Minimizing VOC Problems During Remodeling

Taking care with materials and finishes will help curb air quality problems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency offers several suggestions on how to minimize VOC (volatile organic compound) and air quality problems during remodeling:

  • To the extent possible during remodeling, eliminate or reduce the use of products containing VOCs inside the living space of the house.
  • Consider using solid wood (rather than pressed wood) with low-emitting finishes.
  • Consider the use of prefinished materials or those that can be finished outside the living space.
  • When engineered products such as pressed wood are used, sealing as many surfaces as possible should help to reduce the rate of emissions. Low-emitting sealants should be used. Check with the engineered wood vendor for recommendations on sealing their products.
  • Use "exterior-grade" pressed wood products (these are lower emitting because they contain phenol-formaldehyde resins rather than urea-formaldehyde resins).
  • Whenever possible, use low-emitting products in the house's conditioned space, such as sealants, paints and finishes. Use these products according to the manufacturers' directions, and provide plenty of ventilation both during and after application. Check with vendors to see if they have low-emitting products that are suitable for your specific needs and applications.

The EPA also offers ideas on how to use barriers and ventilation to minimize occupant exposure to pollutants during the remodeling work.

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