In this post, we’ll be exploring how condensation causes mould.
Condensation is a common phenomenon that occurs when moist air comes into contact with a cold surface, leading to the formation of water droplets.
While condensation can affect various surfaces, metal roofs, particularly those with a low angle, present unique challenges. In this blog post, we will explore the impact of condensation on metal roofs, focusing on its potential to cause mould growth and its implications for health.
By understanding this relationship, homeowners and builders can take proactive measures to mitigate the risks associated with condensation.
The Nature of Metal Roofs
Metal roofs have gained popularity due to their durability, longevity, and aesthetic appeal – they’re also relatively low cost, and are quicker and easier to install than more traditional roofing materials, such as tiles.
However, they also possess certain characteristics that make them susceptible to condensation-related issues – namely that metal is a good thermal conductor – meaning it can cool and heat up relatively quickly. What happens then, is that metal roofs are often close to the outdoor temperature and thus can be very different to the temperature within a roof space or attic.
Metal roofs are typically installed with an angle of less than 22 degrees, which poses challenges when it comes to managing water runoff (Australian Building Codes Board, 2021), we’ll come back to this.
Condensation Drips and the Risk of Mould Growth
In traditional roofing systems with steeper angles, rainwater efficiently runs off the surface, minimising the chances of water accumulation and subsequent condensation-related problems.
However, when the angle of a metal roof is less than 22 degrees, condensation cannot run off it, which results in it dripping.
As I always say, mould is a moisture issue.
Mould spores are everywhere and are waiting for the right level of moisture to become active. Metal roofs with condensation issues can provide an ideal environment for mould.
The growth of mould on a roof's underside not only compromises its structural integrity but also poses serious health risks to occupants (National Construction Code, 2021).
I want to illustrate this for you with some photos I took of the underside of a metal roof that covered a deck.
These photos were taken mid morning after a cold night. You can see the condensation lined up along the valleys of the metal roof (left). As well, you can see the moisture on the table beneath (right).
Health Implications of Mould Growth
Mould growth can have significant implications for human health. Exposure to mould spores, particularly indoors, can cause a range of health problems, including allergies, respiratory issues, and even infections. Individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma, are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of mould exposure (Wang et al, 2023; ABCB, 2019).
There is a growing body of research that highlights the detrimental effects of mould on respiratory health, emphasising the importance of preventing mould growth in buildings to safeguard occupants' wellbeing.
Mould, including the strains commonly found in damp and poorly ventilated areas, thrives in the presence of moisture. Metal roofs are condensation risks, and without enough slope, this can drip onto insulation or the plasterboards of the ceiling, and result in “hidden mould”, and thus can be playing a role in health issues, even when there is no visible mould.
Understanding the Causes of Condensation
To effectively address condensation-related issues on metal roofs, it is crucial to understand the underlying causes.
While the slope of the roof is an incredibly important factor, there are other important considerations. These are high humidity levels within the building, inadequate ventilation, and temperature differentials between the interior and exterior environments. Identifying these causes allows homeowners and builders to implement appropriate measures to control condensation and mitigate its impact (ABCB, 2019).
Mitigating Condensation Issues on Metal Roofs
To combat condensation problems and prevent mould growth on metal roofs, several strategies can be employed:
Adequate ventilation is essential to expel excess moisture and maintain a balanced humidity level. Proper airflow helps in reducing the likelihood of condensation formation (Australian Building Codes Board, 2021; New Zealand Building Performance, n.d.). Some simple steps include venting extractor fans to the exterior of the building (not into the roof space), installing whirlybirds, depending on the climate, opening the roof space up to allow air circulation (e.g. having metal mesh soffits).
Insulating the Roof
Insulation acts as a thermal barrier, minimising temperature differentials between the interior and exterior surfaces of the roof. This helps reduce the occurrence of condensation by preventing warm, moist air from coming into contact with the cold metal surface (Australian Building Codes Board, 2021; New Zealand Building Performance, n.d.). Care also needs to be taken to ensure that the insulation does not block the condensation runoff, and also that it isn’t directly beneath the metal roof.
Installing Vapour Barriers
Vapour barriers are effective in preventing moisture from permeating into the roof structure. By creating a barrier, they minimise the chances of condensation formation (Australian Building Codes Board, 2021; New Zealand Building Performance, n.d.). What they do is allow water vapour to escape from within the building envelope.
Compliance with Building Codes and Standards
To ensure the safety and quality of construction, it is crucial to adhere to relevant building codes and standards. In the case of metal roofs and condensation management, the Australian Building Codes Board and National Construction Code provide guidelines and regulations to mitigate the risks associated with condensation and mould growth (Australian Building Codes Board, 2021; National Construction Code, 2021).
In New Zealand, where “leaky buildings” have been a significant issue, the New Zealand Building Performance provides valuable resources and information on weathertightness and managing condensation to address these concerns (New Zealand Building Performance, n.d.).
While Condensation Causes Mould it Can Be Mitigated
Condensation on metal roofs, especially those with angles less than 22 degrees, can lead to the formation of condensation drips, increasing the risk of mould growth. This can have detrimental effects on both the structural integrity of the roof and the health of the occupants. Mould exposure can result in allergies, respiratory issues, and infections, particularly for individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Understanding the causes of condensation, such as high humidity levels and inadequate ventilation, is crucial in developing effective strategies for mitigating condensation-related problems. Improving ventilation, insulating the roof, and installing vapour barriers are practical measures to control condensation and prevent mould growth.
Compliance with building codes and standards ensures that construction practices align with recommended guidelines for condensation management. By implementing these strategies and following regulatory requirements, homeowners and builders can create healthier living environments and prolong the lifespan of metal roofs.
Taking proactive steps to address condensation issues on metal roofs is essential for safeguarding the integrity of the structure and the well-being of those who reside within. By prioritising proper ventilation, insulation, and moisture control, homeowners and builders can minimise the risks associated with condensation and create a safer, mould-free living environment.
Wang, J. et al (2023). Effects of mold, water damage and window pane condensation on adult rhinitis and asthma partly mediated by different odors. Building and Environment, 2023. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2022.109814
Flooding is something we’ve recently experienced on a scale that really hasn’t been seen before.
I’m not a scientist or meteorologist, but experts say this is due to either or both La Niña and climate change.
Flooding – the Primary Effects
Primarily, flooding is going to result in mould issues. Mould is a moisture issue and with the abundance of moisture (rain, on the ground and the high levels of relative humidity), we’re seeing a perfect storm brewing for mould and microbial activity.
The focus of today’s post is the secondary effects.
So, I’ll leave the topic of mould here, with the following pointers:
Anything that’s been wet for more than 48 hours can create the opportunity for mould and microbial activity
Porous materials that have been wet, need to be replaced
Semi- and non-porous materials can be saved, but need to be addressed by the appropriate professionals (those who’ve trained with IICRC and have achieved the Mould Remediation accreditation)
If you want to learn more about dealing with mould, I have a course by that very name – you can check it out here.
www.EWG.org will also list options, however, I’ve found that these are often not available in Australia (and I don't recommend purchasing these types of items online from overseas as they may not meet our safety standards)
I’m going to bring back my essential oil based Bug Repellent (contact me if you're interested)
If you opt for a non-natural option, apply an oil-based moisturiser on your skin first, so the repellent sits on the surface of your skin (and is also easier to wash of)
Another way to use the non-natural option is to spray it onto clothing, instead of your skin
DIY – make your own with essential oils, such as tea tree, rosemary, eucalyptus blue mallee, and lavender. You can mix them up in water and spray them on your clothes/skin and reapply every 2-3 hours
We can expect some pretty big issues with termites with the high levels of moisture.
According to Professor Dieter Hochuli, Integrative Ecology Group at the University of Sydney,
“It’s going to be a massive year for termites as the high levels of soil moisture are ideal for them to burrow and flourish” (ABC News, 31 Oct 22).
A bit like house dust mites, termites thrive in moist conditions.
Termites are attracted by the moisture then go in search of food – wood.
Here are some things to do.
Clear away wood (fallen branches, sleepers, wood piles) from around your home and property
Keep things as dry as you can
Be vigilant – keep an eye on your building, including the subfloor. If you’ve got termite caps at the top of your stumps, then you should be able to spot their activity easily.
Have your home inspected
Termite traps can be useful around your property, too
Cockroaches and Rodents
Cockroaches and rodents (rats and mice), as well as other pests are likely to increase, particularly as the weather warms up.
Some actions that you can take are:
Installing fly screens on windows and doors
Keep your home clean
Clean up food scraps and mess
Ensure your bins close properly
If you’ve got a compost bin, keep it away from the home
If you’ve got chooks, look into getting a feeder that doesn’t spill their food around
Keep pet food (and your own) in sealed containers
Other Steps You Can Take To Reduce the Secondary (and Tertiary) Effects of Flooding
Keep an eye on the relative humidity levels – these should be between 40-60%. A hygrometer is handy for this.
Paint Chips from old peeling paint can potentially expose your family and pets to lead, which is a risk to long term health.
While lead may have been banned, it is still present in many buildings.
So how do you know if the paint on your home contains lead?
Unfortunately, you can’t tell by looking as there are no obvious signs that paint may contain lead.
However, I would say that in most cases, it probably does, to varying levels.
The best guide would be that if your home was constructed and/or painted prior to 1997, it is highly likely to contain “lead paint.”
In 1997, in Australia, the lead content of domestic paint was reduced to 0.1% lead (= 1000 ppm lead), prior to that it was much higher.
On 1st October 2021, lead paint was banned in Australia. This means that all domestic paints contain lead that is limited to 0.009% = 90 ppm – ultimately meaning that no lead can be added.
The great news is that manufacturers were informed about this back in 2010, so you can rest assured that any paint made in Australia on and after this date has no added lead.
While leaded paint is safely encapsulated by more recent coats of paint, it doesn’t pose a risk in normal daily life.
However, if you are planning to renovate your home, you could be biting off more than you intended.
The only way to know for sure is to test it.
Spot tests from the hardware store are pretty unreliable.
Laboratory analysis is always the best way to go*.
Otherwise, you could assume that the paint contains lead, and manage it accordingly.
The Dos and Don’ts of Leaded Paint
If the paint in the area you are wanting to paint is in good condition, then you can:
Wash the walls with sugar soap
Allow them to fully dry
Paint them carefully
However, if you are planning to remove the paint – STOP! Read this first.
Don’t dry sand.
Sanding will cause the lead to be released as airborne particles.
If you need to sand, then wet sanding is your go to method.
Don’t use a hot heat gun.
The heat gun will cause lead vapour to be released.
The only way around this is to use a heat gun with a temperature setting, and use it on the lowest setting. Keep the heat gun away from the wall. Everyone present needs to be fitted with a P2 respirator to prevent inhalation.
Avoid chemical stripping.
Chemical stripping can cause lead to end up in the wood. The end results of this is that because no paint is visible, anyone would assume that it is safe to sand. But this is not the case.
In all instances, I strongly recommend the use of PPE – a respirator is essential.
P1 for sanding. P2 for using with a heat gun.
I also recommend using an air purifier to capture fumes and dust.
Before you remove leaded paint, carefully lay down a drop sheet (taping down the edges) to ensure that you’ll collect all the lead chips.
Ensure that you carefully collect all leaded paint chips, emptying them into a bag and sealing it well.
Clean the area and surrounds thoroughly to ensure that there are no paint chips or dust around from the renovation.
The LEAD Group recommends the 3-Bucket Method for cleaning. (Note, I am not a fan of step 5 – please choose an alternative way to dispose of the contaminated water.)
The Risks of Leaded Paint Chips and Dust
I recently tested a home that had been renovated, and there were paint chips all over the garden.
Whilst the paint chips definitely posed a problem to the occupants and their pets, the dust in their home also contained levels of lead that were high enough that by US EPA standards deemed the house uninhabitable for a child.
So follow the steps above and keep safe from lead.
Other Potential Sources of Lead When Renovating
We’ve talked about paint chips and dust in the home.
However, there are other potential sources of lead that you can be exposed to when renovating.
The two bigs ones are:
Ceiling dust is usually full of all sorts of contaminants – lead dust being one of them. Dust can contain lead even in new buildings, particularly when near busy roads or industrial areas.
Like when sanding, dust from the ceiling can easily be inhaled or ingested.
And as such, I always recommend having ceiling dust professionally removed prior to any renovations.
Carpets store a lot of dust and other matter – we won’t go into the details here, just know it’s like a time capsule of your home.
Pulling up carpets and underlay can expose you to a lot of this matter, so care needs to be taken.
Simply spray carpets with water, cut them into strips and roll them up. Taking it a step further, it is advised that you then wrap these carpet rolls in plastic and carefully remove them. This last step prevents contamination of other areas of the building from both lead and mould spores.
The same can be done with the underlay.
I then recommend a good clean, following the Three Bucket Method, as well.
Other Reno Tips
Make sure you clean up well – take extra care to remove dust, paint chips and other debris.
Test the soil if you’re planning to have a vegetable garden or chooks, you have pets, you’ve got children (especially if they’re prone to pica – eating things that aren’t normally considered food).
Take care to choose taps and tapware that are lead-free.
Interested in Learning More?
Check out this post and details about how to join lead expert, Elizabeth O'Brien (The LEAD Group) for a live Q&A call during International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action (ILPPWA). Don’t worry if you’ve missed the event – go there anyway as I’ll post the video of the call there for you. 🙂
*I’m doing onsite assessments for lead, so if you want my help, enquire here.
Although it's my favourite season, Spring healthy home threats can be found in every home.
I love the palpable buzz of new life and energy. When we’re surrounded by colour as flowers burst open, and there are fledgling birds all around.
Here in Melbourne, it is considered the most variable of the seasons – I’m sure this is the season that inspired Crowded House’s “Four Seasons in One Day.”
And, like for every season, there are healthy home threats that are closely matched with this one.
What is a “healthy home threat”?
A healthy home threat is anything that interferes with the good work we’re doing to create a healthy home. It could be an allergen, a rise in relative humidity, a leak, new paint, a new technology – there are so many possibilities.
Which Challenges Does Spring Bring?
Spring brings with it longer days (with the sun rising earlier and setting later) as well as warmer days. In many areas, the winds pick up. And when I lived in the Blue Mountains, I braced for “thunderstorm season,” as I called it.
It’s important to understand how the season causes us to change our behaviour, as this can give us clues about what may pose a risk to our great efforts in creating a healthy home.
As Spring gains momentum, we tend to:
Get outside more
Open the windows to let the warmth in
Continue to use heating (as the days are still cool, and vary a lot)
Bring flowers inside
Get out into the garden
Plant vegetables, herbs and flowers
Some of us partake in the traditional “Spring Clean”
Let’s now explore how these changes can become Spring healthy home threats.
Variations in temperature throughout the day, and also from room to room can create opportunities for mould to grow.
Another change is the increased ventilation as we open up to welcome in the warmth and beautiful Spring air.
Spring Cleaning results in us pulling furniture out, cleaning, sorting through items that may have been untouched for some time.
It’s important to remember that mould releases spores when there are any changes to its environment.
Releasing spores is how mould manages to spread and survive “attacks,” and we need to keep this in mind.
Aim to keep temperatures throughout your home as consistent as possible – opening ALL windows and doors can be part of this strategy.
Use air purifiers, particularly when Spring Cleaning. (This one is the bee's knees in terms of powerfully cleaning the air.)
Building materials having different temperatures can create the possibility of dew point being reached within the building. I know that sounds technical, but bear with me as I translate this.
When dew point is reached, moisture in the air can condense on a cool surface – this could be on a wall or ceiling, or within the structure of the building itself.
Obviously then, this creates moisture. And, as I always say, mould is a moisture issue.
In my years of assessing homes, I’ve seen some dramatic differences in the temperature of building materials, and have frequently found “hidden mould” in brand new builds.
When heating your home, heat your entire home, and keep indoor doors open to help the temperature stay even throughout.
Keep furniture at least 10cm away from exterior walls so that the walls maintain a consistent temperature.
Ensure that your building is insulated properly – that the entire wall, ceiling or floor is insulated, and it has not been installed in a patchy way.
Keep an eye out for condensation – and dry it off as soon as you see it with a microfibre cloth. If it’s on the ceiling or high window, you can use a flat mop, rather than climbing on a ladder.
Watch the relative humidity – the more moisture in the air, the greater potential for condensation to form. Hygrometers are ideal for this.
Pollen and Microbes
Spending time outside can see an increase in exposure to pollen as dormant plants spring into life – which is a huge problem for people with seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), and also asthmatics.
And of course, the increased winds can cause pollen to travel…
And because gardening involves stirring up the soil, we can inadvertently be exposed to various microbes in the soil.
Be aware of allergenic pollen in your area, check out this pollen calendar.
If you have allergies (known or suspected) to pollen, then keep the windows closed, stay indoors, and keep your air purifier nearby.
Check pollen alerts (you can get local apps for these).
Keep an eye out for thunderstorm asthma alerts, too (I think mould is part of this picture, not just pollen, but that is yet to be proven).
When you are out and about (including gardening), wear a mask, and consider protective eyewear.
House Dust Mites
With the changing temperatures, we’re often caught out at night – either being too hot or too cold…
This can cause us to perspire (or sweat) a lot overnight – which is just what house dust mites want.
House dust mites soak up moisture through their skin, and, a bit like mould, can thrive in moisture environments.
Check the predicted overnight temperature before going to bed, and adjust your bedding accordingly.
Pull the covers back to air your bed through the day – there’s no need to make it!
When changing the sheets, vacuum your mattress while it's still warm.
Wash your bedding often and dry them out in the sun.
Mould sensitivities are more common than most people realise.
If you're a regular here at Eco Health Solutions, it is highly likely that you have mould sensitivities or other environmental sensitivities, know someone who does, or know enough about them to want to prevent them… If you're new, then feel free to peruse this and other posts on environmental sensitivities.
I wanted to bring you a different, and more technical, perspective on mould and health – so invited my friend Tim Law, an architectural scientist with a strong interest in this topic to share his insights with you.
Grab a cuppa and pen and paper and settle in for this great read.
I am an architectural scientist, one who uses the principles of physics, biology and chemistry to understand buildings.
On the positive side I try to make buildings perform optimally, and on the flip side I explain why they fail.
If you are reading Lucinda's website, you are most likely aware that conventional medicine has a very limited understanding around the health implications of mould in water-damaged buildings.
This article is written to help you understand that even though your physician may not be familiar with mould sensitivities you should not feel alone. There are many others like you.
Fungi, the fifth kingdom. Ubiquitous, prolific, little understood. They are the great recyclers, decomposing trees, recovering its nutrients, nourishing the soil. They are selectively symbiotic, and at times territorial.
But once they sporulate in water-damaged buildings, they become unequivocally unhealthy to humans.
You are not alone in your home.
There is an entire ecosystem of microorganisms waging biological warfare. Quite different from human warfare, there is no morality in this war, no good vs evil, no heroes or villains, it is simply what fungi do.
It turns out that mould does not live a solitary existence. They form colonies. The word ‘colony’ has been well chosen.
Mould can team up with other organisms such as bacteria to form biofilms — a kind of fortified city wall to protect the organisms within its confines.
More significantly, mould colonises. It is opportunistic, dormant until the conditions are right, then invades and proliferates. Like any colonist, mould does not like to share. It is hypothesised that mould sends out mycotoxins (mould toxins) to eliminate its competition.
The strategies largely fall in two methods: arrive early and multiply quickly, or arrive late and carry some big guns.
Microbiologists divide the continuum as primary, secondary and tertiary colonisers.
They also follow the same neat order of water activity (or wetness of a porous material): primary colonisers germinate when the material is moderately damp for a few days, and tertiary colonisers when it is very damp for a long period of months.
The Might of Mould
Human ingenuity has turned these mould metabolites into medicines — a vast range of fungal antibiotics are derived from mould.
Humans also figured that we could isolate and weaponise mycotoxins. In the stuff of nightmares, trichothecenes can be derived from the common tertiary coloniser found in water-damaged buildings, Stachybotrys chartarum, that gram for gram, exceeds mustard gas in toxicity.
Stachybotrys chartarum has received superstar status in the media and is commonly referred to as “toxic black mould”. This turns out to be a rather unhelpful description since mould has different colours depending on the substrate it feeds on, and changes colours across its life cycle, just like trees do across seasons.
Yet not all moulds are hazardous. Some moulds are brilliantly delicious. Koji (Aspergillus oryzae) creates umami-charged cuisine.
Impressively, one could marinate raw meat with shio-koji and let the process continue for days unrefrigerated without bacterial overgrowth, according to Jeremy Umansky, author of Koji Alchemy.
One wonders if this can be applied to buildings. And indeed this idea is not far-fetched. Japanese Koji houses are dedicated fermenteries — no other ferments are permitted in the facility so as to minimise cross contamination.
Before fermenting is commenced, the Koji master goes through the ritual of scattering Koji spores all around the timber building structure to essentially stave off any other moulds from colonising.
Mould in Buildings
We should attend to our buildings with a similar care, seeing how most of Australian domestic construction is dominated by cellulose material.
From timber frames to engineered timber products like LVLs (laminated veneer lumbers) and plywood, to particle board flooring, MDF (medium density fibre) boards, to paper-faced plasterboard wall and ceiling linings — virtually everything we build with in a typical Australian house is mould food, you just have to add water.
It should be pointed out that mould is not the only problem with dampness.
Water supports life of a host of micro-organisms besides mould, it is just mould that is the most visible due to its mycelial structure.
To keep mould and other microorganisms away from houses, it is as simple as keeping moisture out.
Simple, but not easy.
If it were easy moisture-related defects would not be repeatedly the highest reported source of problems for apartments by the NSW Office of the Building Commissioner occurring in 53% of reviewed apartment buildings.
In Victoria, surveys conducted by the Australian Apartment Advocacy show water-related defects as a group of defects are well ahead of any other classification.
Regardless of state/territory and climate zone, there was a fairly consistent average that a third of these new buildings were estimated to have condensation problems.
If we add to this the water-related defects such as failures in plumbing, roofing, cladding, water-proofing and damp-proofing, then a building free from water damage is in the minority.
Condensation provisions were only introduced into the National Construction Code in 2019, meaning to say that houses and apartments built prior to this could be deemed to be code-compliant, and yet have unmitigated condensation, together with the mould and bacteria that invariably follows prolonged dampness of building materials.
When the micro-organisms proliferate, not only do they produce toxins to gain a competitive advantage, even their cell walls become a source of toxins.
These toxins are collectively referred to as biotoxins and create a range of maladies, broadly categorised as allergenic, pathogenic, toxicological and inflammatory.
In essence, it can be very broad, systemic, affecting multiple organs and expressed through multiple symptoms.
Early symptoms often include brain fog and chronic fatigue.
On prolonged exposure to water-damaged buildings, mould-sensitive patients eventually also develop chemical, light and electromagnetic hypersensitivities.
New Research into Mould Sensitivities and Biotoxin Illnesses
On top of that, in an Australian first, the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) is funding research into biotoxin illness. I am one of the investigators and am optimistic that recent advancements in data mining, next-generation sequencing, transcriptomics and metagenomics will enable us to tackle this complex problem which has hitherto been too complex to analyse.
There is almost a poetic irony that interconnected disciplines are required to unravel the interconnected symptoms of a patient suffering from interconnecting micro-organisms.
Thus, if you find yourself in a water-damaged building, remember you are not alone. There are many Australians in a similar predicament that you will be able to connect with.
Keep seeking for answers and keep applying pressure on the government (local, state and federal) to improve the quality of buildings we live, work and school in.
Keep connecting with like-minded people and build your support network.
Applying a little foresight and forward planning can help to prevent renovation health hazards. Through the past decade, I have found that many of my clients have experienced health issues due to factors in their homes, I call these hidden hazards.
In order to equip you with information and strategies while renovating your home, I am going to share with you 5 of the common hazards… and give you strategies on how you can tackle them safely and effectively.
I'd say mould is a “complex beast.” Here are some key points in a nutshell:
Ultimately, mould is a moisture issue. If there’s mould, there has been moisture. Conversely, if something is wet for long enough (48 hours) you can have mould.
There are over 100,000 different types of mould, it comes in many colours and has many different moisture requirements.
It’s a myth that mould only grows in cold, dark places. Mould spores are present everywhere and can become active when there is enough moisture present.
Mould can be actively growing, yet be invisible and/or have no odour.
It’s also a myth that only mould that is black can cause problems to health.
Not everyone reacts the same way to mould. People can be allergic to it, or become sensitised over time. Others may have an immune system that can deal with it without them even realising it!
Mould can grow in all sorts of places – even in areas that you can’t see.
The biggest factor when it comes to renovation health risks is that any time you disturb mould, it releases spores. This means any changes to moisture levels, light, temperature, air movement, as well as physically disturbing it, can result in mould releasing spores.
Keep your eyes peeled for any signs of water, mould or damage: wood with “wood rot” (a.k.a. “water damage”), a “high tide mark” in the subfloor and on the stumps, brown stains (typically on ceilings and walls), paintwork that is peeling, cracked or bubbling, and swollen wood (door jambs, cabinetry, kickboards).
If you spot any of these, get in touch so I can advise on how to best manage the situation.
Asbestos is a material that most of us have heard of. I am sure you also know of the health risks, like mesothelioma that can result from asbestos exposure.
However, it is important to know that asbestos does not pose any health risk if it isn’t damaged or disturbed. Which means, you can live in a 1950s home and have no asbestos-related issues if you don’t make holes in the walls or renovate. This is great news – except if you do want to renovate.
Here are some facts about asbestos.
It’s strong, heat resistant and durable
It was used in a vast range of materials for many decades,
The peak usage of asbestos was 1950s-1970s,
Asbestos was banned in 2003, and
It is impossible to know if a material contains asbestos simply by looking at it.
Apart from “Hardie Boards”, cement-lined asbestos pipes and roof tiles, asbestos was used in electrical cable casing (this is the braided one), window sashes on hung windows, slagging, old laundry tubs, carpet underlays, tiles, bakelite materials and so many other materials.
If your home was built before 2003 and you are planning on a renovation, engage a licensed asbestos inspector to conduct a “demolition survey.”
Lead has also been widely used in a number of products, and was only phased out from use in paint as recently as 2010. Whilst leaded paint, like asbestos, when it isn’t disturbed poses little risk – if it is sanded or peeling, it can be particularly hazardous to health.
There are often no symptoms of lead poisoning for some years – and common long term effects of lead poisoning include loss of libido, reduced sperm count, lowered IQ, Alzheimer's Disease, hearing loss, joint pain, stroke, and has been linked to many “diseases of ageing.”
Lead can be present in our homes in paint, solder, flashing (which can get into tank water), lead dust (from busy roads and industry) which can get into the soil or roof space, and even lead lighting.
What is important to know with lead is that the “spot tests” that you can get at hardware stores are extremely unreliable. It is for this reason that they are not something that I recommend. Instead, you can get samples analysed by an accredited laboratory.
If you suspect lead might be present then take extra care:
wear a respirator,
gloves and coveralls,
avoid dry sanding,
avoid removing paint with heat guns,
manage the dust to prevent secondary contamination, and of course,
keep pets, pregnant women, young children and the elderly away from areas being renovated.
Two places where dust pose the biggest risks are carpets and the roof space.
Any time you are doing anything involving the ceiling or roof space be sure to have the dust removed prior. This could be installing insulation to cutting out a piece to installing downlights, and so on.
For carpets, I recommend that you spray them down with water, cut them into strips, roll each strip, wrap in a tarp and take it out to the skip. This will prevent dust becoming airborne as well as reduce the risk of spreading it through other parts of your home.
And of course, personal protective equipment is always recommended!
Plan Ahead and Avoid Renovation Health Hazards
Whilst we know how easy it is to get swept up in the vision and planning… However, you are now armed with important information to protect yourself and your family from the most common renovation health hazards.
Today, we're joined by guest Raymond Alonzo who shares his tips about building materials for different climates.
Raymond is studying journalism in Phoenix, Arizona. He's interested in learning more about how our actions affect our environment.
Based in the US, his concepts can be applied to our corresponding climates.
If you are a part of my community or have been following me for a while, you'll know how important our built environments are in terms of our health.
This post contains important points to consider.We can take all of these ideas to greater heights when we consider health hazards and risks, such as condensation, off-gassing and indoor air quality.
When you’re imagining what your new home will look like, you’re probably not putting much thought into the building materials being used. The types of materials that you choose will affect the long-term integrity of your home. Depending on the type of climate you live in, there are certain materials that will work with the environment instead of against it. Keep reading for materials that will work best with the different types of climates.
Building Materials for the Desert
The hot climate of a desert can be very damaging to homes. High evaporation rates, shifting temperatures and little precipitation all can contribute. Here are some materials to consider for your desert home:
Adobe exteriors – Will reduce the absorption and transfer of heat, as well as water absorption.
Tile/concrete floors – These floors have a high thermal mass and will reduce the buildup of dust and keep a steady, comfortable temperature.
Metal roofing – Metal roofs help with temperature control, keeping your home cooler during the hot summer months.
Vinyl windows – These windows reduce UV rays that are damaging, they also create an air-tight seal.
In addition, xeriscaping your lawn and planting drought-tolerant plants can keep your lawn low-maintenance and environmentally friendly.
Rainy Areas and Materials to Consider
The storms and precipitation that a rainy climate brings doles out a number of risks. Flooding, mould and warping wood are all issues that you may face living in a rainy environment. These materials will help alleviate these issues:
Engineered hardwood – Engineered hardwood will keep out water and prevent any warping.
Metal or asphalt roofing – These roofs will reduce the buildup of mould and mildew.
Paperless drywall – Along with the roofing material above, paperless drywall can also reduce mould buildup in your home.
Vinyl siding – A vinyl siding will keep rainwater moving away from your home.
Severe storms and water buildup can of course be damaging. Remember to make sure you aren’t building your home on a floodplain.
Building Materials for Cold Climates
In some parts of Australia, cold weather and snow is an inevitability. It’s no secret that snowfall and winter storms can be disastrous for homeowners, so here are some materials to help keep your home safe and secure:
Carpet – Carpets increase heat retention, keeping your home warm throughout the colder months.
Brick siding – The high winds of cold climates can be damaging, brick siding will withstand these high winds and also increase heat retention.
Snow guards – Snow guards will stop snow from falling off your roof, preventing possible injuries.
Multi-pane windows – Multi-pane windows will increase insulation and lower your utility bills.
Frozen pipes and a caved in roof from snow are real concerns, and the materials listed above will keep your home secure and environmentally friendly.
Building Materials for Windy Areas
High-speed gusts of wind, storms and unpredictable weather are all problems that people living in windy climates face. In windy environments, the materials used in home construction are especially important due to the damage high winds can cause. Here are some to consider:
Concrete/steel parapet – Roof uplift is a serious concern in windy environments, a concrete or steel parapet will reduce uplift.
Fibre cement siding – A siding made out of fiber cement will stand up to high impacts and winds, strengthening the integrity of your home.
Rebar – To help secure wall materials to your house’s frame consider installing rebar.
Steel framing – Steel framing can help your home stand up to high wind speeds.
In a windy environment, simply ensuring the structural integrity of your home is one of the best ways to protect the environment. If any pieces of your home go flying, they may damage plants and wildlife that are around.
These are the main types of environments that homes are being built in. Remember to choose your building materials, location and homeowners insurance carefully. Your home and its construction will affect more than just yourself.
If you're keen on learning more about this, and how you might consider these for your build (or reno), then let me know.
We can take these great foundational ideas and match them to suit your needs and climate, all the while planning for your building to support your health.