The best and most comprehensive solution would be to simply not live in the dwelling during a remodel. Realistically, however, most people don’t have the resources to uproot an entire family for any extended period of time. So, what can you do to protect your family when remodling your home?
During A Remodel
First, everyone involved in your home remodeling project must be aware of your concerns for a healthy house. They need to eliminate toxic chemical and lead hazards and must be EPA lead certified; especially if you have children. Designer, architect, contractor, foreman all need to buy into the idea, so that they can choose building materials correctly and use approved methods. With the proper knowledge, it is no more difficult or expensive to build with good health in mind.
Children should stay away from the home during physical construction especially when working with drywall and if you have lead paint. Drywall dust isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for toxic materials but it is legitimate. One Newport Beach homeowner I visited last year developed long-lasting respiratory problems during a massive remodel from dust. You should think about minimizing debris inside the house, especially during winter, buy keeping all your windows open if you can after every big hurtle during construction.
Once you have replaced old windows for energy efficient windows, your home will now be sealed very tightly. This can be a good and bad problem. You will have less chance of exposure to asbestos, Satratoxin H or mold inside your walls that can creep in though tiny holes in loose wall connections. However, toxins that may be hiding inside your home will now be trapped unless you have good ventilation. Chronic exposure to toxins have been reported to cause cold/flu symptoms like sore throats, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, dermatitis, intermittent hair loss and malaise. Toxins also suppress the immune system.
In the northwest the most common toxin to look for in a home is radon gas. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It is formed by the natural breakdown of uranium in rock, soil and water. The only way to know if radon levels are elevated in your home is to do a radon test. Inhaling radon can cause lung cancer, so if the level of radon in your home is high (more than 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L)) you need to take action to reduce it.
If indoor air quality becomes bad in your home after a remodel, employ simple air circulation and venting measures to immediately remove toxins from your home like opening your windows; putting vents in your crawl space or basement; running fans or ceiling fans in your house, running air cleaners throughout your home; and venting the air from sump pump holes or floor drains to the outside of your house. In addition to ventilation measures, seal any cracks and openings in your foundation and basement walls.
With a little knowledge your next home remodeling project will be a healthy success.
Happy home remodeling!