Remodeling: Ways to Preserve Indoor Air Quality

Written by Lillie Reiter, Field Technician

Before envisioning a dazzling new porch on the outside of a home or a magnificent expanded master bedroom, pause for a moment to think about the air quality in the house. Remodeling may be exciting or frustrating and the anticipation to "get it over with" often outweighs health and safety concerns. Homeowners should be aware of the air quality before, during, and after remodeling in order to ensure the project goes smoothly and the occupants breath easily throughout the process. Here are some tips to preserve air quality.

Before the remodel:

  • Have air testing to establish a baseline status. Homeowners ought to know about an existing problem before they remodel in order to fix the underlying problem before new ones have a chance to arise.
  • Assume houses built before 1978 potentially contain lead. The Environmental Protection Agency warns all homes built before 1978 should be treated as if they contain lead. Take this into account when remodeling because lead paint should be removed properly in order to protect the residents. 
  • Locate and identify asbestos. Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used in insulation around pipers, floor tiles, roofing shingles, textured paint, and oil furnaces because of its fiber strength and ability to withstand head. This versatile material is, however, harmful if inhaled and causes adverse health effects. Identifying and not disturbing and material with asbestos is another way to preserve air quality.
  • Talk with the contractor. If applicable, have in action plan in place for keeping the air supply clean. Make sure the contractor doesn't disrupt unnecessary elements in the home and understands any concerns that may arise.

During remodel:

  • Seal off areas being remodeled. By closing off spaces being renovated from the main house, the air is protected from dust and contaminated air. Close off air supply and return ducts where construction is being done so polluted air isn't drawn into the rest of the house.
  • Ventilate! Install or place a fan in the renovation space. Make sure all windows in the space being renovated are open. Keeping air flow from outside to inside is very important for air quality.
  • Check for mold/mildew. Use this occasion to look for mold or mildew that might have built up in difficult to see places. Tearing down that wall between the living room and kitchen? Look between those studs and check for suspicious growth. If microbial growth is identified, contact ESG and we can help you determine if what you are seeing is a concern. Trying to tackle the mold issue without the proper training or protective equipment can cause exposure to avoidable health risks. 
  • Control moisture. Lack of moisture control is one of the top reasons for mold growth. By throwing a tarp over a porch that doesn't have a roof yet or placing a dehumidifier in an unfinished basement, moisture control can easily be achieved and mold kept at bay.
  • Appropriately store/dispose of hazardous material.

After the remodel:

  • Keep up good habits! Continue to keep moisture levels down and replace air filters monthly using pleated, MERV-8 rated filters. Continue to properly ventilate and check the condition of your HVAC air handling unit and duct work.

While the remodeling process can be emotionally turbulent, the air quality inside a home doesn't have to be. With dedicated efforts before, during, and after breathing easy doesn't have to be difficult.