We bought a brand new house, but we would like to finish the basement (includes drywall, framing, carpet, electric, etc) it would be about 12 weeks of work.

A lot of advice around renovation and children is about dangers of "old homes" (fear of lead etc in old walls), but plenty of things I've read indicate that the dust (especially with drywall) can be harmful for developing child.

Builder said they would

  1. seal off the basement
  2. run HEPA air scrubber during framing and dry wall
  3. access the basement through the basement window (rather than coming in through the home)

Along with that we also have air purifiers that we can put in the living room and kids room (kid sleeps on 2nd floor). I was recommended to vacuum often and after the construction have the air vents cleaned (we have central heating and cooling) and replace the furnace filter.

Despite all this I am considering to just not do this for fear of harming my little one. We can't move/live somewhere temporarily.

Any thoughts? Are my concerns unfounded?

  • 1
    Given the ability to enter the basement through another way, is it possible to seal off the inside basement door to stop airflow? E.g. plastic sheet and tape. I'd expect it to not affect your indoor space then but I don't know if you e.g. have hollow walls or shared vents with the basement.
    – Flater
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 18:41
  • yes we could seal off the basement quite well, but the furnace and a lot of ductwork is down there so I imagine some will end up in the ducts. We could run the heat minimally, but the work would be done oct - dec so we would have to run the heat
    – bdeonovic
    Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 18:49

1 Answer 1


It sounds like you're well prepared to protect your child from exposure to particulate matter. So congrats on your good planning!

My major concern with renovating during the colder months would be exposure to VOCs (volatile organic compounds). I can't cite definitive literature for problems with children, because it's a relatively new concern except for formaldehyde, but many adults are affected by VOCs, some actually having headaches lasting years after repeated exposure.

I'm not obsessive about many things health-wise; when my kids were young, we had dogs, cats (up to 13 at one time), goats, chickens, etc. My kids did farm chores and helped garden. They were allowed to climb trees and jump off the shed roof (it was low.) But I was very careful about VOCs. If you can smell it (think new car smell, fresh paint, new carpet, furniture, etc.), it's in the air, and HEPA filters don't remove them when in gasseous form (they do remove droplets and particles.) We kept any new carpet only loosely rolled outside in an open garage to outgas for a couple of weeks. We painted walls only during the summer when windows could be opened wide. New furniture went to the garage for a couple of weeks. I didn't use any cleaning products except soap, unscented dish and clothes detergent, bleach and water. Etc. You get the idea. VOCs were limited when possible.

Personally, I would not renovate during times when outgassing would to occur in a closed house. If it affects adults, how much more might it affect babies?

I have no idea why on God's green earth people use air fresheners, or diffusers for essential oils. I like nice aromas as much as the next person, but my lungs, liver, and my brain matter to me. On the other hand, I did let my kids muck out the goat pens at times. There had to be a fair amount of VOCs there!

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