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Community and Q&A

Low/No-VOC PVA glue and Caulk

2014green | Posted in GBA Pro Help on

Hi there,

Just want to be sure I’m not missing anything —from the reading I’ve done, it seems that most PVA woodworking glues are fairly nontoxic…We have specified no or low-VOC products for our remodel, but our contractor is not an expert in this area. They want to use Titebond II. It seems like a safe choice. Does anyone agree or have a better suggestion for a carpenter’s (wood) glue — aiming to have a minimal impact on indoor air quality–very limited off gassing.

Second question is caulk. Has anyone used a low-voc caulk and been happy with it? We are looking at AFM Safecoat, Chemlink products, or Ecobond. I would simply use AFM but have heard some conflicting reviews on durability.

Thanks so very much in advance!

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  1. dankolbert | | #1

    Agree on the glues - we work with plenty of stinky things but no one has ever had any complaints about wood glue.

    What are you caulking?

  2. 2014green | | #2

    Thank you Dan!

    To answer your question -- just about everything... We've done a large remodel -- and we are at the stage where drywall is up and plumbing and electrical are basically done (fixtures are not in yet -- light fixtures or tubs). At the moment, it is the painter who is asking which caulk to use (we've been asking to approve the products to be sure they are low-voc). I assume he is caulking window sills, etc. as he paints.

    But, we will also need a caulk for when tubs go in,etc. So, I would love to know if anyone has used any of these "low voc" caulks and been happy with their performance--as our contractor doesn't have experience with these.

    HUGE thanks in advance!!!

  3. wjrobinson | | #3

    Mindy, join GBA. Then click on the product guide tab for much information.

    VOCs from carpet and newly painted homes need to be mitigated by airing out a new home for the first few years or eliminate carpet. Carpet is the largest source of VOCs and then paints. a few tubes of caulk and a bottle of Titebond is nothing comparitively.

  4. 2014green | | #4

    Thanks AJ, I am a member of GBA -- and it's a great resource. The product guide is really helpful, although I have found it even more helpful to hear user's reviews of various products -- especially builders with experience with multiple green products. When working with builders unfamiliar with these products it feels a bit like shooting in the dark when you are looking for a specific product replacement for a traditionally high VOC alternative like caulks. Thank you for your reply!

    If anyone has specific experience with these caulks or any other low voc product I'd love to hear it!

  5. Expert Member

    It's important to remember that some materials have high initial VOC's but off gas to become quite harmless very quickly, while others continue to be a problem for extended periods.
    Having said that, unfortunately I don't know how you find out where specific products lie on this spectrum.

  6. dankolbert | | #6

    If it's mostly interior painting, do you have time to buy a few different tubes and try some samples? Painters caulk is designed to set up quickly - its job is to fill space and expand and contract reasonably well, not repel water or anything more strenuous.

    And almost everything is Low VOC these days, but that doesn't necessarily tell you that much.

  7. E_I_Luminous | | #7

    This is a great human health question Mindy. I have late stage environmental illness and practiced architecture and design/build for the last 28 years so I seem to be spending a lot of time on locating no voc building products. Here is what I am using in my new house for caulk in place of Titebond:

    The people at green building supply are fabulous. Your contractor can call them and ask them for all of their recommendations so that your contractor can offer you a no voc building materials and methods.

    Titebond does not off gas in less than a 2 year period. What I mean by this is to offer that low dose, non detectable off gas can occur producing a very low dose uptake in the organ classes as follows:

    Diethylene glycol monobutyl ether
    SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS: Symptomatology: b. Diethylene glycol ... 1. central nervous depression ... 2. no hypocalcemic tetany or metabolic acidosis ... 3. nausea, vomiting, & sometimes diarrhea. 4. ... headache. later abdominal & lumbar pain & costovertebral angle tenderness. 5. transient polyuria & then oliguria, progressing to anuria. 6. acute renal failure ... 7. ... pathological lesions may appear in brain, lung, liver, meninges & heart. 8. observations in animals suggest remote possibility of pulmonary edema, intravascular hemolysis & bone marrow depression, @ least with some ether deriv of ethylene & diethylene glycols. /Diethylene glycol & deriv/[Gosselin, R.E., R.P. Smith, H.C. Hodge. Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products. 5th ed. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1984., p. III-176].

    If you would like to use Titebond and get it to a faster 'low voc' you will need to purchase a Royal Air Purifier for $385. Put it on low setting in the room with any new construction with cross air. Let it start off gassing your new construction during construction.

    I will say that some caulks need to be the toxic kind for longevity. For example, painting caulks. The low or no voc painters caulks start to peel even in a dry non humid new construction. But thankfully, Titebond is not one of those glues that either of us need keep on one of our project sites. If this is just for your painter, and he/she is needing a product for around windows and doors to prep for primer, then you may want to look at a plaster solution instead of a caulk or glue for this painting installation prep.

  8. Mff92253 | | #8

    Hi Tekaye Gujral. Could you please tell me what products you used in your new house for painters caulk. The link in your answer listed several products. Also what is the PVA wood glue you would recommend. Thank you

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