Improve your home for better health

Johnny Morgan, Reichel, Claudette H.

News Release Distributed 02/01/10 

A home remodeling project – and your investment in it – can do much more than update your surroundings. It can make your home a healthier place to live and breathe, according to Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist.

“Most Americans spend at least 80 percent of their time indoors, and indoor air is typically much more polluted than outdoor air,” Reichel said. “That’s why the home environment is related to so many health effects, ranging from allergies and asthma triggered by dust mites, mold and pest residue to cancer or death from combustion pollutants or dangerous fumes.”

Reichel said the good news is that homeowners can make their houses healthy for their families by applying seven principles of healthy homes, especially when planning a remodeling project.

Reichel says remodelers should include these improvements:

Keep it dry.

Improve drainage and make sure structural work is detailed with effective flashings and weather barriers to drain off rain that seeps under siding and roofing and into window frames.

Consider ways to manage moisture movement and humidity, prevent hidden condensation on cold surfaces and provide protection from plumbing leaks.

Keeping your home dry prevents mold growth, and keeping humidity low controls dust mites. Consider installing an EnergyStar-rated dehumidifier to keep indoor relative humidity below 50 percent.

Keep it clean.

Choose easy-to-clean surfaces such as smooth flooring coverings, avoid hard-to-reach nooks or dust collectors and use washable rugs.

Add shoe cubbies and big commercial-style door mats at the family entry. Use a low-emission vacuum cleaner.

Keep it well-ventilated.

– Every home needs some fresh air to dilute pollutants generated in daily living. At a minimum, make sure you have in the kitchen and bathrooms effective fans that exhaust to the outdoors.

– Choose quiet fans, and make sure the ducts are installed properly according to manufacturer instructions – or you won’t get the airflow you paid for.

– For optimal air quality, seal your home airtight and install a filtered, fresh-air ventilation system that allows you to control the quantity and quality of ventilation.

Keep it safe.

– Go on a home hazard hunt like a detective. Correct slippery floors, install sturdy handrails, add decorative grab bars, and increase lighting to reduce slip and fall hazards. Add ground fault circuit interrupters in wet areas.

– Mount fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

– Childproof with storage locks, rounded corners, second-story window and stair gates and cordless blinds.

– Install high-security deadbolts, peep holes, exterior motion lights and safety glass.

Keep it contaminant-free.

– If your home was built before 1978, assume it may have lead-based paint, and make sure workers use lead-safe work practices that don’t create or leave lead dust.

– Consider storm-, flood- and mold-resistant materials and structural assemblies. Provide ample venting of all combustion appliances. Better still are “direct vent” furnaces, fireplaces and water heaters that don’t use indoor air to feed the flame.

– Seal the doors and walls between the garage and living space.

Keep it pest-free.

– Control pests with as little toxic chemicals as possible.

– Seal all holes and gaps, give pests no place to nest and hide, reduce the availability of food and water, and use low-toxic pesticides such as borate treatments and traps.

Keep it well-maintained.

– Choose durable, low-maintenance materials that will hold up well in our warm, humid climate.

– Ensure that any foundation is designed for the soil conditions.

– Consider high-wind roofing, tear-resistant roof underlayment and window protections.

For more information on housing, visit

Johnny Morgan

1/4/2011 1:07:57 AM
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