Your House Is Attacking You: Ferreting Out The Culprits In Sick Building Syndrome

Construction & Contractors Blog

Air inside a typical home may have dozens of pollutants that aren't in the outdoor air. That's a pretty scary statistic for anyone, but is especially bad if you have allergies, asthma, or other related health issues. Indoor pollution is so bad in some places that just walking inside causes acute health problems. They call this phenomenon sick building syndrome, and it's not something you should just try to live with in your home. If your house is "sick," here are some places to check for the source or sources of the problem.

Hiding in the attic

Ventilation is huge for indoor air quality. Your attic should be well-insulated to prevent ice dams and other issues, but it can't be completely airtight. Good airflow helps reduce excess moisture and, in turn, reduces common allergens such as mold and mildew.

Somewhere in the walls

Your walls harbor two primary suspects in sick buildings – the ductwork and the building materials themselves. Ducts move a huge air volume during heating and cooling seasons, and pollutants can build up inside them quickly if they're not properly maintained. Check all you HVAC filters regularly, including any filters on air registers, and have the system evaluated at least once per year.

If mold or other issues are found inside the ducts, then a full professional duct cleaning may be in the near future. Building materials – including lumber, insulation, paint, sealers and stains – tend to gas off certain compounds for some time after they're put into place. They're called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and often include such substances as benzene and formaldehyde.

This is a particular problem in newer houses, as well as in homes that have been freshly remodeled or repainted. Good air circulation helps reduce these compounds over time, but a high-quality HEPA air purifier will speed up the process if the concentrations are high enough to make you feel sick.

Deep in the ground

Basements and crawlspaces potentially hide more nasty little health hazards than anywhere else in your home. Specifically, moisture can seep in from the outdoor ground and serve as a breeding ground for all manner of fungus and bacteria. If you have a leaky sewer pipe, that may also make its way into a crawlspace. If you discover moisture problems, cracks or other alarming issues, contact a professional like one from Perma-Dry Waterproofing & Drainage, Inc. to discuss crawlspace repair options.

Your décor, or lack thereof

Believe it or not, many cases of sick building syndrome appear to be psychological in nature. That is, your house is just plain depressing, and it's usually not enough to just add a few brightly-colored doilies. Whenever possible, let more natural sunlight into the house. Change up your lighting to LED or fluorescent lights labeled "daylight" or "full spectrum." Houseplants are also a plus, and can be a benefit both psychologically and in actually reducing the VOCs in the air.

Aside from the house itself, try to reduce or eliminate the number of open cleaners, paints, or other household chemicals in your home, as these are also a primary source of VOCs. If the symptoms of sick building syndrome persist, discuss the issue with a residential air quality expert to pinpoint any additional problems in your home.

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8 January 2015

All About Building a Home

Welcome to my website. I'm Albert Frost. Besides my dad, one of my biggest role models was my uncle Rick. He was a construction contractor who would let me come on his construction sites and also taught me everything he knew about building homes, including how to install hardwood flooring and add insulation. I always wanted to grow up to build houses like my uncle. I used to help my uncle with a lot of the grunt work needed to make a home a reality. But then I hurt my back playing football. Until I heal completely, I'm going to devote as much of my time as possible to teaching others about various construction topics I'm interested in.