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Improved indoor air quality through renovation

The air in your home can have a big impact on how you and your family feel. Poor indoor air can leave you feeling tired and unwell; a wide range of airborne pollutants can aggravate asthma and allergies. Poor indoor air quality is not only a health concern; in an older home, it can be an indication of underlying problems needing attention.

  • One of the best ways to detect indoor air problems is by using your sense of smell. After closing all windows in your home, spend a few hours outside in the fresh air. As you re-enter your home, sniff the air. An earthy, musty smell can indicate the presence of moulds or mildew while stale, odorous air may mean a general lack of ventilation. Chemical odours may be linked to cleaning products, recent painting, renovations, or materials stored in the house.

  • Your builder can help you to determine if there is any reason to be concerned and, if so, suggest ways of improving the air quality in your home.

  • One of the main culprits of poor air quality is excessive moisture, which is the perfect breeding ground for moulds, some of which are toxic and can affect your health. It can also cause a deterioration in the home itself, resulting in rotting wood, peeling paint or efflorescence on bricks and concrete. Water can get into the house from the outside though leaks in the roof, walls or foundation. Moisture generated inside your home by cooking, showering and other ordinary household activities can get trapped, causing condensation on exterior surfaces such as windows and walls.

  • Other reasons for poor air quality in your home include old carpeting and cracks in walls and floor that can trap dust, fur and pet hair. Some people may also be allergic to dust mites. Recent improvements such as paint, cabinets, flooring or new furniture may still be off-gassing. Everyday household activities, from cleaning to hobbies, may kick up dust or put chemicals into your home’s air so it’s worthwhile having any air conditioning ducts/units cleaned in case they are contributing to the spread of dust and mould throughout the house.

  • There is a wide range of possible corrective measures. Your builder may recommend that you install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom, or even a whole-house ventilation system which is often installed in conjunction with a substantial energy retrofitting of a home. Other measures include caulking leaks and removing old carpets.

  • When renovating, it is important that you do not inadvertently introduce new air quality problems. Your builder can help you to select materials and products that will help to keep your indoor air clean. During renovation, every effort should be made to minimise dust and other airborne pollutants. When possible, the work area should be sealed off from the rest of the home.

  • If someone in your household has severe allergies or other extreme environmental sensitivities, there are alternative approaches and products that may be used, such as plaster wall finishes instead of paints. Some products might be harder to find or more difficult to install than conventional ones, but your builder will be able to assist you.

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