Home renovation has become an activity that many homeowners are tackling in one way or another. With television shows and tutorials at the palm of your hand, the ability to perform projects on your own has become increasingly popular. However, what these fun do-it-yourself tutorials and television shows do not glorify, are the many toxic elements you may encounter throughout the renovation process.
Older homes are a perfect target for renovation and are often the ones that are being renovated most frequently, due to their outdated features. If you plan to renovate your property without the help of professionals, there are dangerous toxins you should be aware of before you start any projects.
Don’t Let the Lead Out
If you’re planning on updating a room by giving it a unique touch, a fresh coat of paint can go a long way. Since painting does not involve demolition, and at most may require some sanding of a wall, it is seen as a harmless and simplistic form of renovation. However, before you begin sanding down your walls, it’s important to know what you might be stirring up and releasing to the environment.
For example, sanding a wall or chipping away paint on a window that has a coat of lead-based paint could be harmful not only to your own health, but is extremely dangerous for children. Exposure to lead particles in adults can result in memory loss, high blood pressure, and joint pain. While these symptoms may seem minor, children are more seriously affected, experiencing cognitive development problems, weight loss, vomiting, and irritability. Lead dust that goes unnoticed can settle on the floor, which is easily accessible to children.
Lead paint was not banned from commercial use until 1978. Testing for lead is a fairly cheap precaution to take, on average costing between $250 to $450 for the entire home to be inspected. If your home falls within these years, it’s smart to first have it evaluated before doing any renovation.
If lead is present, you may want to have it professionally removed before you start painting. This will limit the possibility of exposure and will ensure your home is a safer environment for years to come. While it is not recommended to keep lead-based paint on your walls, if you do, be sure to have proper ventilation and cleanup measures in place to limit the amount of dust created during the process.
How to Avoid Asbestos
Home improvement shows and videos love to portray the sheer destructive pleasure of taking a sledgehammer to a wall and ripping out insulation at the outset of a project. But not everything we see on television is what it seems. Behind the scenes we can only hope that the producers have taken the all-important steps necessary to determine what toxin may be contained in those walls before releasing all that dust and debris to the air, including asbestos.
Similar to lead-based paint, asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were common in homes built prior to 1980. While asbestos has still not been fully banned by the EPA, its usage has been greatly restricted and typically hasn’t been used to build homes for a few decades.
However, first-time homebuyers often buy homes that are older in nature and are prone to harboring ACMs. If you are planning to perform renovation work that involves removing building materials, you should first have your home looked at by a licensed professional.
Asbestos can be found throughout the home in materials such as insulation, roofing shingles, flooring tiles, and plaster. Unknowingly exposing yourself to asbestos during a renovation project can have detrimental consequences to your health later on in life.
When you are exposed to asbestos, the fibers can become lodged in the lining of your internal organs, causing malignant tumors to develop. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer, and is often diagnosed 10 to 50 years after initial exposure. To avoid this risk, have any suspected materials that may contain asbestos tested in your home.
Testing for asbestos can be a bit more costly then testing for lead paint, ranging anywhere from $200 to $1200 for the tests alone. While this may seem like a significant amount of money for a test, it is vital to your health and will ensure you are not incurring additional expenses down the line. If asbestos is present, you can decide if you want to encapsulate (seal) the toxic materials or have them removed. While sealing these materials off is the cheapest option, it should be noted that there is no safe level of asbestos exposure.
Asbestos abatement (removal) can be extremely costly, ranging from $1,500 to upwards of $20,000 and absolutely must be done by an experienced pro. Removing asbestos incorrectly can contaminate the entire home, skyrocketing both the danger and the cleanup costs! This is NOT a DIY project!
Mitigate the Toxic Mold
Renovation projects that take place in a garage, basement, or bathroom are more likely to encounter mold, due to its ability to thrive in damp areas of the home. Mold presents itself in the form of three different colors, and has a strong musty odor. To prevent mold spores from spreading throughout your home, it is important to rid the mold from the visible source.
Mold removal can be fairly cheap if it is in a localized area. You can remove mold yourself or expect to pay around $300 for minor removal of mold; however, if there are many affected areas throughout the home, you could pay upwards of $10,000 for a full remediation.
By having the mold removed, you will be bypassing the toxic symptoms associated with exposure, such as itchy eyes, coughing, nose bleeds, and a sore throat. It is also important to have it removed, because depending on the type of mold, greater health concerns could ensue. While it has not been scientifically proven, those who are exposed to black mold over a prolonged period of time have experienced memory loss and nerve pain in the extremities.
Also, keep in mind that once the mold is removed, it has the ability to come back. There are steps you can take to reduce the possibility of mold becoming a recurring problem and it’s important to follow these steps, especially if they can be done during your renovation.
Better Safe Than Sorry
Safe renovation is smart renovation. Health issues associated with the toxins discussed above can all be avoided if the proper protocol is put in place. Completing a renovation project on your own is something that can be very rewarding, but it is important that you are not harming anyone throughout the process.