Home Renovations and Air Quality

Minimize Indoor Air Pollution on Your Next Home Renovation Project

Believe it or not, the simple act of swinging a sledgehammer or installing new flooring can actually pollute your indoor air more than you’d like to believe. When renovating and remodeling, and equally for new home builders, there are many factors to consider when it comes to maintaining excellent indoor air quality. There are factors that can contribute to poor indoor air quality throughout any renovation or building project all along the timeline, but contaminants are the main issue.

There are many things that fall into the category of air contaminants, but they can be grouped into the following sub-categories:

  • Biological materials: Renovations can reveal contaminants in your home that you didn’t know you had - things like mold, fungi, insects, and so on. All of these biological materials can become airborne as you tear your home apart, creating irritants that bother eyes, nose, throat, and your respiratory system. If these result from chronically wet areas in your home, apertures through which bugs can enter, and so on, be sure to address any structural problems with the help of a suitable professional to prevent the contaminants from entering your home in the future. And while you work around these areas, be sure to wear protective clothing.
  • Combustion products: With poor ventilation, welding and using generators in your home during renovation projects can result in the addition of things like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides to your home’s indoor air. Poorly placed air intakes can also bring exhaust from outdoor vehicles (with similar contaminants) into your home year-round. Be sure to address ventilation issues, for your long-term health as well as for your short-term comfort during renovations.
  • Particulate matter: Think of this category as very fine dust or fibers that get introduced into the air during construction and renovation projects. Some particulate matter is non-hazardous, such as gypsum, limestone, cement, fiberglass, mineral wool, and plaster dust. These will however cause short-term discomfort, like skin, eye, and respiratory irritation. Hazardous particulate matter like lead dust (from paint) or asbestos are much more serious. Check out the US EPA’s Lead-Safe Program or Health Canada’s Lead site for information on removing lead paint, and get information about removing asbestos from the EPA and Health Canada before proceeding with projects with these materials.
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): You’ve heard these talked about when referring to paint, no doubt, but these compounds which are released in the form of a gas can come from a whole host of building materials and can contribute to headaches, drowsiness, and eye, nose, and throat irritation depending on the concentration. Building materials that can off-gas long after they are installed including paints, stains, varnishes, coatings, caulks, sealants, carpeting, adhesives, resilient flooring, wall coverings, pressed wood products, cleaners, fabrics, draperies, foam, and fuels. To ensure you don’t add any of these stinky materials to your home reno of building project, look for products certified as green by the Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) Indoor Advantage Gold standard.


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