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Breathing Easier: Maintaining Indoor Air Quality During a Remodel

Posted on May 9, 2019 in:
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Remodel
  • Homeowners

Kitchen renovation underway

Q: With a big remodel on the horizon, I’m worried about all the dust and debris in my home. What can I do to keep my air safe and breathable?

A: Homebuilding has advanced considerably over the last few decades. Newer homes are more airtight and less drafty, warmer in the winter, and cooler in the summer. Indoor air quality is a lot better these days, too, which is a good thing since we spend about 80% of our time indoors.

A lot of ink has been spilled on how to maintain indoor air quality, but what about air quality during a remodel or construction project? Remodel projects are creative, but they’re also messy because they get into the walls and guts of your home.

Before you start knocking down walls, here are some things to consider.

Microscopic particulates are a major concern during remodels. Putting in a new kitchen and bath or repurposing a space often requires some demolition, leading to drywall, wood, and concrete dust in the air. Construction means sawing, drilling, grinding, and even more dust, while finishing (paint, sealants, adhesives, finishes) can off-gas after being applied. Carpets can also off-gas.

While most construction companies will completely seal off the working area, it’s still essential to monitor and remove particulates throughout the process. This doesn’t just benefit you but also creates a safe work environment for carpenters and trade professionals working in the space. Particulates are insidious. Once a remodel project is completed, an intensive deep clean to remove dust from all nooks and crannies is highly recommended.

As a homeowner, the best thing you can do is proactively ask questions up front before the remodel begins. Don’t be afraid to find out everything you can about the policies and procedures the design-build or construction company employs to ensure good indoor air quality during a remodel—especially if you and your family are living onsite during construction.

It’s critically important that the company you hire can answer the following questions:

  • Are they specialists or certified through any air quality programs?
  • Do they seal off the construction portion of the project, and how? What methods and materials do they use?
  • Do they monitor air quality with equipment that can measure the volume of particulates?
  • How do they ventilate the project so dust and gasses are released safely outdoors?
  • How do they report air quality levels throughout the project?
  • Did they ask you about your family’s respiratory health during the interview or onboarding process? This is especially important if members of your family are already impacted by respiratory conditions.

If a company can’t provide this basic information, find another company. No remodel is worth the health and quality of life issues that poor air quality can cause during and after a project. A reputable design-build or construction company can get you that dream kitchen or add-on without the coughing fits and medical bills. You’ll breathe easier knowing they have you covered.


Paul Kocharhook is the owner of Pathway Design & Construction, based in SODO Seattle and a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ nearly 2,800 members, write to

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