Asthma-Friendly Home Improvements
LESLIE: Jim in Georgia listens to us on the internet.
Jim, welcome to The Money Pit. What’s going on?
JIM: Hi, you guys.
JIM: Thanks a lot for taking my call. I have an 85-year-old aunt that lives in a mother-in-law suite of my cousin.
TOM: OK. (Leslie chuckles)
JIM: Now she has asthma real bad and at 85 she gets around pretty good anyway.
LESLIE: Southern women get more saucy.
JIM: But we want to get rid of the mildew and the stuff that’s giving her aggravated asthma. We can see a little bit of water seepage coming from a wall that is up against the dirt in the front of their house. This is a basement apartment so it does have a dirt wall on one end. It has seeped in water in the past. We thought we took care of it by changing the carpet out but we still have the terrible smell of mildew and it’s just seeping into her apartment down there. Do we just start ripping out drywall til we find the smell go away or how do we attack this thing?
TOM: Well first of all, you’ve got to keep the humidity down. Do you have a dehumidifier down there?
JIM: Yes sir, we do.
TOM: Alright. Is this house forced air heated?
TOM: You might want to think about installing a whole-home dehumidifier, which is going to be a lot more effective than a portable dehumidifier.
LESLIE: Oh, and so helpful for her asthma.
TOM: Yeah, it’s really helpful for people that have breathing problems. It takes out something like 90 quarts of water a day, a whole-home dehumidifier. It’s mounted into your HVAC system, so it’s sort of a permanent appliance once it’s installed.
The other thing that you mentioned that bothered me right away is the carpet. If you have respiratory issues and you’re living in a basement, those are two bad combinations to have carpet. Because the carpet, the backing on the carpet is just a real home for all types of allergens. So having carpet in a basement apartment is not a good idea at all. I would prefer to see you have something like a laminate floor, which is durable and very, very attractive as well; maybe a throw rug or two just for color but definitely not wall-to-wall carpet.
LESLIE: Yeah, and if you go with a throw rug, make sure you get something that doesn’t have a fiber like a wool. Make sure you go with something that has a closed-knit fiber so it doesn’t put more particles into the air that would affect her asthma.
JIM: So these pieces of drywall, at the bottom we see a little bit of water damage. Should we yank those out, at least?
TOM: Opposite the drywall, sounds like you probably have a drainage condition that’s forcing that water to get in there. You want to look at the outside of that wall and make sure that the soil is sloping away, the gutters are not backing up, or the downspouts aren’t discharging right there and get that source of water dealt with.
In terms of the drywall itself, what I would do is I would saturate that whole area with about a 20-percent solution of bleach and water and that will kill any mold that’s growing in that particular place. And then keep it dry. If you keep it dry, then you’re not going to have a problem.
If you want information about that whole-home dehumidifier, you can go to the website for Aprilaire, Aprilaire.com, April-a-i-r-e.com. Get information on whole-home dehumidification.
Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.