Definition of Off-Gas

Room being decorated
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It doesn't sound particularly pleasant, and it's not; off-gassing can be very dangerous to your health. What does it mean to "off-gas"? Volatile organic compounds contaminate and compromise the interior air quality of your home, and the side effects can last for years. These include allergy issues, and symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness.

What Does It Mean to Off-Gas?

Off-gassing happens when manufactured items in our homes, such as paint, release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are chemical compounds that have a high vapor pressure at room temperature, meaning they evaporate at high rates inside.

Building Materials that Off-gas

In many cases, the off-gassing culprits are materials you don't even see, such as substrates that contain glue, caulks, sealants and insulation. Some finish materials also have the potential to off-gas. These are the offending parties:

  • Paints and stains
  • Paint strippers
  • Varnish
  • Plywood
  • Particleboard
  • Fiberglass insulation
  • Carpet and other flooring
  • Cabinets and countertops

How to Avoid Off-Gassing

We live in a chemical world, but there are a few ways to ensure that you breathe easier:

  • Look at labels and avoid products containing formaldehyde. Other phrases to look for are low-VOC and no-VOC.
  • Allow new materials to "breathe" for a few days or weeks outside or in the garage before you bring them into your home.
  • Ventilate your home during and after your renovation project, and keep humidity levels down.