Posts Tagged ‘Insulation’

A Visit to Living Rooms — A Healthy Home Store in Kingston, Ontario

February 21st, 2013


On yet another monotonous drive down the 401 (thank goodness for audiobooks!) from Montreal to Toronto, I broke up the trip with a stop in Kingston. Living Rooms, owned by two brothers, John and Michael Sinclair, is a mixture of healthy lifestyle products and green building materials.

The brothers  had started their professional lives as painters. But the more they interacted both with the paint and with clients who were becoming concerned about what they were putting on their wall and breathing in the air, the more research the brothers did, the more they sought out alternatives to traditional paints. They started searching for paints that were less toxic to human health with little to no off-gassing of toxic chemicals. Fast forward to the present and low and zero VOC paints are so yesterday. You won’t find any petroleum-based paints in their store, rather, they’ve sourced some really interesting alternatives.

When they began developing their store concept, they worked not on the philosophy of supplying green building products, but rather, they source products while living by standards developed by Bau-Biologie and Permaculture. Bau-Biologie was developed in Germany and is all about creating a healthy indoor environment. The movement focuses on using building materials and home products that don’t off-gas toxic chemicals. Permaculture (which I have written about before), recognizes that all biological systems are closed so that one living thing’s waste product is another’s food source. To that end, on their website they note that their store is not so much about green building materials as it is about sourcing products that are low impact, responsibly-made and better for your health as well as that of the planet’s. In other words, they stay away from a lot of what might be considered electronic green gadgets. The kind of items they stock focus on healthy sleeping, healthy eating and fresh interior air.

Building products: In addition to paints, there are several other better building products to choose from. To name a few that I’ve already written about, there is American Clay, Log’s End flooring (timber salvaged from the bottom of the Ottawa River), IceStone, PaperStone, (for counter tops) Nature’s Carpet (100% wool carpet), Safecoat paints and sealers, Ultratouch cotton insulation….

BUT, they also introduced me to a few new and intriguing products such as insulation made from leftover sheep’s wool, paint made from linseed oil, an intriguing exterior stucco-like product that’s made in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and a new concept: modular built strawbale homes. I’ll discuss each of these products in future posts.

Because they are located in a building which also has artisans and trades, they can also set you up with cabinetmakers and contractors who will take care of any building project work you want done in the Kingston area. Their objective is to source better building and living products as locally as possible and to use local trades and craftsmen to complete their customers’ projects.

Lifestyle products: Another aspect of this store that is the selection of lifestyle products they offer. When John took me around the store he was most enthusiastic about Xtrema, the ceramic cookware and baking line they’ve brought in. He explained that the problem with ceramic cookware in the past has been that it can’t be used over direct heat or it will crack. The manufacturers of this line have solved that problem and Xtrema cookware can be used directly over gas or electric elements (However, it can’t be used with induction cooktops, which use a magnetic pull between cookware and energy source). The cookware is also reasonably priced compared with high-end stainless steel pots and pans. A 24 piece set sells for $530.

Also within the kitchen category, there were tea and coffee makers, and my personal favourite was Presso, a manual espresso maker — perfect for cottage living (although you still have to heat the water).

There are plenty of products that focus on sleep as well. A buckwheat pillow by Eco et Eco, is as local a product as you can get. Except for growing the cotton, all parts of the pillow are made in Quebec. Apparently, buckwheat is a great material for people who sweat a lot around the head and neck area at night as the buckwheat wicks away moisture and heat and allows the sleeper a more even body temperature.

Other bath and sleep products include organic cotton towels, mattresses and mattress pads, and duvets.

In the household cleaning category, Living Rooms carries natural coco scrub pads, natural luffa sponges and soap nuts. Soap nuts look a bit like acorns and are the fruit (called a drupe) of the Sapindus genus of bushes and trees, which grow in tropical climates. The drupe produces a natural soap substance that can be used as a laundry soap. Soapnuts are very versatile and can also be used to make household cleaners, shampoo and even toothpaste! Usually soapnuts can be reused four or five times before they lose there effectiveness. At end of life, they can be composted.

To explore the products they offer on line, visit their website.

If you’re in Kingston or surrounding area,  Living Rooms is located at:

12 Cataraqui Street
Kingston, ON
K7K 1Z7


Regular Store Hours
Monday 10am – 5pm
Tuesday 10am – 5pm
Wednesday 10am – 5pm
Thursday 10am – 5pm
Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday 10am – 5pm
Sunday Closed
Or by appointment.
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Thermapan SIPs From Fort Erie Ontario

October 18th, 2010

Thermapan Wall SIP

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs) offer many advantages over traditional home building techniques which use 2×4 lumber framing and concrete foundations. For one, the panels can be assembled much faster than a house can be framed, for another, using SIPs for exterior wall panels will replace studs, insulation vapor and air barriers. SIPs are structurally very strong, and can bear three times as much weight across an even surface as traditional stick-framed walls.

But SIPs are probably best known for their insulation properties. Thermapan SIPs consist of a sandwich of two 7/16″ oriented strand board (OSB) with a “filling” of Expanded polystyrene (EPS) insulation. Because EPS is a closed cell insulation, it prevents air from entering the form which keeps its R value constant. Further, when SIPs are used to frame a house, they provide a superior air-tight seal that is difficult to match in traditional stick-framed homes.

Thermapan manufactures several different types of SIPs, each developed for a different application. Below are a few of the products they carry:

  • Exterior Wall SIP: (7/16 OSB, interior layer of expanded polystyrene). Dimensions: available in 4′ widths, and 8′, 9′ or 10′ lengths. Thicknesses: 4 1/2″ (R19), 6 1/2″ (R29) and 8 1/4″ (R38).
  • Roof and Ceiling SIP: Can be used for framing and insulating (including air and vapor barrier) cathedral ceilings, as well as for green roofs.  Available in 4′ widths, 8-16′ in length, 6.5-12.24″ thickness. R values range from R29-R58.
  • Floor SIP: Great for living spaces above garages and sunrooms. Width: 4′. Length: 8-16”; thickness: 6.5″-12.25″. R-value range: R29-R58.
  • PWF Foundation SIP: made for below grade uses. Consists of pressure-treated exterior sheathing that resists decay. These panels are constructed to support heavy loads. Exterior side of panel is 5/8″ PWF plywood, interior side is 7/16″ OSB. Length 8′, 9′ or 10′; thickness 8.25″ or 10.25″. R values: R38 or R48.

For more detailed information on Thermapan SIPs visit their website. Thermapan SIPs are manufactured in Fort Erie, ON.

To locate a dealer near you click here.

Heatlok Spray Foam Insulation: Soy and Recycled Plastic

July 21st, 2010

Heatlok Spray Foam Insulation

I first heard about  Heatlok Soya sprayfoam insulation when I visited The Rosedale House back in May. I was intrigued by it because, coincidentally, I’d just read an article byBuilding Green that stated that extruded polystyrene and hydroflurocarbon based sprayfoam insulations are so energy intensive that a homeowner could never reap the benefits of energy efficiency these types of insulation because of how much energy is used to produce the products! Meanwhile, Terrell was adding not the usual 3 3/4″ inches building code demands, but rather 5 inches of foam for a projected R value of 30. When I asked her about the product, she said that the insulation was made from vegetable oil, recycled plastic bottles and soy.

This product deserved some further investigation.

Heatlok Soya Sprayfoam is the latest insulation product made by Demilec a manufacturer based in Quebec. According to its website, Heatlok is made from renewable and recycled materials and is the first sprayfoam to meet the Montreal Protocol for ozone depleting substances as it contains no hydroflurocarbons.

The advantage of sprayfoam insulation versus rigid boards or batts of insulation is that it can seal corners and joints more effectively than the latter two making a structure more airtight. In addition, sprayfoam can act as a vapour and air barrier, as well as an insulator, meaning that fewer materials are needed on a jobsite. The sprayfoam consists of 40% recycled plastic bottles, which according to the website means there are about 1000 plastic water bottles in every tank of sprayfoam.

Sprayfoam and R value: According to Rich Krechowicz of  Callrich Eco Services, who is a Heatlok installer, only the Demiliec soya insulation product is a “type 2” sprayfoam with  a long term R value of 6. As he explained to me, there are two types of sprayfoam, type 1 and type 2. When measuring R value for sprayfoams, it is measured in three stages : initial (just after it’s sprayed), aged, (after 180 days) and long-term (after six months). In the US, sprayfoam manufacturers are allowed to use the aged R value term when advertising a sprayfoam, in Canada, they must use the long-term number, so if you’re doing your research and wondering why the same product has two different R values, it might be that you’re looking at American and Canadian sites. All other sprayfoams fall into the type 1 category with a long-term R value of 5.

Cost: Rich said it’s hard to estimate cost because it really does depend on how big the job is. Set-up costs are the same whether you’re spraying 200 or 1000 square feet. If you’re interested in using this product it’s best to call for a quote.

Note: It turns out I have written about this product before, but under its other name, Polarfoam PF 7300-Soya. Demilec is the manufacturer of this product but it is distributed under two different names: Heatlok and Polarfoam PF 7300-0 Soya.

For other installers of this product, please visit the Polarfoam and Heatlok websites.

UltraTouch Natural Cotton Insulation

February 16th, 2010

UltraTouch Insulation

UltraTouch is an insulation made from 85% post-industrial 100% cotton fibers. If you’re not quite sure what that means, it consists of denim off-cuts from factory floors where they make jeans.  And, contrary to fibreglass batts, it is safe to install without any protective clothing.

This product has a lot of advantages over traditional insulation:

  • The fibers are treated with a borate solution so that the insulation is mold and mildew resistant, pest resistant, comes with an excellent fire rating,
  • There is no shrinkage over time so the R value (thermal resistance per square inch) remains constant over time,
  • It comes in batt form so it is safe and easy to install,
  • Formaldehyde-free,
  • Batts are available in two thicknesses of 3 1/2 inches (R value of 13), and 5 1/2 inches (R value of 19)
  • Batts are extra wide to provide a snug fit and increased density (Available in both 16 1/4″ and 24 1/4″ widths)
  • Insulation works on density of material, as well as amount of air trapped in air pockets (fiberglass system), so R value stays in tact,
  • Excellent noise reducer,
  • The manufacturing process itself is one of the least energy intensive ones out there because it starts with a recycled product.
  • Cost ranges from $.85-.90/sq. ft, depending on thickness.


Greater Toronto Area:

Eco-Building Resource, (Retailer) 136 Wellington Street East, Aurora, ON, L4G 1J1, 905-841-3535.

British Columbia:

Twin Maple Marketing Limited, (Wholesaler) 32351 Huntingdon Road, Abbotsford, BC, V2T 5Y8, 800-663-8898

Eco Building Resource Offers Unique Green Building Products

February 11th, 2010

I went to Aurora yesterday to have a look at Eco Building Resource, a green building supplies store that carries a unique assortment of building materials. I’d been curious about this place ever since I met Kevin Royce a year ago and he gave me a little sample of fluffy insulation made from denim. I wondered what other cool products he carried.

He specializes in products which are good for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a disorder that can cause symptoms such as skin rashes, respiratory problems and migraines. Many of the products selected are solvent-free, natural and non-toxic. When possible, preference is also given to products that are manufactured close to home. Below is a very brief description of some of the product lines the store carries:


Ultratouch cotton insulation

Ultra Touch Natural Fiber Insulation is made from 85% off-cuttings of denim that would otherwise end up in landfill. The last 15% comes from off-cuts from towel and sheet manufacturing and a few denim drives for old jeans. It has an R-value of 3.7/inch, and comes in batts just like fiberglass. It’s pest resistant and fire retardant. (Approximate Cost: $.85-$.90/square foot for R-13 batts).

Reflectix Radiant Barrier Insulation

Reflectix reflective panel insulation. Reflectix is a radiant barrier and acts to keep heat in by repelling it when it hits the barrier. Combined with Ultra touch R13 batts it can increase your building envelope’s R value to R22.  It’s great for insulating hot water heaters as well.

Durafoam: a low-expansion insulator to be used to filled holes left after window and door installation, or wherever there are any cracks or small openings. This is a zero-VOC product. (Cost: $13.95/spray can).

Sealants and Adhesives:

Adbond is an all-purpose adhesive and sealer that lets you caulk, seal and bond with one product. It has received Canada’s environmental choice logo and is made in Quebec. ($7/310ml tube).

Safecoat sealers: Safecoat is a unique company that develops products that are non-toxic and low or zero-VOC.

Safe Seal is used to seal porous surfaces such as particleboard and plywood, thereby preventing off-gassing of harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde ($70/gallon).

Hard Seal: is used to seal both porous and non-porous products, but it has a gloss finish to it, so it adds a sheen that Safe Seal doesn’t.

Seal Once Waterproofer

Seal Once Waterproofer: This is a great product to seal outdoor decking and it’s perfect for cottage docks because it is completely non-toxic and won’t harm watershed systems. On vertical fencing it has a lifespan of 10 years, and on horizontal areas it has a lifespan of 6 years. (Cost: starts at $52/gallon. Tinting, extra).

Ozone Paints by Totem Coatings: This is a new line of paints that are produced just north of Toronto. The line is zero-VOC, including the tints. It is a soy-based product, (which is also grown in Ontario), so this is a very local product. This paint is medical grade (which means it can be used to paint the interior of medical facilities), and comes in interior and exterior versions, in all finishes (gloss, semi-gloss, eggshell, flat and primer). Cost: $45/gallon.

Murco M-100 drywall mud

Murco M100 Hypo-allergenic drywall mud: hypo-allergenic dry wall mud appeals to people with MCS. This is an all-natural product with zero-VOC off-gassing. ($50/25lb bag).

Tung Oil from the Real Milk Paint Company: Furniture makers and cabinet makers alike swear that this is the best quality tung oil on the market. It is a natural method for finishing or restoring floors, wood furniture and cabinetry  (Cost: $60/gallon).




Log’s End pine flooring: Log’s End recovers old pine logs from the riverbed of the Ottawa River. These are trees that never made it down the river for milling, but instead have sunk and remained on the river floor until now. (Cost depends on plank width but starts at around $5/square foot)

Jelinek Cork Flooring

Jelinek Cork Flooring

Cork Flooring by Jelinek: Cork is a renewable resource as it is only the bark that is harvested off the trees once every nine years. Cork is quiet and soft, water resistant, anti-static and is a great option for kitchens and playrooms. Eco Building Resouce carries the “click” line of cork flooring which can be used over top of concrete. Cork expands and contracts when concrete heaves with temperature changes so there are no gaps (Cost: starting at $4.50/square foot).

Eco Building Resource:

136 Wellington Street East
Aurora, ON L4G 1J1
(905) 841-3535

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