Is the beautiful home you love making your family sick?
You know your home makes a big impact on your wellbeing.
It’s your place of rest, the sanctuary where you spend the evenings and weekends enjoying the hobbies you love most. Your home is where you unwind from work, gather with your friends and family, and recharge for the week ahead.
But here’s a surprising fact most homeowners never think about:
Your house can make or break your physical well-being.
The worst part? You might think this is just a problem with older homes; homes built with obviously dangerous materials like lead paint or asbestos insulation.
But the counterintuitive reality is this: The newer your home is…the more likely you are to have poor air quality inside.
The biggest culprit? Ventilation.
In this article, I’m going to let you in on
- the most surprising problem our clients discover when they need to repair or replace their roof
- and how to tell if your family is at risk.
But first- what is sick building syndrome? And why is it happening to our homes?
What is Sick Building Syndrome?
The term “sick building syndrome” became common in the 1990s when we discovered our modern buildings (1970s on forward) seemed to be causing some people serious health problems.
Sick Building Syndrome was an umbrella term for a lot of different issues that can come from dozens of variables. At the time, SBS could mean anything from general headaches caused by paint fumes or cleaning chemicals…to life-threatening respiratory problems caused by black mold.
As research continued and scientists began to connect specific illnesses to specific causes, experts began to use the term “Building Related Illness (BRI)” alongside Sick Building Syndrome.
What’s the difference? According to Alex Stadtner, building biologist and president of Health Building Science:
“BRI is generally an allergic reaction or infection, and specific symptoms include cough, chest tightness, fever, chills, and muscle aches. The symptoms may continue after occupants have left the building, and the cause of symptoms is known,” said Stadtner. “Humidifier fever, Legionnaires’ disease, skin rashes, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and other illnesses related to bacteria, fungus (mold), and viruses are often classified as BRI, not SBS.”
The result? We don’t hear about “Sick Building Syndrome” as often as we used to..and the term “Building Related Illness” isn’t something we read in the news. Because of this, most homeowners assume that it’s not an issue anymore. That modern homes are always safe, healthy, and the problem is “solved”.
That dangerous assumption is exactly why, every spring when most people are thinking about their roofs, we see homes that are putting client’s health at risk.
Could My House Be Making Me Sick?
Does this sound familiar?
You moved your family into a bigger home three years ago. Over the last few springs, you’ve noticed you’ve been going through a lot more Claritin.
No big deal. Maybe it’s new trees around your property…or that you’ve moved a little closer to a farm.
But then, your third grade daughter- the same kid who used to run around outside without a jacket and never get the sniffles – was home sick from school twice this semester.
Is it your home? Maybe not. It could be just a bug going around school, or maybe it’s just a phase.
Spring hits and you start spending more time in the yard.
You feel better. You’re in a better mood, your head doesn’t have that constant low-level ache, and you have more energy than you did all winter. Was it just the winter blues?
You see where I’m going, right?
It’s easy to understand how most homeowners overlook the small warning signs that signal a very real problem in their home.
It’s one thing when you’re getting chronic headaches that make you a little cranky. But when your home is truly affecting the long term health of your entire family? That’s a real problem.
The worst part about building related illness is that it’s more likely to affect the most vulnerable people in our homes: our children. Not only are kids still developing their immune system, they don’t have the understanding to communicate that something is wrong until they are really sick.
We love our homes. We expect them to be safe. And because of that? When our health begins to change, it’s often the last place we look.
What Causes Sick Building Syndrome?
According to OSHA, it comes down to indoor air quality. And unfortunately, as we prioritize energy efficiency in home construction, the risk of creating a home with poor air quality rises.
Why? Simple. Insulation reduces air flow.
That’s great for your heating and cooling bill. But when your contractor doesn’t balance efficiency with good airflow practices? That’s when your home could be putting your health at risk.
- Inadequate ventilation: 52 percent of cases
- Contamination from inside building: 16 percent
- Contamination from outside building: 10 percent
- Microbial contamination: 5 percent
- Contamination from building fabric: 4 percent
- Other sources: 13 percent
Poor ventilation is the #1 reason people experience building related illness!
So what’s the solution? Thankfully, you don’t have to trade energy efficiency for healthy indoor air. You just need to work with a contractor that understands the importance of balancing these two principles to create a fully healthy home. Here? Our team is lead by an expert contractor who cares about your home’s health just as much as you: Vern Martin.
How To Tell If Your Home is “Sick”
If you’ve worked with Martin Carpentry to repair or replace your roof, you’ve probably heard Vern talk about ventilation.
Because of the way air circulates inside your home, your roof is key to keeping moisture from getting trapped inside your attic and walls, as well as promoting healthy airflow throughout your home.
Ventilation is a BIG DEAL, but often overlooked. While many roofing contractors are happy to skip the extra work involved in making sure a roof installation is properly vented, Vern wants every roof we install to last as long and be as healthy as possible. (Looking for a professional roof installer for your Pennsylvania home? Check out our roofing services here!)
Which is why he takes the time to talk to clients about why a healthy home starts at the top: with the roof.
If you find yourself wondering if your home might be “sick”, here are three signs to check.
#1: Increase in Your Family’s “Sick Days”
Unspecific ‘blah’ feelings, headaches, nausea, congestion, or unexplained rashes could actually be related to the air quality in your home. A diagnosis of legionnaire’s disease, fungal-related illnesses, asthma, or respiratory illnesses are a red flags that it’s time to get your home checked by a pro.
#2: Lingering Dampness in Bathrooms, Attics, or Basements
Trust your lungs. If the air feels damp? It is. And while it’s normal for your bathroom to be steamy after a shower, if it never feels like it dries out? You need more ventilation. Likewise, if your attic or basement feels heavy and damp for days after a storm, your home needs to be checked for condensation.
#3: Visible Mold
Mold happens fast- and often in places we don’t see. If your home smells musty, get it checked. Roofing leaks, damaged siding, and foundation problems could be letting water into your home. And if your home doesn’t have proper ventilation? It’s a perfect combination for rapid mold growth.
So, it’s time for a new roof…
Or you’re remodeling your bathroom. Or you’re putting an office addition on your home.
Now’s the perfect time to take a look at how your home is built- and how you can make your current house a healthy space for decades to come. Ask your contractor how they approach ventilation- especially if you’re having a new roof installed.
Get the knowledge you need to make a great decision on your upcoming roof- read more in our Ultimate Residential Roofing Guide here!
Coming soon: look for our upcoming articles on Protecting Your Home from Mold, and Why You Need a Healthy Roof.
Keep up with the latest in home building trends, smart homeowner tips, and more! Subscribe to our email list below!