Q: Can garage fumes pollute the air in my home?
A: If you have an attached garage, the answer could be yes. As convenient as attached garages are, there is mounting evidence that they can be responsible for negatively affecting indoor air quality.
That’s not a big surprise when you consider that garages typically store cars, motorcycles, mowers, paints, lubricants and other substances that are considered toxic.
When bits and pieces of these substances become airborne, they can get into your home through open doors, gaps around closed doors and through ductwork. But there are steps you can take to minimize exposure and improve the air quality inside your home.
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Avoid running your car, motorcycle, chain saw or mower any longer than absolutely necessary while they are in the garage. If possible, mechanical systems such as water heaters and furnaces should not be located in the garage.
Do a biannual check to make sure the door leading from the garage into the house closes tightly and has adequate weather stripping.
Seal all ducts, wiring and other openings leading into the house or the ceiling from the garage. Spray foam and caulk are good products for sealing these types of gaps.
With new construction, garages are sometimes left with open walls, or with drywall attached but not sealed.
In either case, garage pollutants can make their way through. It is a good idea to completely cover garage walls and the ceiling with drywall, properly seal joints with tape and compound, and prime and paint the surfaces.
In addition to improving your home’s air quality, the result will be a more attractive garage.
It may seem obvious, but another important step is to keep the door that connects the home and garage shut.
With our hectic lives, it seems as though we’re always entering the house with our arms full, which can make it easier to forget to close the door on our way in. Kids coming and going through the garage can make a closed door even more unlikely. If this sounds like your life, consider installing a self-closing door.
Make sure all containers of potentially toxic substances are sealed shut, and never leave cans of paint thinner, solvents or other liquids uncovered.
If you spend a lot of time in the garage working with paints or wood finishes, or tinkering with your car, installing an exhaust fan would be helpful. A standard kitchen or bath fan would do the trick.
Of course, you should never leave a car running in a closed garage. In addition, once you’ve started your car, pull out of the garage as quickly as possible to prevent fumes from floating back into the garage.
Every home should have at least one carbon monoxide (CO) detector inside. If you are concerned about the air quality in your garage, mount an additional CO detector there.
These steps can go far toward minimizing air pollutants in your home.
HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.