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CARB2 Kitchen Cabinets – Formaldehyde

Mike Miller | Posted in General Questions on

Hi all, Last year we did a kitchen remodel (in California) and my cabinets are CARB2 compliant. I know this because I had some of the plywood independently tested. Post remodel we did an air test (sealed off from the rest of the home) and I’m getting a 150ppb reading for Formaldehyde. I’m dumbfounded by how this happening. Is it possible for CARB compliant cabinets to off gas this much Formaldehyde. Any ideas what else could be driving this? Thanks!

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  1. Expert Member
    Malcolm Taylor | | #1

    Is that the only potential source of off gassing? Drywall mud? furniture?
    If it is the cabinets and you are concerned, the likely source is the unfinished surfaces of the plywood. You could remove the cabinets and apply a sealant.
    I wonder what the levels test at when the space is open to the rest of the house? Those would be the conditions in which you would experience the formaldehyde.

  2. Peter L | | #2

    If the cabinets are Made in China then the CARB2 stamp is meaningless. CBS 60 Minutes sent undercover investigators to Chinese factories and the managers at the factories openly admitted that they were stamping CARB2 stamps on products that were not CARB2 compliant.

    So if the products you have are Made in China then you can't believe anything that is stamped on those products.

  3. Charlie Sullivan | | #3

    One possibility would be the countertop, if it's a laminate countertop on a particleboard substrate. Possibly a subfloor materials, although those are usually glued with low-outgassing exterior grade glues. What else is new in the kitchen?

  4. Mike Miller | | #4

    Thanks for the responses, all. The only other source i can think of is the plywood that went under the countertops, which are granite. There's no furniture, not that much drywall mud used, and we have tile floors and backsplash. The cabinets were made in the USA (in California).

    I wonder if CARB2 cabinets are capable of out gassing enough formaldehyde over a 24 hour period to get a 150PPB measurement. Doesn't seem likely.

  5. Charlie Sullivan | | #5

    Going back to Malcolm's first comment, you might be able to tape sheets of thin cheap poly over the cabinets, and then measure on both sides of the poly to figure out which direction the formaldehyde is coming from. I have read that some pre-mixed drywall mud can outgas formaldehyde, but I don't know how much or how common that is. How much does each measurement cost you?

    Another idea is that there is an Anderson ceiling tile that has a chemical coating on the back that reacts with formaldehyde and takes it out of the air. It's the Ultima tile with Airguard coating. If you could find out what that coating is you could put some elsewhere in the room.

    Houseplants also clear the air or formaldehyde--you can even find data on which ones do that best.

    But of course ventilation with outside air is the surest way to get rid of it.

  6. Mike Miller | | #6

    Thanks all. I actually did the poly technique and got a really high reading in the kitchen 150ppb and fairly high in the rest of the house 70ppb (I had aired out the house beforehand to get to baseline levels).

    I actually found some sheetrock (certainteed air renew) that absorbs aldehydes. We're planning on doing more house work this year, so I may just re-rock the whole house.

  7. JeffReichenberg | | #7

    Mike or Charlie can you detail the "poly" test method you mentioned?

    I'm a homeowner in a similar situation. Elevated formaldehyde levels w/ new custom cabinets of reasonable quality, California made and finished, 7 weeks from being installed.

    We'd like to determine whether it is the finish (conversion varnish, which we know can outgas for a while) vs the plywood boxes vs anything else. Further, what are your thoughts on whether it is valid to test inside a closed cabinet vs. just the entire room? Mike: if you're in the Bay Area perhaps we can connect.

    Waiting for HomeAirCheck results but handheld Temtop detector shows very high inside the cabinets and about double the "normal" rest of the house (0.1ppm) in the kitchen as a whole.

    In the meantime, doors/drawers open + box fans going 24/7 + fingers crossed it will settle down.

    1. qtdee | | #9

      I’d love to hear how this all turned out ! We are in a terrible situation right now.

  8. qtdee | | #8

    @ JeffReichenberg
    How did you make out with this? We are in exactly the same situation - trying to determine if it’s the plywood or the conversion finish? We’re 8 weeks out and the formaldehyde is still high! We’re not staying in the house right now but are anxious to move back in.
    Please let me know if your levels came down and if you ever determined the cause !

  9. qtdee | | #10

    Mike I see this post is a few years old now. I’d love to know how long it took for your formaldehyde issues to resolve ? We are in the exact same situation right now. 7 weeks out and elevated formaldehyde and crazy levels of VOCs .
    Not sure it’s the conversion lacquer Or the plywood. Considering ripping it all out at this point !!!

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