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Renovating Your Home and Indoor Air Quality

Kitchen remodel

With everyone spending more time at home these days, it makes for a great opportunity to start crossing off “to-do” list items you haven’t gotten around to. Renovations, remodels, and household projects can help make a space feel more updated, personalized, and better suited for the occupants’ needs. When undertaking these home improvement projects, it’s important to take precautions to limit negative impacts on the home’s indoor air quality. This blog will help offer suggestions for best practices when renovating or remodeling your home.

Start at the source

Maybe you are looking to replace some buckled floorboards that no longer look appealing in your home. While these buckled floorboards might be an eyesore, they are likely a mere symptom of a larger problem that you should address. In this situation, a moisture assessment prior to renovating would be appropriate to determine the water source leading to this buckling. An assessment with an infrared camera and a moisture meter can pinpoint the source of moisture, which could help find or prevent any resulting mold growth. It will also prevent the new floorboards you install from buckling a few months down the road. This can help save you time and money in the long term, and improve your indoor air quality. Win-win!

Use caution with lead and asbestos

If you’re renovating an older home built before the late 1970s, be particularly mindful of potential lead and asbestos before disturbing any materials. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, over 87% of homes built before 1940 may contain lead paint. In a previous blog post, Jordan explained that lead paint can be found in homes built before the late 1970s on painted surfaces such as walls, ceilings, windows sills, and window troughs. Lead-based paint in good condition or encapsulated by new layers of paint poses minimal health risks, but it becomes a health risk once these painted surfaces begin to peel and crack. Before renovating any painted surfaces in a home built before the late 1970s, it would be wise to contact a professional to test the area for lead-based paint before you begin your project.

Asbestos use peaked in 1973 and the first bans began shortly after. In a previous blog Jordan warns that, “While the dates listed for phased out asbestos-containing materials may be used as a guide, it should not be assumed that asbestos will be absent after those dates. Certain materials such as joint compound, vinyl floor tiles, and mastics have a long shelf-life and may have been stored away and used after the materials were phased out.” Materials such as 9×9 floor tiles, acoustic ceiling tiles, vermiculite insulation, and popcorn walls or ceilings are common asbestos-containing materials. It is recommended to have a licensed professional perform asbestos testing prior to any renovation activity that may disturb these building materials.

Don’t forget chemicals and dust

Home improvement projects oftentimes involve a variety of products like stains, paints, varnishes, and other things you may not use frequently in daily life. Be sure to do some research about the types of products you want to use in your home. Even things like low or no VOC paints come with caveats. Take some time to read up and be selective. Check out products on the UL SPOT database, especially those with a GREENGUARD certification. You could look up the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) which will provide you with information about the product’s toxicity and reactivity, as well as how it should be stored and what to do if it leaks or spills. Then once you’ve decided on your products, follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for use. These instructions contain important information like ventilation requirements, and other health and safety guidelines, so read them before getting started.

What good renovation project doesn’t result in a little dust? If you are cutting into materials or sanding using power tools, we recommend using those that are enshrouded with a dust collector, which extracts and filters the air at the work surface. Also, the work area should be partitioned off from the rest of the home. To create the best air quality, consider exhausting air out of the work area and using supplemental filtration with a portable air cleaner. 

Conclusion

When it comes to renovations and remodeling, the goal is always to make your living space even better than it was before. Make sure that you do your due diligence and set yourself up for success. IAQ problems that result from negligence on the front end could leave you and your family worse off than you were before you started. If you’re unsure about the environmental impact of your upcoming project, leave it to the professionals. Give us a call at 312-920-9393 for a free quote for testing!

Sources:

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/best-practices-indoor-air-quality-when-remodeling-your-home

https://www.epa.gov/lead/lead-renovation-repair-and-painting-program-rules

Marissa Pratscher

Marissa Pratscher

Marissa Pratscher is an Associate Project Manager with a Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Science from Loyola University Chicago. In her words… “As a child, I always had a passion for protecting nature’s smallest creatures -- mainly sparing worms or spiders from being squashed. As an adult, I’ve been able to translate that scientific interest into helping people and their families stay safe in a healthy indoor environment. In my spare time, I enjoy painting, writing, and spending quality time with my two pet rats.”

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