Question

For serious health reasons, I need to avoid inhaling chemicals. What should I try to use or avoid when installing kitchen countertops?

Asked by M. McIntyre
Monroe, GA

I am concerned not only about the countertop material itself, but also about adhesives, sealers, and any other materials used in installation. I need to be very specific with the installer about exactly what to use to avoid chemical exposure. I am considering Eco by Cosentino for the surface, but don't know how it is installed. This is a serious medical issue, so I really appreciate your help!

Answer

Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Answered by Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS

Bainbridge Island, WA

A Kitchen That Works LLC

November 14, 2010

Regarding quartz countertops, they are a terrific high-durability, low-maintenance choice for kitchens and baths.

  • They are nonporous, scratch resistant, do not need resealing and can generally be cleaned with a simple soap-and-water solution.
  • These qualities typically contribute to a long service life that can mean more functional and aesthetic satisfaction and fewer replacements, which in turn is easier on the global environment.

Eco by Cosentino is exemplary, in the quartz class, for its manufacturing processes, high recycled content, and bio-based resins. These characteristics have helped Eco earn the Cradle to Cradle Silver as well as the GreenGuard certifications. You should have no concerns about offgassing from the product itself.

Installation: subtop

Because Eco is a 2-cm thick product, as compared to the 3 cm thickness of most quartz products, it requires a subtop to be installed between the cabinets and the countertop.

You will want to instruct the installers to use a no-added-formaldehyde plywood such as Columbia Forest Products' PurBond as the subtop and to use a low/no-VOC adhesive such as Titebond.

Installation: caulks and epoxies

Selecting caulks and epoxies that work well with quartz is a bit trickier. Quartz’s non-porous quality makes it challenging for many adhesives to gain “purchase” or adherence to its surface.

  • Caulks are typically used to fill the gap between the backsplash and the sheetrock wall as well as seal sinks and/or cooktops to the countertop.
  • They are also used to glue down the quartz to a subtop, if a subtop is used.
  • Epoxies are typically used to seam the various pieces of quartz slab together. As a reference point, most kitchen island countertops are a single piece of stone and have no seams, while perimeter counter runs typically have one or more seams.

Based on interviews with countertop distributors and fabricators, I have the following recommendations:

Caulks

  • Eco-Bond Multi-Purpose MP 25 for the backsplash and HD150 for setting the subtop, sink(s), cooktop, etc. These low-VOC caulks are durable, paintable, and strong.
  • Titebond GREENchoice Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive is an all-purpose caulk. It is a VOC-compliant formula containing no ozone-depleting chemicals.

Epoxies

  • Glaxs BM7O Glue or Epoxy Gel G A+B from Tenax USA. Both products are solvent-free two-part epoxy formulated for natural stone products.
  • One drawback for the installers is that once the two parts are mixed, it is a matter of “use it or lose it.” In other words, it cannot be stored once mixed, which can add some expense to a project.

My understanding is that, unlike some countertop manufacturers, Consentino does not specify any one particular epoxy or caulk for use during the installation of their products. Therefore, your fabricator will not void the product warranty by using the adhesives of your choice.


For more information:

Read Susan Davis's Q&A "Are there any manufacturers of nontoxic, non-offgassing bathroom vanities? Are there any nontoxic glues for bathroom tiles?"

Also, read Matthew Bremer's Q&A "What are the environmental benefits or concerns about engineered stone countertops?"

Tagged In: home air quality, safe glue, chemically sensitive

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