Could Your Home Be Killing You?

Sick house syndrome has had a lot of press recently and it’s not surprising given that the one place in which you want to feel relaxed, nurtured and comfortable could actually be making you sick.

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If your health is keeping you up at night it could be the sign of an unhealthy home. Here are 10 ways your home could be affecting yours and your family’s health.

  1. Damp air – damp air is the biggest cause of moldy homes.  Mold spores aren’t just unsightly and can cause damage to paintwork, walls and even furniture, they are actually really bad for our respiration and can aggravate conditions such as eczema and asthma. Whilst you may never be able to completely protect your home from mold attacks you can limit the spread by reducing the amount of moisture in the air thus removing the conditions in which mold thrives.
  2. Dirty vents – if you use an air conditioning unit and haven’t been on top of its regular maintenance and cleaning then you could be circulating dust, bacteria and germs every time you turn it on.  This is because airborne nasties like to collect in the vents of air conditioning units and if they aren’t dealt with they can then find their way through the system and back out into the room just ready for your family to breathe them in. Check your vents and limit the circulation of bad air.
  3. An old bathroom – if your bathroom has seen better days the fixtures and fittings are more likely to come lose and loose their waterproof seals. When water is allowed to get into cracks it becomes stagnant causing all sorts of nasties to breed and not just mold.  If you’re showerhead is looking a bit rusty and tired for example it could actually be filling the air with small particles of lead and other metals that can affect your liver and pulmonary system. An aging bathroom could be a serious hazard to your health.
  4. Poor ventilation – a poorly ventilated room, particularly the bathroom, creates the perfect condition for mold and bacteria to take hold. It doesn’t allow for the good circulation of fresh air and this can actually make you feel lethargic, confused and generally unwell as your body has to work harder to take in oxygen.  Even if you work hard to eradicate the mold these conditions will just keep reappearing if poor ventilation is a problem in your home.
  5. Dust – if you are an allergy sufferer you will know how dangerous dust can be.  Certain kinds of dust can trigger reactions ranging from a mild cough and sneeze to a full blown, life threatening asthma attack.  It can also cause itchy eyes, now and throat and can be very uncomfortable in little ones. It can also contain bacteria that affects the gut over a sustained period of time.
  6. Musty bedroom – your mattress could be literally teeming with life if you don’t regularly vacuum it and let it air.  This is because it gathers over half your bodyweight in dead skin every year and this is the delicacy of choice for bed bugs.  Bed bugs sound harmless but they bite and you will soon notice little lumps and bumps that keep you itching long after daybreak.  
  7. Chimneys and flues – if you have an open fire in your home and your chimney or flue isn’t working properly you are allowing smoke, ash and dirt to circulate through your home.  Just as you would avoid smoke inhalation during a fire as this can be fatal, likewise you need to avoid it on the smaller scale by having properly operating and certified ventilation systems.   
  8. Asbestos – it is impossible to know whether you have asbestos or not, particularly if you live in an older building.  This is one nasty you really don’t want to be tackling on your own so you should always call out an expert to check that asbestos isn’t lurking in the fabric of your home, particularly if you are planning on undertaking any modifications or repairs. Not all asbestos is harmful but if it is it is toxic, which is why you should never remove it without the guidance and help of an expert.
  9. Radon – another common life threatening substance that could be present in your home is radon.  Radon is a gas that is difficult to detect as it is both colorless and odourless but it causes thousands of cases of lung cancer in the USA every year.  Again you should consult an expert to test for radon, particularly if you are in a radon hotspot.  For more information check out the EPA website.
  10. Household chemicals – household cleaners and chemicals such as bleach can be harmful if in the reach of little fingers so always store any poisonous items in a sturdy, raised or lockable cupboard. However these chemicals can also harm you during day to day used in two ways.  Firstly the overuse of chemicals in the home can lead to skin complaints and allergies particularly in the eyes, nose and throat. They can also prevent good bacteria from cultivating which can lead to a compromised immune system and more chance of picking up common colds and bugs.  Try and use more natural, plant-based cleaners for a healthier approach to home maintenance.

If you are worried about any of these common household problems there are lots of things you can do to maintain a healthy home including:

  1. Regular maintenance – keeping your house well maintained means you are more likely to spot when mold or other bacteria is beginning to take hold
  2. Good cleaning regime – housework isn’t the most exciting pastime but it will keep dust and germs at bay as well as make your home more comfortable
  3. Open windows – help to ventilate that air and you can breathe deeply again
  4. Be vigilant – keep an eye out for problems and act fast before they take hold
  5. Call in the experts – if in doubt call in the experts, particularly if you don’t know what substance you might be dealing with. Your family’s health may depend on it

 

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Living with Lifespans – What Needs Replacing?

Here’s a bit of a shocking fact for you – over a period of 30 years, a house and its contents could need as much as 50% of it repairing or replacing from the position it was in at the beginning of this period of time. Let’s face it, you have to be one of the unlucky ones if you are going anywhere near 50% and over if it’s not a house that you have bought as a do-up project, but the figures mainly come from what resides inside the house itself rather than the upkeep of the building.

So, what are the things that fall under the replacement category and what is the recommended lifespan of each thing – are you being shortchanged or are you long overdue a replacement?

Child Playing Front Loader Toy

[Photo courtesy of Markus Spiske raumrot.com/pexels.com]

Flooring

Good, solid wooden flooring can last centuries. Tiled flooring can, too – you can see it houses and churches in the United Kingdom that have lasted through several Kings and Queens and could probably tell a lot of stories … if they could talk. Planned care and restoration of both wooden and tiled floors can help extend the lifespans for future generations to appreciate. Laminate, lino and carpets are another matter entirely – if you are over the 10 year recommended threshold for the longevity of these products, then you should probably start looking at Online Carpet Sale and other such sites to keep your flooring in tip-top condition.

comfort, control, cooking

[Photo courtesy of  WDnet Studio/pexels.com]

Household appliances

All appliances have different recommendations as to how long they will last. A vacuum will last you up to 25 years if serviced and cared for, yet you may think of replacing it a lot sooner to keep up with the increasing demands of both efficiency and productivity.  Everything else pretty much has an average of 10-15 years – so your washers, dryers, dishwashers, microwaves etc should keep going for a fair while, but you may find that they will either go on a lot longer or cut short a lot sooner than expected; it’s always one or the other!

 Brush painting the white wall

[Photo courtesy of  WDnet Studio/pexels.com]

Fixtures, fittings and furnishings

Paint will naturally start to lose colour/chip or peel away/look grubby over the years. Sometimes it can last for a good while,but it’s always worth acknowledging that a touch-up every couple of years will help it to stay in a great condition and look fresh. Hands on walls, especially where people are holding on for stability or pushing against things such as light switches, will always leave a mark; you can’t ever guarantee how clean a person’s hands are. The recommended lifespan of paint is just 7 years – yet you’d be hard pressed finding someone who actually makes the effort to redecorate their whole house that often. There are new trends in paint on the market, with wipe-clean options available for those marks that start appearing. Keep it in a good condition and you can probably exceed the lifespan and laugh in the face of the grim reaper when he comes round and starts picking away at your walls!

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The A To Z Of Home Maintenance: Things To Check Regularly

Owning your own property is its own reward. Your home is yours and you can do what you want with it. You don’t need to abide by the decoration rules of a landlord; it is full of its own touches and delights. It feels more like your home than any rented property ever could.

Despite all of the benefits, there is one downside to home ownership – you are totally responsible. If something goes wrong, there is no landlord to call to ask for help. Your insurance can cover some things, but most policies require you to at least make the effort when it comes to maintenance.

Maintenance is one of those thankless tasks. Rarely does it feel like you have made a difference; the whole point, of course, is to keep things running as they should as http://www.thepackratwifey.com/why-household-prevention-is-better-than-cure/ shows. It doesn’t feel like an exciting way to spend money, especially if you have design and decor ideas that are clamouring for investment.

Yet not only does poor maintenance damage your insurance policy, it damages your quality of life. If you’re living in a house that is not fit for purpose, it goes without saying that there are changes that need to be made.

There are so many areas of your home that need constant updating, improvement and quality checking. To try and exercise some kind of control over this most fluid of things, below, there’s an A-Z rundown of all those little tasks. Run through it at least once a year, or setup a calender like this: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-set-up-an-annual-home-maintenance-calendar-176043 (or as advised; some things are seasonal). If you do that, then you can be sure that your home is always working as it should be.

A is for Antifreeze

[Photo courtesy of Dmcroof/wikipedia.org]

When winter rolls around, the last thing you need is your gutters freezing and water gathering. That’s no joke: it can lead to gutters collapsing, which is expensive to replace. Try and run antifreeze down your guttering at least once a week.

B is for Boiler

If your boiler is more that four years old, have it serviced annually. If it’s younger and under warranty, check the terms of the warranty. Some require annual services from the off to remain valid.

C is for Cavity Wall Insulation

If your home is not insulated, make it so as a priority. You are likely spending more than you have to on heating bills. If it is, get into the attic and check it annually to ensure there’s no damage.

D is for Drains

[Photo courtesy of CharlesHodgson/flickr.com]

Especially important in fall with the fallen leaves, clear drains out regularly.

E is for Energy Efficiency

Smart Meters can help maintain proper energy efficiency, but there are less hi-tech ways of doing it. Do you turn lights off when you leave a room? Turn off devices rather than putting them on stand-by? You should be, so think over your habits and make changes where necessary.

F is for Flooring

As floors age, they become more susceptible to heat variations. When it’s cold, they will contract, and the expand again when the weather warms up. This can cause cracks and weaken the whole flooring structure, so check every year that a bigger problem isn’t developing.

G is for Gas Central Heating

Along with the boiler servicing mentioned in “B”, there is another step to take to ensure your central heating is working as it should. Bleed radiators with the change of every season to keep them at the top of their game.

H is for Home Invaders

[Photo courtesy of Earth’sbuddy/wikipedia.org]

No, not aliens, though that would be far more entertaining. Move kitchen appliances and check the attic every few months to check for signs of invasive pests. If you see signs of such an invasion, act as quickly as possible to prevent the spread.

I is for Internal Holes

Terrorised by spiders every fall? Wondering how bugs keep getting inside? Mouse problems? The solution to keeping the wildlife outdoors is to check for any holes in walls. A mouse can fit through a hole of less than an inch in diameter, so be thorough.

J is for Jagged Cracks

Vertical wall cracks are usually due to use and stress, rather than structural problems. The ones you need to worry about are jagged, horizontal cracks. Call an engineer the moment you see anything fitting that description.

K is for Kitchen Sink and Waste Disposal

Even if you practice the best methods possible, every sink is prone to blocking. Run a dose of unblocker through the kitchen sink system every six months to prevent any such issues developing.

L is for Limescale

If you live in a hard or well water area, then you will likely suffer from limescale issues. Not only can this tarnish taps, but it can also render your washing machine unusable. You can find some ideas to combat it at https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2009/aug/23/how-to-remove-limescale

M is for Mildew and Mould

[Photo courtesy of Gil mo/wikipedia.org]

Mildew is the product of a house being too damp. Check corners and edges of window frames for any sign of small black spores. If identified, be ruthless with regards to cleaning. Tea tree oil works well.

N is for Nail Holes

This is only a particular worry if you are planning to sell the house soon! But from an appearance point of view, nail holes in the wall can be unsightly and leave the buyer feeling that they have to patch them up. Even if you’re out of the home by then it can leave residual bad feeling. Any time you remove a nail from a hole, patch it up. Then there’s no need to go around looking, should you ever sell up.

O is for Organisation

Some order to your home maintenance plan is essential. For one, basic reason, there is the fact that some jobs will get in the way of others. For example, would you paint a skirting board before sanding down the wall that is above it? No – that’s just asking for trouble. Order will save time, and extra work.

P is for Preparation

Before the season changes each time, check you have everything you need to survive it. For fall and winter, flooding and freezing are the major hazards. For spring and summer, access to water and sensible shaded areas to be in when outdoors are required.

Q is for Quotes

There will possibly be some jobs around the house that you find yourself struggling with. It’s worth having a go, but you also need to know the things you can’t do, such as http://www.nextavenue.org/home-repair-when-not-do-it-yourself/. If you decide you need to bring in help, get three quotes from different contractors. Don’t just listen to the prices – hear what they say about the job too. Anyone can quote a low price for something they won’t do properly.

R is for Roof

[Photo courtesy of DMahalko/wikipedia.org]

Your roof not only keeps your home dry, but it plays a part in the structural integrity of your home. If you have any leaks or see missing tiles, then bring in the professionals such as www.fergusonroofing.com/metal-roofing/ as soon as possible. It’s not an area to leave to chance.

S is for Smoke Detectors

Make sure they’re working, obviously. Test them by lighting a match underneath and see if they go off. Also, if any are emitting regular “chirp” noises, chances are that they’re on the way out. Replace the batteries once a year, even if they’re showing no sign of running down

T is for Trashcans

Yes, just screams glamor, doesn’t it? But it is essential to check the trash cans and dumpster every once in a while and clean them regularly, ideally with a jet washer. The reason? Well, they may get emptied on a regular basis, but particles cling on. Left to fester for too long, these will rot. Your garbage will become a haven for pests who may then decide to move to the house.

U is for Underneath

Everything above ground level is easy to keep an eye on, as you go through it every day and see it with a keen eye. But in the basement, unless there is a bedroom or living space down there, things can happen unnoticed. Check for water ingress, as this can affect the foundations.

V is for Vanities

One of the most popular bathroom improvements you can make, a vanity makes use of space in a room where there is usually so little. On the larger models, which are enclosed, do make sure you check for any issues in the pipes regularly. Leaks can lead to pooling of stagnant water, which is no-one’s friend.

W is for Windows

Cracks around the outside of a window, or even any minor gap between window and wall, can become a way in for water, and a starting point for mold. Ensure that yours are in order.

X is for eXtremes Of Temperature

We pick the materials that we do for housebuilding because they are durable and hard wearing. But depending on where you live, temperatures over the year can go from below freezing to over 100 Fahrenheit. Things contract when cold and expand when hot. This can cause damage, so look out for cracks outside after a cold snap.

Y is for Yellow

Some white gloss paint, within months of application, can turn yellow on wood. This is believed to be as a consequence of weaker solvents being used in the paint. It’s something to check for if you have recently painted door frames or window sills.

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzz

Okay, maybe a little bit of a cheat. But finally, it is most important to pay attention to the bedrooms and particularly where you lay your head to sleep. This is the most important place to check for nasties like mold. If they are allowed to make their way in, and get close to where you sleep, they can be inhaled and make you very ill. And as sleep is the only time you’re in the same spot for six to eight hours a day, you’re a captive audience. So be careful.

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