Your home is more than the sum of its parts. It is also a living environment that can affect how you feel and function. Usually the cleaner the environment, the better you’ll feel. Renovating your home not only provides you with the design and features you have always wanted, it is also the ideal time to “freshen up” the air in your home.
Does the air in your home feel stale sometimes? Do clothes and books stored in the basement smell musty? Do cooking odors linger? Is it difficult to get rid of dust? Make your renovator aware of these conditions when you first sit down to discuss your project. Professional renovators are well aware of indoor air-quality issues.
Depending on the problems and your personal needs, your renovator will likely suggest a combination of the following approaches: 1) reducing sources of gasses, dust and other pollutants; 2) correcting moisture problems; and 3) ensuring adequate fresh air and ventilation.
What are some of the sources of poor indoor air quality? To begin with, many homes have old carpeting throughout the entire house that have accumulated dirt and dust for years. Instead, consider switching to solid surface floors with area rugs, and use new carpeting in selected areas only. Another source of poor indoor air quality is your furnace, make sure you have an efficient combustion system with adequate air intake and exhaust.
Just as importantly, you want to avoid creating new problems through your renovation. Your renovator can advise you on low-offgassing paints, varnishes, cements, caulking, carpeting and underlay, and even kitchen and bathroom cabinetry.
One of the most common causes of poor air quality is moisture, which can either come from the outside through leaks in the house, condensation on outdated poor windows or be generated by your daily household routines. Too much moisture creates ideal growing conditions for molds, which are often visible in bathrooms as black splotches on the grout between tiles. Your renovator will also check the basement for molds and telltale signs of water penetration in corners and under carpeting.
Correcting moisture problems may begin with structural repairs to your home, such as roofing, deck coatings, fixing cracks, damp-proofing or improving the drainage around the foundation of your home. After these measures, proper ventilation is the key to getting rid of excess moisture. Kitchen, bathroom and basement exhaust fans are a good beginning for those specific trouble spots. Your renovator may also recommend a whole house ventilation system such as a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) to ensure a balanced moisture level throughout. The other benefit of an HRV is that your home will smell cleaner and fresher all the time.
On the other hand, your home may be too dry in the winter. The less energy-efficient the house, the more likely this condition. Moisture control goes hand in hand with energy efficiency. In the winter, warm moist air leaks to the outside and is replaced with cold dry air. Talk with your renovator about increasing your insulation, sealing air leaks, adding an air/vapor barrier and installing energy-efficient windows. These measures are good for your living environment and easy on your wallet in the long run.
For some people, indoor air quality is a serious matter of personal health and well-being. If someone in your household has allergies or is asthmatic or environmentally sensitive, your home could present a significant problem.
Many of the clean-air approaches discussed here may help to alleviate some of the symptoms related to these health concerns. There is a host of additional measures you can take — low-emission construction materials, high-efficiency air filters, vented storage cabinets for household cleaners and garbage (if not stored away from living areas), to mention a few. Ask your renovator for details.