Protect your health while remodeling

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ July 29, 2011

It's a known fact that people who work in green buildings have greater productivity and less absenteeism. The Green Building Advisor reports nearly a 50 percent increase in on-the-job time and productivity in buildings designed to cut the worker's exposure to allergens. So, why shouldn't home improvement enthusiasts consider taking green measures when they embark on projects in their residences?

Photo by Respro

According to The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), some 36 million of us have allergies. I certainly do. During a remodeling or home improvement project, people with allergies and asthma are subjected to a steady breeze of mites and dust. Whether you're handling the entire remodeling project yourself or calling in a contractor, you have every right to safeguard your health.

If you have a history of allergies, NARI suggests that you consider only working with contractors who consent to sealing off the work area with plastic sheeting and, when the job is complete, to remove the sheeting without dragging it through your house. Use a chute to send debris outside without compromising other rooms.

Health danger spots during remodeling jobs

The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has identified floors, furnaces, air ducts and filters, walls and coatings, and asbestos in older homes as hot spots that require special preparation. Frequent health culprits are volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chemicals that are used in plaster and drywall, paint, manufactured wood products, wallpaper, flooring and solvents.

If you're remodeling or performing an addition, ask your supplier for non-VOC materials. Be sure the room where you're working has plenty of outdoor ventilation and use a portable fan to blow air from your work area out an open window. And, speaking of ventilation, close all vents that lead from your repair or remodeling site to the rest of the house!

Change your HEPA filters in your HVAC system frequently during your remodeling project so they won't overburden your ventilation system or become a warehouse for unhealthy particles. Vacuum your sleeping rooms daily.

Fellow sneezers would do well to consider replacing carpeting--a year-round host to mites--with flooring. Once again, check with manufacturers or suppliers to ensure you're not using flooring products with VOCs.

Take health breaks

Allergy Consumer Review reminds us that the stress from performing or living with a remodeling project can fire up allergies and asthma. Your best defense may be to take frequent breaks for fresh air outdoors. For stay-home parents, take your children elsewhere to play. And wear an allergy face mask around the house no matter how silly you think it looks!

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