Construction Dust Control: Asthma and Remodeling Ventilation

attic, ventilation, ridge vent vs, attic fan

Living through a major home remodel can turn anyone’s life topsy-turvy, but when you suffer from asthma, it can become a hazard to your health. That’s why it’s important to hire a contractor who knows how to control indoor air pollutants like dust during a home remodel, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).

Dust, debris and fumes from demolition and construction can wreak havoc on your eyes, nose and skin. A skilled remodeler will know what steps to take to minimize pollutants infiltrating the other living spaces of the home. John Martin, owner of Straight and Level Construction Co. in Austin, Texas, recently won a regional Contractor of the Year Award for a residential remodel for a family with three children that suffered from asthma. The scope of the project included a second story addition, a first floor addition and kitchen remodel. “The challenge was that this family would be living in the house during the entire project,” he said.

Many remodeling activities, from demolition to sawing and installing moldings, have the potential to create dust. Using low-dust work practices, such as misting surfaces with water before sanding or scraping, and covering the work area with plastic or poly tarp sheeting can contain the dust. To help his clients survive the dust and grime, and to make sure the children breathed clean air, Martin and his team sealed off half the home and worked behind plastic. “They had no washing machine, no kitchen and only one bathroom,” he explained. “We made the master bath into a makeshift kitchen by rerouting some power and adding a microwave, small refrigerator.”

Martin used plastic barriers at all entries to the construction areas and also sealed off the vents. “We had to control the dust from getting up in the attic space and into the air ducts, transferring between living spaces inside.” he said.

Adequate ventilation is another key to healthy indoor air during construction. Exhaust ventilation, such as a fan blowing out from the work area, will help remove dust and other pollutants and, by creating a pressure barrier, will help keep pollutants from spreading to other parts of the house, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection agency. Martin’s crew kept the air flowing, vacuumed thoroughly at least three days a week and swept and cleaned at the end of every shift. In addition, they had to keep the home site clear of debris so that the children wouldn’t accidentally step on a nail or other building materials.

The family’s asthma health issues dictated the types of materials would be used in the project. Most materials used in the project were eco-conscious and all were formaldehyde-free, including insulation, sub-floor materials and cabinetry construction. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas compound (HCHO) that is known as a carcinogen and allergen that can irritate your eyes, mucous membranes and the upper respiratory system.  Martin used low-VOC latex paint instead of oil-based paint. Sherwin-Williams Duration low-VOC paints on interior walls and ceilings.

All told, the project took six months to complete and added 1,125 square feet to the home. “Even with the challenges of this project, the family was so nice and easy, I never got a complaint,” Martin added.

If you are planning a home remodel, NARI Remodelers can help homeowners find contractors who will take care of the entire remodeling process and reduce the risk that the remodeling project will cause problems such as an asthma attack. Log on to to find a remodeler in your area. For green remodeling information, please visit

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