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Susan Latta
Susan Latta, General Contractor
Category: Home Improvement
Satisfied Customers: 107
Experience:  Licensed Contractor and Certified Kitchen and Bath Designer
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Or Madame, We have bought an old apartment in a storical

Customer Question

Dear Sir or Madame, We have bought an old apartment in a historical building that we renovated (painted, sanded the parquet and put new varnish on the floor). The house has natural ventilation. Both me and my girlfriend experience problems when sleeping
in the apartment like dry eyes, nosebleeds, tiredness. These symptoms goes away quickly when we leave the apartment. I've had a company over that tested the air for VOC's but I have no idea how to interpret the test results and was hoping an expert could shed
any light. Here are the air sample test results:
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Home Improvement
Expert:  Susan Latta replied 1 year ago.

I copied the air test results, but will need some time to research this. I have a few questions first: 1. didn't the company testing the air try to interpret the results for you? 2. Can you call them back to request an interpretation of the test? 3. when was your house built? 4. did you experience the same symptoms before the house remodel?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi,The company could not give any recommendations (by law).
I only lived briefly in the place for a few nights before renovating but I could remember it smelled bad back then.
House was built 1915
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I had the lab results looked at by an environmental expert at upwork, but I think she missed something as a quick google results showed that TVOC values above 500 was bad in households. If I read my results correctly they are roughly 2700.
My only guess is the varnish or the paint used could have contained some
Expert:  Susan Latta replied 1 year ago.

Hello, I had a couple of ideas that are somewhat simplistic, but this is really where we should start:

#1 Houses need their ductwork cleaned out yearly, so do you have HVAC ducting in this house? If so, it needed to be cleaned out, especially after all the sanding of floors, and I'm wondering if this could be the root of the problem causing at least some of your symptoms, like dry, irritated eyes and nosebleeds. Even if you don't have ductwork, was the house cleaned from floor to ceiling to get the residual dust from sanding out of the house. Did you do the sanding and refinishing yourself; or a floor refinishing company? Were dust barriers used?

#2 Was the varnish that was used as the top coat on your floor for inside or outside use? This would be very important, and could be quite dangerous to your lungs, nasal passages if outdoor varnish was used inside. Same with the wall paint. Please double check those!

#3 The company who did the testing needs to give you a number for what is a safe reading on each of the things tested. You are not asking for recommendations, you are asking for what is considered a safe reading RANGE for each item. They should also be able to tell you possible household cause's (products) if you see the reading is high on your list. This is not a recommendation, this is an interpretation of what's safe. So, I would suggest you try calling them back and wording your request this way. Most people would never understand all those numbers that's on the results page! And I'm sure they received extensive training in order to read results from their tests. If you don't get the help/answers from that person that you need, then I'd ask to speak to a supervisor to get REAL answers, but be persistent. I'm sure that test wasn't cheap!

(Indoor paints are usually made with very low VOC's these days, so go back and check the products used.)