Healthy Home Improvement: What to Watch Out For When You Renovate

If you’re like most Americans, you’re likely getting ready to take on a home improvement project. According to Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, spending on home remodeling generated 2.2% of economic activity nationwide during 2017. This fixation on renovation isn’t going anywhere, either. The National Association of Home Builders reports that home renovation spending will continue to increase, as is evidenced by the $172 billion U.S. homeowners spent in 2018.

But before you decide to drain your bank account in order to finance an extensive renovation, you’ll want to make sure that your remodeling project won’t put your family’s health at risk. Here are a few things you’ll want to pay attention to before you pick out building materials or break ground during a demolition.

Beware of Historic Home Hazards

New builds can have their share of problems, but older homes are notorious for certain health concerns. Asbestos and lead paint are among the top two hazards that older homes may contain. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates that when someone purchases a home built prior to 1978, the buyer must be supplied with pamphlets and disclosures related to lead paint hazards. But even if you’ve been warned that your home might contain lead paint or that there might be asbestos lurking, you might be inclined to overlook the potential issue if you’re eager to complete a project quickly.

Before you start disturbing the floors, walls, or ceilings, you’ll want to take proper precautions. Have an inspector come to your home to obtain samples first. If they find lead or asbestos, you’ll need to ditch the DIY method and hire a professional. Even for smaller jobs, always wear a mask and err on the side of caution.

Always Pick the Right Paints

If you’re taking on a relatively simple painting project, you might think that you can simply pick up a couple of cans at your local home improvement store and call it a day. But the reality is there’s more that goes into paint selection than finding just the right hue.

You might not realize that certain ingredients found in paint can be harmful to you and your family. Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, can be found in many paints available on the market. The fumes from these paints may cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and lungs, as well as other health and safety concerns. As these VOCs are released into the air over time, you may find that your well-being suffers as a result. That’s why it’s essential to use only zero VOC paints during any home renovation project. Zero VOC paints are now available in virtually every color and finish (and there are even exterior paint options!), which means you won’t have to worry about any health consequences when you change up the look of a room.

Don’t Forget to Focus on the Floor

What you put on the walls matters, but what’s under your feet is important, too. There are numerous options for flooring materials out there, which makes coming to a final decision that much more difficult. And once you realize that many affordable options come with hidden health costs, you might have to reconsider.

Take phthalates, for example. Phthalates — which can be found in the vinyl used in flooring materials, among other things — are used to make plastics more flexible. But they can also mimic the body’s natural hormones and present a risk to pregnant women and children. Engineered wood, plywood, fiberboard, and particleboard can all be problematic as well, as these materials often contain harmful formaldehyde and other VOCs. Carpet isn’t necessarily the best choice, either. A recent report found that carpets tested from six of the nation’s major manufacturers contained toxic substances. These toxins have been linked to everything from strokes and heart attacks to respiratory issues and cancers.

Ultimately, natural wood is really the healthiest option — especially if you use sustainably sourced materials. Be sure to buy products from companies that have received proper certifications for safety and environmental friendliness to ensure your renovation is a good choice for your family and for the planet. 

With these tips in mind, you’ll be able to protect your loved ones — and end up with a home you’ll love.

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