According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 50 million Americans suffer from some form of seasonal or environmental allergy. With Americans spending more time in their homes for work and play, homeowners are focused on maintaining a quality home environment (ie. indoor air quality) to minimize potential allergens.
Whether building a new construction home or completing a major home renovation, there are several steps that homeowners can take to improve their home environment. This month’s blog examines tips to keep your home environment healthy and reduce allergens that may affect your and your family’s health.
Common Home Allergens
The typical seasonal and environmental allergen culprits in many homes include:
- Mold and Mildew: These allergens typically form and grow from water sources like leaks and water damage. Molds need three things to thrive – water, a carbon food source, and oxygen. Molds cause many different chronic health issues for homeowners.
- Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOCs): VOCs are gases emitted from various solids or liquids in the home that can cause various respiratory and health issues. Many VOCs are caused by added chemicals in furnishings, paints, finishes, and other home products.
- Dust and Dust Mites: Dust mites are tiny organisms that are natural to household dust.
- Outdoor pollution and pollen: Allergens that may enter the home from the outdoors can exacerbate existing seasonal allergies.
New Construction Homes
New home construction is one of the easiest ways to control the allergens in your home, especially if the homeowner is making good choices before construction. Today’s overall construction quality makes a big difference in how new homes can manage the threat of allergens. Construction materials, such as improved insulation, composite windows, and doors, can offer homeowners increased protection from mold and water damage.
Other specific considerations for mitigating allergens in new home construction include the following:
- Flooring Choices – wall-to-wall carpeting is a significant contributor to indoor dust and even VOCs from the chemicals used to treat carpeting. Choose hardwood, tile, or laminates to reduce the potential for allergens. You may want to look at our last blog post about different flooring types.
- Heating and Cooling Choices – Radiant heat sources are less likely to circulate allergens in the air versus forced air systems. Also, HVAC systems that utilize HEPA air filtration can significantly improve indoor air quality (IAQ).
- Paint and Finish Choices – Low or no VOC paints and finishes (such as cabinet finishes) make a big difference when it comes to the presence of VOCs. These may cost more, but these products are designed to reduce their chemical emissions as they dry or age in the home.
- Window and door choices – Modern double-paned windows will provide more protection from outside elements. Make sure to have windows and doors carefully sealed and weatherproofed.
In addition to the construction materials and process, homeowners may furnish their homes with new furniture. Many furniture products are the main culprit in emitting VOC gases through a process called “off-gassing.” If you purchase solid wood products versus engineered wood products like MDF (medium-density fiberboard), it will be easier to control the VOC levels. New furnishings should be aired before being placed into the home to allow these chemicals to dissipate and not collect inside the home.
Many new construction choices are also important for home renovation projects. For example, if you are renovating a room or rooms, consider a lower allergen flooring choice over carpeting. Additionally, renovation work is messy and can produce a lot of dust and chemical gases. Work with your contractor to identify ways to reduce those allergens, including:
- Maintaining a clean work area
- Sealing existing ventilation during the renovation to prevent the circulation of construction dust
- Tenting or walling in construction areas (for example, zip walls)
- Using low or no VOC paints and drywall materials
- Completing a thorough cleaning of the work area when the renovation is complete.
Keeping your home allergen-free can be done with the proper education and effort. In addition to the suggested ways to improve your home’s air quality, consider implementing a periodic testing regimen into your home maintenance plan. This may include annual mold and VOC testing and yearly inspections to look for possible water damage and other issues in the home foundation, attic, and walls. Choose a professionally certified tester or inspector to ensure your testing is accurate.
While the allergens that affect our health can never be eradicated, with the right amount of planning and focus, you can create a healthy environment for your home.
Ready to build a new home or start a home renovation project? The Bergen County professionals at Prominent Builders and Design have worked with homeowners for over 25 years. We have the expertise you need to bring your ideas for your home into reality. Contact us today to schedule a consultation about your new home or renovation project.