Home Renovation: Risks Beneath the Surface

Guest Blog by Eric Stevenson

With the economy slowly recovering from its floundering period,
many Americans continue to take on renovation projects to add space to their homes or spruce up their interiors. Unfortunately, in their eagerness to save money and prove they really were listening during that last home improvement episode, many of these homeowners take on projects, and risks, they simply are not competent to finish.

While fixating on that perfect shade of eggshell white for a renovated dining room, most amateur American carpenters fail to consider what might be under those walls, like mold or insufficient wiring. Older wiring especially poses a serious fire risk to homes as power consumption for modern appliances has increased. In addition, many older homes still have two-slotted outlets in their walls, which also need to be replaced by three-holed outlets, which are grounded.

Unfortunately, these relatively easy-to-spot home dangers aren&;t the most serious threats to successful home renovation. Hazardous chemicals, which are often hidden and impossible to spot without professional training, are very common in older homes especially. These chemicals are the most dangerous renovation threat because they are a direct attack on the health of the homeowner.

Although commonly recognized as a threat in older paints, lead remains a major threat to homeowners because of its pervasiveness in an array of other old products. Lead was once a major component of common household items like furniture, gasoline and even pipes carrying water. It remains an especially high danger to young children because of its easy absorption into growing skin, leading to appalling physical, mental and behavioral detriment to those exposed. (Download our Free Lead Paint Guide)

Another dangerous chemical recently receiving attention but continuing to pose a threat to homeowners is asbestos. Like lead, this chemical represents a real danger because of its common use in multiple products. Once popular as an insulator against heat, fire, chemicals and electricity, asbestos takes on a number of shapes and appearances, making its detection and subsequent removal difficult.

These chemicals pose an increased risk to homeowners taking on renovation projects because these chemicals often remained dormant during their ownership. However, when families begin tearing down walls and digging through insulation, they risk exposing these chemicals. Asbestos, especially, poses the greatest danger when uncovering leads to flaking or fraying, allowing it to splinter into tiny pieces, get released into the air and become breathed into the lungs of those exposed. Worse still, mesothelioma symptoms, the warning signs of the cancer this material causes, do not occur until 20 to 50 years after exposure. With so many hidden risks and long-term consequences associated with dangerous chemicals in homes, Americans eager to renovate need to consider the hidden dangers they might find behind that kitchen wall or in their attic. In our rush to affordably update our homes, we must first be certain we&;re not compromising our safety to do so.

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