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Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Water based or Oil based clear wood treatment?

Wood is a great natural product, but to get the best out of it it is often necessary to protect the surface from wear and tear. In order to maintain its' beauty we often want a clear treatment, but treatments do alter the way that the wood acts.

There are a few options here with regards to suitable products. The basic choice though is down to whether to use a water based or an oil based solution. Your choice will ultimately depend on a variety of factors, but the main points to understand which each choice are:

A. Oil based solutions.
Here (in an art work) the difference that an oil treatment and the bare wood is clear to see
1. Change the colour of the wood and make it a much richer finish (this depends on the wood type as to which colours are more pronounced).
2. The create a harder wearing surface
3. Need to have a solvent in order to deliver the oils into the wood (this tends to be petro-chemical based, although Auro do have an orange oil based product)
4. If using a Hard Oil then it will need to have a wearing layer (generally a wax) unless a Hard Wax Oil combination product is used. Osmo and Auro have such products.
5. Take time to dry - around 12 hours unless a more volatile solvent is used.

B. Water based solutions
1. Do not change the colour of the wood
2. Are not as hard wearing
3. Are very quick drying
4. Lift the grain of the wood
Most people tend to err on the side of oil based products, especially where hard wear is expected (floors, work surfaces, furniture). If you are looking for more natural products, then Osmo and Auro only use natural oils in their products, although the Osmo use debezenated white spirit for their solvent. Blanchon produce a good water based Hard Wax Oil for those areas where quick drying, low wear applications are required.

For more information it is worth using our Paint Chooser on the Eco Home Centre where you can explore the wood treatment options that are available through the Eco Home Centre.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Are 'Eco' paints all the same?

The simple answer is No!

Unfortunately 'Green' paint can be full of 'green wash'. Some paints are seen as eco, just because they are water based. Others are labelled as green because they have reduced the energy used in the production of the paint. Others have reduced their VOC levels and see this as being acceptable to market a product as eco-friendly.

The factors that rock your boat might be satisfied by this, however many people are effectively being duped into buying an 'eco' paint when really the credentials that underpin the product are quite questionable.

The real factors that should underpin choice of an eco-paint are (we think):
  • Production methods (use of renewable energy in production, local ingredients, etc.)
  • Use of low impact natural materials
  • Long lasting and high quality finish
  • Healthy to apply and live with
  • Local production / efficient distribution network
  • No use / minimal use of finite petro-chemical based ingredients
I think that the most important factor is to get a paint that works right for you. So if you have a breathable wall structure you will need a breathable paint. If you are painting a hallway you may well want a scrubbable paint, etc.

There are proper eco paints that can do this, but it is dependent on their ingredients. For example, Green Paints are made with soya oils and these dry to be really hard and hence scrubbable. Earthborn Clay Paints are made of clay and this is really breathable and hence brilliant for lime rendered walls. Auro paints are made from linseed and citrus oils, certified VOC free, and are great if you want something that is high quality and behaves in a manner that is really similar to conventional emulsions.

To try and make all of this a bit easier the Eco Home Centre developed an Eco Paint Chooser. This allows you to get the right paint for your home and for you also to choose from other important factors like VOC free, Made in the UK, etc.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Green Deal Finance

Despite all my reservations with the Green Deal - mainly to do around the refurbishment of older solid walled properties, the inherent issues of the measurement system (rdSAP) and the interest rates that penalise the worse off - there seems to be a piece of goods news. Hurrah.

The obvious issue of interest rates (around 7% for the official Green Deal scheme) has been heard by the market and it is now responding. It looks as though eco-efficiency schemes can now be funded at more preferential rates by a couple of mortgage providers. Great to see Ecology Building Society being amongst them. For an article on this click here.

The over estimation that the rdSAP calculations might create are therefore less likely to cause householders to overstep the 'Golden Rule' with these much lower interest rates.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Damp wall on the first floor

Cracks in render can cause damp walls upstairs.
I was in a end of terrace house in Cardiff last week and came across one of the dampest first floor wall I have seen. The Home Buyers survey did not pick up the level of damp (as most surveyors only really look for damp downstairs), but my damp meter was hitting over 25% water content regularly.

On inspection it was the usual suspect of cracked render on the gable end wall. The wall was cement rendered and there were some obvious cracking. With the wall facing east one might have expected less ingress, but the damp had come right through the solid wall and was appearing on almost all areas of two bedrooms' walls.

It is worth noting that most of this type of damp is trapped in the wall by the small hairline cracks. Large missing render will let in damp, but at least some of this can then evaporate off again, but small cracks don't let the evaporation happen. So look out for damp in cement rendered walls. It will be there somewhere and you might need a damp meter to find it. People go out of their way to cover up damp and so it can be done quite effectively over the short term, but it will show over a period of time. The other more permanent damp masking technique is dry lining, so always tap the external walls to see if they sound hollow.

With wet walls being around 38% less efficient than dry ones, I really hope that the customer takes the advice has replaces the cement with a lime putty stone dust aggregate render. This will be a great energy efficiency measure as well as being the healthy option and the correct one for the long term future of the structure.