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Many times when a homeowner decides to take on home renovations, hazards are uncovered that must be addressed. Some are obvious such as mold, and others are not as obvious, like Radon. It is a waste of time and money to make any improvements if the potential hazards are not addressed first. Many older homes pose additional threats to the health and safety of those renovating them. It is important to know what hazards your home may be hosting.
Lead- In homes built prior to 1978, lead was used liberally in everything from the paint on the walls to the pipes that were installed for the plumbing. Lead is a toxic metal and can permeate the air in the form of dust particles when sanding walls down, or in the water of the plumbing pipes. It can even be found in the soil around the home. When purchasing a home, it is in the buyers best interest if the home is older than 1978 to have a certificate that the home is lead safe. If you have bought a home that was built prior, do not sand any painted surfaces. There are lead encapsulating paints available to contain the lead from becoming airborne.
Radon- This is a colorless and odorless gas that comes up into the home from the ground, and is considered the one of the primary causes of lung cancer today. If a home has a basement or any part of its foundation that is in the ground there could be a chance of risk of this gas seeping into your home. The Environmental Protection Agency provides maps of areas that have been known to have high concentrations of this gas found and you can contact them to be on the safe side. Radon detectors are also readily available and should be used prior to renovations.
Mold- Mold is comprised of microscopic organisms that grow in a wide variety of areas. Mold can be found growing in old damp areas, carpet, walls, ceilings, even wall paper and wood. Mold also can be in a wide variety of colors, ranging from green, black, gray, yellow and even pink. A home with large amounts of mold present is a hazard and should not be purchased. On a large scale mold is costly to remove and is a red flag to drainage and leak issues. Where there is mold, there is likely damp rotten wood, which is attractive to termites. Small isolated areas of mold can be taken care of by the homeowner, as long as the source of the problem is addressed first. Washing the areas in a bleach solution will only temporarily take care of the problem if the core cause is not addressed.
Asbestos- The use of asbestos was banned in 1985 in the construction of homes and in all materials associated with homes. Asbestos is a fibrous material that was once desirable because it offered great insulation and was fire resistant. It is found in a number of materials used in construction from siding to floor tiles to roof coverings. Disturbing anything that may have asbestos in it may cause it to be airborne and result in severe illness. Assume any home built prior to 1985 has this material used in it throughout and consult with professionals before doing any major renovations.