5 ways to have a healthy home

Your home can be a haven from the busy world—a place that's appealing, comfortable and safe. By paying attention to aspects of your home like indoor air quality, nontoxic materials and decorative plants, you can lower the risk of health problems for you and your family, and provide a space where everyone can feel well and happy.

1. Improve your indoor air quality.

The quality of the air inside your home is important for your health, as well as for a pleasant atmosphere. Adequate ventilation is a must, particularly when painting or cleaning. Also, it's easy to test for common toxins so that you know where to start when making changes. Learn more about ways to improve your indoor air quality (IAQ).

Some common substances that can ruin your home's IAQ:

  • Tobacco. If someone in your home used to smoke, or you're moving into a place formerly inhabited by a smoker, you'll have to put in some heavy-duty cleaning work to get rid of the lingering smell of tobacco smoke. Be sure to encourage visitors to smoke outside, as well.
  • Asbestos. A common culprit for hidden asbestos is in older "popcorn" or stucco ceilings. You can do a DIY test or hire a specialist, and then you'll need to decide whether to remove the surfacing—a job that is definitely for an expert.
  • Formaldehyde. This compound is used as a bonding agent in many materials, such as fabric and pressed wood. It can cause respiratory symptoms and is a potential carcinogen. Take steps to reduce your exposure.

2. Make good choices with furniture.

Part of conserving the Earth's resources is reducing how much we buy in the first place, and purchasing fewer new pieces of furniture goes a long way. Reusing older furniture by sustainably refinishing or reupholstering pieces is a great option, as is shopping secondhand stores for items in good condition.You can even repurpose your old furniture into storage or accent pieces.

Take extra care when refinishing furniture for a baby's room. A vintage crib, especially if it's a family piece with sentimental value, may be irresistible, but check for lead in the current coat of paint, and when you apply a new coat, make sure it is low-VOC and nontoxic. Learn more about making a healthy room for children.

When buying new, consider the production chain and materials used in the manufacture and transport of a given product, as well as the effect that the fabric and coatings for the piece of furniture may have on your health.

3. Buy natural flooring and countertops

When you're choosing flooring materials for your home, it's not just about sustainable sourcing and natural materials. You'll also need to install the flooring in a way that protects your health by minimizing dust, chemicals and off-gassing.

For countertops in kitchens and bathrooms, focus on those with nontoxic finishes, and take a look at products with certifications that indicate a material is safe for human use.

4. Add some green into the interior.

A famous NASA study in the 1980s showed that plants can help filter out air pollutants. Think about placing some attractive, low-maintenance houseplants in your rooms to double as air filters. In addition, being around natural elements, as research consistently confirms, makes humans feel more contented and balanced—a phenomenon known as biophilia.

Want to go bigger? Bring more nature inside by building a living wall or even making a tree part of your home.

5. Build a LEED home.

LEED-certified homes are built to be healthier for the people who live in them. LEED has always been at the forefront of supporting health and wellness in interior spaces, and meeting LEED standards can enhance the health and well-being of your family by providing clean indoor air and using nontoxic building materials.

For example, the team that built a 2016 LEED Homes Awards-winning project earned Platinum-level certification by emphasizing safe materials and good ventilation to create a healthy indoor environment.

A simplified, streamlined version of LEED v4.1 for Residential was recently released, and is open for registration in the U.S. for new single-family homes. Learn more about LEED Residential.

See more Green Home Guide articles