Many homeowners purchase a home in Courtenay or Comox and they then proceed to renovate it for their personal enjoyments and to capitalize on and to preserve their investment. Home renovations can add value and utility to a Crown Isle home but some also come with risk if not done properly.
Open Up Spaces and Remove Walls
It has become recent common practice to open up rooms and spaces in a home in order to achieve an open concept. Before embarking on such a project ensure to obtain the required permit from a local authority. Walls can be removed if they are not load bearing. If they are, extra precautions will need to be undertaken. If you take out the load bearing wall without a replacement structure, you compromise the structural integrity of your house. Removing a load bearing wall and replacing it with a beam or a beam and post is significantly different from removing interior non load bearing walls. Load bearing walls are structural elements. Non load bearing walls are not. Is you are not sure whether or not the wall is load bearing, hire a professional to do the work.
Another potential danger when removing walls is asbestos. Asbestos is a strong, fire-resistant mineral fibre. In the past, asbestos was used as insulation against heat or noise and for fire protection. It was also added to materials such as cement and plaster to give them more structural strength. Until the early 1980s, many products containing asbestos were used in house construction. Some products, such as asbestos-containing vermiculite insulation, were used in homes right up until the late 1980s. The drawing in this pamphlet shows many possible sources of asbestos in older homes. When you are renovating or demolishing an older house, there is a high probability of encountering asbestos containing materials. If asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and left intact, they do not pose a significant danger of releasing asbestos fibres into the air you breathe. However, these materials are hazardous when they deteriorate or are disturbed, such as when they are handled, sanded, drilled into, or broken up so that they crumble. To avoid disturbing asbestos-containing materials, you must know where they are before you begin renovations. Asbestos-containing materials should be identified and removed by someone trained in asbestos removal and wearing protective clothing and a respirator.
If you are dealing with an older home be aware that most buildings built before 1950 have had lead-based paint applied to the interior or exterior surfaces. Often lead paint of this era contained up to 40% lead by weight. Paints made between 1950 and 1978 usually contained smaller amounts of lead. Paints often contain other heavy metals including mercury, arsenic and chromium. The United States’ Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) banned lead paint in 1977 in residential properties and public buildings (16 Code of Federal Regulations 1303), along with toys and furniture containing lead paint. The cited reason was “to reduce the risk of lead poisoning in children who may ingest paint chips or peelings.” In April of 2010 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency required that all renovators working in homes built before 1978 and disturbing more than six square feet of lead paint inside the home or 20 square feet outside the home be certified. EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) lower the risk of lead contamination from home renovation activities. It requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools (any child occupied facility) built before 1978 be certified by EPA and use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices. Here again, if you are not sure, hire a professional to do the work.
Kitchens and Bathrooms
Molds are ubiquitous, and mold spores are a common component of household and workplace dust; however, when mold spores are present in large quantities, they can present a health hazard to humans, potentially causing allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Some molds also produce mycotoxins that can pose serious health risks to humans and animals. Some studies claim that exposure to high levels of fungal mycotoxins can lead to neurological problems and in some cases, illness and or death. Prolonged exposure, e.g. daily home exposure, may be particularly harmful. Research on the health impacts of mold has not been conclusive. The term “toxic mold” refers to molds that produce mycotoxins, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, and not to all molds in general. Mold in the home can usually be found in damp, dark or steamy areas e.g. bathroom or kitchen, cluttered storage areas, recently flooded areas, basement areas, plumbing spaces, areas with poor ventilation and outdoors in humid environments. Symptoms caused by mold allergy are watery, itchy eyes, a chronic cough, headaches or migraines, difficulty breathing, rashes, tiredness, sinus problems, nasal blockage and frequent sneezing. Request a hazmat survey to identify hazardous materials in your home or business.
The refinishing of appliances such as older bath tubs can also create concerns. The use of stripping agents that contain high percentages of methylene chloride is dangerous when not used properly. Ensure that you know what is contained in the stripping agent and what the potential adverse affects may be. Just because it is available to consumers does not mean that it does not present dangers to your and/or your pets. Exposure can be dangerously high if methylene chloride is used in an enclosed space without adequate ventilation. Consider removing the tub and taking it outside to work on it or get a professional to do the work.
Textured coatings were a popular finishing technique from the 1920s through the 1980s. Various forms of ceiling textures and wall coverings like plaster as well as popcorn ceiling all fall under the textured surface category. Contractors had a more visually appealing veneer in mind when utilizing various ACM’s (asbestos containing materials) to complete the final touch. Asbestos was added to various textured coatings for both acoustic isolation and fireproofing. A hazardous materials survey is always crucial in determining the asbestos content and must be completed by a qualified person. In most cases removal of asbestos containing textured coating is deemed high-risk activity due to the asbestos content and application of this material. Although you have the legal right as a homeowner to do this work yourself, it is inadvisable – and you are still subject to environmental laws regarding the transport and disposal of asbestos waste.
Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation (UFFI) is a type of insulation that was widely used in the 1970’s for insulating and retrofitting industrial, commercial and older residential buildings. UFFI is a low-density foam that has the appearance and consistency of shaving cream, and becomes stiff and self supporting when it dries or cures (hardens).
The insulation is typically made on-site where the urea formaldehyde-based resin is mixed with a catalyst and water and foamed in place in walls or used for block fill. The foam can be forced through small openings and delivered to the entire area of any cavity before it cures.
UFFI has been prohibited from advertising, sale or importation into Canada under item 34, Part I of Schedule I to the Hazardous Products Act since December 1980. The prohibition includes all urea formaldehyde-based thermal insulation, foamed in place, used to insulate buildings. This includes melamine urea and other urea formaldehyde resins.
There are just a few of the risks that may await you in an older home when you contemplate a renovation project. Before moving forward with your renovation plans speak to a contractor about the potential risks. If any hazardous materials are involved contact professionals who specialize in dealing with hazardous materials before starting any work.