LSU AgCenter Housing Specialist
(09/04/20) If your home was damaged by Hurricane Laura, the tremendous work, expense and stress can mean a daunting and difficult ordeal ahead. But it is possible to extract a silver lining from this disaster. If you restore for more than before, you can return to a better home — a stronger, more-resilient, comfortable and healthy home to enjoy with peace of mind.
Take control of your future with these healthy home improvements to make your home an even better place to breathe, live, thrive and enjoy than ever before. It’s a great investment to upgrade during restoration, even if your insurance won’t cover the incremental cost.
Review and, when possible, apply the following healthy home principles:
Keep it Dry — With each and every renovation component, plan for water and moisture control.
— Specify leak prevention and moisture control weather barriers, integrated shingle-fashion, with full-protection flashing of windows, doors and penetrations.
— Invest in a high-performance roofing system for high resistance to leaks, wind and hail. Specify step flashing where roofs meet walls. (Read and enforce manufacturer installation recommendations.)
— Slope the grade and pavement within 10 feet of the house to provide good drainage of rainwater away from the foundation. A 5% or greater slope is recommended.
— Ensure indoor humidity control with bath, kitchen and laundry exhaust fans properly ducted to the outdoors, correctly sized air conditioners and moisture barriers in the foundation system.
— Learn more about moisture and mold control methods. Explore the EPA mold site at www.epa.gov/mold, the Building America Program Solution Center at basc.pnnl.gov and the LaHouse Resource Center at www.lsuagcenter.com/LaHouse.
Keep it Clean — Restore with easy-care, durable finishes and furnishings with smooth surfaces that can be wiped clean. Consider adding large commercial doormats, shoe cubbies and storage at the family entrance.
Keep it Pest Free — Apply integrated pest management practices by eliminating sources of food, water and shelter for pests. Seal gaps with pest-resistant barriers; eliminate places that can harbor pests; use borate-treated materials; install termite barriers; and inspection access. Learn more from the LSU AgCenter at http://bit.ly/AgCenterHouseholdPests.
Keep it Safe — Make your restored home a safer, convenient place for all ages and stages of life.
— Strengthen handrails, remove tripping hazards and improve lighting.
— Add child-safe features, especially to avoid burns, falling out of windows and poisoning.
— Install new smoke detectors, carbon monoxide (CO) alarms, fire extinguishers and GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlets in wet areas.
— Include adaptable and accessible (universal design) features like 3-foot-wide doorways with low thresholds; bath grab bars; sinks and appliances that can be reached while seated; lower counters with knee space; lever handles; curbless shower.
Keep it Contaminant Free — During repair work, enforce safe work methods to control the release and spread of mold, lead-based paint, asbestos, chemicals and bacteria. Search “Storm Cleanup Highlights” and “Mold Removal Guidelines” at www.lsuagcenter.com, “Rebuild Healthy Homes” at www.hud.gov/healthyhomes and the flood section of www.cdc.gov/disasters. In addition, include these indoor air quality home improvements:
— Prevent risk of combustion pollutants by upgrading to direct-vent, sealed-combustion furnaces, water heaters and fireplaces that cannot backdraft into the home. Install quiet exhaust hoods over gas cooktops (so they will be used).
— Rigorously air seal between the garage and living space, or separate the garage from the home.
— Use low VOC (volatile organic compound) paints, adhesives and finishes; choose low-formaldehyde insulation and wood products; choose Green Label low-emission carpets; air out new carpets for three days; and air out new foam mattresses until no odor is detected.
— Plan storage space for household chemicals outside the living space and above likely flood level.
— Choose smooth floorings and furniture when occupants have dust mite allergies or asthma.
Keep Properly Ventilated — Improve exhaust and fresh-air ventilation, filtering and distribution to dilute indoor air pollutants:
— Install exhaust fans in all bathrooms and over the cooktop with properly installed ducting to the outdoors (not into the attic). Install clothes dryer to exhaust outside with short metal ducts.
— Replace damaged gas heaters with direct-vent sealed-combustion types or electric heat pumps to eliminate risk of backdrafting pollutants.
— Seal heating and cooling ductwork and air returns airtight with mastic, not duct tape.
— Use MERV 11-13 disposable air filters. Note that high efficiency filters may restrict air flow too much for some systems. Check with your system manufacturer or HVAC contractor.
— Consider adding a balanced fresh-air supply system and improved air distribution.
Keep It Maintained — Make your restored home a low-maintenance home.
— Choose long-warranty, low-maintenance replacement siding, roofing, windows, doors and steps.
— Install leaf guards on gutters. Or, if you rebuild the roof, create 2-foot or larger roof overhangs without gutters and moderate roof slopes to shed water away from the house.
Keep it Comfortable — Make it easier and more affordable to stay warm in winter and cool in summer with energy-efficiency improvements.
Learn more about resilient, high-performance home construction and restoration by visiting the LSU AgCenter LaHouse Resource Center website (www.lsuagcenter.com/LaHouse), particularly the My House, My Home pages.
The LaHouse Resource Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge is an educational showcase of solutions for the Southern climate and natural hazards. It is temporarily closed due to the pandemic, but you can see tour videos, building system videos and home improvement videos on its YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/myLaHouse).