Basements are often the last place in a home that end up getting finished. They are many times left with open ceilings, bare walls and concrete floors for an extensive period of time before families decide to complete them. Sometimes basements are left undone for more than just short term and used as storage and utilities rather than living space.
Basements can offer a great place for playrooms, offices, workout rooms and other spaces that many of us don’t have room for on the main levels of our homes. When basements are finished with moisture and indoor air quality in mind, they can be a magnificent space to utilize and enjoy. Unfortunately, in the past these considerations have not been priorities, and finished basements have become one of the unhealthier areas of our homes.
If you’re in the market to remodel or completely finish your basement, I’m ready to walk you through some of the basic principles of creating it with the health of your home and family in mind. These are principles and advice I give to many of my own clients as we walk through their homes together. These are also practices that the International Institute for Building Biology teaches and promotes.
I’m also sharing with you my free Home Project Planning Worksheet to help you plan a healthy basement remodel and overall healthy space.
This week's cooler temperatures and darker evenings had my kids asking when we could have a fire in the fireplace. And I realized it certainly is that time of year when we get to enjoy the warmth of the cozy fire.
But fireplaces can become hazardous very quickly without the proper maintenance and ignored repairs. The use of any kind of fireplace can potentially introduce contaminants into your air that lower the indoor air quality if you're not careful. Not only are there fire hazards, but toxins from burning materials can enter your air quickly and stick around long after your fire has been extinguished. And this doesn't just go for wood burning fireplaces. Gas burning fireplaces have potential concerns and problems as well due to their use of natural gas and the fact that they produce combustion air. Knowing what to check at your own home can save you not only money in repair costs, but can prevent poor indoor air quality.
I like to show my clients just want to be aware of when it comes time to use their fireplace, and today I'm sharing those things to watch for with you.
Autumn is definitely here and fall season is in full swing -- officially. I have been loving seeing the fall displays on my neighbor's porches and watching the trees change a little bit more every day. The smell of baking often fills the house and when it doesn't I do my best to recreate it. Unfortunately fall in the Midwest often means closing up the windows and turning the heat back on for the long winter ahead. While it makes my house feel extra cozy and I truly enjoy turning on the oven instead of grilling out for a change, it also means my house gets stuffy and the air becomes less pure.
Fall is when we break out the candles, fall scented wax melts and other means to create a cozy and welcoming home. These synthetic fragrances along with closed up windows and doors can cause more than just stuffy air, but air that's actually more polluted than the outdoor air. The great thing is that just by knowing your house can potentially have more toxins in it than outdoor air, you're one step ahead of most.
Once you know the truth about indoor air, the next part is taking the simple steps to change it. And fall is one of the best times to make the change as it's when our homes get closed up for the year. The first and simplest step I recommend to my clients is to ditch any synthetic fragrance. This is often one of the easiest things to give up and one of the easiest things to change.
If you get excited about the fall scents in the candle aisle at Target -- then this post is especially for you. I'm excited to share with you how you can make your home healthier with just this simple change.
As a parent, I am fully aware of the constant battle keeping the house semi-clean can be. Kids' standards of clean and our adult standards of clean are often very different. And my girls are no exception to this statement. The feeling of being in a constant battle against the dirt, random objects and grime in my house is all too real. And because I'm wiping my kitchen counter down what feels like eight bazillion times a day, I have made some very conscious choices about the cleaners I use.
The sheer fact that the cleaners in my house get used on a VERY regular basis has caused me to research and look into their affects on my kids. One of the things I've learned as a mom is that kids' bodies, immune systems and defenses are very different than our own. Their bodies are continuously changing and developing, which means the way they process different chemicals and toxins can be very different from the way an adult may process them.
This is especially true of babies and infants. For years I thought that cleaners just affected my family short-term with mild irritation of the nose and throat. But what I've found over my years of researching products and elements of cleaning products is their affect is much more serious. For me personally, I didn't change a single think the first time I heard bleach and store-bought cleaners were harmful to health. I don't think I even thought about changing what I was doing. As I began to hear more and more about health affects and just how long a chemical can stay within the body, I felt a nudge to change something in my own home.
But I felt completely overwhelmed, not knowing exactly where to start. I made the mistake of over-complicating the entire process of switching my cleaning products. I made it so difficult, I just couldn't maintain my new healthy lifestyle. Over time I realized I was making the process of using natural and safe cleaners way too complicated. I want to share with you the basics of why our cleaning products matter when it comes to our precious kids and the exact, simplified steps it takes to change your habits and routines.
It’s that time of year again, and I have to say I absolutely love it. It’s the time of year where you can really open up your windows, air out your house, and let the crisp cool air inside. In respects to a season where your house is probably the healthiest in terms of indoor air quality, this is it. Many of us have been running our air conditioner all summer long and we’ve been trying to block those amazing sunshine rays to prevent the heat from affecting our house. But now, with fall around the corner (or here in some parts of the Country), it’s that time to enjoy the unfiltered sunshine and breathe in the fresh air.
Fall is also a time to prep for winter. Just in years long ago when families would prepare their house and food supply, we too still do this in some ways. Planning ahead is a great way to ensure that you won’t have as many issues or unforseen problems with your home when the really cold weather hits in a few months (sorry to even mention that!).
I always plan best with a paper to do list and a mapped out idea of what I need to purchase and how I will execute my plan. I’ve created a seasonal checklist for fall that will help you not only know what tasks should be done around your house, but you’ll have an idea of what to prepare for and purchase before the snow falls. Plus this list is so easy, any homeowner can follow the ideas outlined.
Lately there’s been a huge push by many individuals and companies to really improve the quality of the indoor air we breathe. Anything from purifiers to monitors that will help us identify the contaminants seem to be everywhere. While it may feel gimmicky to some, it really is a huge part of our health and wellness. The air we breathe travels directly to our lungs and bloodstream, allowing oxygen and other unwanted particles into our bodies.
We know now that our air at home can be more polluted than the outdoor air, and for this reason, families everywhere are trying to improve their habits and reverse this problem. The great thing is there’s so much information out about ways we can avoid many of problems that have been arising when it comes to air quality.
The idea of adding less chemicals and toxins into our air is wildly popular, and many households are switching their cleaning habits and products. This is a huge step in the right direction, but there are other ways that can help improve the indoor air quality at home. These items are all things you can take care of outside your home before winter rolls in.
This week marks the official “Back to School” week for my kids and many other kids around the US. Some of you have already been back at school, but when it’s after Labor Day, it’s definitely back to the school year. Or in our house as we say, “Back to school…..back to sniffles.” I know the first month or so back to school is tough on my girls’ immune systems, and I’ll do everything in my power to prevent illness from taking hold.
I’ve learned over the last few years that there are some very important parts of my daily routines and house habits that can drastically improve our chances of staying healthy. I firmly believe that our houses can be a great building block to help keep us and our immune systems healthy. Supporting your immune system and your kids’ immune systems can be the difference between a miserable school year or a positively enjoyable school year.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think illness can be completely avoided, but I do think it can be prevented and I believe our bodies are stronger when we give them the right tools. There’s always an inevitable cold or virus here and there -- and I have come to expect that. What I used to expect was having someone sick every other week in my house. After changing some of our routines and working hard to make healthier choices, I no longer see weeks upon weeks of illness in the winter.
Obviously a lot of staying healthy has to do with getting proper nutrition and sleep, but today I also want to share with you some ways your actual house and home environment can help support your family’s immune system. Just a few small changes to daily habits can make all the difference.
One of the most forgotten areas of a healthy house is the water we use. Water quality in the United States is often completely forgotten about as we leave our treatment up to cities and counties and trust the water is clean and safe. But the truth is as homeowners and citizens, it’s our responsibility to double check and verify that we are in fact using water that isn’t harming our body. Most of us don’t even think twice about checking our water. But why would we? It looks clean and tastes fine, so it’s probably okay. We trust the cleaning agents that are added and feel confident our water is completely pure. This, unfortunately, is a naive way of viewing our water. Water is one of the most important parts of healthy living, so it’s imperative to make sure it’s completely safe and completely pure.
Depending on where you live in the world, water can have different levels of risk. My family lives in the Twin Cities, and our water has a variety of natural contaminants. Mostly we see a lot of iron and hard water. However some areas also see high levels of chlorine from the city treatment facilities. Other areas near a lot of agricultural land and farm communities might have trace amounts of pesticides or other chemicals. The water that eventually comes out of our faucet has traveled underground and through aquifers before it arrives at the treatment plant or our home. This means that chemical contaminants like pesticides or improperly disposed of chemicals can leach into the water and travel for a great distance.
Our water quality deserves a little bit more attention when it comes to creating a healthy home to match our healthy lifestyle. But where do you even start? First, let’s look at some of the top contaminants that are affecting water within many homes around developed parts of the world. Then I’ll give you my fool-proof water filter plant to keep your water safe to drink, bathe and play in. You can also get my Healthy Water Toolkit to help you clean up your drinking water at home
If you’ve recently bought or sold a home, you probably know the term Radon fairly well. But while half of the country still doesn’t require any sort of testing for this toxic gas, it can be confusing to know if it’s a real concern or not. In truth, Radon is everywhere. The gas is outdoors and in every building to at least some extent. The real problem occurs when the levels inside a home are elevated. An elevated level of Radon inside a home can cause long term health problems.
Maybe you’re feeling skeptical about just how truly harmful Radon is. I get it. As a home inspector I run into a lot of home buyers who just don’t seem to think Radon testing is necessary and it’s a bit of a hoax. While I do think there are health risks involved, there are even financial reasons to get a Radon test when you purchase your home. About half of the states in the United States do not require any sort of testing be done to indicate the Radon levels in a home. In Minnesota, we have no rules or regulations on performing this testing….right now. For example’s sake, let’s say a home buyer does not get a Radon test when they move into a home. Time goes by and in five years they decide to sell their home. As a seller, they have no idea there is an elevated level of Radon in the house. If the law has changed to require a test, or the new buyers simply want their own test done, the seller is now responsible for installing a Radon Mitigation System, which can be costly depending on age of the home.
This is one of the many reasons I recommend my home buyers get a test done. It not only protects their health, but their financial burden as well.
From a health perspective, Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. The first step is knowing if your home has elevated levels of Radon and then to learn about how to remove it if it does.
Sleep is a vital part of a child’s life and it’s one of the largest contributors to a healthy life. If you’re a parent or even if you’ve been around babies and kids, you know that a well rested child is often happier and less irritable. Sleep comes easy for some children and for others it can be a bit more of a challenge. But what if the reason for some sleep issues simply came from a poor sleep environment? What if the way we took care of our house and in particular, our child’s room so that the room was conducive to sleep?
There are the obvious ways to make a room a better place to sleep; the same ways that are laid out in every parenting magazine when it comes to the topic. But there are also ways to improve the environment in a room that go unnoticed. The study of the home as a contributor to our health is known as building biology. Building biology as a whole is the idea of creating a home that acts as a third protective barrier from the chemicals and toxins in the world. The second barrier from the world is our clothing and our first protective barrier is our skin.
The amount of time a child spends in their room the first few years of their life is often times just as much as the time they spend out of their room. This is just one more reason that a healthy environment within their bedroom is so vital to their health. A room filled with chemical toxins, organic growth and bacteria is obviously not a place we want our children. The problem is many of these places that bacteria, chemical toxins and organic toxins are is not well known. Parents and grandparents looking to create a healthy space often have to seek out the information.
Not all these solutions will be viable for every family, but changing even one of these things in your child’s room will help improve the indoor air quality and environment of the room. Taking action and taking one step forward will make a different and will improve the health of the room.