Fellow blogger Eric Stevenson asked me to post his short article on some hidden dangers in house renovations and I think it is good advice so here it is....
Aging Home, Renovation Nightmares
Many homeowners neglect a crucial step between envisioning their renovated home and breaking ground on the project. Unfortunately, failing to acknowledge that planning is the difference between successful results and a home in shambles is a major mistake many homeowners fall victim to. However, inexperienced renovators frequently underestimate the intricacies of home renovation and instead stroll through rooms jotting notes about trivial aesthetic details, calling that planning. They fail to acknowledge that serious renovation planning involves figuring out how to pay for the renovations, deciding which work to contract out and collecting at least three bids for that contracted work.
This key planning phase is where homeowners need to be honest to determine where they can do the work themselves and where a project will surpass their capabilities. Countless couples have found themselves weeks into a stalled project making little progress, smeared with drywall and letting the frustration strain their relationship. Inevitably, most couples mercifully end their struggles by hiring a contractor and letting an expert pick up the pieces.
Among the most important times homeowners can acknowledging that inexperience and defer to professionals is when safety hazards need to be addressed. Among these numerous dangers is discovering dangerous materials behind walls or in basements. Homeowners can unwittingly release and expose themselves to dangerous materials like toxic mold, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation and heavy metals, especially if their home was built 30 years ago or more. Furthermore, outdated electrical systems, including ungrounded outlets, can lead to lethal home fires that claim numerous lives each year. Without the skills of a professional, homeowners can easily overlook these hazards and put themselves at risk.
Another frequent threat homeowners frequently stumble upon is asbestos. This mineral’s effectiveness as an insulator led to its heavy use in past construction, meaning it appears in many forms and is difficult to identify. Improper removal of this material poses the greatest risk to homeowners because damaging this substance allows it to splinter into small pieces which are then released into the air. The intake of these fibers through breathing or swallowing causes internal irritation and can lead to a cancer called mesothelioma. Mesothelioma symptoms typically do not appear until 20 to 50 years after that exposure and mimic those of other ailments. This cancer is rarely caught early enough to provide effective treatment and sufferers of this condition usually have a poor prognosis.
Renovation demands homeowners evaluate their home, abilities and desired outcome. Unfortunately, eagerly jumping into a project with a hammer and a paint brush is a sure way to end up with sloppy results that can unleash serious dangers. Home renovation should accomplish more than modernizing a kitchen. Responsible home renovation includes determining dangerous substances and systems in homes and replacing them with safe, preferably green alternatives. Today a wide range of sustainable insulation and construction materials exist to ensure homeowners are putting the cleanest, most efficient materials in their homes. While aesthetic details of renovation are arguably the most exciting, it’s the more mundane aspects that determine the project’s success and leave a home looking the way the homeowner envisioned it.
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