Big Problems and Slow Solutions

TILTed Renovation part 3

A brief masked visit to the scene of the action. I think my eyes are correctly expressing... I can't believe I got myself into this situation.

A brief masked visit to the scene of the action.

Well, that didn’t go as planned. By that, I mean our road trip and the home renovation. Imagine all the clichés ever written about God laughing when you make a plan and I agree. However, planning is a big part of my personality and a key survival skill for anyone with chemical sensitivities. So I keep doing it, despite the proven fact that very few things go according to plan.

Our road trip actually had 13 really beautiful days and some of that success was definitely due to advanced planning. The one awful day was awful despite it; there was nothing I could have done to control that situation. I will write about our family vacation soon because I am rather proud of myself for pulling it off. But today I am thinking about the part that really didn’t go as planned and that was, of course, the renovation. Duh.

Combining this space...

Combining this space…

with this space.

with this space.

When we left for our vacation they had not started the demolition stage of the job, much less the framing, electric, or plumbing. We left anyways with promises to keep in touch with progress reports. This proved hard to do in the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia with no cell service. So it was a week into vacation before I was able to have a clear enough conversation such that I could hear the news…they could not get the drywall I requested. The drywall that was on the list of materials I gave to them in June. They were just now trying to get it and were not getting anywhere. Well, yes, I knew it wasn’t going to be at the local hardware store. That’s why I gave them the detailed list in advance. We had talked about this but apparently I was not heard. So, we could put the whole project on hold for another few months while they got the right materials or we could improvise. We improvised. Scrambling for signals and enough bars to Google search, I found and ordered some alternative drywall from Lowes that was at least Greengaurd certified and available right away. I continued in this mode to obtain the rest of the project’s materials. I ordered the joint compound, the caulk, the adhesive, the grout sealer, and the paint from my original list. I had to leave the tile thin set up to them as they would be working on some tricky surfaces like terrazzo. But everything else I just did myself. I should have done that from the start.

No matter how great (because I ordered them) or adequate (because they acquired them) the materials were, the demolition and construction phase was just not conducive to decent indoor air quality. I got so focused on the materials, I did not leave specific enough instructions on air flow. The contractor had, per my request, put up one of the plastic barriers between the new room and the main house space in an effort to reduce dust construction sneaking over. But nobody thought to make sure the air was actually flowing from the house to the new room then out. Instead it was flowing into the new space through unfinished walls and windows and then pulled into the main house space via its central air unit still in normal circulation mode. More duh. It was like this through 2 days of demolition, 1 day of framing, and 1 day of drywall cutting and installing before we got home and freaked out.

So we got home, after days on the road, and walked into this. My mask was donned, my husband jumped into action, and our children were told to just ignore their hunger. We raced around opening windows, doors, fans and A/C units until the house was pressurized from our fresh air intake, with fresh air flowing into our home then pushed and pulled via fans through to the new room and out the window. Good air in, bad air out. Whew. But we already had days of construction dust, whatever mold and chemicals that came down with the tool shed walls, and outgassing new materials, in our main home space now.

We used the plastic sheet as an indicator that we had the air flowing in the right direction.

The plastic dust barrier ended up being our indicator for air flow. We told the workers as long as it was sucked up against the poles then we had the bad air being pulled away from our main air space and work could proceed.

I just had not thought it all the way through. The last big renovation we did, I moved out of the house for months. We had to do a small repair last year but nothing on this scale. A few years ago we had to re-plumb and paint outside but all of that was exterior work so it did not affect my indoor air like this one. My bad. Still learning. I obviously need to add proper air flow to our list of TILTed Renovation Guidelines.

Obviously, I had some unpleasant reactions as we tried to settle in and clean out the house. I lost my voice repeatedly, developed itchy bumpy rashes, my eyes went monster red and I lived through some major headaches. But those are just physical annoyances – not quite feeling safe in your own home is just the worse feeling isn’t it? We returned August 8 and it is now August 29. What have I been doing for a month? Feeling ill, repeatedly vacuuming my furniture to clear out the evil renovation dust, and taking care of my children’s physical needs as they had allergy issues too. We also had to get ready for school; medical forms, uniforms, school supplies, haircuts, carpool arrangements. Those preparations deserve their own post, considering the complexity that chemical sensitivities bring to the job. Throughout this process though, I continued to silently curse the renovation and my oversights in the matter as our health issues slowed everything down.

Work in progress.

Work in progress and causing havoc.

As the project wraps up though and our allergy reactions fade, I am getting excited about my new utility room. It will be awhile before I can be in the room for extended periods of time; there is still a good bit of outgassing that needs to happen. But I might put the mask on this long weekend and help my Super Husband install the metal shelves and maybe even start filling the shelves with stuff. This will probably result in a foggy headache but I really want to get past the clutter stage and get to the organized phase. Because that’s the point of all this work. Functioning with MCS is sometimes like being prepared for a disaster and my level of supplies might approach that of a survivalist. I can’t easily just go acquire things, instead I stock up on supplies to have ready. There are lots of things that I need my own version of that are hard to obtain, so I stock up on those. There are some items that I keep because they have already outgassed and I don’t want to risk a new one. There are some things, like filters and masks, which nobody else needs to have but I do. I have some additional stuff that I use to deal with reactions or bad air quality; I suspect we have a lot more box fans than the average home owner.

Walls, tiles, outlets,

My new utility room.

  Just missing some baseboard. And the A/C grill.  And some windows.

Just missing some baseboard.

Maybe if I get all my supplies (emergency, proactive, reactive, additional) nicely organized in my utility room on my safe (non-outgassing) metal shelves, I won’t feel as TILTed. Oh wait, do you hear that? It’s divine laughter again.

One thought on “TILTed Renovation part 3

  1. Wish it had gone smoother… glad it wasn’t a total fail though! Hope it off-gasses quickly and ends up worth at least some of the pain

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