Among the risks of renovating old homes is the presence of hazardous materials, toxic chemical vapours, dust and active lines of gas or electricity services, as well as potential structural failures.
Asbestos and lead paint are hazardous materials commonly found in older buildings. Both products were widely used before being banned in the 2003 as being hazardous to health and one of the risks of renovating old homes.
Another risk of renovating old homes is asbestos-containing materials (ACM), which is the most frequent material found in old buildings and dangerous as well. The ACMs were used to protect against fires and we commonly installed as insulation, floors, adhesives, ceilings, putty, sealing compound, compounds for joints, materials to give texture to walls and ceilings, coatings and ceiling tiles.
Each ACM may be dangerous to varying degrees and the methods used to check for their presence, to eradicate them and to encapsulate them are strictly controlled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
When asbestos is disturbed, it can become friable or be released in the air, and this is the greatest risk. If these tiny particles of asbestos are ingested or inhaled, they can cause serious illnesses, including mesothelioma and various types of cancer, although the symptoms may take many years to come out.
Adhesives with asbestos are one of the risks of renovating old houses. Both old slabs an
d adhesives used with them may contain asbestos too. Residential roof, wall insulation, and pipe coatings are probably the worst sources of asbestos contamination. For many years they dried and now crumbled easily. Tiles, roof tiles and adhesives are less likely to become friable, but they should still be handled properly.
Generally, it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure that ACM-type materials are not present in the building. Contractual terms usually require contractors to immediately stop work and notify the landlord if they find any material that is presumed to contain asbestos.
If ACM is detected, and even if only assumed, the owner is required to employ professional signatures to take samples and examine the material in question. If it is found to be ACM, special air containment, disposal and analysis procedures must be applied until the material is completely reduced or encapsulated and air analysis samples corroborate that there is no remaining risk.
TIP: In some cases, asbestos-containing materials can be legally removed along with the actual demolition waste without eradicating them. Proper disposal of these wastes must be properly documented. For example, it may not be necessary for asbestos tiles in an attic to be eradicated prior to the demolition and removal of the frame, laminate, and other components of the attic itself. Always check local codes to see if this removal option is allowed. That why i strongly recommend that you are using professional services, if you live in Southern Australia, cost of asbestos removal Adelaide might be expensive, but it better than the risk of disease and claims from your neighbor that might be exposed because of your house renovation plan.
Lead Paint Hazards
Before 1978, lead was used as a pigment and drying agent in oil-based paints. These lead-containing paints may present a health risk if swallowed. Federal law requires contractors to be certified and trained to prevent lead contamination when renovating, repairing and painting projects in homes built before 1978 (as well as in schools and child care facilities).
The regulation applies if the work is remunerated and a painted surface greater than 6 square feet indoors or 20 square feet outdoors is altered; They are torn down, sanded or scraped painted walls; And / or windows are removed and replaced.
If the work does not meet these conditions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows contractors to remove lead-based paint residues as household waste that is disposed of in accordance with the municipal ordinance and handled according to local and state requirements. Residents are also allowed to remove residues of lead-based paints in this way.
EPA encourages all who handle lead paint to pick up chips, dust, dirt and debris in plastic trash bags to remove them. A covered trash container is preferable to store waste until work is completed. Always contact local authorities to learn where and how lead-based paint scrap can be removed.
Risks for public services
Active lines of public service in buildings, such as natural gas and electricity, are one of the main risks of renovating old houses. In almost all renovation projects electricity is not cut off so that you can temporarily use lights and power tools without the need for portable generators. During demolition, it is imperative to cut off the power supply. It is often difficult to be 100 percent sure how various devices are connected to the electrical circuit, especially in older homes where owners or less qualified contractors may have made renovations without complying with the codes. In case of doubt,
When performing any electrical work on an active system, the blocking and labelling procedure is vital to ensure that a panel is not energised while workers are exposed to circuits or devices that are out of power.
Natural gas pipelines represent an obvious fire hazard. Although not necessarily a health hazard, broken water pipes could cause serious damage and costs.
Gas pipes are easy to locate and close during construction, but water pipes are rarely visible. Before commencing demolition make sure that both utility lines are cut off and isolated from work areas.
Other Risks in Renovation
Risks of renovating old homes include abandoned paint cans and other poorly stored chemicals, which must be disposed of to avoid fire hazard and health hazards from toxic vapours.
Other chemicals such as cleaners, bleaches, acids, solvents, etc. can be a health hazard if they are inhaled, ingested, absorbed through skin contact or injected by an accidental puncture.
Ventilation is key to any construction activity in any type of building. Intense vapours are common due to paints, adhesives, welds, gas or gas powered equipment, and temporary heaters. They must be completely cleared with fresh air to mitigate the potential health risks.
Even dust in the work area of relatively everyday materials such as sawdust and soot can explode if they reach critical concentration and come into contact with a spark or flame.