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Borax as a wood preservative

Category: Products & Materials October 26th, 2010 by mbc

In keeping with a Healthy House ethos I’ve tried to avoid the use of potentially hazardous or environmentally harmful products in the barn. When it came to wood preservative borax was the option that stood out.

What is borax?
Borax is the name given to several mineral compounds of the chemical element boron, namely sodium borate, disodium tetraborate and sodium tetraborate. Boron is a metalloid and so belongs the same family of chemical elements as silicon and arsenic. It has a diverse range of properties and is used in products ranging from detergents, through to cosmetics and as a food additive (E285 – it is a preservative and gives a firm rubbery texture to food!).

Of relevance us and this blog, in building applications, it is fire retardant, it is anti-fungal and an insecticide – ideal for treating previously untreated timbers in renovation projects.

Application
It should be applied at a dilution of around 1 part borax to 10 parts water. It is best applied to a moist surface and will travel through the grain of the wood – several coats are recommended. If possible timber should be dipped in a weaker solution (around 1:20) and allowed to soak. Upon drying crystals of borax may form on the surface of the wood and can simply be wiped away.

Toxicity
It is worth noting, that while not acutely toxic, it can be detrimental to health. A significant dose is required to cause severe symptoms, but exposure can cause respiratory and / or skin irritation and ingestion may cause nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Handle with care and keep away from children. The EU has recently reclassified borax as a Substance of Very High Concern and as such it is no longer available as a general cleaning product. Despite this borax is still widely available – check Amazon or eBay as a start. I’ve personally used borax with my usual degree of care and despite it coming into contact with my skin, suffered no adverse consequences.

More information
The green living tips website has an informative article and loads of comments discussing the many uses of borax.

My experience
I must admit to a slightly belt and braces approach to wood preservation on the barns external hardwood lintels as I’ve also treated them with a branded wood preservative – I just didn’t want to take any risks.

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Flooring

Category: Barn Conversion Journal December 15th, 2007 by mbc

As well as the health benefits of not using carpets in your conversion project, alternatives can also help your bank balance when incorporated into the building during its conversion.

You can reclaim VAT spent on flooring during your conversion except for carpet.

8.10 Carpets
Carpets, carpet tiles and underlay are not building materials for VAT purposes and cannot be claimed.

Other forms of flooring or fixed floor covering, such as vinyl, ceramic tiles, parquet and wooden floor systems are building materials and can be claimed.

extract from HMRC: Notice 719: VAT refunds for ‘do it yourself’ builders and converters

One to bear in mind when planning your conversion.

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The Healthy House

Category: Essential information May 16th, 2007 by mbc

It is only over the last few months that I’ve become aware of the concept of the healthy house. This is a design approach that focuses on the effects upon human health of the design, materials, building alignment & layout of our built environment.

In the best tradition of ‘Top-10 lists’, here’s my ten key considerations of healthy house design. Each is accompanied by some basic notes; with more detail given in the posts that each heading links to.

Air Quality
Whilst modern insulation pushes us toward living in an air-tight cocoon, our needs for clean & fresh air push us in the other direction.

Allergy Free
With allergies becoming a modern epidemic we need to ensure the materials we employ do not exasperate an already harmful situation.

Colour
We are only beginning to understand the effect that the colours that surround us have on our moods and motivations.

Cooling
Too-hot / too-cold ~ cooled in the Summer / heated in the Winter.

ElectroPollution
Another aspect of our environment we are only now starting to understand is the impact on us of the electro-magnetic fields that we weave around ourselves with electrical goods and metals.

Heating
If we use radiant heat, that warms us like the sun, do we gain the added vitality of a warm sunny day? Do traditional hot water, radiator systems drain and tire us?

Light
Natural or artificial & the impact it has on us from dawn until dusk.

Mould
Humidity levels contribute to mould growth; modern bathing habits contribute to humidity…mould spoors cause asthma, therefore, control mould.

Size, space and proportions
From basic considerations such as the practicalities of room sizes to sacred geometry.

Sound
Not only is silence golden, but sound can tie us to our surroundings, sooth us or excite us. But no-one likes the constant drone of traffic as the theme tune of their life.

These are what I feel are the 10 key design drivers we need to consider when designing our home in a healthy and to some degree sustainable, ecological & environmentally sensitive manner. If you don’t agree or have something to add them please add your comments.

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Progress

Autumn 2013

Right that’s the summer over with, now I can get on with some real work without the distractions of other things (like holidays and playing with children, all that enjoyable stuff that gets in the way of progress)… With few major jobs (painting, boxing in – nasty stuff!) left inside, mainly fiddly things that need […]

I’m having a moan on twitter… https://twitter.com/barnconversion/status/368427314868396032

A lovely Flemish barn conversion

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Coming soon, my barn conversion guide… Interesting earthship greenhouse project on Kickstarter

I really like this Kickstarter project >> The Farm of the Future: Earthship-Inspired Greenhouse This project is “Prototyping the First 100% Off-The-Grid, Affordable, Low-Maintenance Greenhouse using Earthship Principles and Aquaponics“. If any of those words meaning anything to you you’ll be interested in the project if not, pass it by… It’s already funded so I […]

Barns

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De-assembled, re-assembled, re-cycled barns

“A bit like a private sector, modernising, repurposing St Fagan’s…”

Design

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Building Regulations, Approved Documents Part D – Toxic substances

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Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture

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Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

An overview of Building Regulations, Approved Documents – Part B Fire safety

Architecture

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News

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