Photo: Heidi Long (See more here.)
Q: What steps can we take to build a healthy timber home?
Answer: According to the Healthy House Institute, we spend about 90 percent of our time inside our homes, so creating a healthy indoor environment is of major importance to a lot of people. Keep your home’s interior fresh and fit with these six hints for cleaner indoor living.
1. Start with low-VOC stains and sealants. The chemical makeup of the stains and sealants you use on your timber frame has an impact on the air quality of your house. Manufacturers like Sashco, Weatherall, Perma-Chink, ISK Biocides, Structures Wood Care and CTA Products Group produce log and timber sealants that are free from the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can pollute indoor air and cause respiratory issues in people and pets.
2. A whole-house humidifier, installed by an HVAC professional, will add moisture in the winter months, which can reduce anything from allergy and asthma symptoms to dry skin and static shocks. For those with major allergies, look into a whole-house air purifier, which sucks in the air, removes contaminants through a HEPA filter and releases the clean air back into the home.
3. Design-wise, try to incorporate windows on more than one wall to encourage cross-ventilation. Make sure your gutters and downspouts drain away from your foundation to prevent mold and water issues. Also think about designing a mudroom or utility room, which will isolate toxins (pesticides, mold, etc.) you may track in from outside.
4. When shopping for a fireplace product or insert, consider a sealed-combustion gas hearth. These units draw out fumes and toxins from indoor air. Boost your indoor air quality further by installing a fan on top of your chimney to improve circulation. If you opt for a wood-burning hearth, make sure the wood is dry and seasoned to minimize creosote, which can release poisons into your air (as well as start a chimney fire).
5. Use your bathroom fans and kitchen vent hood religiously. They are designed to remove humid or toxic air from your home, reducing the chance of mold or other pollutants.
6. Make sure your HVAC unit is in good working order with an annual inspection, and keep your filters clean and fresh by replacing them twice a year. Dirty air filters are one of the biggest culprits that ruin your indoor-air quality, not to mention hampering the efficiency of your HVAC system. If left unchecked, they will raise the cost of your monthly energy bill, as well as jeopardize your health.
See Also: What is a Natural Timber Home?