Healthy home checklist to keep in mind when remodeling, moving, or staying put

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 6:57 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - A lot of people spent more time in their homes over the past year than ever before, but home is not always a healthy place to be if regular maintenance is done or if issues are not fixed. Remodeling also can change the health of a home.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a Healthy Home Checklist to help anyone with a roof over their head know what needs to be maintained, monitored, or added to keep their homes healthy.

One seasonal issue currently impacting homeowners and renters frequently is mold, especially in basements and bathrooms. When it comes to basements, Dale Grosskurth, the environmental health and safety director at the Marathon County Health Department said to make sure you have downspouts on your gutters and direct water as far away from the foundation of your home as you can to prevent it from going into the basement. However, basements may grow mold even if water does not leak in.

“There’s just the natural coolness of the soil and the foundation that the moisture in the air in your basement is going to condensate and that’s all that mold really needs. To control mold, you have to address the moisture issue.”

To control it, use a dehumidifier. If there are windows, ventilation on dry days can also help. As for a bathroom, he suggests keeping the exhaust fan (or an oscillating fan if there is none) on for 20-30 minutes. He also said opening the bathroom door and keeping the shower curtain or door cracked after use will allow air to flow better and dry out the space faster. Find more mold control and prevention suggestions by clicking here.

Radon is another safety hazard to watch for, whether staying put, remodeling, or building a new home. Even if it has been checked before, Grosskurth said levels can change over time as homes and ground use change. It is recommended to be checked every two years.

“If you’ve remodeled your home either to tighten it up with new windows or roof or insulation, or you’ve expanded it by putting in another foundation or adding on in someway, that changes the footprint of the home and the likely exposure,” he explained.

Grosskurth said next to smoking, radon is the second leading cause of cancer. Central Wisconsin has high radon levels as shown in the Department of Health Services’ indoor radon testing map. More than half the homes in the region have levels above the Environmental Protection Agency’s recommended limit.

For those with older homes, lead paint and pipes can also be an issue leading to lead poisoning.

“If it’s built before 1978 and if it’s even been remodeled, being aware that there could be lead paint-- or lead in the soil surrounding an older home,” Grosskurth said. “So you may have nice siding or new windows in the house, but it could be that previous years’ exposure may have lead in the soil.”

The health department can help people walk through precautions to take as well as direct people to solutions for problems. For lead pipes, Grosskurth said people should contact their municipality, as municipalities regularly have to check for lead issues, however, those with private wells need to check for water quality themselves.

For more tips, check out the EPA’s healthy home guide or contact your local health department.

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