Most of us know about the dangers of mold, asbestos in insulation, formaldehyde in paneling or cabinets, and lead in plumbing fixtures; however, there have been alerting discoveries of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in common remodeling materials and supplies like paint, glue, new carpet, and other new construction. 

VOCs effect your air quality and your health. Reactions to VOCs mimic flu-like symptoms and are often mistaken for allergies. If not taken seriously, they can lead to dangerous health concerns such as damage to kidneys, damage to the central nervous system, and even cancer.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), VOCs come from many common household products used in home renovations

  • Paint

  • Paint strippers and other solvents

  • Adhesives

  • Wood preservatives

  • Aerosol sprays

  • Cleansers and disinfectants

Most VOCs are odorless, but if you can smell them their levels are very high. Proper ventilation and a mask is recommended.

 How can you protect against VOCs in your home and during remodel projects?

Talk to the experts where you purchase your building materials and ask about VOCs. If you don’t feel comfortable with their answers, get your materials elsewhere. Best practices include:

  • Use paint with low VOC levels (>50 grams per liter)

  • Store thinners and other chemicals outside of your home

  • Research your wood flooring, cabinetry, paneling, carpet, and adhesive options

  • Get a home inspection that includes VOC detection (especially if your home was built before 1980)

During home remodel projects:

  • Open windows and use other ventilation, like fans.

  • Workers should use masks and gloves, or follow other safety recommendations provided with the materials.

  • Those not working should be far from the area being remodeled (especially children and pets).

  • For larger, whole-house projects you may want to consider staying elsewhere until materials (like paint or adhesive) are completely dry or otherwise safe. Please follow any safety recommendations provided with the materials.

Remodeling your home can be very exciting, but potentially dangerous if you don't consider the VOCs in some of the common remodeling materials. 

Keep checking back for more tips on surviving the world of homeownership!

VOC References:

Certified home inspectors:

Certified Contractors:

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