Avoid Health Hazards for a Safer Remodel, Part 3: Utility & Appliance Hazards

Home remodeling is a fairly complicated process, and it’s easy to forget that it can also be a hazardous one as well. In order to ensure the safety of yourself, your crew, and the homeowners who you’re working for, keep an eye out for health hazards during the remodeling process. Today in the final installment of our 3-part series, we will be talking about home remodeling health hazards posed by utilities and appliances.

Part 3: Utilities & Appliance Hazards

1. Underground oil tanks

Prior to the advent of gas and electrical home heating, many homes were heated by an oil-powered furnace. Many of these furnaces were fueled by a large oil tank that was buried near the foundation and about 7-8 feet underground. Many homes that received upgraded heating systems still have an empty old oil tank festering beneath their backyard. These old tanks are usually made of steel, which gets corroded over time and begins to leak. When it does, the soil and groundwater become contaminated, which poses a serious health risk. The elevated level of petrochemicals in the soil are also a fire hazard. Areas with a lot of rainfall or high groundwater are at elevated risk for dangerous oil tank leaks.


Buried oil tanks usually come into play during renovations to expand the home. Before you schedule the digger trucks, have water and soil testing performed, and order an oil tank sweep from a reputable company to see if you have an oil tank to deal with.


2. Electrical hazards

Electrical wires run through nearly every wall of the home, through the exterior walls, and oftentimes into the yard, so they can pose a serious health hazard for remodelers. Shock and fire are always risks posed when remodeling a home. This is especially true of remodeling or adding on bathrooms and kitchens, where plumbing and wiring changes are involved.


Given that electrical fires claim 485 lives and cause $868 million in property damage each year, it’s no surprise that electrical alterations are one major reason that homeowners choose to have their remodel done by construction professionals. One thing that should be done prior to home remodels involving electrical work is a thermal imaging scan to diagnose energy issues in the wiring system.


3. Combustion appliances

Combustion appliances make life much more convenient, but they can also pose serious risks during the remodeling process. Furnaces, clothes dryers, space heaters, boilers, and gas stoves are fueled by gas, oil, coal, wood, kerosene, or petroleum. Most folks know to hire professionals to move large combustion appliances, but they aren’t always thinking about how these appliances can affect the air.

Extra caution should be taken when moving these appliances or disconnecting them from vents and fuel lines, when rebuilding ventilation systems to vent the CO2, and when building new walls or placing new doors near the combustion appliances. Over 150 lives per year as lost due to carbon monoxide poisoning from improperly vented appliances.

Although these issues aren’t nearly as interesting to deal with as choosing new fixtures, colors, and upholstery fabrics, they certainly merit serious forethought. But with proper caution and preparation, all three of these home remodeling health hazards can be easily avoided.

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