Posts Tagged ‘Paints’

Nexterra LivingHome Revisited

April 17th, 2012

Nexterra LivingHome — Kitchen

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.

Exterior Rainscreen cladding be Externit


Side view of house — double garage under scaffolding

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:


Geosmart furnace

Waterfurnace HRV

Third floor tower leading to roof deck (also works as a heat stack)

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.

Appliance Bank: AEG microwave, oven and steamer oven

Franke Sink with culinary work prep sink and built-in compost bin

Recycling bins built into kitchen cabinets — by Scavolini

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 by Caesarstone, Faucet by Franke

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.


Barnboard in mudroom

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.

Dual flush Aquia II by Toto

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.

Inlaid cork flooring by Jelinek at entry way.

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.


Halo LED lighting in basement

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.

Living Room — furniture by Gus* modern, art by AGO

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.


Cast-iron fireplace by Jotul

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.


Home office








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.


Master bathroom, bath tub, sinks and vanities by Wetstyle

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.


Bunkbed in bedroom #2 by Kolan


Bedroom #3, crib by Oeuf

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.


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Update your furniture and add some “Zing!” while you’re at it — Vicky Sanderson shows us how.

September 15th, 2011

Let’s just say you’ve inherited four Victorian dining chairs with needlepoint cushions from your grandmother and desperately want to give them away or sell them or put them on the curb but guilt makes you keep them and you cart them around from house to house wondering what in the world you’re going to do with them (ahem). Along comes Vicky Sanderson, who abhores throwing out good pieces of furniture, or almost anything for that matter, if she can breathe new life into it by giving it a stylish update. Bringing old pieces up to date will not only make you enjoy your old pieces, but also make you think fondly of your childhood days at granny’s instead of resenting the pieces themselves. Not sure how to do this? Read on as Vicky inspires us with ideas for sprucing up your home by reusing what you have and adding a little paint to breathe life into old pieces (and rooms).

But, BEFORE Vicky tells us how to get more from less, if you’d like to see her in person, Vicky will be at the Toronto Fall Home Show running September 22-25, 2011 at the Better Living Centre, Exhibition Place.  She will be speaking about shortcuts to take to create fabulous décor on Thursday, September 22 at 3:00pm, Friday, September 23 at 1:00pm, and Sunday, September 25 at 4:00pm on the Style at Home Main Stage presented by HGTV. Visit for more details.

And now, back to Vicky….

Vicky Sanderson

Upcycle. Repurpose. Steampunk. They’re all variations on a theme, used to describe the practice of modifying and repairing existing goods to extend their lives. While the design cognoscenti may claim it as the latest trend, it’s been a way of life for greenies for a long time — at least as long as the motto, reduce, reuse, recycle has been part of common eco-parlance.

It’s only now that the cool kids get that not only is recycled decor good for the planet — it can be a quick shortcut to seriously chic room design. And getting the look is dead easy, because it’s entirely based on personal taste and imagination.

A coat of paint is one of the quickest, most affordable ways to refresh the style of any room, or to give new lustre to a beloved, but well-worn piece of furniture or accessory.  And colour, of course, is always highly personal.

Look to retailers for inspiration (Photo courtesy of RONA)

Used in a room, colour can breathe new life into tired furniture by providing an exciting backdrop. Applied in a block or wide stripe, it makes a striking statement, and it can define space in an open concept design. To get a polished look, you’ll want crisp, sharp paint lines, which are easy to achieve if you use a good tape, such as 3M’s new Edge-Lock painter’s tapes. It doesn’t bleed, seep or irritate the skin and can remain on the surface over several days, allowing paint to fully dry and set. For décor ideas with paint, as well as tips on how to mask like a pro, go to, and look under Painting Tips and Techniques.

There are loads of options for eco-friendly paints these days, including a new line from Rona called Rona Eco, which is made almost entirely from recycled paint. According to Rona, the production of this low-VOC, latex-based recycled paint reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 75 per cent, compared to an equivalent production of virgin paint.

Some paint and a roll of good tape can produce distinctive looks (Photo courtesy of 3M)

An edited palette of 16 shades offers plenty of options, all of which dry to a lovely velvety finish that’s also a snap to wipe clean.

Appliance decals give an instant custom look (Pic RONA)

You can also add visual interest to any wall by using graphic decals, either with or without painted effects. There are even decals for appliance fronts these days. Look for the Mur-Mur line, also available at Rona.

Settee -- "Before"

Chairs - "Before"

Reupholstering old furniture is another way to create unique décor. Search for interesting pieces on Kijiji, in thrift and vintage shops or at local garage sales. Keep an eye on the curbside in your neighbourhood too, which is where the chairs in the “before” picture shown were discovered. They, along with a tired settee, got a fabulous new look, with help from the wickedly creative Jim Connelly and Peter de Souza of Masterpieces Studio Notice that the fabric on the seats and chairs don’t match; that’s because we used scraps that many would have sent off to the trash. The settee was refinished with metallic foils which are then covered with a lacquer-like finish suitable for outdoors. Seats and backs are covered in marine-grade vinyl, so that the piece will work indoors or out.

Settee and Chair -- "After"

Two books become a unique candle holder (Photo courtesy of Lisa Occhipinti)

Your local bookstore, library or fave décor mag is also a good source for inspiration. Check out, for example, Lisa Occhipinti’s new book, The Repurposed Library ( This artist uses simple tools to transform old books into distinctive objets and accessories.

So whether it’s dubbed upcycling, repurposing or steampunking, remaking used and vintage finds into new décor is finally getting the attention it deserves. Maybe it’s even time for a new motto. How about sustainable, sensible — and sexy!

Vicky Sanderson writes Hot Home Products, a widely-read weekly column on home improvement, décor and housewares that appears every Saturday in the Toronto Star. She also keeps readers up to date on new products through her blog, On the House, which can be found on Having tried and tested just about every new home product, décor item and countertop appliance to hit the market in the last 10 years, Vicky is an expert on all things home-related. She frequently shares tips, tricks and trends on such media outlets as Canada AM, Breakfast Television, CHCH Morning Live, and CBC Radio. Follow her on Twitter @vickysanderson

Mythic Paint — Zero VOC, 1200+ Colours, Great Price!

August 15th, 2011


Mythic Eggshell InteriorA few weeks ago our family was on holiday near Huntsville, Ontario. While there, I dropped in to visit Jonathan and Celine MacKay, owners of Sustain Eco Store and Pure Green Magazine. When I asked about any new products they were carrying, Celine told me that they’ve brought in Mythic Paint.

Mythic was developed at the University of Southern Mississippi. It is non-toxic and zero VOC (volatile organic compounds), even when tinted. One of the dirty little secrets of some paint companies is that their paints are  zero-VOC only until they are tinted.

Volatile organic compounds are bad for our health — in addition to the immediate paint smell you get when you breathe in, paints can off-gas for another 6 years, putting all kinds of toxic, carcinogenic chemicals into our indoor air ready for us to breathe. VOCs are also bad for the environment, and the paint industry estimates that VOCs from paint manufacturing may be contributing up to 10% of chemicals responsible for ozone depletion and climate change.

Mythic paints are different than traditionally manufactured paints because they avoid using the toxic solvents usually needed to dissolve paint and colour tints (hence the absence of VOCs). However, performance and coverage are considered as good if not better than traditionally made paint. It has performed very well in scrub tests too.

But maybe what I like best about this paint is the price. Mythic Classic sells for $42.99-$54.99 per gallon. That is an incredible bargain, considering I just spent $85+ on one gallon of a competitor’s zero VOC paint.

Mythic sells three different lines through Sustain:

Mythic Classic: Homeowner, do it yourself paint for anyone to apply. Coverage is approximately 400 sq. feet. Available in three different sheens: flat, eggshell and semi-gloss. Sustain Eco Store Prices: Flat $44.99, Eggshell $46.99, and Semi-gloss $54.99. All prices are per gallon.

Mythic Pro: excellent coverage, made for professional painters. Available in flat, eggshell and semi-gloss. Price $32.99 – $42.99. All prices are per gallon.

Mythic Black Label: an all-in-one paint and primer. Made for drywall and first-time applications on new material. Available finishes are matte, satin and semi-gloss. Price: $58.99-$60.99 per gallon.

Note: all prices quoted are current prices (2011) at Sustain Eco Store. Prices vary by vendor.

Mythic is available in more than 1200 colours and the palettes are divided into different categories and available on their website (although I’d recommend seeing the real thing because digital colour and real colour will vary by computer). Finally, Mythic has a “room visualizer” where you can “paint” a ceiling, trim and wall from the colours available in their palette. It’s kind of fun. You get to put all kinds of colours together you wouldn’t do in real life; for instance, I paired “plenty of sunshine” (orange) as a ceiling colour with a trim of “island magic” (turquoise) and “Sunburst Nose” (deep pink). Let’s just say if you walked into a room like that you’d wonder if I was colour blind!

(Update April 6, 2016 — Mythic website and Mythic room visualizer don’t seem to be available. I have contacted the company for updated information but so far have had no response. Visit Southern Diversified products for more information.)

For more information on Mythic, contact Celine and Jonathan McKay at Sustain at or  705-787-0362.

Sustain Eco Store

8 Crescent Road

Huntsville, ON

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Homestead House — The Only Canadian Milk Paint Manufacturer

November 4th, 2010

One of the things I’m finding, as I write articles for this blog, is that there are a lot of great local manufacturers of truly green building products, that are “best kept secrets.” The problem is, they shouldn’t be secrets, they should be announced to the world so that people will use their wonderful products! The latest in the line of great products is Homestead House Milk Paint. Homestead House Paint Company is a manufacturer of both milk and latex paints based right here in Toronto. I spent a few hours with Jennylyn Pringle talking about her company’s products and in particular milk paint.

Milk paint is made from casein (milk protein), clay, limestone and natural pigments. The ingredients are found locally, and the paint is made in a facility just outside Toronto. It contains no synthetic or petroleum-based ingredients and is, zero VOC. Milk paint is best known as an historical paint; It is a paint formula and technique that was brought over from Europe 250 years ago and today is primarily used on antique furniture or reproductions.  Colours are developed within an historical palette and are derived from natural pigments. One of the unique properties of this paint is that it actually soaks into the wood fibers, which means it will last as long as the item on which it’s been applied. Because of this, the paint is breathable and will never peal. One other benefit of milk paint is that because it is slightly alkaline (basic), it resists the growth of mould and mildew.

Milk Paint

While milk paint has always been applied easily to plaster and wood, it has never adhered well to other surfaces. Now, however, there is a new primer, Milk Paint Bond, which, when applied to drywall or metal permits milk paint to adhere to these surfaces. Milk paint comes as a powder that needs to be mixed with water. It dries quickly, so, for the beginner, Homestead House recommends either mixing in small batches or adding an extender, which will permit the paint to be mixed in larger quantities and will stand for several days. This is ideal for room applications. When painting a room, it’s best to mix all the paint at once as the colour will be consistent. The website notes that for best consistency use a blender to mix the paint. Jenny said that it’s not actually necessary to use a blender, but if mixing by hand you need to stir really well in order to make sure all the powder is mixed in. The other option is to pick up a blender from a thrift shop.

Homestead House offers workshops in milk paint use. You can check their website for dates and cost. Right now there are a few painters in the city who will paint your house with milk paint, see their “Links page” for a list of painters and designers for more information. If you are interested in a DIY project, consider painting your next room with milk paint, or, ask your painter to give milk paint a try. I’m going to use it to paint our master bedroom. I’ll write a blog post on it when it’s done (don’t hold your breath, I’m thinking summer, 2011).

Kitchen Cabinets

Cost: 2lb bag (which makes 1 gallon of paint), $75. Coverage: 450 sq. feet.  (note that on its own, milk paint is not washable. A coat of hemp oil or beeswax must be applied for washability. If painting a room with it, it’s best to paint in low traffic rooms).

Other products: In keeping with its line of low-impact paints, Homestead House carries low-impact paint strippers and finishing products as well. See their product page for more information.

AFM Safecoat Products — High Quality, Low to Zero VOC, Low Toxicity

April 8th, 2010

AFM Safecoat is a California-based company that specializes producing zero-VOC paints, sealants and adhesives that are considered some of the safest and least toxic on the market today. Off-gassing of harmful chemicals has come to the forefront of indoor air quality  in recent years, and it is one of the primary reasons people search for “low volatile organic compounds” emitting paints. Indoor air quality is known to be poorer than outdoor air quality, particularly as houses become more airtight. Coatings and adhesives used in everything from particleboard to fire retardant applications on rugs and sofas, contain highly toxic chemicals that can off-gas into our indoor air environment. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and asthma in children have become more and more of an issue over the last few years in part due to poor indoor air quality.  For these reasons, AFM Safecoat manufactures the least toxic paints, adhesives and sealants, and they’ve been doing it for more than 25 years. There are a few places in and around Toronto where you can get some of their products. A brief description of their more easily available products is below. For more information on their products, visit their website:

One interesting note from their website about volatile organic compounds:

Many so-called “Zero VOC” products on the market reduce emissions that cause outdoor air pollution, but still contain a host of unregulated toxic ingredients (such as formaldehyde, ammonia, acetone, exempt solvents and odor masking agents) that cause indoor air pollution.


Paints and Primers:

  • Safecoat Transitional Primer: An excellent primer for painting over panelling with knotholes (prevents knotholes from appearing under paint), also good when changing from oil to water-based paints.
  • Wallpaint: All wall paint is Zero VOC including Zero-VOC colour tints. Note that many paints are zero or low-VOC until the tint is added. Tints for many major paint companies still contain VOCs. Paints are fast curing, almost odourless during application, and odourless once dried. Available in flat, eggshell, semi-glossand exterior.

Carpet Care:

  • Carpet cleaners and sealers: One of the worst off-gassing of toxic chemicals occurs from new carpets. Safecoat makes a series of cleaners and sealers to trap the off-gassing from manufactured carpets. SafeChoice Carpet Shampoo is a powerful cleaner that is also biodegradable that effectively and safely cleans carpets without using toxic chemcals. SafeChoice Carpet Seal is designed to seal synthetic carpet backings which off-gass harmful chemicals. When applied properly it’s effective for up to one year or five washings. SafeChoice Lock Out helps to seal in and prevent off-gassing of toxic chemicals, and also to repel stains and dirt.

Caulking and Adhesives:

  • Caulking: SafeCoat produces a zero-VOC caulking product which replaces regular oil-based caulking products for use in sealing windows, cracks and general maintenance.
  • Adhesive: SafeCoat Almighty Adhesive is a non-toxic, safe general construction adhesive that effectively bonds up to 500PSI.


  • Safe Seal: is formulated for application to highly porous surfaces such as particle board, plywood, processed wood products and porous concrete to prevent off-gassing of toxic chemicals used in the manufacture of these products. It has a low gloss finish and is water-based.
  • Hard Seal: Semi-gloss sealant used to cover both porous and non-porous surfaces. More durable than Safe Seal and is used as a top-coat over products to prevent off-gassing of chemicals.
  • Mexeseal: is a water-based sealant formulated for application over medium porous surfaces such as flagstones and concrete. Resistant to oil and waterstains.
  • Grout Sealer: Grout sealer has almost no odour during application, and, as it dries it soaks into the grout, becoming part of the grout. Dries colourless and prevents moisture absorption by grout.


Eco Building Resource

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


121 Old Highway #26
Meaford, Ontario, Canada
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