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.
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!