Something that you might not have thought about when designing your tiny house is the dangers of using toxic materials in such tiny spaces such as a tiny home on wheels.
In a quick exchange of e-mails with Brad Kittel, of Pure Salvage Living and Tiny Texas Houses, I was able to take some of his knowledge on this and share it with you here because it’s important for your health. You’re also invited to take part in the discussion and share what you know in the comments below so we can all learn even more about this issue together.
Brad says, “there is 15 times less air to wall ration in a tiny house and very few have the proper air exchange rates to offset the carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that we generate as humans, let alone the other chemicals in the closed-in tiny space.”
So how do you make your tiny house safe? How do you free it from these sneaky toxins that are conveniently sold everywhere? And yes, all of this is even more important in a tiny house because the volume of space is a lot smaller!
12 Toxin-free Tiny House Design/Build Tips
- Build with natural materials (like wood)
- Avoid using plastics
- Avoid using formaldehyde
- Avoid using sheetrock
- Avoid using VOC paints (use non-VOC paint)
- Avoid the use of latex paints (latex is bad for your immune system)
- Avoid carpet
- Avoid using toxic glues
- Avoid the use of PVC
- Avoid the use of vinyl
- Use products that have already off-gassed
- Design your tiny house with good air circulation in mind
Why is all of this important?
Brad Kittel explains it best, “The lack of oxygen, the lack of a blood brain barrier in children under 6, and the already stressed immune systems from the bad foods people eat are not leaving a lot of room for us to add problems to without solutions or caution brought up before the trend is squashed by the bad publicity these things will generate if not anticipated now.”
Video: Documentary with Brad Kittel of Tiny Texas Houses
Brad talks about all of this for FREE in the documentary that he created with Faircompanies that you can watch for free here (or by playing the video above).
Learn more in the discussions (comments below) and using the resource links below. Also please re-share this with your tiny house friends because it’s super important. Thank you!
Our big thanks to Brad Kittel for sharing and reminding all of us about the importance of this information!
You can share these tips on building a toxic-free tiny house with your friends and family for free using the e-mail and social media re-share buttons below. Thanks.
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As far as paint I have to suggest Ben Moore Advance. It’s a waterborne oil. It cleans with water but dries with the durability of oil. Brushes and touches up wonderfully. It’s thin and is a multi coat job typically, it’s pricey as well but not only is it a superior paint is boasts no VOC and I’ve had several commercial painters tell me up north waterborne are required for use in areas such as maternity wards because of low toxicity
Thanks for the tip Matt!
What is suggested to be used in place of PVC? I can see ways around all of these other materials except it. I guess there are other options but they’d be worse choices than pvc itself
Good question, Matt. I’m wondering the same thing. Here’s what I’ve looked up so far for alternatives to PVC…
* cast iron
* vitrified clay
* other plastics (like HDPE and ABS)
Alex, I suggest PEX lines, they do well in all temps, freezing does not destroy them and they are lighter than Galvanized pipe or copper lines.
Interesting article but something terribly important missing. It should be noted that when recycling building materials, especially from older homes / structures (pre 1975) be aware that many paints contained Lead and Arsenic (part of the colouring dies). Simple and easy to use test kits are available which will allow you to determine if there is Lead or Arsenic in the paints and materials. NB: Lead Paints were only banned in USA – 1978, UK -1980… some nations as late as 2008 !
We can all learn a lot from this guy. In fact I love him. Hey Brad, are you interested in a date?
Cast iron cannot be used for water lines only for waste water, ABS does not do well with hot water, it stretches. Clay pipe is only used for waste water and grey water drainage. I would suggest a double thickness vapor barrier on the inside and no vapor barrier on the outside.
Wow, true oasis. You have given me so much food for thought. I have been entertaining buying land in Pacific NW for a tiny home community but have alot of research to do. How does one become a member of your community?
Do the chemicals wear off after time?
I am a senior citizen and am planning on putting in vinyl flooring to reduce the weight and it’s easier to clean. No one under 50 will spend any prolonged time in my tiny home. So it doesn’t seem like a risk to me personally.
Do these chemicals affect pets, too?
Just another idea for the list. http://learn.eartheasy.com/2009/05/the-top-10-plants-for-removing-indoor-toxins/
Most tiny houses that I see have gas stoves. They are great for cooking on, but for your environment you may as well hook up the exhaust pipe of your car to blow inside your home… you are burning petrol-chemicals inside your tiny home and burning up all the oxygen and producing toxic gasses and a lot of water vapor.
Induction stoves are extremely energy efficient; no toxins, use less energy, do not heat up the kitchen – only the pot gets hot. I hated my electric stove, loved my gas stove, then fell in love with induction.
The following was taken from:
“Think about a woman cooking; (women have been found to be more susceptible to the harms of natural gas). As she leans over to pull food from the oven, or hovers over something on the stove top, she is breathing in the following cocktail of chemicals: methane, radon and other radioactive materials, BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene), organometallic compounds such as methylmercury organoarsenic and organolead, mercaptan odorants, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, organic compounds (including formaldehyde), fine particulates, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, among others.”
So… solar panels and induction stove. The only way to go.
Agree with induction, vb on inside, copper piping, there are some non-toxic sheet flooring available. Stick with natural materials not infused with any moisture or fire chemical retardant. Maybe try cork flooring? And to be honest–I might put in an air exchanger since you will be breathing the same air over and over…damp from cooking and showering…maybe a whole house exhaust fan…
Since it is such a small space all these poisons are intensified.
Hi! Suggestions on non toxic insulation for cabin? And non toxic plywood solution?
Why is latex bad for the immune system? Does this mean that Avocado Mattresses and pillows etc., are no good…? I am very chemically sensitive… I am a holistic nutritionist and have been down a long road of chronic illness and so through my experiences have learned a lot about health, but have not heard this about latex. Please let me know. Thank you!