Three Fixes for a Healthy Home Environment
We spend half of our daily lives at home. But have you ever thought about how the environment of your home affects your health? In both older and newer homes, several issues may contribute to serious health risks for you and your family.
The good news is that whatever your home’s age, there’s a cure for what ails it. Tackle these fixes small and large to achieve a healthy home.
Contains Lead or Asbestos
If you own an older home, chances are it contains lead or asbestos — or both. Lead was widely used in wall paints prior to 1978 when it was banned. And asbestos, used as insulation around pipes and in walls, can be found in old floor tiles, siding and roofing. When remodeling older homes, make sure a qualified contractor tests these materials before removing them.
If your home tests positive for asbestos, you’ll need to hire a licensed abatement contractor to handle its removal. If there’s lead paint — and it’s in good shape — you may be able to contain it with a special encapsulating paint. This video from BobVila.com explains the process in detail.
If you choose to remove lead paint from surfaces, follow these steps from This Old House to safely remove and dispose of it. Otherwise, you can expect to pay between $11 to $14 per square foot to hire a professional to remove lead from painted surfaces, according to an expert on BobVila.com.
Purify Drinking Water
Where else could lead be lurking? Again, some older homes may still have lead pipes, which can leach lead if they become corroded. But even newer homes with copper pipes may pose a risk if those pipes were soldered together with lead. When remodeling any plumbing, consider replacing older pipes with new copper ones or with flexible tubing known as PEX. Family Handyman offers this guide to PEX tubing installation for the experienced DIYer.
It’s possible your water may also be contaminated with other toxins and bacteria. If your home runs on a municipal water supply, you should receive a Consumer Confidence Report each July assessing your drinking water. You can also download your local report from the EPA’s Consumer Confidence Report site.
If you have well water — or simply for overall peace of mind — you can have your water tested. If your test results contain anything questionable, choose a water filtration system that works for the issue and for your budget. On the affordable end are tap-mountable water filters, which usually run about $50. On the high end are under-sink systems and whole-house water-filtration systems, ranging from around $100 to several thousand dollars, including professional installation. NSF International offers detailed steps for choosing a home water treatment system.
Keep Radon in Check
Regardless of your home’s age, it may have a problem with radioactive radon gas — the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. This naturally occurring odorless and colorless gas has been found in homes nationwide.
A simple radon test, purchased at a home-improvement store or obtained for free through your state’s department of health, will tell if your home exceeds the EPA levels for safety. If so, you’ll need to hire a radon mitigation contractor to install what’s known as a sub-slab depressurization system to suck the radon out and away from your house. Expect to spend several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on your home’s size.
As the old saying goes, home is where the heart is. Let’s just do our best to keep that heart — and yours — ticking for as long as possible.