We live in a health-conscious world today: from what we eat to how we exercise, healthy living choices are everywhere. We should consider the same practice of making healthy choices when it comes to building a custom home, too.
The average American spends 70% of their day indoors, and that means we are inhaling a lot of dust. Dust contains all types of chemicals, some of which are toxins. It sheds from our furniture, appliances, toys and building materials like insulation, sealants, adhesives and paints. Builders are using materials to build airtight, energy efficient homes, and, while this is a necessary practice, it means a well-sealed home can trap in toxic chemicals, mold, pollen and other irritants.
Working with your builder, they can help you to minimize the toxins in materials you are exposed too. They can help you select materials that are safe alternatives. A conversation upfront with your contractor to make these selections and choices will eliminate toxic material options.
The two most important factors in building a healthy home are the materials used and the means of mitigating indoor air quality. There are materials that you will want to avoid from the beginning:
From flooring to blinds, to wall coverings – any material that contains vinyl is a concern and should be avoided. Vinyl contains phthalates; it is the chemical used to make plastics soft and flexible. Phthalates can mimic the body’s hormones and can impact normal body functions. In particular, pregnant women should avoid vinyl materials.
Adhesives and sealants, including paint, are the kinds of interior finishes that can contain numerous toxic chemicals. All of these products can release chemicals into the air we breathe.
Foam plastic insulation, in particular (often just known as spray foam) contains toxic flame retardants and other chemicals that can exacerbate, and even cause, asthma. It can harm home dwellers, too.
To combat these potentially harmful products, work with your builder to select healthier options. A great resource to start with is Home Building Networks Home Free product list. This list ranks materials and product options from paints to flooring, cabinets and counter tops. It’s a valuable resource, and your builder will be able to guide you in your selections.
The next best way to build a healthy custom home is to consider how to stay safe day to day.
You can reduce your exposure to harmful products with a good ventilation system in your home. Allowing natural air in through your windows is always a good option too.
Installing a whole house air purifier can clean your air of pollutants such as bacteria, mold, pollen, pet dander and other allergy triggers.
Keep dust to a minimum in your home. Using a wet mop on floors, damp cloth for dusting and a vacuum with a high efficiency air filter will help keep dust away.
Other ways to keep your home healthy:
Eliminate any chance for mold in the house by eliminating condensation. Also, your builder should be sure your home has flashing to keep bulk water away from your home – any home with water that has found its way in is not a healthy house.
The more prevention that is discussed and communicated through the building process, the healthier your home will be for you and your family.