‘A HOUSE NEEDS TO BREATHE’

Some tips on how to im­prove the air qual­ity in your home

Montreal Gazette - - NEW HOMES & CONDOS - URSULA LEONOWICZ

With stud­ies show­ing that in­door air is any­where from two to five times more pol­luted than out­door air, it’s good to know that there are many sources of in­door air pol­lu­tion — like harm­ful build­ing ma­te­ri­als and clean­ing prod­ucts, as well as hu­mid­ity and dust — that can be elim­i­nated from your home, to help it detox.

As an ÉcoEn­trepreneur, a gen­eral con­trac­tor cer­ti­fied by both Éco­hab­i­ta­tion (a not-for-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cated to build­ing more sus­tain­able, durable and healthy homes) and the Régie du bâ­ti­ment du Québec (RBQ), Ni­co­las Girouard has a few sug­ges­tions on how to do so.

“First of all, you need to have an air ex­changer — a heat re­cov­ery ven­ti­la­tor — to pro­tect against the dan­gers of hu­mid­ity, mould, and mildew,” said the owner of Les Pro­jets de Ni­co­las, which Girouard cre­ated in 2005.

“There needs to be fresh air in the house all the time, even in the win­ter. A house needs to breathe; it’s the most im­por­tant thing.”

It only takes a few years for mould to start form­ing in a home that isn’t prop­erly ven­ti­lated, and Girouard said one of the big­gest mis­takes home­own­ers make is shut­ting off their air ex­changer in the win­ter, be­cause they think it’s a waste of money to let hot air es­cape.

“That’s when the win­dows are closed and it’s most im­por­tant to have fresh air, to elim­i­nate the hu­mid­ity, car­bon diox­ide and other chem­i­cal com­pounds that are float­ing around in the house.”

In terms of the ma­te­ri­als that are brought into a home or condo when it’s be­ing built or ren­o­vated, ev­ery­thing from paint and glue to par­ti­cle­board and floor­ing can be toxic and re­lease volatile or­ganic com­pounds ( VOCs) like formalde­hyde, among oth­ers, which is why it’s im­por­tant to choose ma­te­ri­als that are free of VOCs.

“I avoid us­ing prod­ucts that con­tain VOCs, which is a lot eas­ier to do these days,” said Girouard, who added that a new build is most toxic dur­ing its first two years, be­cause that’s how long it takes for most VOCs to dis­si­pate. “You know what that new-car smell is? It’s VOCs.”

There are var­i­ous al­ter­na­tives, in­clud­ing VOC-free paint and glue, low-emis­sion par­ti­cle­board and mar­moleum, which Girouard rec­om­mends in their place.

“Vinyl and linoleum are pe­tro­leum-based, and it is un­ac­cept­able, in my opin­ion, to bring any­thing into the house that’s petroleum­based,” he said. “Mar­moleum is made of or­ganic ma­te­ri­als and can even be com­posted, when you’re done with it. It’s com­pletely wa­ter­proof and is dis­trib­uted by a com­pany called Forbo, in Que­bec.”

Other ma­te­ri­als Girouard warns against are float­ing floor­ing as well as wall-to-wall car­pet­ing.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF KLOVA

Us­ing non-toxic, scent-free prod­ucts when clean­ing your home will help keep the air in that home clean and breath­able.

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