Staying Safe During a Renovation Project

by Brian Turner

in General Topics

workers removing lead paint from house exterior with warning tape barrier

Construction costs have soared in recent years, leading homeowners to do renovations themselves rather than hiring a contractor. While this approach is a big money saver, it can also be dangerous.

Older homes often contain toxic chemicals that pose serious health risks. What these dangerous chemicals are and how to deal with them is the basis of renovation safety and is outlined below.



Asbestos is common in older houses and buildings. Popular for many decades due to its flame-retardant properties, it was used in floor, roofing and insulation materials as well as paint texturing products. Any home built prior to 1977 is likely to contain some amount of asbestos.

illustration of worker inhaling asbestos particlesThe hazard from asbestos exposure comes from its microscopic fibers, which are inhaled and settle in the lungs where they may remain for decades before causing illness. Two diseases that have been directly linked to asbestos are mesothelioma cancer and asbestosis.

If a home is suspected to contain asbestos, it is best to contact a professional abatement company to remove it. While this is more costly, it is worth the investment in order to protect health.



Lead is a heavy metal element that was often used in paint in order to improve its flow and shelf life. It was banned from construction use in 1978 after it was determined to cause problems with the kidneys, bones and reproductive organs. In children, lead has been known to cause retardation, behavioral problems and anemia.

What makes lead particularly dangerous is its ability to leech into the soil surrounding a structure, so the hazard can be found indoors and out. As with asbestos, lead should be removed by professionals.


Other Toxins

Along with asbestos and lead comes the dangers of mold, radon gas and mercury. All three can threaten health in different ways, especially mercury, which has the ability to poison large amounts of water with a single drop.

The best approach to a renovation safety on an older home is to have the structure tested for all toxins before work begins. Once they have been safely removed, the job can move forward with everyone involved wearing protective goggles and masks as well as old clothes that can be thrown away at the project’s end. All workers should shower thoroughly at the end of each day’s work to minimize exposure as much as possible. Even with the use of professional abatement services, it is not possible to remove all traces of every toxin.

It is also recommended that the house be tested at the end of the renovation to make sure it is as safe as possible before moving back in.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 yancey company December 1, 2012 at 5:53 am

I never thought about safety during a renovation, glad I read this article. Thanks!


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