Selecting new carpet and paint can be an enjoyable process, but did you know they can be harmful to your health? Many common building materials contain harmful ingredients that make the air we breathe in our home unhealthy. Choosing the right materials, using lung-friendly work practices, and considering the best building design can help to improve the air we breathe during new construction and remodeling projects in your home.
10 Tips for New Construction or Remodeling
- Plan your home based on what the climate is like where you will build. Some plans work better in hot, humid weather than in cold, dry weather, for example. Not all materials or techniques work well everywhere. Go to this map from the U.S. Department of Energy to see the climate zones and best practice guides.
- Keep water out. Make sure the building design, materials and methods keep water out of the building. Plan for rain, indoor moisture and groundwater. Wet paper products, such as drywall, should be removed and replaced. See the EPA’s Moisture Control Guidance for Building Design, Construction and Maintenance.
- Keep radon out. Radon is a natural, but invisible and odorless, gas that causes lung cancer. Follow the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's guidance for keeping radon out of your new home. It is cheaper to keep radon out when you are building or remodeling than to fix it later.
- Be sure fresh air can get in and dirty air and moisture from indoors can get out. Exhaust from bathrooms, gas stoves, furnaces and gas water heaters must go directly outside. You create moisture when you exhale, bathe or cook, so reduce moisture in the air by opening up windows and installing and using fans to help pull the wet air out.
- Use paints that emit fewer gases, also known as "low-VOC" paints.
- Use building materials and pressed-wood products that emit little or no formaldehyde. Avoid using materials made with urea formaldehyde resins.
- Avoid wall-to-wall carpets. Carpets collect and hold dirt, pollen and other particles. Vacuum cleaners without HEPA filters can blow particles back into the air. Hard-surface flooring, like wood or tile, can be damp mopped. If you do choose carpet, make sure it has little or no formaldehyde. Open new carpet outdoors so it can air out for 2-3 days before installing it indoors. Also run an exhaust fan indoors after installing new carpet to limit the odor.
- Remodeling a home built before 1978? There may be lead on any painted surfaces. Lead was used in paints even as late as 1978. If the lead paint is in good condition, leave it alone. Don't sand it or burn it off. If it is flaking or peeling, get help from a trained specialist to remove the paint. Don't try to do it yourself.
- Does your home have asbestos? It may be found in the insulation and old ceiling tiles, for example. Leave it in place, intact if possible. Don't disturb it. If you must remove it because it is damaged, get help from a qualified professional.
- Protect occupants from dust, odors and pollutants during remodels. Use low-dust work practices and place barriers of durable protective sheeting to keep dust contained to the work area. Ensure the work area is properly ventilated by placing a fan blowing outdoors.
Page last updated: November 2, 2023