As I mentioned in a previous post, my husband and I have been in the process of moving. We finally moved into our new place a little over a month ago.
Buying a Toxic Free House
Our move wasn’t the easiest process and was far from smooth, but in the end God blessed us with a great place. It’s hard enough trying to find the right place, but when you have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), it makes it that much more difficult. Sure, my husband and I had our wish lists. I wanted a bigger kitchen and bathroom. My husband wanted to live on a pond. It took a while, but I’m happy to say we got our wish list and then some! However, those wish list items were pushed to the side because the most important thing for me was a safe environment. As someone who is highly sensitive to mold and other toxins, this was my first concern when we were looking for a place.
The Amount of Toxins We Encounter Daily is Overwhelming!
We are bombarded by toxins today! Everything from our food, skin care, personal care products, detergents, and the list can go on. It is said that women put on an average of 168 chemicals every day. There are 80,000+ chemicals used in the United States and only a tiny amount have been properly tested. With those statistics, we all should be cognizant of what we are purchasing and using. Shopping for non-toxic options should be a first priority. I am passionate about this because my own health was severely impacted by my “toxic bucket” overflowing and diseases setting in. Let me tell you, after being on your death bed, you want to do everything that is in your power so that it doesn’t happen again!
Minimizing Toxins in Your Search for a Home
When we were looking for a new place to live, I had a list of things to look for when it came to a toxic environment. Whether you have MCS, or not, considering the following items will help you and your family live in a less toxic environment. Minimizing toxins is a huge benefit for everyone!
- Age of the house/condo:
Why is this important? Because a new house has so many new items in it. Those new items can off-gas and emit many toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and other VOCs. In addition, there are toxic flame retardants in some products. It can take years for many products to stop emitting VOCs.
- Does it have new carpet?
Whether you buy a new home, or an older home, you should figure out if new carpet has been installed. Carpets can emit harmful VOCs for over 5 years. Personally, if the place we were looking at had new carpet, I didn’t consider buying it. As someone with MCS, there is no way I could live in that environment. In our case, we were fortunate to be able to stop the sellers before they installed new carpet. If the place you are purchasing has new carpet, search for a professional carpet cleaner who has experience cleaning carpets with the purpose of removing a portion of the VOCs.
- Do I have physical reactions from being in the house?
People with MCS are called canaries because our bodies are so sensitive to chemicals. Just as canaries alerted miners that there were poisonous gases in a mine, those of us with MCS develop symptoms when we are exposed to toxins. When we did a walk through, we would stay in the house for about a half hour. That gave me enough time to figure out if I was having reactions. Usually, my heart rate was my barometer. If it started racing, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the place. The hard part was trying to decipher what was causing the reaction. Was it caused by the air fresheners, candles, laundry detergent, or something else that was a part of the physical house?
- Is there evidence of mold?
Mold is my downfall. I am so sensitive to it that I can typically smell it or get reactions from it as soon as I walk in. Unfortunately, you can’t always see the evidence of it until an inspector goes into the attic and does a complete inspection of the house. In our case, we also had the inspector run mold tests to see what the spore count was. When trying to figure out if a place has a mold problem, look for any water damage and for proper ventilation. The seller should mention on the disclosure documents if there has been any previous water damage. In our case, there had been previous water damage, but it had been repaired. Our inspector also had a thermal imaging scanner which could tell if there was any moisture behind the walls.
- Smell in the basement – how musty is it?
I don’t typically do well in basements. However, a good dehumidifier usually helps. If there is a strong odor in the basement, that could indicate mold problems. I would also check for any water damage lines or cracks on the walls. In addition, I would look in the yard to see how well the ground sloped away from the house. You don’t want water pooling up next to the house.
- Attic ventilation:
Sometimes it’s hard to tell how well an attic is ventilated until an inspection has been done. However, you can visually look for vents on the roof. Does it look like the exhaust fans and dryer vents are venting to the outside? Does it seem to have quite a few soffit vents under the ridge of the roof? Are there gutters to drain the water off of the roof and away from the house?
- Where do the laundry vents come out of the house?
This was especially important since we were looking at condos. Many people don’t know any better and still use toxic fabric softener and dryer sheets. Since I was going to be in close proximity to my neighbors, I wanted to make sure their dryer vent wasn’t located near a window that I might have open.
- Does it have a Smart Meter?
Many homes today are being installed with a Smart Meter. Smart Meters are wireless, digital meters that transmit electricity and gas use to companies using radio-frequency communication. Smart Meters expose us to constant electromagnetic radiation. If you are sensitive to EMFs, or have an impaired immune system, you want to stay as far away as possible from the meters. Look to see where they are located. Ours is located on our garage. It’s best not to have it located on a wall facing your living area.
If you live in a complex with an association, you might not have much say as to how your lawn is cared for. However, you should be able to figure out their schedule so you can know when they are spraying so you can keep your windows closed. In addition to the outside pesticides, some people might also use indoor pesticides. I had never come across such a thing until we purchased our place. There was a stain along the edges of the carpet – more so than just dirt. Our inspector mentioned that he thought it was caused by pesticides. He was correct. We were able to find out more information from the seller. They had used indoor pesticides. This almost cost us the house. I called the pesticide company to see how long the pesticides emit. They said it can emit for up to 12 months. Although the seller couldn’t remember the last they had sprayed, it had been quite a few months since the seller had lived in their place. I had a carpet cleaning company try to remove the pesticides, but they couldn’t get them all out. We are now in the process of trying to remove the carpet completely and lay down porcelain tile instead.
Does the house have termite damage? Of course, nobody wants their place to be infested with termites. Have there been baits set up around the perimeter of the house? I didn’t have experience with termite baits until we bought our new place. There were round, green plastic things in the yard. I thought they had to do with a sprinkler system, but our inspector said they were termite baits. The association had placed them around the outside perimeter of the place. I wasn’t crazy about it since it would emit chemicals, so I did a little bit of research. We still bought the place, but I won’t be planting a garden in the yard.
- Has it been freshly painted?
New paint and new carpet were major concerns when we were looking for apartments to temporarily rent before we bought our place. Paint can contain many VOCs and can take months for the odors to dissipate. In addition, there are now air fresheners that can be added to the paint to tame the paint smell. Those air fresheners have toxic ingredients in them, so you’re trying to mask one toxic ingredient with another! I planned on painting using a no VOC, low odor paint. New paint can cause me a number of reactions. In our apartment, it had been a few weeks since it had been painted before we moved in. It still bothered me though. Before we moved in, we asked the management to open the windows and place fans in the apartment to begin airing it out. Once we moved in, I placed plates with charcoal all around to try to soak up the fumes.
- Age of furnace/air conditioner:
At our previous house, we had to have both a new furnace and air conditioner installed. Both were difficult for me because of the PVC piping and glue that they used. Anytime the unit ran, I would begin to feel sick and develop a headache. Typically, it takes some time for the piping to off gas. I haven’t found a remedy for this yet, but will be doing some research in case we have to replace anything at our new place.
- Are there electrical wires nearby?
If you have MCS, you probably are also sensitive to EMFs. Like mold illness, EMFs generated from electrical wires and devices can cause numerous symptoms which are hard for doctors to diagnose. When looking for a place to live, we also steered clear of homes near electrical wires.
- Do the neighbors have fire pits?
I remember using a fire pit at our house years ago when we first moved in. I enjoyed sitting around the fire pit making S’Mores and talking to friends, but since I developed MCS I can’t tolerate smoke anymore. The smoke is toxic to my body and creates a wide range of symptoms like swollen ears and chest, headache, and racing heart rate. Even though this is something that can’t be controlled when purchasing a house, some condo associations do not allow them.
There you have it. Some ideas to consider when purchasing your next home. Happy house hunting!
Read Next: 8 Non-Toxic Moving Tips
Living Natural Today Wants to Know:
- Are there any other items you can think of to reduce toxins when shopping for a house?
Margarita Ibbott (@DownshiftingPRO) says
What good advice. If it smells musty… there is a problem. We found that out the hard way because we had weeping tile that was not well position so when we took possession of our house we found that out. A huge rain storm flooded our basement. We should have know a costly $3,5000 mistake.
Thanks for stopping by. Sorry to hear you had to go through that. Yes, these issues can be rather costly – not only financially, but also with our health.
I can definitely understand the point you made with new carpet. I have never liked the smell. When we bought our first home, I wanted a house with hard woods and tile because I felt carpet attracted a lot of gross things. I’ve been really happy with our decision!
You’re right – in addition to new carpet being highly toxic, it does attract a lot of gross things. Glad you’re enjoying your wood floors.
Corinne Rodrigues says
We hope to be buying a new home in the near future and this is something I hadn’t considered. Bookmarking this post to use before we sign up for something that might be harmful for us. Thanks for the most useful information, Teresa.
PS: I’ll have to look for a Smart Meter alternative in India
Corinne Rodrigues says
We hope to be buying a new home in the near future and this is something I hadn’t considered. Bookmarking this post to use before we sign up for something that might be harmful for us. Thanks for the most useful information, Teresa.
Thanks Corinne! Glad this list will help you in the future.
I was unaware of EMFs, so I appreciate the link and that post, too (since I live next to power lines). It’s crazy to think about how many toxins there are affecting our day-to-day lives, so it’s good to be able to minimize as many as possible when shopping for a new home. I’ll definitely refer back to this when I search for a new home within the next year or two. XOXO, Erin
Thanks Erin! I learned about EMFs when I started having reactions from them. The book by Ann Gittleman, that I refer to in one of my posts, is a good one to read to learn more about it. Glad this list will help you in the future.
204 Park says
These are all important things to keep in mind when making a huge purchase such as a home!
Thanks for stopping by.
Maegan Dockery says
I am so glad you were able to find a place you love! We will hopefully be house-hunting in the fairly near future, and I will definitely keep this list in mind. There are several things on the list I probably would never consider, so I’m glad I saw this!!
Thanks Maegan! Glad this will help you in the future. Happy house hunting.
My ex-huband, husband at the time, wanted to buy a house that made me sick. Something was off about the basement and the house itself set off my allergies. I loved how the house looked but if I get sick within 5mins of walking in, that’s a no go.
Glad you realized that the house was bad for you before buying it. No matter how nice it looks, it’s better to have a “safe” environment.
I wish I would have had this list before we moved into our house two years ago…kinda makes me gross out thinking about all the toxins in our house!
Thanks Kelsie! You’re right – it is pretty gross to realize that we’re absorbing all of those different toxins.
Thank you for the tips. I can’t handle smells very well, soaps, laundry detergents, lotions etc. Thankfully there is a lot of great fragrance free items available 🙂
Thanks Trudie. Since you’re starting to have some sensitivities to fragrances, hopefully you’re minimizing toxins as much as possible. Make sure you check the fragrance free items you’re buying because sometimes they use chemicals to mask the smell instead.
I am so glad that many people are finally becoming aware of all the toxins that surround us. I’m sorry that you had to come through such a traumatic experience to learn about the chemicals that we allow in our lives, but I’m glad you’ve come through it.
We’ve been chemical free in our house for quite a few years, now, and it is wonderful.
Thank you for sharing.
Thanks Katy. Glad to hear that your house is chemical free! You’re right – I wish I would have known about these things before they impacted my health. At least more people are learning about it.
Just Plain Marie says
Great tips that I never would have thought about. We bought a house and missed the mold in the attic. We’re suffering for it now and wondering what to do next.
So sorry to hear that you have mold in your attic. It’s important to get it remediated and to figure out why the mold started in the first place. A lot of times it has to do with lack of ventilation, or if there’s a leak in the roof or around a vent. Hope you’re able to get it taken care of before it causes any physical harm.
Kayla Shown-Dean says
These are great tips! I wish I would have had this list BEFORE I bought my last house lol.
While we have long since settled into our forever home, I found your post extremely eye opening! Although I have recently switched to home made natural cleaning products, I didn’t give much thought to all the other toxins I am exposing myself (and my family) to each day! Time to make some more changes!
Glad to hear you’ve switched to home made natural cleaning products. That’s a great first step! Take it one step at a time and you’ll be amazed at how many toxins you can minimize.
Riva Sue says
Wow, so many things to consider.
We have our home. But we have a cat with severe allergies.
Your post makes me wonder how many things we are doing that exaggerate his issues.
Thanks Riva Sue. Yes, many toxic chemicals contribute to allergies and asthma. Fragrances are a big culprit. Many synthetic fragrances in perfumes, candles, cleaning products, etc. are toxic chemical and haven’t been tested for their safety.
Wow I actually had never heard of MCS but I’m so happy that you and your husband was able to find a place that suited you. I appreciate this post. It was very informative and I’ll definitely keep these tips in mind.
Thanks Chicki! I had never heard of MCS either until I had it. I’m trying to spread awareness so others don’t have to go down the same road I did.
Betsy @ Happily Ever After, Etc. says
Wow I never knew how many harmful chemicals there were to watch out for… dryer sheets can be bad? Checking for dryer air vents? Sounds exhausting! If you haven’t painted yet check out Sherwin Williams Harmony paint… it’s not only zero VOC’s but it actually is formulated to remove VOC’s and other harmful toxins from the air! Typically it’s used in hospitals or senior retirement homes for those very reasons… but it would be great in your situation! Don’t mean to be all salesey but as a Sherwin Williams assistant manager that’s all I could think about when you said you were getting ready to paint. Good luck with your new home!
Thanks Betsy. I’ll have to keep Sherwin Williams in mind for future reference. That’s good to know. I didn’t realize their Harmony paint is formulated to remove VOCs from the air. Dryer sheets are so toxic! I wished more people realized that and would stop using them. Many people get major reactions from them (me included). You’re right. I can be a little exhausting, but if you were as sick as I once was, you would do whatever you could not to go back to that point.
Cheri Thompson says
Great tips. I especially like #5: Smelly basement. I’ve used a dehumidifier for the 8 years I’ve lived here because without it, the basement smell is so musty, I’d have to move. I did not know about Smart meters–will definitely have to look for this in my next home. Thank!
Thanks Cheri. If you search this blog, I’ve written a couple of articles about Smart Meters. I also interviewed someone on my radio show about them. I’d be curious to hear if you could find a home without one. Not sure which states still don’t have them.
Brian - The Results Guy says
YES! Indeed when buying a house, we need to be very careful. Its not just about the area and cost. The inside as well. I was going to be processing my new house over the internet, but NO-WAY!!! I am going to meet them and inspect it myself, as well as ask the bunch of questions you listed.
Thanks for stopping by Brian! Yes, I would definitely inspect the home yourself and with an inspector. Glad the article helped.
Thank you for a great list of things to consider when looking for a new house. My son suffers from some learning challenges that are greatly affected by his environment as well as diet. We have been working for 2 yrs to eliminate as much toxin from his life as possible (the perk is we all are benefiting from it as well). We also are beginning the search for a new home, although we will probably end up buying land & building so I can get what I want & build as “clean” as possible for all of us. If we find a parcel of land with an existing house, this will be a great list for me to have handy!
Thanks Melissa. Sorry to hear about your son. Glad to hear you’re already in the process of minimizing toxins. Sounds like you’re on the right path with toxins and diet. You’re right – it benefits all of you. Best wishes with your new “safe” home!
Nicole Tugrul says
This is fantastic! My sister has had issues with mold and is in the process of looking for a new home. I am forwarding you post to her so she can have all your wonderful tips!
Thanks for sharing Nicole! Sounds like the article comes at a good time.
Cindy Magee says
WOW! I know that there are toxins all over but never thought about it when home searching! Good points to think about!
I had never heard of MCS until now. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be in our culture to avoid toxins.
Thanks Anne-Marie. I had never heard of MCS before having it either. Yes, it makes it difficult to live in today’s world; however, fortunately there are a lot of toxins that we can control and minimize.
Amy @ItsAMindfulLife says
These are all really helpful tips. I have a rare autoimmune disease and believe I am more sensitive to mold than the average person. Appreciate your insight!
Thanks Amy. Sorry to hear you’re dealing with an autoimmune disease. That’s what happened to me too. Autoimmune problems, then the mold on top of it. Hope you’re able to stay away from high spore counts.
Wow, I never really thought about all the toxins in our homes. Will definitely keep this in mind when repainting or installing new items in the home.
Thanks Erlene! Glad it helped.
We’ve only owned older homes with this one being the oldest (100 years). Mold is something that scares me so I keep an eye out for it every time I go in the basement and attic. I’ve never even considered the piping for a/c and heating causing problems, that’s a new one for me. Thank you for these tips!
Thanks Lori. Mold has done some serious damage to me. I’m actually dealing with it again from the items from our old house. I’ll be writing an article about it. Glad you keep an eye on it in your house. With the piping, it’s the PVC they use and the glue they use too.
Wow! So many factors to consider! We bought our home new 10 yrs ago and I didn’t even think about the carpet and paint issues. I don’t remember anyone having issues with it. But we are living in an age of chemical/toxic overload. Thanks for sharing your insightful post!
Thanks Robin. You’re right, we’re living in an age of toxic overload. Glad you didn’t have problems with your carpet. Your toxic bucket must not be full yet:).
We’ve been in our current house since 1989, and aren’t likely to move any time soon (I hope). Bookmarking this for our daughters, though!
Thanks for sharing Deanna!
The home buying process is fun and yes you need to know the important things to look out for. This is helpful and thanks for sharing.
This is a great article! I have never even heard of MCS until now. So, I learned something today. It’s amazing all the things a person with MCS needs to consider before purchasing a house.
Thanks Shani! I had never heard of MCS before I had it either. The good thing about these items is that they help anyone, whether they have MCS or not.
Wow,some things that most people never think about! Thank you for bringing these issues to light!
Georgia Lynne says
Thank you Teresa!! Your post enlightened me to something I was totally unaware of. Personally I work at living as naturally as possible and try to make all my own cleaning products because the commercial ones are too harsh and I do have a reaction to them.
Thanks Georgia Lynn! Sorry to hear you get reaction from cleaning products. Glad to hear you as live naturally as possible. I definitely recommend minimizing as many toxins as possible.
Wow, I cannot even begin to imagine what you go through on a regular basis living with MCS. Thank you for sharing home buying in the light MCS. This is also some great thing to be thinking about for any home owner who is wanting to be in an healthier environment. thank you for sharing.
Thanks Jeremy! You’re right – this information is beneficial for everyone, whether they have MCS or not. Definitely don’t want people to get to the point that they have MCS.
Jeanie Erwin says
It is amazing how many toxins we live with in our lives! I like this reminder of what to look for when buying a home especially the aspect of reducing the toxins. Great post.
Thank you so much! We are just getting ready to proceed with buying a house, so your post is perfect timing. Definitely pinning to use as a resource. There are so many environmental toxins, we certainly do not want them in and around our home!
Thanks Kelly! Glad this post will help. Happy house hunting!
Ms Orange says
I had no idea there was so much to look for! Thank you for sharing all these tips! I’ll be sure to pass them along to my friends.
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for sharing!
Sandy Sandmeyer says
These are great tips for anyone buying a house. I can’t imagine being so sensitive to some of this things. I never thought about a firepit being such a negative. Thank you for sharing your journey with MCS.
Thanks Sandy. I wish fire pits weren’t so negative to me. I used to enjoy them. Now I have to hurry and shut windows if I smell smoke coming in or else everything starts swelling up. Thanks for stopping by!
We too are very careful about toxins! I have two children who were vaccine damaged, and that taught me to be very careful about not only foods and environmental toxins but also those in medicines, vaccines, eye and ear drops, etc. We don’t plan to buy a house in the future, but I think your article still brought up some important points that I can be sure to steer clear of in my house!
Thanks for stopping by Wendy. So glad to hear that you’re aware of toxins and try to minimize them. I hate to hear that your children were damaged by vaccines. You’re right, many medicines are toxic too. That’s why I’m passionate about this issue. I don’t want others to experience the negative effects of toxins like we have.
Beth McIntire says
A lot of houses will have been freshly painted before being put on the market because it’s such an easy thing for owners to do to add value. The age of the heating and air conditioning is a really important point in my experience. Don’t count on a home warranty to fix things that go wrong. They will do the bare minimum to help you limp along, if anything at all. They sometimes claim the situation was pre-existing and that the home inspector should have caught it, as an excuse to get out of fixing a problem. The ages of the roof and water heater are also important. If these things have some years on them, you might want to consider asking for money set aside from the sellers as compensation or you could start putting away money in savings to replace them when the time comes.
Thanks for the additional suggestions. We considered those things too; however, the purpose of this post was to address toxins to be on the look out for when purchasing a home.
As someone who is into living as toxin-free as possible, I think these are really great points. We own a home now and if we ever buy another, I know we’ll look into the toxic part a bit more. We didn’t really think much about it when we bought our current home. It’s so hard to avoid toxins altogether these days but these are some great tips to help others out!
Thanks Allison. Glad to hear you try to live as toxin-free as possible. You’re right, we can’t avoid every toxin, but there are a lot that we can control.
There’s a lot of good information here! Great timing too because my husband and I are house hunting right now. I couldn’t have read your post at a better time. I’ve been much more aware lately of all the toxins our bodies come in to contact with on a daily basis….things we think are safe like shampoos, soaps, toothpaste, etc. I really never thought of consider the toxins in the house when buying. Thanks so much!
Thanks Renee! Glad the article can help you right now. Happy house hunting!
This was most informative and interesting. Can’t add any ideas since it is out of my knowledge base. When it comes to homes, I look at other factors due to my blindness. It’s kind of interesting hearing someone else educate others on their health problems. Congrats on your new place that’s perfect for you two.
Thanks Val! Sorry to hear that your daughter has similar issues. Thanks for sharing it with her. Glad to hear that you’re making changes.
Val @ Love My DIY Home says
This is very interesting and I will be forwarding this on to my daughter who has the same issues. She and her DH will be buying a house next year and must consider all of these points. I too am concerned over toxins and have been researching and changing our habits. This was good. Thanks.
Woah! I never would have thought about any of this! Thank you for sharing all these tips, one day when I’m ready, I’ll have to revisit this list!
Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad the information was helpful!
Princellar B says
These are some really good points that I had never thought of outside of new paint or new carpet in a place, because I know with me the smell of paint or newer carpet really gets my head to hurting. Now I’m going to be more aware of these things when I get ready to move in a couple of years.
Thanks for stopping by. Sorry to hear that you get reactions from paint and new carpet. Glad this article will help you with your future move!
and how many toxins we don’t know about that exist….
Yes, there are tons of toxins, but some are easier to manage than others.
Rachel G says
I’m so glad you were able to buy a home that meets your needs! My husband and I aren’t yet at the home-buying stage of life–sometimes I feel like I can’t imagine that kind of commitment!
Thanks. Even if you aren’t going to be buying a home, there are still ways to minimize toxins in your environment:).