Home improvement endeavors involve all kinds of choices, from structure to technique to colors and textures. It might seem overwhelming to add one more consideration to the list, but the impact your project will have on air quality isn’t one to breeze over. Today’s well-sealed structures can end up accommodating all kinds of air pollutants, including those that make an entrance through building materials, finishes and furnishings, but there are easy ways to improve indoor air quality through green home remodeling.

Bottom line; that “new” smell isn’t as great to be around as you might think, because it’s a signal that volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are infiltrating the air you breathe. Depending on your sensitivity level, VOCs’ impact can range from irritation to illness, so keep the air clear from the start by selecting products and using techniques that are green and clean. In addition to ample ventilation while you work, here are some ways to minimize and altogether avoid the introduction of VOCs and improve indoor air quality during your next green remodeling project.

Green Home Air QualityPaint and Wallcoverings. Paint fumes generated during and after application are among the more detectable VOCs, but several manufacturers now offer a palette of low- and no-VOC products for your consideration. If wallpaper is your finish of choice, steer away from vinyl-based papers that can contain phthalate-discharging PVC (polyvinyl chloride) which can increase respiratory problems.

Flooring. Avoid products that contain harmful amounts of formaldehyde or involve VOC-heavy adhesives. If carpeting is in your green home improvement remodeling plans, ask the dealer to unroll it and allow it to air for at least one day before it comes home. To cut down on dust during removal of the old carpet, vacuum it well before the installation crew arrives.

Drywall. If the paper in standard drywall products becomes damp, it can easily extend an invitation to another indoor air pollutant: mold. For any project where moisture is a threat, particularly in below-grade improvements, select a paperless drywall such as Georgia-Pacific’s DensArmor Plus. 

Countertops. The earth-and air-friendly options in this category are expanding, from glass and ceramic tile to stainless steel to solid surfacing. Laminates incorporating formaldehyde-free substrates and nontoxic glues are available, and terrazzos making use of low-VOC binders can also be found.

Furnishings. Go for all-natural content in such traditionally synthetic items as mattresses and shower curtains, and when you bring home other new furnishings to complement improved spaces, give them a few days to air out before bringing them into the house.

HVAC add-ons. For improved air quality during and between green home improvement projects, augment your home’s HVAC system with a whole-house air cleaner and humidifier. The former traps and kills allergens and dangerous bacteria, while the latter maintains an environmental balance that protects your home’s structure and provides easy-breathing comfort for its inhabitants. Aprilaire offers a range of products that can help, and you can identify possible weaknesses in your current system with their interactive tool that shows indoor air quality challenges and solutions in action.

Natural accessories. For additional, natural air cleaning, add plants to your indoor décor. Boston ferns, dwarf date palms, phalaenopsis orchids and English ivy are among the bits of green that can collectively help to reduce levels of indoor contaminants and improve air quality.

Air quality testing kits. For further assurance on improving indoor air quality during your green remodeling projects, purchase one of the many inexpensive and easy-to-use testing kits or monitors which can measure for radon, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide, water vapor and more.