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The Healthy House Answer Book

By John and Lynn Bower

Healthy Home: The Healthy House Answer Book by John and Lynn Bower, Healthy Home & Green Living Books & Videos -

Publisher Info

The Healthy House Institute (HHI)

13998 W. Hartford Dr.

Boise, ID  83713 USA


Among the various healthy housing books, The Healthy House Answer Book by John and Lynn Bower is something a little different. While the rest of the offerings in this field are thick, very comprehensive volumes, this is a smaller book in both size and depth - sort of a "pocket healthy housing guidebook." While covering the major concerns anyone would have about all aspects of construction and maintenance, all the information is presented in a very concise Q and A format. This is a great introductory book for anyone interested in the subject.

Table of Contents

 I. Why are houses unhealthy?


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1. Have houses always been unhealthy or this something new?
2. With all the new environmental laws and regulations, why aren't houses healthier than ever before?
3. What are the two trends that are contributing to make today's houses unhealthy?
4. How bad is the air in a typical home?
5. What are the types of contaminants that are often found indoors?
6. What are VOCs and could they be big polluters in my home?
7. What is outgassing?
8. I'm fairly certain my house is making me sick. Should I hire a company to test the indoor air?
9. I've heard of something called a bakeout. Won't that increase the outgassing rate and get rid of the VOCs in my house?
10. How long does it take for a typical house to air out on its own?
II. The basics of healthy house construction
11. Are there any particular products that stand out as being serious indoor polluters?
12. Do you have a particular set of guidelines you follow?
13. Won't building a house out of adobe, rammed earth, or straw bales create a naturally healthy house by eliminating synthetic and man-made products?
14. What if I'm chemically sensitive? How careful do I need to be?
15. How do I perform tolerability testing?
16. How much does a healthy house cost?
17. I want a healthy house but I just don't know if I can really afford one. What do you suggest?
18. How do I find a designer or architect that can design a healthy house?
19. How do I find a contractor to build a healthy house?
20. We're in the middle of the construction process and my builder wants to use some unhealthy materials. What should I do?
21. What part of the country is the best place in which to build a healthy house?
III. Foundations, decks, and garages
22. What do you think is the healthiest type of foundation?
23. Don't concrete slab foundations tend to be damp and moldy?
24. I want to use concrete foundation walls for a basement or crawl space. Is there a healthy form-release agent and dampproofing material?
25. We're considering a new house with either a crawl space or basement. Which is healthier?
26. Do think it's worth the expense of installing a radon mitigation system in a new house?
27. I'm very concerned about having toxic chemicals around my home's foundation. How do I safely deal with termites?
28. My contractor wants to use salt-treated lumber for my outdoor deck. Is there anything unhealthy about it?
29. I like the convenience of an attached garage, but aren't detached garages healthier?
IV. Framing and insulation
30. We're considering building a house with steel framing. Does it have any particular advantages?
31. Are there any disadvantages to using steel framing?
32. Does it matter what kind of sheathing we use on our house?
33. Do you think housewrap is needed on my new house?
34. What does the term R-value refer to?
35. What options do I have for insulation?
36. So, what's the healthiest insulation to use in my house?
37. I thought tight houses caused indoor air pollution. Why are you saying they're a good idea?
38. What's a vapor barrier and should I use one?
39. I'm bothered by the odors of both pine framing lumber and fiberglass insulation. If I build an airtight house, can I use them inside the walls?
V. Windows, siding, and roofing
40. Aren't wood windows best from a health standpoint?
41. Is there a healthy window putty I can use?
42. Are there any healthy caulkings and construction adhesives?
43. Is it all right to use vinyl siding on my new healthy house?
44. What healthy paints and clear finishes can I use on my home's exterior?
45. Can the foam insulation inside a steel entry door be a problem?
46. Aren't cedar shingles or shakes the logical healthy choice for roofing?
47. Why do you use metal roofs on the healthy houses you build?
VI. Plumbing and moisture
48. Should I use metal or plastic water pipes in my new house?
49. Do you believe all houses need a water filter?
50. What do the different kinds of water filters remove?
51. What type of humidifier is healthiest?
52. Can dehumidifiers also be unhealthy?
53. Which is healthier for bathtubs and showers - acrylic or fiberglass?
54. Is there a healthy bathtub caulking?
VII. Electrical wiring


55. What are electromagnetic fields?
56. Can electrical appliances and the wiring inside my walls make me sick?
57. Is it true that metal plumbing lines can contribute an EMF problem?
58. Can my house have an EMF problem because of something in my neighbor's house?
59. What are some simple ways to minimize EMFs?
60. What is electromagnetic sensitivity?
61. What can an electromagnetically sensitive person do to make his or her home safer?
62. Can't metal siding on a house cause EMF problems?
63. I'm bothered by the odor of plastics. Will plastic-jacketed electrical wiring be a problem for me?
VIII. Heating and cooling
64. Why don't you like fireplaces or gas ranges?
65. What's so bad about combustion by-products?
66. Are there any fuel-burning appliances that are safer than others?
67. Are electric furnaces and water heaters inherently healthier?
68. What's the best type of heat for a sensitive person?
69. Is using duct tape a good idea?
70. Should heating/cooling ducts be cleaned occasionally?
71. What are the advantages and disadvantages to ductless heating and cooling systems?
IX. Ventilation
72. Exactly what is ventilation anyway?
73. My attic is vented, so my house is adequately ventilated, right?
74. Why is ventilating houses so important?
75. Can't a house breathe naturally-like people do?
76. Why not just build a loose house?
77. Are there different kinds of ventilation?
78. What kinds of ventilation equipment are available?
79. What exactly is a heat recovery ventilator?
80. Isn't ventilation equipment expensive?
X. Air filters
81. Won't a good air filter remove all the pollution in my house?
82. My furnace already has a filter. Isn't that good enough?
83. I've seen ads offering filters that are 90% efficient. Are they any good?
84. What are the different types of air filters, and how efficient are they?
85. Several people have told me to get an ozone generator. What do you think?
86. Is a negative-ion generator a filtering device?
87. Didn't NASA find that house plants could clean the air naturally?
XI. Interior walls
88. I've heard that plaster is a healthy material. What are its advantages and disadvantages?
89. What makes drywall different from plaster?
90. Why do you use foil-backed drywall in the houses you've built?
91. Should we be concerned about lead paint?
92. Can you recommend a healthy spackling compound?
93. What paint should I get for my interior walls?
94. Is there a healthy interior primer I can use?
95. How can I cover a water stain on my ceiling?
96. I have a latex allergy. Is there a healthy paint without latex?
97. Is wallpaper a healthy product?
98. Why is wall paneling unhealthy?
XII. Interior floors

99. Why don’t you like certain types of carpeting?
100. What’s the best kind of carpet to buy?

101. Wood floors are always a healthy flooring choice, right?
102. Does my contractor have to use asphalt-impregnated felt paper under my new hardwood floor?
103. What's the healthiest finish for hardwood floors?
104. Is linoleum a healthy flooring option? 
105. Can vinyl be a good flooring choice?
106. I'd like to use ceramic tile for my floors, but isn't it expensive?
107. Aren't ceramic-tile floors uncomfortable to stand on?
108. My house isn't built on a concrete slab. Can I still have ceramic-tile floors?
109. Are there low-odor mortars and grouts that can be used with ceramic tile?
110. Don't ceramic-tile floors need to be sealed?
XIII. Cabinets, doors, and trim
111. How healthy are most kitchen cabinets?
112. Can't I just coat problem cabinets with a sealant to make them safe?
113. What healthy options do I have if I want new wood cabinets?
114. I'm having trouble finding metal cabinets. Are they still being made?
115. Are plastic countertops healthy?
116. Why do you like stainless steel for kitchen countertops?
117. I'm chemically sensitive. What kind of wood trim should I use in my new house?
118. What kind of interior doors are healthiest?
XIV. Furnishing a healthy house
119. We're getting ready to move into our new healthy house. Do you have any additional advice?
120. Antique furniture was made before particleboard and other synthetic materials became popular, so it's healthy, right?
121. I think outgassing from some of my new upholstered furniture is affecting my health. Any suggestions?
122. We're in the market for a new couch. Does anyone make them with healthy materials?
123. Do you think the extra cost of an all-natural mattress is worth the expense?
124. I don't like the appearance of metal mini-blinds. Why do you use them for your windows?
125. I'm very chemically sensitive and need a new stove. What do you suggest I get?
126. I've heard of something called a safe haven. Just what is that?
XV. Maintaining a healthy house
127. I can't tolerate the artificial fragrances in laundry products. Are there any healthier options?
128. How important is it to use unscented cleaning products and cosmetics, and natural-fiber clothing?
129. The house we just moved into smells perfumy. What can I do to remove the odor?
130. Do you think a central vacuum is worth the added expense?
131. I can't seem to get the dry-cleaning odors out of my clothes? What do you suggest I do?
132. How do I deal with mold?
133. What's a healthy way to combat sugar ants in my kitchen and clothing moths in my closet?


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The Healthy House Answer Book:  Created on March 1st, 2009.  Last Modified on May 10th, 2013


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