There’s an endless checklist to keep track of when you’re looking into renovating your home, and whether you’re contracting the remodeling or jumping in with a DIY project, the whole process can quickly get overwhelming. In the midst of choosing colors, measurements, and finishes, it can be easy to forget to stop and ask yourself: are all these changes helping or harming my health?How exactly can a home be “unhealthy” for you? It all depends on your home’s indoor air quality.
Many of us take for granted that the air we’re breathing is safe and healthy since it’s--literally--out of sight and out of mind--but this actually isn’t the case, especially for air that’s indoors. In fact, indoor air can be 5x more polluted than outdoors, which can affect allergies, asthma, our ability to concentrate, the quality of our sleep, and more. Particularly “unhealthy” or “bad” air can even cause a variety of health problems, including dry skin and eyes, coughing and sneezing, headaches, eczema flare-ups, hives, and nausea.
How safe the air we’re breathing is depends on the balance of five particular factors that affect our air quality: it’s levels of chemicals, dust, humidity, carbon dioxide, and temperature. The safety of your home can depend on its ability to keep these five factors in check.
Unfortunately, it’s very easy to unknowingly knock your air quality out of balance, especially when renovating your home.To help you make sure your remodeling project has your health in mind, we’ve put together a list of the major Do’s and Don’ts of home improvement for healthy air...
...buy the wrong paint
Paint contains a variety of toxic chemicals, including VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which evaporate at room temperature. After a room is freshly painted, VOCs will leak off the walls (a process known as “off-gassing”) for months, even after the “new paint smell” is long gone. Living in a home infested with VOCs will start to wear away at your immune system and can cause a variety of side effects, including headaches, nausea, coughing and sneezing, and hives
Luckily, VOC-free and toxin-free paint is available–and they’ll probably have the color you’re looking for.
...install too much carpet
You’ll want to keep the amount of carpet in your home at a minimum if you’re concerned about the quality of your air. This is because carpet is a perfect trap for a variety of air pollutants--especially dust. Too much dust in your air can cause itchiness, asthma, eczema, and hay fever. Exposure to dust mites has also been linked to conjunctivitis, hypersensitive pneumonia, and both allergic and migraine headaches.
Cleaning and maintaining carpet is not necessarily good for your air either; in fact, vacuuming can create even more dust in your air.
A better alternative to carpet is wood flooring, but you’ll need to be very choosy about which. Which brings us to our next major “don’t”...
...install flooring the wrong way
Like most paints, the adhesives typically used to install flooring can be packed with VOCs. If you’re doing a major renovation, like installing new flooring across a large common room, you could potentially introduce dangerous levels of VOCs into your home. The same can be said for the type of sealants used to protect your new floor.
Pay attention to the ingredients that make up both your new flooring and its adhesive, and let your new floor air out for as long as possible (via a few open windows) before moving back in.
...use pressed wood in your renovation
Most engineering wood used in remodeling--plywood, particleboard, fiberboard, and more--contains VOCs, particularly formaldehyde. VOCs can be compounding, and too much exposure to VOCs over time can lead to severe side effects, from itchy eyes, nose, throat, and skin, to cancer.
While you’re in the process of planning out how you’ll update your space, try to see if it’s possible to incorporate a few changes that could make your home’s air significantly healthier:
...check for leaks
If you’re doing any major renovation projects that will affect your plumbing, keep an eye out for any leaks, and see if you can replace any older pipes. Leaky pipes and faucets can add extra moisture and humidity to your air, and too much humidity can create allergens in your home, including mold and mildew.
...build in extra ventilation
The best way to have clean air in your home also happens to be the easiest--all you have to do is open a few windows! Homes with exceptionally clean air are built with ventilation in mind, and have plenty of windows and doors to let in as much fresh air as possible. Proper ventilation can help you keep the amount VOC’s, humidity, and dust in your home at bay, so it’s very important to make it a top priority in your home. Try exploring how your renovation project could help your home’s air quality by adding a few new routes for fresh air to enter your home. This is especially important for rooms that are at risk for high humidity, like kitchens and bathrooms.
...change out your vents
When was the last time you replaced the vents in your home? Like carpet, vents can collect dust, mold, and other allergens, which will then blow into the air in your home every time you turn on your heating or cooling systems. If you’re updating a room or area of your home, use it as an opportunity to replace your vents as well--many allergists recommend getting new vents every three months.
Take Control of the Air You Breathe
Having healthy air in your home can’t always be solved with one project—it’s an ongoing process of discovering how and when you can make changes to keep you and your family safe. The best way to get started is by understanding what’s in your air with an indoor air quality monitor, like Awair. Awair tracks toxins and chemicals in your air and provides you with personalized recommendations to help you stay safe and healthy.