Friday, 24 January 2014

Remodeling and Health, Part - 2


Take care when plywood wall paneling, particleboard, fiberboard and insulation are being used. These can contain chemicals that could be harmful the health over a period of time. Avoid the use of glass-mesh cement backer boards as they often contain urea, phenyls and other volatile chemicals. In addition they tend to leave a lot of dust and particles floating in the air. Many of these dangerous chemicals are of the type known as volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and the material that commonly contain them include:
  • Organic or rubber solvents
  • Putty, sealants and caulks
  • Wallpaper
  • Vinyl floor coverings
  • Synthetic carpeting, padding and adhesives
  • Plaster and drywall
  • Manufactured wood products (particle board, plywood, composite board, etc.)
  • Paint, resin and varnish
  • Drapery
  • And some cleaning compounds

The most common of VOCs found in materials used in home remodeling are:
  • Toluene
  • Trichloroethane
  • Chlorobenzenes
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Aldehyde
  • Benzene and related compounds
  • Xylene

These chemicals are also to be found in electrical components and plastic products used in remodeling. Besides irritating the eyes and nose, they can cause severe respiratory problems and some are thought to be carcinogenic.

Lead and Asbestos

Although the use of lead and asbestos is now no longer permitted, many older homes still contain them. Asbestos was commonly used as an insulation material and in floor and ceiling tiles till as late as 1970. If the contractor advises that there is asbestos present in the home and that it is being removed, ensure that everyone stays away from the area where the removal is being done. If possible stay completely out of the home. Once the removal has been completed, the area must be fully aired out.

The same applies to situations where lead paint or dust is present. While inhaling of asbestos can lead to serious respiratory problems, the absorption of lead into the body is known to cause brain damage.

Air Ducts

Cleaning out the air duct is a part of any home remodeling project. The jury is still out on whether cleaning the ducts will significantly improve air quality in the home. However, if done properly, it can do no harm. One of the most common methods of cleaning air ducts is to use a powerful vacuum to suck the dirt and debris from the ducts. The use of chemicals to clean the ducts is also widespread but if this is the method adopted it must be ensured that no chemical residue remains after the cleaning is completed. Any such residue can break down in the ducts over time and release dangerous chemicals into the air of the home.

Post Remodel Cleaning

A newly remodeled room or home can seem to be completely clean and spotless. And a good remodeling contractor will make every effort to clean up as much as possible once the work is completed. But no matter how much cleaning is done, all the dirt and minute debris of the work will not go away immediately. It will take some weeks of regular cleaning to bring the home back to the normal standard of cleanliness. Till then, it is best not to take the cleanliness of the home for granted. The basic principle to follow is for the first couple of weeks after the remodeling has been completed, clean twice as much as is normally done. And when in doubt, clean again.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Remodeling and Health, Part - 1

Home remodeling is a messy affair. While the work is on the home is filled with dust, dirt and all kinds of pollutants. Not only does this make life uncomfortable, it can lead to a variety of health issues for the family. The ideal solution is for the family to move out of the house while the work is in progress, but this is often impractical. When the family stays in the home while the remodeling is being done, it is essential that they take precautions to minimize the health risks. While this is especially important in the case of those suffering from respiratory problems and allergies, it makes sense to do what is possible to protect everyone from the health risks.

Here are a few of the most common of issues and their solutions.

Minimizing Dust and Fumes

The first thing to do is to hang plastic sheeting over access points to the part of the house where the work is being done. The sheeting must be left up until all the work in that area has been completed. Once the work in that area has been done, the sheeting should be rolled up tight to prevent the dirt that has accumulated on it from falling free. The sheeting should not be carried through the house for removal - the dirt will spread through the house as it is being carried. It is better to make a chute at an open window and push the debris out through this. This will prevent dust from rising in the air inside the room and contaminating everything.

In addition, when entering the work area, masks, goggles and if possible, protective clothing should be worn. These should be worn immediately on entering the work area and taken off before leaving so that the dirt on them will not be carried through the rest of the house.

Once the project has been completed, the windows of that area should be left open as much as possible. It will take about 3 weeks for the area to air out. If possible set up fans in a window to exhaust the indoor are outside. Those living in cold climates will find that this becomes easier if the remodeling work is undertaken in the warmer months.


If new flooring is part of the remodel, the type of material being used must be considered from health grounds as well as aesthetics and practicality. Hardwood floors are the best in terms of providing the least possible source for irritants and pollutant to collect. But even with hardwood, the chemicals used in many finishing materials can cause reactions. To minimize the risk have varnishes and waxes with a low volatile organic compound content used. Also stay out of the house while the work is in progress. Wait until the odor has completely dissipated before reentering the house. Ventilate the area for several days after the work is completed.

Carpets are the perfect home for dust mites and all kinds of infections to grow. When planning the remodel, consider the possibility of minimizing the use of carpets to reduce the ongoing chances of infections which will only increase as time passes. Bare floors and washable rugs are the healthiest options. Where carpets are used, have a regular cleaning schedule ready and ensure that the newly laid carpets are completed cleaned before the room is occupied.

Cleaning Chemicals

Many contractors use strong chemicals for cleaning up after they finish their work. While these may be effective in removing the dirt, the residue they leave behind can affect the health of the occupants of the home. Talk to the contractors about using cleaning materials and techniques that are safe but do not compromise the quality of the cleanup.