How to Keep Your Home Healthy During A Renovation

While the media focuses on global warming and the risks that exist to our outdoor environment and their effects on our health, I would argue that we should put equal “energy” into managing the health of our indoor environments.


There are some significant health risks that exist in our living quarters; Our energy efficient, air tight homes are wonderful for saving on heating costs, but these sealed-in environments have resulted in our inside air being far more toxic than the air we breathe when we step outside!


Did you know?

Air circulating inside our homes contains more than 900 chemicals, particles, and biological materials with potentially harmful health effects. A large majority of these chemicals are a result of building materials and cleaning products. Renovations in our home, large or small, result in a huge influx of new chemicals and contaminants being released.


Before Starting, Check for Asbestos

check for asbestos

If you live in an older home, and I mean one built or renovated prior to 1982, then to protect the health of you and your family, you HAVE to test for asbestos before ripping out, cutting away, or sanding drywall material. Up until the early eighties, asbestos was used in drywall to make it more noise absorbing, fire resistant, and strong. This material has a proven negative and severe impact on the health of everyone exposed. Fibers are microscopic… so you won’t even know you have been exposed.

You are responsible for the health of your family and the trades working in your space so this step is a must.


Reducing the Risk

A typical goal in any renovation is to minimize the dust and disruption to all or part of our house. It’s really not the dust that we need to worry about but rather the airborne chemicals and toxins that are in the dust created when ripping out old materials in our homes. These airborne chemicals are then circulated throughout our home and are proven to be harmful to our health.

industrial worker installing ventilation or air conditioning filter holder in ceiling

Try treating your renovation site like a hazardous material site…in many ways it is just that. The additional cost is minimal. Practices currently in place for this process are proven to minimize contaminant dispersion and they do work.


  • Weather permitting, completely shut off furnaces to prevent contaminants from being circulated throughout your home – especially during demolition.
  • Place filters inside or over your cold air returns to catch contaminants that may enter the vents.
  • Seal off the area with heavy sheets of poly. These come with easy access zippers now so the area can be accessed without compromising the barrier.
    • Use multiple barriers to increase the effectiveness of the containment


  • Create a negative pressure in the renovation area. Rent negative pressure fans to be placed in the work area. These powerful fans suck the air out of the room and vent it outside. You will be amazed at the dust reduction with these units.
  • Rent an air purification system and run it continually during and after the renovation. The best available is called Odorox. The technology is based on nature’s way of cleaning impurities from the air and surfaces-hydroxyl technology.  It launches a dual process attack on contaminants.  They have machines are of varying sizes. These systems remove mould, bacteria, and VOCs from your environment. A Calgary company “Environmental Air Cleaning” can set you up with one of their portable machines.
  • Work with a contractor willing to embrace all of these measures.  Who To Call can recommend quality companies ready to complete your “healthy renovation”


move out pool

  • Move out of your house…if the renovation is extensive than go stay with friends or family or find a temporary space on AirBnB. It is a hassle but it is worth it for your health. Who knows, maybe your home-away-from-home will have a pool!






Alana Kitchen
Alana Kitchen
Alana Kitchen, founder of Who To Call Inc. Taking care of a house with three boys I always needed a good drywaller on speed dial. When I moved to Calgary I quickly discovered it was an Olympic sport to find home service businesses that provided the quality service and advice I was looking for. This experience inspired Who To Call – a website dedicated to helping Calgarians find quality home service repair companies. Sign up to post your project and find quality companies today!
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