Tips for a Healthy Home

Site

The following should be avoided:

  • Air and noise pollution from traffic and industry.
  • Pesticide use in the neighborhood.
  • Winter air pollution from neighboring fireplaces.
  • Proximity to high power lines, radio, TV and microwave towers.

Foundation

  • Check for good perimeter drainage away from the building.
  • Check for signs of rot or insect infestation.

Basement or Crawl Space

  • Look for watermarks that would indicate flooding or backed up drains.
  • Does the space smell damp or moldy? This may be an indication of poor perimeter drainage.

Roofing

  • The best roofs are sloped with sufficient overhang that move water and snow away from the building perimeter.
  • “Flat” tar and gravel roofs are subject to failure, require frequent replacement and emit toxic fumes when new.

Kitchen

  • An electric range/oven is the best solution for a chemically-sensitive person.
  • Newer gas ranges with electronic ignition are better than older pilot-light systems.
  • Unvented ranges or vent hoods that do not duct to the outside are unacceptable.
  • At least one operable window is desirable.
  • A carbon monoxide monitor is advisable if the kitchen contains gas-fired appliances.
  • Cabinets of solid wood or metal are best. Boxes are commonly made of composite sheet goods containing urea formaldehyde. If unavoidable the formaldehyde emitting boxes should be well sealed with a low VOC sealer or foil.
  • Check for moisture damage or leaking at sink area, and make sure there is no moldy smell under sink.

Bathroom

  • Should have a mechanical vent fan rated at minimum of 100 cfm.
  • An operable window is desirable.
  • Cabinetry — same criteria as kitchen.
  • Check for signs of water damage, mold or mildew.
  • Wall to wall carpeting in bathrooms is unacceptable.

Garage

  • A detached garage is best.
  • If attached, an airlock between the garage and living space with a well-sealed door is essential. Fumes will also seep through holes in the wall such as at electrical boxes or under an improperly sealed sill plate.

Mechanical System

  • Passive-solar heating is absolutely non-toxic!
  • Hot-water radiant-floor heating or hot water radiant baseboard heating are more comfortable because they heat objects.
  • Forced air heating heats the air and unless properly augmented with fresh air and filtration, it is often a source of dust and air pollution.
  • Open gas-combustion heating systems are unacceptable.
  • Electric baseboard systems may have high EMF’s associated with them.
  • Good insulation, perimeter portals and, and good cross-ventilation can greatly reduce or eliminate the need for summer air-conditioning.
  • Gas-fired mechanical systems if located within the building envelope should have sealed combustion. Gas fired hot water heaters should be direct vented, power vented or have sealed combustion.
  • It is healthiest to have temperature variation. We do not serve our health (and inordinately increase energy consumption) by demanding 73 degrees in all 4 seasons.

Flooring

  • Wall-to-wall carpeting should be avoided especially if it is new, old, cleaned with toxic cleaners, or dirty.
  • Factory sealed and fully cured hard surface flooring is a durable low maintenance solution, especially for tile and wood floor applications.
  • Synthetic resilient flooring materials can be a source of toxic fumes, and in older homes may be a source of asbestos.
  • Pressboard or chipboard subflooring, containing urea formaldehyde is undesirable although common in most current production housing.

Electrical

  • Wiring in metal conduit is most preferred.
  • Underground service to the building is preferred.
  • Old knob and tube wiring is a source of magnetic fields and is a potential fire danger.
  • Check dimmers and 3-way switches for EMF’s with a trifield gauss meter.
  • Sleeping location should not be back-to-back with appliances such as refrigerators or TVs.

Common Hazards

  • The house should be tested for lead paint, asbestos and UFFI insulation, radon and water quality. The gas system should be tested for leaks and the electrical system should be tested for net current due to improper wiring.

General

  • Have the previous owners been smokers or used fabric softeners, deodorizers, mothballs, or pesticides within the home? These odors and toxins are persistent and will linger for a long time affecting the indoor air quality.
  • The house should have good cross-ventilation, allow for moist air to leave building while avoiding negative pressurization.
  • Good natural daylighting throughout the building is desirable.
  • The home should be free of toxic finishes and paints. Although few new homes are built using non-toxic methods and materials, the majority of the construction materials will eventually outgas to a point where they are not a significant health threat.

New Homes

If you are building a new home consider the following:

  • The site should be free of geopathic zones and radiologicals in soil and water
  • The house should include floor drains for hot water heaters and laundry facilities, so that water leakage does not create flood damage and mold.
  • Isolate motorized equipment from living space.
  • Have back draft protection on all flues.
  • Filter chlorine and other contaminants out of bathing and drinking water.
  • Have circuitry run so that bedrooms can be isolated to the greatest extent and so that wiring runs through circulation space, not living space.
  • Require that the electrician take care of any net current in the wiring, as detected by a gauss meter. Do not count on the electrical inspector to catch all violations.
  • Building for health is a pioneering proposition requiring a dedicated owner, architect, builder team.