When remodeling your home, why just make it look and function better? Seize the opportunity to create a healthy home environment for your family. That starts with improving air quality.
About 90 percent of the breaths most people take each day are inhaled indoors. The air doesn’t need to smell or look funky to cause discomfort and serious chronic health issues. Cancer-causing radon soil gas, lethal carbon monoxide from combustion appliances, mold sensitivity from excessive moisture are just some of the hidden health dangers you can remedy during your next remodel. You also can mitigate dangers from lead, asbestos and chemical poisoning and respiratory problems from allergens.
What’s your Hayward Score?
APEX assembled this checklist to help you identify and overcome indoor air hazards and achieve a healthy home. Become more air-quality aware by obtaining your homes’ Hayward Score. The interactive online survey tool asks a series of questions and generates a customized action plan for improving your indoor air. Some measures are easy and inexpensive. Others are more costly and involved. All are at least worthy of consideration.
APEX doesn’t raise these issues to inflate the cost and complexity of your remodel. It’s entirely your choice. However, our mission is to improve your quality of life at home, and health is the cornerstone of quality of life. What would you spend for family members to avoid cancer, developmental problems, lung disease, chronic fatigue or accidental death?
Top 5 Indoor Air Quality Factors
Bill Hayward invented Hayward Score after his own home made him and his family sick. He believes that maintaining healthy indoor air comes down to five things:
- Continuous fresh air
- Proper sealing and insulation
- Non-toxic materials and products
- Cleanable surfaces
- Healthy habits
Here is how APEX can apply these health factors in your remodel.
Healthy fresh air
By fresh air, we typically think of air that enters your home whenever you open doors or windows. However, air also is drawn into your home by differences in air pressure and it is not always healthy.
Kitchen range hoods and bathroom exhaust fans expel moisture and bad air, and forced-air heating systems circulate air and reduce dead air zones. Unfortunately, the fans also lower indoor air pressure. HVAC ducts can spread airborne contaminants throughout the home.
Installing an air exchanger will equalize indoor and outdoor pressure so your exhaust fans, flues and and clothes dryer don’t cause carbon monoxide from your furnace and water heater to spill into your home. It also will scrub the air before it mixes. This is particularly useful in homes with finished basements that are susceptible to radon soil gases. With Minnesota’s long winters, we cannot rely on windows alone to provide fresh air and balance air pressure year-round.
A direct-vent, sealed-combustion gas fireplace will produce warmth and ambiance without potentially compromising air quality like a wood-burning fireplace with a chimney. The same is true for high efficiency, furnace, boiler or water heater. They draw combustion air directly from outdoors rather that from indoors. They are far less likely to spill deadly carbon monoxide into the home.
Be sure to test your home for cancer-causing radon, especially if you plan to finish your basement. If your radon level near the 4.0 action level and you already have drain tile and a sump pump, we may just need us to install a pipe from the sump to above the roof. If it is higher, we will need to wire and install an in-line fan to mechanically draw soil gases from the drain tile, so they don’t enter the basement. APEX also is licensed to deal with peeling or chalking lead paint., which can cause developmental problem in children.
Home sealing and insulation
Thorough air sealing and insulation go hand in hand with ventilation to prevent mold contamination. Done correctly, it will reduce condensation and mold where warm moist air meets cold surfaces.
Proper air sealing and insulation requires gap-free insulation and vapor retarder plastic taped at seams and around electrical boxes.
Spray Polyurethane Foam (SPF) insulation is considered the gold standard for both air sealing and insulation. However, it must be applied by an experienced, licensed professional who understands how to achieve proper curing and prevent prolonged chemical outgassing. The spray foam industry recommends residents and pets stay out during spraying and until the expanding foam cures (typically 24 hours) and dried trimmings are removed. If that is not practical, the contractor will increase ventilation and manage air pressure to reduce indoor exposure in living spaces.
Non-toxic materials and products
For a healthy home, choose natural cleaning products. Chemical residue can build up in a home over time. Using safer products will reduce the risk.
When remodeling, use low VOC finishes and formaldehyde-free building products. Limit the pesticides around the foundation of your home that can leach into your drain tile and sump and get into your basement. To avoid mold, direct your lawn sprinkler away from your siding.
Carpeting and wallcoverings trap dirt, contaminants and bacteria over time. It’s even worse if you have a dog or cat. If your carpeting is 20 years old, it should be considered contaminated. Wetting the fibers during cleaning can make matters worse by reactivating mold spores and bacteria and leaving behind chemical residue.
Consider limited area rugs or in-floor heat to improve barefoot comfort where needed. Hard flooring surfaces such as wood, luxury vinyl or tile are healthier and easier to clean than wall to wall carpeting.
Healthy home habits
Homes don’t come with operator manuals, so user errors are inevitable. You can improve your home’s health chart with these simple habits.
- APEX recommends a kitchen range hood that vents outdoors. We will suggest a quiet one and encourage you to use it whenever you cook.
- APEX will recommend a bathroom exhaust fan even if there is a window. Always use the fan when you bathe and let it run 30 minutes after you get out of the tub or shower.
- APEX designs functional mudrooms with benches and storage that encourage clients to remove their shoes at the door, so they don’t track contaminants indoors. What could be more Minnesotan!
- APEX prefers central vacuum systems that vent outdoors to portable vacuum cleans that recirculate fine particles back into the room. Vacuum carpeting weekly using long, slow passes and twice a week if you have pets.
- Store pesticides, fertilizers and other hazardous in an outbuilding if possible or attached garage if not. Don’t keep them in your basement, especially not in the furnace room where contaminants can be drawn into heating ducts.
- Have your furnace or boiler cleaned and tuned annually to minimize carbon monoxide and make sure your central air conditioner condensate line is clear, so bacteria do not build up in the pan.
Contact APEX President John Biancini to learn more about how remodeling done right can lead to a healthier home.