The Air You Breathe: Improving Indoor Air Quality during and after Your Remodel
How do you know if poor indoor air quality is affecting your health (and what can you do about it)? As intelligent builders, we want to leave you with a residential remodel that supports your family’s health and comfort for years to come. Follow these tips before, during and after the renovation to enjoy a home that is as healthy as it is beautiful.
What Is Indoor Air Quality?
In short, indoor air quality is the health and cleanliness of what you breathe inside your home. As OSHA puts it:
“Indoor air quality describes how inside air can affect a person’s health, comfort and ability to work. It can include temperature, humidity, lack of outside air (poor ventilation), mold from water damage or exposure to other chemicals.”
The Enemies of Good Air Quality: What to Look out for
There are two contributors to poor air quality: high sources of pollution and insufficient ventilation. The most common pollutants range from mold, mildew, pollen and bacteria to carbon monoxide, animal dander, dust mites, formaldehyde and lead. Here are some examples of air contamination in the home:
- Dust mites in bedding and furniture
- Dirty vents carrying dust and rodent feces
- Formaldehyde emissions from furniture
- High carbon monoxide emissions from cooking on a stove top
- Asbestos or lead paint products in the wall
- Mold and mildew from poorly ventilated showers
Black Mold Spores: A Threat to Indoor Air Quality (Photo via Magical Restoration)
Exposure to these biological contaminants and chemicals can lead to allergies, asthma, headaches, fatigue and even long-term illnesses. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce contamination and increase the ventilation of fresh, outdoor air into the home.
Before the Remodel: Red Flags for Poor Indoor Air Quality
There are many signs to look for when assessing the indoor air quality of your existing structure. Some surefire signs to check for:
- Moisture condensation on windows or walls
- Smelly or stuffy air
- Dirty central heating or air cooling equipment
- Mold buildup in closets, baths, laundries or storage areas
A deeper look will reveal the source of such risks to your indoor air quality. Your local professional will be able to help you identify the following:
- Outdated heating systems and poorly installed or broken duct work
- Air being drawn from the basement, crawl spaces or inside of walls
- Range hood exhaust systems that leave smoke and grease
- Back draft that pulls carbon monoxide into the home
Crawl Spaces: A Haven for Airborne Contaminants (Photo via Am Shield)
Purchasing an old building often means inheriting years of dust, mildew and rodent leave behind in the vents and storage areas. On top of that, failing HVAC systems can launch these contaminants straight into the air. A seasoned contractor will help you identify any red flags during the initial walkthroughs and provide solutions for improved ventilation and air filtration after the remodel.
During the Remodel: Proper Ventilation & Protective Gear
Remodel construction is a high-risk activity for air quality considering the large volume of dust, mold, mildew, bacteria, lead and asbestos that can be released into the air. Construction can also introduce formaldehyde, VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and other chemicals found in paints, solvents, finishes, wood preservatives and adhesives, and other materials.
Air Scrubber for Air Filtration During Remodel (Photo via Boston Globe)
We care about keeping the job site air quality at an optimal level for both workers and occupants. Advanced green building practices for breathing clean air include:
- Effective ventilation and dust containment
- Good ventilation with HEPA filters and air scrubbers
- Site protection and dust containment (especially from ventilation systems)
- Low VOC or zero VOC products
- Proper handling of any lead, asbestos, mold and bacteria encountered
- Safe storage and disposal of chemicals including cleaning materials, paints, solvents etc.
- Protective gear for workers