If you are renovating a fixer upper, there are some things you should keep in mind.
Safety, should always be your first concern, but starting a renovation project, and wanting to get things ripped out and moving along, you can forget that part quite easily.
Always have a supply of good breathing masks and coveralls, when tearing out carpets etc. Depending on the house, you could have years of dust, dirt, old skin cells, pet waste, and bacteria in those carpets, that you totally disturb when ripping out carpets. Other people in the house should wear a mask too, if any of this activity is going on, because it will be throughout the air.
Opening a window will have air flow, but you are still disturbing that toxic soup. But there are things in a older house that are even more dangerous.
Example: We purchased a fixer upper to renovate and hopefully rent to a family. We wanted everything to be nice, so we are replacing the kitchen and bathrooms, plus we want to put ceramic tile in the kitchen and main hallway to the front door. Sounded simple enough. But there were two layers of floor covering that were making the floor too thick, therefore we felt they needed to be removed.
My son rented a heat gun and some tools and started the painstaking removal of the first layer, which was linoleum, that had a date of 1994 on the back. No problem, but under that were "peel and stick tiles" He got to work on those, and got them up no problem either.
Watch out for Hazardous Products From Another Time
It was not until I went to the local Home Depot to get someone to measure the house for the ceramic tiles for our fixer upper, that I got a disturbing question. When was your house built? I answered "1972" "Our installers will not remove any floor from before 1980, we will just screw sub floor on top and then the tile" I told her, it would be way to thick, then she said, "well then you need to get it removed as hazardous waste" I just blinked at her. They were just peel and stick tiles, that he already got off the floor and are now gone.Credit: morguefile.com
She told me, that any linoleum or peel and stick tiles from before 1980 had a really good chance of containing asbestos and therefore needed to be covered up undisturbed or removed by professionals. Well we already did it. My son was wearing a mask, but not a full suit. I contacted various manufacturers who said it would have only been a trace amount if any (used for fire retardation). Still, we never thought of that. If the house was built in 1972 and this appeared to be the first layer, then chances are these tiles were from that era too, and may have contained traces of asbestos.
So, sometimes you have to do a bit of research before you go diving into a renovation. We didn't think the house was old enough to really have any toxic waste other than the nasty old carpets. But at some point, you can't just keep layering floor coverings, you need to get a layer or two removed.
I was on removing old wallpaper duty, and asked her if there were any problems with old paper? She said "just the dust cloud as you rip it off the wall". I think I will just wear my mask all the time. The paper mostly came off but left the backing on the wall. Rather than get into chemicals, I have rented a steamer to remove the paper.
Why should I add more chemicals to this soup?. Of course I may end up looking like a steamed lobster after I am done, but I will be glad when we get to the point of painting!
Anyways, you have to keep safety in mind. Not in a million years did we think that there was asbestos possibly in the floor tiles.
Also you have to watch for old appliances. When we took possession of this house, my friend opened the old refrigerator that was still in there, and got a blast of mildew air, that sent her into a coughing fit, we had it removed right away.
Just be careful when poking around a fixer upper, you just don't know what smells or worse are going to assault you. Just because someone else was recently living in there, doesn't mean that it is free of toxic soups.
Another thing you need to be careful of, is rodents and rodent droppings. If you are sweeping up debris and you see rodent droppings, make sure you are wearing a mask, as there are many diseases you can get from rodent droppings.
So, before you go running to the hills, as far away as possible from your fixer upper, just take some safety precautions, especially in the first few weeks, when you are removing carpets, wall coverings, sweepings etc. Once you have your place cleaned out, and aired out. (Keep a window open at all times even in the winter) and all the older damp and toxic materials out, then you can feel better about what you are doing for this house.
You are taking a fixer upper and turning it into a family home. A once sad and old musty house is now new and smiling again.
If you are about to take on a renovation project, do some research on the age of your house. Go to the town hall, there will be tax records and hopefully building permit records from when your house was built. You can then judge the likelihood of there being any really toxic materials such as asbestos or lead pipes in your fixer upper.
You can then research the materials used at that time, to decide if you have anything that needs to be removed by a professional. Keep in mind that many people used to just layer decorating materials, as they were not as easy to remove back then. So be careful when removing areas of concern, and have fun with that fixer upper.