Take caution with renovations to older homes

Happy Halloween!

It’s a spooktacular time of year and I am eagerly awaiting the little ghosts and teenage mutant ninja turtles arriving at my door on Friday!

I truly love Halloween as it’s an excuse to watch scary movies and eat mini chocolate bars. As a lover of heritage homes, I have always been fascinated with old (even slightly creepy) homes. I visited the movie set of Psycho and couldn’t tear my eyes away from that house on the hill, it was so deliciously creepy!

I am the person who checks out the set of a movie more carefully than the acting and I am fascinated by the design elements that go into set decor, especially for haunted house and horror flicks. As dreary as these sets are made to be, there is still an alluring, gothic enchantment to them. Real life houses of horror are not as charming or as alluring and I have seen my share over the years.

To be frank, some homes are absolute health hazards. Not that they are necessarily dirty but unsafe and riddled with tripping hazards, lead and asbestos. When you are in a house that is more than 30-40 years old you are living with these hazards whether you can see them or not. Most homes built in that era were built with the materials of the day which have now been deemed unsafe.

Lead – in houses constructed before 1960 lead was present in paint and in the soldering in plumbing which can affect drinking water.

A professional plumber is the best solution if you want to check your pipes. Painting over lead paint is the safest and easiest way to cover the problem but if you are faced with peeling or chipping paint you do need to get rid of that first or new paint will not adhere.

Pregnant women or children should not be exposed to this at all and whoever is working on the project needs to take serious precautions. OHS approved HEPA masks must be worn and must be completely blocked off from the rest of the house.

Disposable coveralls and shoe covers should be worn and disposed of before leaving the area. Cover vents with plastic and make sure if anything is left in the room it should be covered with two layers of poly. Be careful not to spread lead dust to the rest of your home and do not eat or smoke while working on lead paint removal.

Asbestos – this scary word can exist in older homes in hard surface flooring or insulation and is best left alone or left to professionals. If you have vinyl flooring older than 1965 or 9”x9” tile squares in your home please leave it be.

Most of these products contain asbestos and once you start breaking them or scraping you create dust which can be fatal if inhaled. Professional asbestos removal looks like a space exploration with men in white suits and it is best left that way.

There are also strict laws about disposal which need to be observed so the disposed of product doesn’t contaminate land or water sources.

A few extra steps of preparation will turn that house of horrors into your home sweet home again. You can safely remove or shroud an existing problem if you do your research on the correct methods. Be safe everyone!

Kim Meckler is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre.