Green Design, Chinese Laminate Flooring and Chinese Drywall what is the connection?

Buyers Beware There is a saying “what you don’t know won’t hurt you,” but when it comes to designing and building a healthy home what you don’t know can hurt you and your family. And if you have small children it can have a profound effect on their health and development. Depending on the amount and type of toxins in the home and the amount of exposure, some toxins can lead to anything from asthma, allergies, neurological problems, disabilities, cancer and even death.

Environmental issues are becoming more important to consumers and more people are becoming aware of the term “Green Design”. Some people are aware that the air quality in their home is 3 times more toxic than the air quality outside their home, mostly due to increased advertisements for home air cleaners. But what most people don’t know is what causes the toxic air and how to prevent it, or that in most buildings the air pollution is actually 5 to 10 times more polluted than outside air even in the worst cities. There are air cleaners and environmental companies available to help remove some of the toxins once they are already in the home, but they can be very expensive. It is more cost effective to keep the toxins out of the home, to begin with.

rosedale terr stairs

But How?

Many of the toxins can be eliminated or greatly reduced by the products they use and bring into their home and use on a daily basis. Often assumptions are made that the companies that make products for home use are looking out for the consumer’s best interests. This is often not the case. In effect, the common idea of standard construction and design can be very dangerous to the health of you and your family. Much of this is cost saving measures to keep the costs of construction down and profits up, even though many of the healthier products add little or no additional cost over the more toxic products.

Consumers have become very much aware of this information after they have made purchases that have become costly to get rid of such as with Chinese drywall which was imported to the United States starting in 2001 and was used in homes in the south through the years 2004 to 2008 after a series of hurricanes when building supplies were in high demand. When we were looking to buy a home in 2014 we found the home of our dreams but were quickly disappointed as something didn’t seem right with this beautiful home. Fortunately, we had heard about the Chinese drywall problem and noticed that the air conditioning air coils looked like they had been replaced to cover up corrosion, as well as the outlets and after pulling out the refrigerator we could see the corrosion. We called in Chinese Drywall Advisers, a special Chinese drywall inspector recommended by our realtor, and found that it did have toxic Chinese drywall and we were able to get out of the purchase. It turns out that investors had bought the house for a much deflated price because of the drywall issue and then instead of making the costly repairs to get rid of the drywall tried to cover it up and make a quick profit.

wood floors

We became aware of toxic building materials from China again in 2015 when 60 Minutes broadcast exposed Lumber Liquidators for toxic laminate flooring containing high levels of formaldehyde that they were manufacturing in China. Now the problem is what is Lumber Liquidators doing with all the inventory of laminate flooring with high levels of formaldehyde? And what will happen to all the homes with the toxic laminate flooring installed when the homeowners try to sell them?

When we were looking at homes I would not buy a house with a laminate because I don’t like the feel, sound or fake look of a laminate I prefer real wood floors. Also when installing on stairs it has an unsightly bump on the edge. As an educated consumer, I would not buy a home with laminate flooring unless I could get the price down enough to offset the cost of ripping it out and putting in wood floors.

This is what the installation of wood stairs should look like.

: picture of stairs

A bigger issue that I have not heard addressed comes from the removal of toxic building material in years past. White asbestos fibers where used in early formulations of popcorn ceilings beginning in the 1950’s and was banned in the clean air act of 1978 in the United States, but since existing inventories of the asbestos texturing materials were exempt from the ban, it is possible to find asbestos in popcorn ceiling in homes built in the 1980’s. The problem comes in when you try to remove it as the toxic fibers are released into the air and the air-conditioning ducts. Something to keep in mind if you are buying or renovating a home built between 1950 and  the 1980’s that has popcorn ceilings.

But what can be done about the safe removal of toxic building material? There are environmental consultants and companies now that inform consumers and test building materials and safely remove toxic building materials. Eco Advisers LLC of West Palm Beach has a team of environmental scientists and engineers offering professional consulting services for testing indoor air quality.

In conclusion, it is important to be an aware and informed consumer when buying a home, renovating and making purchases for your home and know that there are healthier choices for you and your family. Your designer/architect/contractor/or realtor can be a resource for you and your family, be able to offer you healthier options and not only for a beautiful designed interior that reflects you and the needs of your family but also provide a safe interior for you and your family to live, work and play in.

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Katheryn De Wolfe Walker is a licensed interior designer since 1989 and specializes in green, healing environments, and handicap design. You can contact her at or call her at 561-364-0074 to set up a free consultation about your current or upcoming design project.