Posts Tagged ‘American Clay’

A Visit to The Cork House in Oakville, Ontario

November 30th, 2010

The Cork Store

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.

Alison Ostner

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 bark with "wine cork holes"

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.

Rio Varnished from the "Select Line"

Harmony Brown

Mosaic Flooring as Back Splash

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.

Sofa upholstered with cork fabric

Cork inlaid desk

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.

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An Interview with Chris Phillips, local green builder

August 9th, 2010

I met Chris Phillips at the launch of the Healthy Home in Downsview in March. Chris is the owner of Greening Homes, a renovation and green building company that specializes in environmentally responsible building. Chris was in charge of refitting the Healthy Home at the Hangar in Downsview Park with some green building features. If you have any interest in green building, I strongly recommend you visit the Healthy Home, it will give you some great green ideas about the steps you can take to retrofit your home.

Chris Phillips

Chris is hugely tall and thin with an open and easy-going manner. He is extremely busy not just with his building company, but also with teaching, taking a Master’s degree in building science at Ryerson, and recently becoming a new dad. When we were able to connect for this interview our conversation went well beyond my estimated half an hour. Listening to Chris talk about a more holistic approach to building in an industry that, for the most part, is oblivious to its environmental footprint, is music to my ears. Here is someone who is genuinely concerned about the future of our planet and is intent on decreasing the impact the building industry has on the planet one home at a time and not just someone who has decided “green is the new black.”

Chris’ approach to any renovation project is to minimize a project’s carbon footprint and this is evident while on the job site. He and his workers car pool, take public transit or bike to a job site. They recycle and reuse as many materials from a job as possible, and they aim to make as few drops at the dump and transfer station as possible. There are no Tim Horton’s runs — they set up coffee on the job site and bring reuseable mugs. Chris produces a report at the end of each project which documents all the steps he takes to reduce his team’s and the job’s footprint and compares it to what would have happened in a regular renovation project. His clients are pleasantly surprised at the amount of waste they’ve avoided sending to landfill, as well as shocked at how much a regular renovation job would have provided. Fewer tipping fees also save the client money, and as the City of Toronto’s tipping fees rise, Chris is already ahead of the game.

When starting a new project, he prefers to be invited in before the job begins or when the architectural drawings are in initial stages. He can work with the architect or interior designer to provide different available green options, and the earlier these options are incorporated into the job, the less time and money it will cost. He also quotes by doing a time and materials cost breakdown so that a homeowner can have a better amount of control over his costs. In general, “green” finishing products (ie, flooring, counter tops, kitchen and bathroom fixtures) tend to be more expensive than standard ones. While there might be a slight upcharge in what’s behind the walls, such as the type of insulation, or the use of FSC lumber and panelling, the difference is made up in saved energy costs down the road.

Another consideration when building green is that the overused word “green” means different things to different people, but Chris takes an entirely holistic approach to building and renovating. Not only does he think about minimizing the use of resources, the amount of waste a job produces, and the number of trips he takes to get materials or go to the dump, he also makes sure he’s using products that don’t produce harmful off-gasses. All the adhesives, stains, caulking and sealing products he uses are zero or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds), meaning that they won’t emit toxic gasses into your home once a job is done. He chooses responsible products as a matter of course: plywood with no added formaldehyde, FSC lumber and recycled drywall. When he first started in the green building business tracking down these products was not always easy, but as awareness and demand for these products grows, they are easier to get.

But sometimes clients will ask Chris to decide what steps they should be taking. That’s when he’ll pull out a questionaire to help them focus on their priorities. Chris says that people have more of an idea of what they are really looking for in a renovation than they might think, it’s just a matter of helping them understand what their priorities are and by asking certain questions, Chris can get the answers he needs to give them the kind of renovation they’re looking for.

I asked Chris if he had a favourite “green material” he liked to work with. He loves American Clay, so much, in fact, that he’s done his own house entirely in American Clay. The benefits of that product are numerous. From the sheer beauty of the product whether it’s the more rustic look of the Loma to the smooth ceramic-like finish of the Porcelina, American Clay or any clay plaster for that matter, also brings with it health benefits. Chris likes clay for two other reasons: one, it helps clean the air sending dust particulates to the ground where they are easily vacuumed or swept away, and two, the negative ions produced by the clay which are abundant in nature cancel out the effect of the positive ions produced by all the new electronic devices we have in our homes today. Negative ions make us naturally feel better. One other point that came up though was the sheer energy intensiveness of the paint industry and just how much petroleum is used in paint. Avoiding the use of paint can also reduce the amount a renovation’s carbon footprint.

For more information about sustainable building, contact Chris in Toronto at:

Greening Homes (416) 532-6811.


Greening Homes is an incorporated company, fully licensed, bonded and insured.

EcoInhabit — Earth Inspired Living in Meaford, Ontario

April 6th, 2010

During March Break our family was skiing in Collingwood, ON in the most spectacular weather I’ve ever skied in in my life, even if it was a bit weird and scary being in Collingwood in March in almost 20 degree weather — the same as it was in Florida, according to the weather map.


In any event, one day instead of skiing I decided to visit Ecoinhabit, a green products supplier, which lies just off Highway 26 between Meaford and Thornbury — a fun field trip for me, apparently an excruciatingly boring one for my 14 year old son — go figure.


Ecoinhabit is occupied in an old barn with exposed rafters as well as the metal roof peeking through the wood. It’s a beautiful environment and the store itself is worth a visit. EcoInhabit can help you with many of your green building and lifestyle needs. In addition to building materials, it also carries organic sheets, towels, mattresses, futons, etc. If you’re in the Georgian Triangle area, drop in to take a look. Kara, the store manager, is very knowledgeable and passionate about the products the carry, and like me, cares about whether or not a product is really as green as the manufacturer wants you to believe it is.

Ecoinhabit Store Entrance

Below is a list of some of the products Ecoinhabit carries.

Sealants, Adhesives, and Caulking.

AFM Safecoat products. This is a California-based company that specializes producing low and zero-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives that are considered the safest and least toxic on the market today. Many of its products have received the Scientific Certification Systems’ Indoor Advantage Gold Certification, meaning that they are excellent for indoor air quality.

Ecoinhabit carries the following products:

  • Transitional Primer, $54.99 per gallon,
  • Zero VOC wallpaint. Available in flat (no sheen, $57.99/gallon), eggshell (low-gloss, easy to clean, $59.99/gallon), semi-gloss ($59.99/gallon) and exterior ($59.99/gallon).
  • Carpet Cleaners and Sealers: SafeChoice Shampoo ($30.99/gallon, $11.99/quart), SafeChoice Carpet Seal ($39.99/gallon, $14.99/quart), SafeChoice Lock Out ($32.99/gallon, $13.99/quart).
  • Caulking: $14.50/ten ounce tube.
  • SafeCoat Almighty Adhesive $14.50/10 ounce tube.
  • Safe Seal, $61.99/gallon, $19.99/quart
  • Hard Seal,$57.99/gallon.
  • MexeSeal,$62.99/gallon.
  • Grout Sealer, $23.99/quart. Coverage: 100 linear feet.

For a more detailed description of the benefits of these products, read the post on AFM Safecoat products.


Interface Flooring’s Flor carpet tiles: The residential line of Interface’s carpet selection is called Flor. It offers the ability to mix and match carpet tiles to create unique and interesting patterns similar to linoleum tiles, only with carpet. Carpet tiles made from recycled carpet: $8.99/19″x19″ tile. 100% wool carpet tile: $19.99/19″x19″ tile. Note: prices are approximate only. Please call Ecoinhabit for up-to-date pricing.

Eco-Timber: Engineered and reclaimed hardwood flooring products manufactured by Eco-Timber are made exclusively from Forest Stewardship Council Certified US managed forests. Milling and processing is done in Denver, CO. $10.25/ft sq. Bamboo flooring comes from FSC-certified forests in Asia. $5/ft. sq.

Ontario Reclaimed Flooring: Local reclaimed flooring made out of barnboard from barns that need to come down from around Ontario. $7 – 10/ft sq. Unfinished.


American Clay: An all natural clay product with natural pigments. Applied as plaster, zero VOC, it actually works to purify the air. For more information on American Clay, see my post on its benefits. 50lb bag of: Loma, $80; Meritimo,$120; Porcelina: $145.

Countertop Surfaces:

IceStone: A surface material made of recycled glass and concrete. Available in many different colours and thicknesses. $46-102/ft. sq. For more information on IceStone, see my post on its benefits.

PaperStone: A surface material made of compressed recycled paper and eco-resins. Looks a bit like laminate, the darker ones have a stone-like appearance to them. $42.75-48.50/ft sq. For more information on PaperStone, see my post on its benefits.

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