Big Problems and Slow Solutions

TILTed Renovation part 1

The photogenic part of what we've been up to.

The photogenic part of what we’ve been up to.

There’s a reason why TILTed is just an adjective but Mom is the noun for my blog. Mom is my main job and during the summer it is what I spend most of my time dealing with. Because, you know, the schools won’t take care of my wretched children right now. Kidding. I am happy to shift my focus during the summer. I encourage my kids to pick a long term project or two that I can help with and we balance those commitments with plenty of beach and friend time. My son is trying to increase his speed for cross country and track next year so he runs a lot. Lelu is doing a music focus this summer, with extra piano, band and vocal lessons. I have started tutoring some kids in math to prep them for middle school. And as I have written before, Lelu and I continue to work with a nutritionist to see if we can improve our GI health and moderate some of our food intolerances. Oh, and my family came to visit for a week. But we are not done, oh no. We have The 2014 Road Trip still to go. Two weeks of camping, visiting friends, and sight seeing through the Smoky Mtns. Travel requires a good deal of advance planning for the chemical sensitivities. It will require some recovery on the other end. This is all my way of apologizing and explaining my infrequent summer posting; we have been busy little bees.

This summer I am also undertaking a subject of real interest to most MCS patients and have not written about it yet. I am hoping to have some home renovations done while we are gone on vacation. Am I crazy, optimistic or just plain stubborn? Yes to all three.

In the past, we have done renovations with and without me in the house and there is no clear better way to go, it all depends on the situation. This time we are planning a mid size renovation that can be moderately contained outside my main air space. It should take about 2 weeks. We would like to combine a small interior laundry room with an exterior tool shed so that I can have a kitchen pantry, linen closet, and storage space combined with my laundry room. The very thought makes me do a happy dance. Reality check – to get the vision to fruition means new chemically laden materials. We have to knock down a wall to connect the spaces, then finish off the old tool shed space with new drywall, insulation, and paint, lay some tile over the poured concrete floor, and extend some A/C ductwork. I will need drywall, joint compound, paint, caulk, insulation, tile and grout that are safe for me. I won’t be in the house while the work is being done and my old laundry room already has an exhaust vent installed that will help airflow be pulled out. I can even avoid it for a while after, assuming my children learn to do their own laundry. But that only buys me a little extra time and is not really enough time for building materials to outgass sufficiently for a TILTed Mom. So I need materials that are safe for me almost immediately.

Laundry room also acting as linen closet and camping  equipment storage.

Laundry room also acting as linen closet and camping equipment storage.

Laundry room also acting as kitchen pantry.

Laundry room also acting as kitchen pantry.

Tool shed half filled with previous owner's scary stuff.

Tools shed half filled with previous owners scary stuff.

Just as important as making safe material choices in a TILTed renovation, is making a wise choice with the contractor. I used to think I needed someone who understood my needs. By the next home renovation, I had come to think I needed someone who believed my material requests were the critical priority. At this iteration I am left with thinking I need someone who is scared of me. I exaggerate, but not much. I have hired a contractor from within my circle of acquaintances so that the consequences of disregarding my materials choices will be felt personally. He should be motivated to avoid making me sick as that would make our next social gathering awkward. While I am out of town, another mutual friend will house sit for me and keep an eye on the renovations. I might sound a bit cynical but I prefer to think of it as hard won practicality.

I started my material list with brands that have worked for me on previous renovations, leaving out the ones that have caused me problems. But even those could be improved, so I jumped into research mode. There are some good books; I have The Healthy House by John Bower, a ’97 edition but it still has useful info. Then I lost myself online. I belong to a couple of online support groups, MCS-America, Planet Thrive and my local HEAL chapter. These folks are a great resource, happy to help and have a lot of experience to draw on. As always, reactions vary quite a bit for each chemically sensitive individual which is why I tried to get a wide perspective.

I am very much in the middle of the process right now and it feels muddled. By the end of it I can hopefully take this experience, previous renovations, and your suggestions to compile a 12 step program for those of us crazy enough to attempt a TILTed Home Renovation. I intend to get a post out next week with my chosen materials list. In the meantime, if anybody wants to share a good or bad experience with a particular drywall, joint compound, insulation, paint, grout, or caulk please do so!

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3 thoughts on “TILTed Renovation part 1

  1. Good luck with the renovations. It sounds like you have a good plan. Hopefully everything will offgas enough for you before you get home. Enjoy your trip.

  2. “He should be motivated to avoid making me sick as that would make our next social gathering awkward.” Haha. I love this. I am also cynical in the same way and for the same reasons. Too many people, even those with good intentions, will start off saying they understand and want to help, only to act dismissive later. “Really?” they say, “You mean THAT LITTLE THING is going to bother you? I had NO IDEA. I figured it would be FINE.” I suspect you’ve been through this drill a few times. You can’t be too careful with something that’s going to be in your house.

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