7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

Basements were once used solely as utility rooms that housed furnaces, laundry areas, and overflow storage for seasonal items, tools, and sometimes even root vegetables. Today, with the high cost of above-grade living space, many homeowners choose to finish parts of their basements to serve as living areas. While this is a great way to gain more space, if characteristic basement problems aren’t resolved first, occupants of these finished spaces may be exposed to a higher risk of some health problems. Even if you have no intention of using your basement as living space, health hazards that originate there can spread to other parts of your home. It pays to be aware of the risks that dwell in your basement and that could potentially affect your family’s health.

By Glenda Taylor

7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

Mold:

Basements are damp, which is precisely the environment in which mold thrives. Any kind of mold, not just the deadly black stachybotrys variety, can lead to respiratory problems. Typical health symptoms associated with the inhalation of mold spores include a runny nose, excessive sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, or dry, itchy skin. Those with allergies can suffer broader, more intense respiratory effects, including difficulty breathing and chest tightness. To reduce the risk of mold, use a dehumidifier, seal cracks in the foundation, and replace carpeting with tile, vinyl, or another appropriate hard flooring.

7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

Non-Vented Dryer:

Not every basement laundry area enjoys adequate dryer venting from the basement to the outdoors. Rather than running a vent pipe to the outside of the house, some homeowners opt to outfit the dryer with a device that catches lint and then recirculates warm air from the dryer throughout the basement. Unfortunately, the exhaust from the dryer also includes chemicals from laundry detergents, which are released into the basement air where they can trigger respiratory problems. If you spend any time in your basement, have your dryer vented to the outdoors.

7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

Sewer Gases:

Sewer gases contain not only methane, highly toxic ammonia, and hydrogen sulfide, but they also include fumes from solvents and other chemicals that have been introduced into the sewer system. Sewer gases are most likely to enter your home through a dry basement floor drain: When the plumbing trap, which is designed to block gases, dries out, sewer gases will seep into the basement. To prevent health problems that come from exposure to sewage fumes, regularly flush basement floor drains with water.

7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

Carbon Monoxide:

Fuel-fired furnaces are expected fixtures in basements, but without proper care and maintenance, they can produce a deadly by-product of combustion, carbon monoxide. This gas can then seep into the rest of the house, where it can create health problems and a dangerous risk of fire. Carbon monoxide is odorless and invisible and may not be noticed until occupants experience symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, such as headache, dizziness, or loss of judgment. At high concentrations, carbon monoxide can even lead to death. If you have a gas- or oil-fired furnace, have it inspected annually, and use carbon monoxide detectors in the basement and in upstairs rooms.

7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

Stored Solvents:

Basements are a favored storage spot for leftover cans of varnish, paint, and adhesives. Storing half-empty cans of chemical-laden mixtures can, however, introduce toxic substances into the air, because it’s difficult to seal cans completely once opened. Exposure to those chemicals, also known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), can lead to allergies and disorders of the central nervous system, and long-term exposure can result in chronic health problems. Inspect your stored solvents and discard any that appear to have leaked. And, the next time you buy paint or varnish, choose low-VOC products to minimize your exposure to toxins.

7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

Lack of Ventilation:

If you’ve ever noticed a stuffy smell when you’ve entered a basement, that odor is most likely the result of poor ventilation. While stuffy air below-grade won’t affect anyone living upstairs, it can trigger asthma attacks or other respiratory problems in those who spend time in a basement bedroom or rec room. If you’re going to use your basement as a living space, your best bet is to tie it into your home’s central HVAC system and open the basement windows frequently, even on chilly days, to let in fresh air.

7 Health Hazards Lurking in Your Basement

Radon:

Radon gas, which is produced by the radioactive decay of uranium, is present in soil, rocks, and even in the air you breathe. In small quantities, radon doesn’t present a health risk, but when it’s concentrated in a closed environment like your basement, it’s a different story. In high-risk areas, radon has a tendency to seep through basement cracks. Radon can then become trapped in a poorly ventilated basement, where it can threaten the health of occupants and potentially increase their risk of developing lung cancer. Keep track of radon levels in your house by installing a couple of radon detectors. If a detector senses high levels of radon, the EPA suggests that you have your home treated by a radon remediation expert.

Living Room Decorating Ideas

Living Room Decorating Ideas

Mix and match patterns, embrace bold colors, layer rugs, and so much more! Try these tips to create a pretty space to enjoy conversations with friends and family.

No matter if you call it a living room, family room, den, or even a keeping room–you’ve got that one room in your home, aside from the kitchen, that’s intended for both family and company. And, we bet, you want it to look both pulled together and comfortable. We are here to tell you it’s possible to create a well-decorated living room that will impress company and will be enjoyed by your family. Here are our best easy decorating ideas ranging in all different styles for those that love a more formal living room or a cozy den or a relaxed family room. What ever your style–we’ve got the decorating tips and ideas for your beautiful living room, beautiful family room, or your beautiful den. One thing is for sure, you’ll be inspired by all of these chic decorating ideas.

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Coastal Lowcountry Living Room

Materials that connect to the location are key to character building. Sisal hints at the marsh grasses in an elegant way and is also durable, easy to clean, and ideal for layering. The alligator skull speaks to the local wildlife, while palms in antique glass and fern-patterned pillows are additional nods to the room’s Lowcountry vibe and provide a carefree polish.

Layering a vintage kilim over a natural sisal rug acts as an attractive barrier against water, sand, and other elements.

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Fargo the Chairs

These oversize sectionals allow everyone to sit, without touching each other. The bench-style seat cushions look cleaner and don’t shift around like multiple seat cushions do.

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Lighten Up with White

Achieve a luxe neutral look with white upholstery and decorative accents in a variety of light hues to add extra depth and dimension.

Similar throw pillows here.

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Invest in Antiques

As your budget allows, invest in one fine antique per room. Here, the a round French marble-topped gueridon table becomes a focal point of the space.

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Look for Inspiration in Unexpected Places

This homeowner found inspiration for her walls in a bag of gourmet marshmallows: She used the soft, sophisticated colors to dictate her palette. The plate rack that once showcased antique plates in her parents’ home holds cherished photos.

5 Ways You Can Benefit From a Home Energy Audit

5 Ways You Can Benefit From a Home Energy Audit

A home energy audit checklist covers all the factors that affect the efficiency of your home. By completing this checklist, you can pinpoint improvements that will help conserve energy and reduce your utility bills. Recommendations may range from fixing small leaks and drafts to infrastructure upgrades, such as installing high-efficiency windows or a solar water heater.

No matter how much you’ve invested in your home already, or how efficient you think it is, periodic audits by a qualified professional are one of the best ways to prevent waste and expense. A home energy audit can:

  • Find the issues you didn’t know existed. Taking steps today to fix a minor problem such as a leaky pipe or poorly sealed window is among the best things you can do for your property. An energy audit is the first step in finding the subtle, hidden problems that add up to make your home less eco-friendly overall.
  • Help you prioritize repairs. The audit process isn’t just a way of determining what’s wrong — it’s also a useful tool for prioritizing upgrades and identifying where your renovation dollars will be best spent.
  • Make your home more comfortable. Following through with the key recommendations of a home energy audit will make temperatures in your home more stable and increase indoor air quality by keeping out drafts — benefits you’ll feel every day.
  • Add to your home’s resale value. An energy-efficient home is more attractive to potential buyers, not just because it’s more economical to heat and cool, but also because it demonstrates you’ve made forward-thinking investments to keep it running its best.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. A significant portion of greenhouse gas emissions starts at home. Performing an energy audit will show you where to make improvements that will reduce your overall carbon footprint and reliance on fossil fuels.

Is the Cost of an Energy Audit Worth It?
An energy audit should be part of your regular home maintenance schedule. Like any preventive maintenance, it is an investment that saves you money in the long run. A home energy audit cost varies from supplier to supplier. Many solar installers offer them free for anyone considering adding a large solar array to their property.

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