House Hunting with Asthma

The time has come to find a new house, and it's nothing like "House Hunters" on HGTV. It seems like those couples a) have a BIG budget b) look at a few houses and c) presto! They have a new house!

The misconception of house hunting

We've been looking since November and it's not that easy. We are finding that most houses look great in the photos, but when you go see the house, you can see that they used a wide-angle lens to take the photos (because they look MUCH smaller in person.)

Sometimes they are on a very busy road (or close to it.) Why is that a problem? Well my first thought is safety, but air quality can also be an issue. How so? OEHHA of California says:

"Many studies have linked proximity to busy roads to a variety of adverse health outcomes in both adults and children, including respiratory symptoms, asthma attacks, decreases in lung function, heart attacks, and low birth weight."

And then there's the lung test. How do I feel? Some houses are very clean and I am fine walking through them. Others LOOK clean, but then I start the little twitch in my lungs and start coughing. Hmm.

Taking a closer look

When that happens, we start to look closer for water damage. Since my husband and I both have an architectural background, we know the basics about how homes are constructed. And I had a recent training at work from the National Center for Healthy Housing. They stress to keep homes:

  • clean
  • dry
  • pest free
  • contaminate free
  • safe
  • ventilated
  • maintained
  • thermally controlled

In one house where my lungs were cranky, I opened the doors to the kitchen pantry and saw water damage on the shelves and the top of the pantry. That told me that there must be a bathroom directly above it that had leaked. Uh oh. It's never good when a bathroom leaks and damages the room below it.

That's a perfect recipe for mold. We had mold in our last house and it took a long time to fix and cost a LOT of money! But it has to be fixed because of the health effects of mold.

Being thorough

After we carefully check the inside of the home, we walk around the outside of the house and look at the windows, roof and eaves. You can't see everything from the ground, but there were several houses where we could easily see water damage from the ground.

We'll pass on those houses because I don't know how bad the water damage and possible mold are until a home inspector gets there for a detailed inspection.

Since we're a little picky with houses and can't find what we want. We decided to look at building a new house.  So, I asked a colleague if I could see their house that had been finished last month. Well, it was gorgeous - but, I was only there for 10 minutes and my lungs started to burn.

I knew it was from all the new products in the homes that were releasing gases from the walls, paint, flooring, cabinets, carpet, new furniture, etc. Since it's winter, they can't open any windows to let in fresh air to help dilute the gases.

So, guess we're back to looking at existing homes.

Everyone with asthma is different, it may not bother some people to build a new home. Or buy an older home.

Let your lungs be your guide!

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