork oak tree, see the Jelinek website.
Cork Flooring: The advantages of cork flooring and subflooring are many. Cork is:
- A renewable resource. Cork is the bark of the cork oak tree that is grown in Mediterranean countries, such as Portugal and Spain. All of Jelinek’s cork comes from Portugal where it is tended to, harvested and manufactured before it is sent to various countries around the world for sale.
- Resilient. Cork is made for surfaces where there is a lot of standing, so it’s great for kitchens. It is a material that “gives” with pressure and will bounce back into shape after pressure is applied.
- A sound dampener. It absorbs noise, so it is often used in multi-unit dwellings as a sub-floor to absorb noise.
- Durable. If treated properly cork can last for years. Court houses in New York City were first covered with cork flooring and are only being recovered now, more than 100 years after initial installment.
- Anti-static. Great for places with a lot of electronic devices.
- Anti-allergenic. Will not trap dirt and allergens.
True to their “natural” philosophy, all binders and adhesives used in creating the flooring tiles are low VOC and water-based.
Jelinek offers two types of cork flooring in several different designs.
Cork Click Flooring. A “floating” floor that consists of three layers — the cork finished layer, a high density fiberboard layer and cork underlayment layer. No glues are necessary to install this floor and it can be dissassembled and moved if necessary. This flooring does not require a sub-floor because it’s included in each tile. Tiles are covered in a water-based semi-gloss polyurethane.
Cork Decor Flooring. 12×12 tiles that are glued to a sub-floor. Tiles are coated in a water-based semi-gloss polyurethane.
Comfort Flooring. A new line of flooring that offers an even more natural look. The coating is a vegetable oil-based coating that gives the tiles a “matt” finish. These tiles are as easy to care for as the other two lines, the only difference being that once a month a special floor cleaner should be used (at other times washing with water should suffice). This finish is available in both glue down and click types of flooring tiles. (Note: this is a new flooring and may not yet be available on the website.)
Cork Mosaic Floor Tiles. This is a fun product made from “rejected” wine corks. They are not recycled corks, but rather, corks that aren’t deemed good enough to go into a wine bottle. Instead of throwing the corks away, someone had the great idea of reusing them for more flooring! This product needs a subfloor, and is applied with a glue and then grouted. As in their showroom, it can also be used as a back splash for a unique look.
I asked Alison if she had any advice regarding cork floors. She said to make sure your installer has installed cork flooring before. It’s a breathing material and it must be at room temperature before being installed. Also, as explained on the website, a 1/4″ gap must be left around the edges of the floor in order to allow the cork to expand and contract. For full installation instructions see the website. She also told me the Cork Store installs as well.
The Cork Store also has models of cork furniture — both “hard” (wood and cork based) and upholstered. I asked about the wear of cork upholstered sofas and Alison told me that they will wear at the same rate as leather — which means if properly cared for, they will last a long time.
Other “Green Building Products.” The Cork store not on s own line of cork flooring, cork furniture and accessories, it also sells additional “green” products such as American Clay, a low VOC paint line, C2 Lovo, as well as IceStone and PaperStone counter top materials.
Jelinek cork flooring is sold worldwide. In Ontario you can get it through Alexanian’s, as well as other dealers such as Eco Building Resource and The Healthiest Home (in Ottawa). To find a dealer near you, contact the Jelinek Group directly.
When I first stepped into The Timeless Material Company’s main showroom, I felt that little thrill I get whenever I’ve stumbled on to a place where my imagination can run wild. In this case, the barn that houses some of the many salvaged historical artifacts, holds enough material that I started mentally constructing my new “historical” dream house. “I’ll use this as my front door….here are some stunning lead-paned, diamond shaped windows….I’ll take the claw foot bathtub, and of course, the beautiful, Crane kitchen sink in mint condition.”….my heart sings.
When you look around Timeless Materials’ substantial property you’ll see acres of building material that’s been saved from buildings slated for demolition. In fact, as Ken Kieswetter puts it, “The salvage business was a natural outcome from the demolition business.” You see, Timeless Materials, a salvage business, exists because Ken and his family also own a demolition company, Kieswetter Demolition. Ken saw the potential of all the beautiful old building structures, and now salvages what he can before he takes the building down. They also own a construction company, Timeless Timber Structures, that uses salvaged beams to build timber frame homes.
In Ken’s mind, new products just don’t hold a candle to the materials of old. “These materials will outlast the new “green” products because there are no glues used and the materials are denser so the products don’t deteriorate at the same rate.” For example, he points out that the wood he salvages is from buildings one hundred years old or more, and therefore from first growth forests. What this means is that wood planks are wider, denser and stronger than wood used for products today. Another thing to keep in mind is that the wood has been “seasoned” — for more than one hundred years in some cases — meaning that it will be little affected by changes in humidity throughout the year.
Timeless Materials has meters and meters of reclaimed wood flooring. They take it from barns, factories, school houses, and whatever other buildings that are destined for demolition. They have maple, clear fir, pine, etc., there are plenty of different flooring options available. All wood flooring is solid, no engineered wood flooring is available — nothing with glues.
As Ken and I toured through the converted barn that holds all these beautiful treasures, he told me about the history of the barn itself. In fact, in the “mantel” room (housing one of their most popular products), Ken tells me that it’s the place where JM Schneider’s grown son was gored by a bull. It’s part of the barn’s history. On the second floor he shows me a winding, narrow staircase and I ask where it’s from, thinking of a “Tara-like” residence on a miniature scale, but it turns out it’s from an old church in Quebec, and the nuns used it. They’d have to be pretty thin because it can’t be more than two feet wide.
When you’re looking at all these products, including windows, doors, stairways, etc., it is the craftsmanship that takes your breath away. The intricate carving and detail that went into these products still stands out today. It’s quite something to see, and even better to incorporate into a new home.
“So,” I asked Ken, “How do people use these pieces?” Ken nodded and said that the most popular item they have are their fireplace mantels, in part because they can be added after a renovation has been done. Of course the best way to incorporate things like the doors, windows, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, is to design around the pieces. That means, pick out the pieces you like first, so visit Timeless Materials with your designer/contractor/architect. Because every piece was made by hand in the old days, sizes aren’t standard. Measurements need to be taken as the design is developed.
Ken has great plans for his property: The building next to the barn is currently being renovated to house a new interior design studio and he’s looking for a registered interior designer to take up residence and run their business out of the space. If you’re a designer, and you have an interest in immersing yourself in the old, while gazing, past the open pasture, at the brand new RIM buildings (filled with plenty of potential customers!), contact Ken Kieswetter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Timeless Material Company, visit their website. For directions and hours, see below:
The Timeless Material Company
305 Northfield Dr. E.
Toll Free: 1-800-609-9633
Hours of Operation
Monday – Friday: 8:00am – 6:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday: 11:00am – 5:00pm
Visit their second location in Southampton:
Timeless Materials North
194 North Rankin Street
Hours of Operation
Tuesday – Saturday: 9:00am – 5:00pm