How Do Home Renovations Really Affect Your Indoor Air Quality?

Find out how home renovations can affect your indoor air quality with Shipton's CleanAir Solutions experts.

‘Tis the season for home renovations! But as you’re tearing down drywall and painting room by room, don’t forget to pay attention to the air you’re breathing in too! Home renovations can quickly take a toll on your indoor air quality.

Although renovating your home is exciting, it can also be very, very, very dirty. The job itself creates a mess like no other!

And if you’re not careful, the fumes and particulate matter formed in the air can become dangerous to you, your family and your environment. Some of these contaminants can include drywall dust, VOCs, wood dust, formaldehyde…etc.

Do you know how these contaminants can affect your indoor air quality? If not, better put the paintbrush down for a few minutes and start reading!

Before any home project, you must learn the potential contaminants you are working with.

Where do these contaminants come from?

How do you handle them safely?

And how do you get rid of them?

Understand The Health Risks of Home Renovations and Learn How To Protect Your Indoor Air Quality

Are you an HGTV fan, full-fledged construction worker, home designer, house flipper or long-time homeowner? If so, you know the excitement of starting a new home project.

You can envision the end result perfectly! The beautiful new paint colour, bedroom addition or kitchen remodel. Whatever the project might be, you have a plan in mind and are ready to tackle it as quickly as possible.

But don’t go tearing down walls or stripping paint just yet!

Before you swing the hammer or lift a paintbrush, you should understand the effects and potential health risks of your renovation plans.

So, let’s get started!

Wood Dust

Have you ever been to a construction site? If so, then you know the drill. Before entering the work zone, you need the proper safety equipment – also called PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). This can include safety glasses, gloves, ear protection, hard hats, respiratory protection…etc.

PPE protects construction workers and anyone visiting from things like falling objects, loud noises, injuries and dust.

One of the things you’ll notice at a construction site is a hazy cloud of wood dust.

Airborne wood dust forms during different processes like sawing or sanding. And you can come into contact with it in different ways:

a) Directly when the wood is being cut/sanded or

b) Indirectly when cleaning the area.

Some potential health issues associated with wood dust include skin irritation, coughing, dermatitis, respiratory difficulty, sneezing, headaches…etc. 

To protect yourself from these health issues, we recommend:

  • Choosing safe materials.
  • Increasing ventilation.
  • Sealing vents.
  • Moving furniture out of the designated area.
  • Sealing off work areas.
  • Reducing dust production.
  • Cleaning up after yourself.
  • Wearing respiratory protection.
  • Wearing protective clothing.

It also helps to understand the varying health effects of specific wood types so that you know the risks at hand.

Drywall Dust

Drywall dust is also considered a health hazard. It’s formed during the process of cutting or sanding drywall.

And just as you would wear respiratory and skin protection while dealing with wood dust, you’ll want to wear the same PPE when dealing with drywall dust.

As it becomes airborne, this dust can cause irritation in the eyes, nose, throat and respiratory tract. And, if exposed to drywall dust for a long time, it can even cause respiratory difficulty, coughing and phlegm.

To prevent this dust from attacking and irritating your airways, we recommend controlling its spread by:

  • Sealing vents.
  • Hanging up plastic sheets.
  • Using box fans to direct the dust to open windows.
  • Cleaning up after yourself.
  • Changing the A/C or furnace filters regularly.
  • Moving furniture out of the designated area.

Learn more about the risks and controls associated with drywall dust at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

VOCs in Paints and Primers

Everyone loves a fresh coat of paint. It can make the old new again! Or the outdated, modern! But is it safe for your indoor air quality?

That depends!

If built before 1960, your home could likely contain lead-based paint. So if you’re planning on remodelling, you need to be extra careful when removing, repairing or disturbing this type of paint.

If exposed to lead-based paint fumes, you are at risk of lead poisoning. And the health dangers of lead poisoning are not to be taken lightly. They include anaemia, brain damage and nervous system damage.

If you’re unsure whether there is lead-based paint in your home, visit Health Canada!

Today, most consumer paints produced in Canada are lead-free. But that’s not to say that all paint products are safe.

In fact, most paints contain VOCs (volatile organic compounds), which can cause short and long-term health issues.

Some potential short-term health effects of VOCs:

  • Headache.
  • Respiratory difficulties.
  • Dizziness.
  • Eyes, nose, or throat irritation.
  • Nausea.

Some potential long-term health effects of VOCs:

  • Nervous system damage.
  • Liver damage.
  • Kidney damage.

We recommend using low-VOC or no-VOC paint products to help prevent these health risks. We also recommend increasing ventilation while dealing with VOC-containing products.

Harmful Chemicals in Building Materials

Did you know that many building materials contain harmful chemicals, like formaldehyde? That’s why choosing the safest materials is vital to your and your family’s health!

Formaldehyde is an invisible yet harmful gas. And according to the EPA, it can cause irritation, respiratory difficulty, allergic reactions, nausea…etc.

The most significant source of formaldehyde in homes is usually pressed-wood products made with formaldehyde-containing adhesives. Some of these include the wood products used in cabinets, plywood, particleboard, laminate flooring and furniture. Even curtains and drapes can contain formaldehyde!

When working with materials that contain formaldehyde, we recommend:

  • Using exterior-grade pressed wood products.
  • Running your air conditioner to prevent the room from getting too warm.
  • Running a whole-house dehumidifier to reduce humidity levels.
  • Increasing ventilation.
  • Airing out new products before moving them indoors.

Always Practice Proper Clean-Up, Storage and Disposal

Lastly, we always encourage the proper clean-up, storage and disposal of all building materials, equipment and work areas.

  1. Contact your local hazardous waste management company for more information on waste pickup/drop-off near you.
  2. Clean the work area with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner.
  3. Once you have completed the job, change your air conditioner and/or furnace filters.
  4. Store your paints and other materials in tightly sealed containers.

Our Shipton’s CleanAir Crew Is Always Here With Expert Indoor Air Quality Advice!

Now that you know what you’re dealing with, it’s time to get to work! But don’t forget to keep this article on hand should you have any questions or concerns along the way.

Want more indoor air quality tips and tricks? Stay in touch! We post bi-weekly articles full of quality advice from our air quality experts!

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