If you’re interested in creating a safer, healthy house environment for you and your family, there are several things that you can do while building a new home or simply renovating your current house.
There are many common building materials that are laced with chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOC) that continually emit toxic fumes into the indoor air, sometimes for years.
The growing interest in safer materials and the interest in building safe, nontoxic homes has created a demand for ways to replace unhealthy materials with low VOC or nontoxic, natural green building materials that are safe for the interior of homes.
Not only do home builders often want to know what materials to use to make a healthy house, but many people are renovating their older homes to make them more healthy.
If you are interested in building from the ground up or are simply wanting to renovate one room at a time, there are specific materials on the market that are generally safer alternatives to conventional building materials.
Green doesn’t always mean clean…or safe to humans!
Keep in mind that just because certain building materials are labeled “green”, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are really safer for your health.
In fact, some recycled materials are actually unhealthy, such as products that are made from recycled petrochemical-laced items.
3 Basic Tips for a Healthy House
Here’s some general tips to help you choose healthy building products for your home interior.
Natural flooring is always a healthier choice since so much of toxic off-gasing occurs from synthetic carpeting, vinyl and composite woods used in homes today.
Two things to consider when choosing your safe flooring is what type you will use and how it will be attached to the subflooring.
- Go natural – Hardwood flooring is a favorite choice for those who want natural wood flooring. Stay away from composite wood or laminate wood flooring since these are made with glues full of formaldehyde that will continue to off-gas for months and maybe years. The glues used in pressed board are the biggest toxic offender in composite flooring. Other safer flooring choices include ceramic tile, cork flooring, bamboo, slate, marble, concrete, pre-finished hardwood (in some cases) and possibly, natural carpet.
- Use nontoxic methods for laying your flooring – Keep in mind you must decide on the safest way to attach even safe flooring choices. Stay away from common floor glues. If you are using hardwood flooring for example, it is best to go the old fashioned way and have it nailed down to the sub-flooring. If you choose flooring that requires some glue, be sure to purchase safe, low VOC glue from a company like AFM that offers consumers a safe alternative to various building glues that are nontoxic for most people. Also, choose grout manufactured without plastics or vinyls for your ceramic floors.
2. Walls and Ceilings
When you choose your walls for your house or room that you wish to renovate, the safest choices are usually wallboard, solid wood paneling or solid wood planks.
Remember to use safe spackling that does not have plastic or other VOCs in the mix and also use non-vinyl stripping tape for the seams.
If you’re using wood paneling, stick with solid wood boards rather than wood composites or wood grained vinyl boards.
- It’s usually best to stay away from wallpaper since it is generally coated with vinyl or is completely vinyl. Plus you will be required to use a toxic wallpaper glue or paste to attach it to the wall. The best alternative, if you must use wallpaper, is to first, keep it’s use to a minimum in the house.
- Secondly, track down pure paper wallpaper that does not use vinyl.
- Use an all natural wallpaper paste that has no chemicals. Problems that you should be aware of, even if you apply safer wallpaper, is the tendency for wallpaper to accumulate mold or mildew behind the paper. especially if you use it anywhere that could be slightly damp at times, like a bathroom. It’s best to use wallpaper sparingly for health reasons even though it is a decorater’s favorite.
3. Nontoxic Paint
Always use low VOC latex or a brand of VOC free, nontoxic paint for your colored interior walls. Low VOC paints can now be purchased at places like Home Depot or Lowe’s.
You can also purchase extra safe latex interior paint from various online suppliers of safe paints that do not use chemical binders, fillers or pesticides in the paint. (That’s right, did you know that conventional paint is laced with pesticide to deter bugs?)
If you’re in a pinch and you just have to paint with a common latex paint, there is a simple way to lessen the noxious fumes for those who may come in contact with the paint soon after painting.
NOTE: For each gallon of latex paint, add one small box of Arm and Hammer baking soda and stir.
This has been a proven trick used for years to lessen latex off-gassing. The soda mixes well and there is no residue left in the paint nor is it noticeable as you apply to the walls. You will be surprised at how much this helps to dissipate paint odors fast!
You can also use Shellac to put a finish on wood paneling. Shellac is made from a natural source and degasses fairly quickly. There is no petroleum fumes nor the dangerous outgassing from products such as polyurethane.
There are also other safe sealants and finishes for flooring by the AFM Company that you can purchase directly.
These are just a few, simple tips to help you get started with choosing the safest building materials for the interior of your new healthy house or renovation project.