‘A HOUSE NEEDS TO BREATHE’
Some tips on how to improve the air quality in your home
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.