Ask Anthony: How to Identify Non-Toxic Construction Supplies and More

anthony gilardi

FREE professional advice for home repairs and home improvements is hard to come by these days. But not here on CafeMom...

Expert handyman Anthony Gilardi of HGTV's Myles of Style offers Home & Garden Buzz readers tips and advice every other week. Ask Anthony your home repair or home improvement questions right now in the comments below!

This week, Anthony answers a question about identifying non-toxic paint and construction supplies, and he unveils his master plan for building a wild animal feeder.


Q: Can you tell me how to identify environmentally friendly paint and or other products for my projects?


A: Hello, gitanomadre. Thanks for writing in. This is a very good and important question nowadays. I’ll be happy to help you out. I did some research on this subject so we can learn exactly what’s out there.

Indoor pollutants are regulated by the The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Did you know that indoor air is three times more polluted than outdoor air? The EPA says that paints and finishes are among the leading causes.

I recently did an article about spring cleaning that involved letting natural air into your home, especially after the winter months and properly ventilating your home year-round. You can find that entire article on my blog under “how to.”   

What we’re looking for with eco-friendly indoor paints, finishes, or any construction product for that matter is LOW-VOC or ZERO-VOC. Remember these two terms. If any construction material or paint supply meets EPA approval, it will have a LOW-VOC or ZERO-VOC labeled in its contents. Look for an EPA registration number on paint cans. The EPA only regulates paints that contain toxic ingredients. For the same reason, stay away from paints restricted by OSHA or DOT.

What does VOC mean? Paints and finishes release low level toxic emissions into the air for years after application. The source of these toxins is a variety of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which, until recently, were essential to the performance of the paint. Because these days we are more aware and more eco-friendly, most paint manufacturers now produce one or more LOW-VOC and ZERO-VOC varieties of paint.  These new paints are durable, cost-effective, and less harmful to humans and the environment. They are made with mostly natural materials. Among the top brands are Mythic, Safecoat, and Bioshield.

I found a couple of websites for you that contains more info: 

If you have more questions about non-toxic construction and paint supplies, you can email me through my website: I’d be happy to talk to you about other non-toxic products.

Thanks for empowering yourself today. You’ve made me proud.

—Anthony Gilardi

The following is Anthony's Part 2 response to reader Sandy's question on How to Build a Wild Animal Feeder. Anthony has been so awesome to offer to research and plan the construction of a Wild Animal Feeder to suit Sandy's specific needs; however, a lot of the information is useful for projects you may be attempting around your home.

A: Hello, Sandy. Thank you so much for sending me the measurements of your land along with some great pictures. Beautiful land, by the way. You sent me some shots of areas with no trees and and some relatively flat areas. This is exactly what I need. I am working on the perfect design as we speak.

Here are some things that I am thinking about: According to the photos and measurements, looking out from your back deck, it seems your land forms a horseshoe or a U-shaped effect along the tree lines, which engulfs our “usable land.” Let’s look at it with a bird’s eye view. Your house is located at the open end of our horseshoe, which means the far end of your land is where the rounded end of our horseshoe is located.

I’m designing these Wild Animal Feeder systems with four things in mind.

  1. Beautifying your land (using staggered pergola systems—a pair of Z-shaped on either side of your land that will mirror each other, which will add a beautiful symmetrical look to your land. Then, along the far end (or the rounded end) of our horseshoe, we will begin our bird and squirrel feeder systems that will form an upside-down T-shaped pattern running right down the middle of our horseshoe.
  2. Separating "friendly" and “not so friendly” animals and keeping unwanted animals (black bears) away.
  3. Making everything easily accessible and low maintenance.
  4. Possibly domesticating “more friendly” visitors.

Thoughts on the building materials we will use:

  • Keep the system inexpensive, weather resistant, and biodegradable (no plastics).
  • Build as “green” as we can (need to locate some lumberyards in your area that carry “reclaimed lumber”; if you know of any, please let me know).
  • Think wood, like Redwood, Cedar, and Douglas Fir.
  • Avoid pressure-treated wood because, although weather resistant, it is not “animal friendly” or good looking.
  • Use bamboo for the bird and squirrel feeders. Bamboo is considered one of the strongest of all woods. It is also lightweight because it’s hollow. Round Bamboo sticks, with say a one to one-and-a-half inch diameter and ten-foot length, will be perfect for the base of these feeders because they will bend but not break, making them accessible to you by using a simple pulley system that we’ll incorporate into our design. Plus, black bears usually will not climb something if they sense any danger. They will test something before they climb. While testing our bamboo base, they will sense danger noticing that a ten-foot climb will not hold them. What’s going to stop them from simply knocking it down, you ask? That’s where the T-shaped system comes into play. They will all tie together adding stability. Hence, we have kept our unwanted friends away from our feeders.

Now I ask you: How many times in one's life do they actually get the chance to say the phrase: “I’m smarter than the average bear”? LOL.  

Well, friends, Sandy and I will be completing our awesome Wild Animal Feeder project offline; however, any other interested readers can contact me anytime through my website:

—Anthony Gilardi

+++ Be sure to Ask Anthony your home repair or home improvement questions in the comments below. He'll be back in two weeks with an answer for at least one lucky reader!

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