There is a strong focus now on healthier homes and creating a healthy indoor environment. The American Lung Association suggests asking your builder these questions to evaluate the expected health of your indoor environment.
- What type of capillary break is used in the construction? A capillary break prevents water from moving up from the soil and into the walls and floors. Moisture can result in problems like mold or wood-rot. A capillary barrier can be achieved with granular fill, a waterproof coating, rigid insulation, a drainage mat or plastic sheeting.
- How will my new home foundation be waterproofed? The foundation of a new home provides support and structural integrity. A builder must ensure that the foundation will keep water out. Techniques for waterproofing the foundation include slope the ground surface away from the foundation by six inches to ten feed; provide drainage for rain and groundwater; prevent condensation on earth-cooled concrete by insulating the foundation walls and floors.
- What factors are considered in selecting, locating and installing the windows? Homeowners should choose windows with low potential for condensation. A suggested U value of less than or equal to 0.40 and a solar heat gain factor less than or equal to 0.45. Locate the windows where you can use natural light from the sun and sky which is free and efficient. Be sure to consider the seasons and think about installing window coverings or overhangs to shield the summer sun. Windows must be installed correctly to prevent moisture and rainwater intrusion. Head flashing should be installed over the tops of the windows. Pan flashing will allow water to drain outside of the wall assembly and should be used at the bottom of the windows.
- How will my new home be protected from radon? Radon Resistant New Construction techniques include a sub slab layer of gravel covered with plastic to prevent possible radon gases from entering the home. A vent stack fan should also be installed during the construction process to vent radon or other soil gases above the house.
- How will proper ventilation be installed in my new home? A properly installed mechanical ventilation system provides a continuous supply of fresh air. These system function as exhaust-only, supply-only or a balanced system. A balanced system is designed to maintain a neutral pressure inside the home. An energy recovery ventilation (ERV) acts to provide a continuous supply of fresh, filtered air while exhausting the stale contaminated air. An air change once every three hours is recommended for the indoor air quality and will help to eliminated moisture that may cause mold, mildew or other air quality problems.
- What construction methods are used to achieve tight construction? An airtight home will improve energy efficiency and prevent unplanned moisture movement. Air leaking into and out of a home can create many problems. Moist air leaking out in the cold can condense on wall and attic surfaces, creating mold and structural decay. Moist air leaking in during hot and humid weather can have the same effect on finished surface of walls. Using construction methods and materials that can create an air-tight home will reduce indoor air quality problems.
- What should be considered for healthy interior finishes? Select products that are environmentally friendly, east to clean and low in volatile organic compounds (VOC). A low VOC paint can reduce chemical emissions into the home. Smooth surface floors are recommended such as tile, linoleum or wood that do not harbor dust and other allergy-causing particles.
If you want a healthy indoor environment, have a conversation with your builder and implement the construction methods that will achieve a healthier home.