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It is important to understand the health and safety considerations of home renovations before undertaking a new project.

Asbestos and vermiculite – building materials containing asbestos may have been used in many buildings and homes built before 1990. This includes materials such as insulation, flooring and ceiling tiles, house siding, and more.

Vermiculite is a type of insulation that may contain asbestos fibres and is commonly found in older homes with insulation installed prior to 1990. If you suspect that there is vermiculite in your home, it is highly recommended that you take precautionary measures due to serious potential health risks. If exposed, asbestos fibres can become airborne in the home’s interior and cause serious harm if inhaled. For more information about the risks associated with asbestos exposure, please visit Health Canada.

If you suspect insulation in your home contains vermiculite, do not disturb it. Contact a certified asbestos removal specialist that will follow BC hazardous waste regulations for options in relation to your renovations. For information about asbestos testing and professional removal, please visit Work Safe BC.

Combustion gases – oil, wood, or gas burning appliances produce heat by burning fuel. This process creates combustion gases, which should be vented to the outdoors through a chimney or vent pipe. If they are not properly vented to the outdoors, or if the home becomes depressurized, combustion spillage occurs. Combustion spillage is the unwanted flow of combustion gases into the home. This occurs when a home becomes depressurized, and harmful combustion gases are sucked back into the home through vents or a flue (backdrafting). Depressurization can happen when a home is very air tight and all exhaust fans, such as range hoods, bathroom fans, the dryer etc. are running at the same time, drawing air from the inside to the outside of the home.

There are a number of ways to prevent combustion spillage, including:

  • Maintaining your combustion appliances
  • Inspect, maintain, and upgrade your chimney if necessary
  • Upgrade your appliances to models that are less prone to combustion spillage
  • Avoid conditions that cause backdrafting. This includes avoiding running several powerful exhaust devices at once.

If you renovate your home to be more air-tight, ensure you have proper ventilation and, if necessary, consider installing a balanced ventilation system such as an HRV.

Mould – if you discover mould in your home, it is essential that the mould is thoroughly removed, the areas cleaned and disinfected, and contaminated materials are properly disposed of. To control and reduce the potential for mould growth, control sources of moisture, maintain indoor humidity at recommended levels, and remedy infiltration and leakage.

Did you see a building science or energy efficiency term you did not understand? Check out our glossary.