Do you ever notice how you get similar questions from lots of different people about a topic? For me, I’m meeting with a lot of first time home buyers and putting a lot of information out into the world about safe and healthy homes. And with all the information I give, I get back a lot of the same questions, just from different people.
With each of the questions I’m asked, I like to do a bit of extra research to make sure I’m giving a correct answer or pointing them in the right direction. Even if it’s a question I’m 99.9% I know everything about. I like to do a mini research session and get the facts, plus learn a little more myself.
If you’ve ever messaged me on Instagram or Facebook, or sent me a personal email, trust me when I tell you I think through every answer I send. That being said, I do get a lot of the same types of questions, and today, I thought it would be fun to share those questions and my answers with you.
How long have you been doing inspections?
I’ve been doing full home inspections for three summers years now. I learned a lot about houses and plumbing in houses through my parents’ local plumbing business, which I worked at on and off for many years. I knew I always had a love of houses and this was just a natural progression of that. This IG TV Episode is great for more insight on my windy road to becoming a home inspector.
Is your house all toxin free?
No way. I do the best I can with what we have, but we are nowhere near perfectly toxin free at our house. Things like our carpeting just isn’t ready to be replaced and our furniture isn’t my favorite in terms of toxins and health. That being said, we strive to make better choices that we did in the past and slowly change things starting with our everyday items to bigger areas within our home. I believe in small steps forward, which I find helps implement healthy habits rather than creating a lifestyle that stresses me out.
What should I do about water getting into my basement?
Water getting into basements can be a tricky thing. If you know it’s coming in from the exterior during rain or snow melting, you can do a few different things. Making sure you have gutters that are clean and downspouts that carry the water about 6 feet away from the house is ideal. You can also make sure the ground around your house is sloping away from the walls (known as positive grading). Finally, keep vegetation away from the exterior foundation and walls if possible. If you’re still getting a lot of water inside, you’ll want to look into a drain tile system and/or sump pump, which some homes just require.
How do I make sure mold isn’t in my walls?
A true fact is that mold is in everybody’s house. In some way, there may be mold within your walls or somewhere unconcealed in your home. What’s important to know is if it’s present in your HVAC venting or other areas where it affects the indoor air quality. The other think you want to be cautious of is what type of mold it is. Toxic black mold is different that the mold that grows on shower doors or walls. Mold can be cleaned with a mixture of borax and water and if it’s on concrete basement walls or floors, you can simply use a product called Kilz to paint over it to conceal it. This product does contain VOCs, so use it carefully with plenty of ventilation.
How do I know what to do for maintenance when I move in?
You can find checklists on my website as well as other websites that will help you with specific maintenance in your area. You can even tailor it to make your own checklist down the road. Also, using your home inspection report will give you an idea of things that need to be repaired or maintained. Another great resource is to ask the current owners. Some owners LOVE to share this information will go so far as to walk around the house with you. If the house was their pride and joy, they’d love nothing more than for you to maintain it that way. Finally, you can pick the brain of someone working at a hardware store who’s willing to answer maintenance questions. All these things together will give you a good idea of what needs to be done in the future.
What are your recommendations on healthy flooring?
Healthy flooring is so important in a healthy house as it is such a large surface area. Ideal flooring is natural hardwood with a VOC free lacquer. You can also go for a natural bamboo floor, cork flooring, tile with a quick set grout or a healthy laminate like CaliBamboo. Whatever you do, stay away from strong adhesives that contain formaldehyde and synthetic carpeting.
How do I stop Formaldehyde from off-gassing?
Unfortunately, you can’t stop it from off-gassing completely, but you can take steps to minimize the off-gassing. First, make sure your home is cooler in temperature if possible. Second, make sure indoor humidity levels are between 35% – 40%. This will create an environment that doesn’t promote off-gassing at high rates. Finally, if the product is a type of manufactured wood, you can purchase SafeSeal Clear Coat to seal in the VOCs, which will prevent them from entering your air at an unsafe rate. Fabrics that may have formaldehyde in it can be washed or sprinkled with baking soda to help neutralize the chemical.
How did you get into creating a healthy house environment in the first place?
When I was nearly 20, my small community in the suburbs of St. Paul, Minnesota was affected by improper disposal of toxic chemicals. The ground water and well water was affected by the carelessness of a large corporation, and in turn many residents were dealing with cancer diagnoses and other health ailments seemingly linked to these chemicals. I realized that the chemicals being dumped were chemicals added to our pots and pans, our carpets and our furniture. It clicked with me in that moment, however I didn’t act on it in my own house until much later when I had my older daughter. Being a parent changed how I thought about what was in our home and what we ate, for the better.
Do I really need to be concerned about radon?
Depending on where you live in the country, yes. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and is a known carcinogen. Radon is a toxic gas that is produced by uranium in the earth’s crust. As this gas travels up through the soil and rocks, it reaches the earth’s surface and expels either into the outdoor air or is drawn up into homes. Depending on how tightly sealed your home is or how many cracks are in your foundation, you may be drawing the heavy gas into your home at a higher rate than is safe. You can get a simple test to do at home that is just a few dollars to tell you what your radon levels are. This page will catch you up on Radon.
I have synthetic carpet, how can I reduce toxins without replacing it?
Synthetic carpet is in most of the homes in my area, yet it’s one of the materials that produces the most VOCs into the air. It also creates a lot of dust, spreading the chemicals and toxins around the house and into the air vents. One way to minimize the dust from carpet is to use a HEPA filter vacuum regularly. You can also use a rug over the top of the carpet, just make sure it’s an organic area rug. You can also sprinkle baking soda on the carpet fibers in order to help neutralize the chemicals a bit. You can also make sure your home is dry (relative humidity around 35%-40%) and cool in order to create an environment where toxins off gas at a lower rate.
What green cleaner do you use?
I am obsessed with Thieves and I will probably NEVER change. I started using Thieves about a year after I had been introduced to Young Living, and I wish I had started sooner. My family has saved so much money by using this green, plant based cleaner all around our house. I’m certain we are actually healthier from using it too, but that’s just my personal opinion. It smells like Christmas and does such a great job of cleaning, that I switched over from my toxic cleaner immediately.
Which room or area should I start detoxing my home in?
It really depends on what is easiest for you. Some people start this journey to improve their sleep habits, and in this case starting with a Bedroom Detox is going to be best. I like to start in the kitchen, as this is where food goes into the body and can easily become affected by chemicals and toxins in our food storage or cleaning products. I also think it’s easier to swap out small things here and there than doing one huge detox and replacing everything at one time.
Are EMF waves really something to be concerned about?
There is a lot of controversy on this one. But, I personally think, even if we find out at some point that EMF waves aren’t necessarily causing cancer, i think that there are health affects of these waves. My take is that if nothing else, they are causing stress on our bodies that is unnecessary. I think that the brain is affected and produces more cortisol because of these EMF waves that are in close proximity to our bodies. I also, however, recognize that we live in a digital, plugged in world, and it’s nearly impossible to avoid. I avoid it where I can, but I also use electronics on a regular basis. I think that trying to avoid them at bedtime and nighttime helps give your body a break and a chance to restore.
Is your family on board with the changes you make?
Yes and no. I’m not going to lie and say that there isn’t some resistance to some of the changes that we’ve made. Especially now that my kids are in school and we send healthier snacks or try to choose healthier packaging for things. But overall, I don’t make drastic changes in one fell swoop. Instead we gradually change a thing or two over time and eventually it becomes the norm.
Do air purifiers work to improve indoor air quality?
Air purifiers do work to some extent. Will they give you completely pure air? Probably not. But they will filter out some of the bad stuff and hopefully remove some of the dander and dust in your air as well. They are great for “spot treating” a room like a bedroom or office, where you might want a little extra help. However, using a HVAC carbon filter with a MERV 12 rating or higher can also help if you want to filter out your home’s air as a whole. Look for an air purifier with cleanable filters to improve the efficiency.
I got water in my house, what do I do next?
The first thing to do is dry it out. If you can dry out the area within 48 hours, your risk of mold is significantly reduced. It helps to use fans, dehumidifiers and remove as much of the wet materials as you can. Once dry, you can use a primer called Kilz to dry out the walls and prevent any extra moisture from seeping through and creating mold problems. Make sure you find out WHY this happened so you can mitigate it, preventing future problems.
Do you have a question? I would love to answer it or at least point you in the right direction. Leave a comment below or email me at [email protected]