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Home Renovations and Healthy Air

Renovations can make an older home feel new again.

But your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) during home renovations can also be impacted by renovations as the air fills with dangerous chemicals and other contaminants that put your health at risk. It’s important to protect your home’s Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) throughout the entire renovation process:

  1. Demolition: Ensuring that materials are properly disposed of.
  2. Product selection: Researching the materials being used.
  3. Installation/construction: Taking measures to control dust.

Demolition: Lead, asbestos, and other contaminants are a danger

Demolition is generally the least pleasant and most dangerous step in renovation, at least in terms of IAQ. Dangerous pollutants are released by tearing out old drywall, masonry and flooring, and by stripping and sanding paint. Even in newer homes, demolition can stir up harmful particulates, biological contaminants, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Hire only properly trained, certified professionals to handle the demolition process, especially if you suspect that lead or asbestos are involved.

Solution 

  • Seal off renovation areas before you begin. If possible, seal off interior doorways completely by taping two layers of thick polyethylene plastic sheeting around the perimeter of the doorway.
  • Try to enter the room from the exterior only.
  • Seal HVAC ducts by removing the covers, stuffing towels inside and taping plastic over them. 

Product selection: New products can release gases

It’s fun to pick out new cabinets, countertops, flooring, and paint. But when it comes to your home’s IAQ, it’s important to focus on what those products are made of and how they will be installed.

New products and installation materials can release (“off-gas”) VOCs that can affect your home’s IAQ. VOC sources can include caulks, sealants and coatings, paints, stains, and varnishes. One of the most common and dangerous of these VOCs is formaldehyde. Normally a naturally occurring compound, formaldehyde can cause respiratory symptoms, such as eye, nose, and skin irritation, and has been directly linked to nasal cancers, throat cancers, and leukemia.

Also, the components themselves—new carpeting, laminate and vinyl flooring, wall coverings, and pressed-wood cabinets—off-gas VOCs for months or even years to come.

Solution

When selecting components such as flooring, carpeting, countertops, cabinets and paint, choose low- or no-VOC options. This will help prevent IAQ problems in your home both during and after renovations.

Installation/Construction: Dust can trigger breathing problems

The installation of new components comes with its own IAQ issues.

If materials such as stone, tile and wood are cut inside the home, this can create dust that triggers breathing problems, runny nose, and watery eyes, especially in those with allergies. Some products, such as engineered stone made with epoxy resin and chemical hardeners, can give off dust that is toxic.

Solution

  • Protect the indoor air from unnecessary contaminants. Ask your contractor to cut flooring, countertop materials and tile outside so that most dust stays outside as well. 
  • Air out your home for at least three weeks after renovations to reduce levels of off-gassing from adhesives and other chemicals.
  • Whenever possible, open windows and use exhaust fans. Leave windows open at least a crack at all times until the fumes are gone.
  • Use an air cleaner with genuine and proven efficiency, such as the IQAir Healthpro 250, to reduce indoor concentrations of particulate matter and VOCs.

Plan ahead and pay attention to Indoor Air Quality at each critical stage of renovations. By doing this, you can help safeguard your home’s IAQ throughout the renovation process. Breathing clean air during and after renovations will help you stay healthy and happy as you enjoy the many benefits of your home improvements.