How To Be WellnStrong

38: How to Build a Healthy Home | Jen & Rusty Stout

January 30, 2024 Jacqueline Genova Episode 38
38: How to Build a Healthy Home | Jen & Rusty Stout
How To Be WellnStrong
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How To Be WellnStrong
38: How to Build a Healthy Home | Jen & Rusty Stout
Jan 30, 2024 Episode 38
Jacqueline Genova

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We know it’s important to eat a healthy diet, take vitamins, and consume the right number of calories to fuel exercise and boost cardiovascular health. Many of us are willing to pay a premium for organic whole foods and monthly gym memberships. We even spend top dollar on premium-priced organic clothing and sheets – all in the name of healthier living. This is all great, beneficial, and essential to living a better life. However, it’s truly surprising how few people stop to think about the bigger picture: their living environment. Join me as I speak with Jen & Rusty Stout, founders of JS2 Partners Healthy Home, as we discuss the many different factors that go into creating a healthy home.


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Join the WellnStrong mailing list for exclusive content here!

Want more of The How To Be WellnStrong Podcast? Subscribe to the YouTube channel.


Follow Jacqueline:


Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send me a text!

We know it’s important to eat a healthy diet, take vitamins, and consume the right number of calories to fuel exercise and boost cardiovascular health. Many of us are willing to pay a premium for organic whole foods and monthly gym memberships. We even spend top dollar on premium-priced organic clothing and sheets – all in the name of healthier living. This is all great, beneficial, and essential to living a better life. However, it’s truly surprising how few people stop to think about the bigger picture: their living environment. Join me as I speak with Jen & Rusty Stout, founders of JS2 Partners Healthy Home, as we discuss the many different factors that go into creating a healthy home.


Suggested Resources:


Join the WellnStrong mailing list for exclusive content here!

Want more of The How To Be WellnStrong Podcast? Subscribe to the YouTube channel.


Follow Jacqueline:


 Jacqueline: [00:00:00] First of all, so happy to finally see you both. I know, Jen, you and I have connected via Instagram and email, but I'm just a huge fan of you both and your work. So

 

Thank you for accepting the invite. I’m really excited for our conversation.

 

Jen & Rusty: Us too. Thank you. This will be good.

 

Jacqueline: So just to start, you both created this absolutely incredible comprehensive book titled Healthier Homes.

 

And I have it here with me. I have it marked up on essentially every single It is incredible. And I recognize that we can't cover everything within this one episode, right? But I wanted to start by maybe perhaps going through a high level list of what to be aware of, or things to keep in mind when building a healthy home.

 

Jen & Rusty: Okay, lots to think about. I guess if you're starting from the very beginning, you're looking at locations. And, you know, what's around you paying attention to, are there factories [00:01:00] down, downwind or upwind from you, or are there people like drilling for oil or farmland? Like there's a lot of different things that people just don't think about.

 

Like power lines, EMF, I mean, There's a lot of property out there that's perfectly suitable, but it's just important to like, like with the power lines, you can buy a little EMF meter because EMF is something that's like a chronic exposure and over time, it's shown to cause cancers and things like that.

 

So, um, also noise pollution, like highways,

 

airports, train stations, things that you kind of like tune out, but it's still a stressor on your body. So, I mean, really starting with the land and looking at like soil to soil quality, if it's rocky, it's going to be more expensive to build on.

 

There's also, you know, the radon considerations are, are a big deal.

 

Um, uh, we, we are in the area we're at now it's kind of a, Texas doesn't have a lot of radon, but we're in like this little pocket [00:02:00] that we do. So we, we did a kind of a passive radon system in our, in our bill, but there are tests you can buy, like you can put it on a site I don't remember how long it was it takes like three days or something and it'll, it'll measure the radon levels. And so it's a good way to, if someone's worried about that, there's also maps online, I think that show you know, different pockets of radon and, you know, it's like mountainous areas, like Colorado, Nevada, places like that. And then it's also easily mitigated if you build appropriately for it.

 

Jacqueline: Interesting, And you also mention noise pollution, too, in your book. Could you touch on that?

 

Jen & Rusty: Yeah. Um, so like living next to the airport, I, that's where I live in Dallas, for instance, there were every two minutes, there was an airplane that would fly overhead and after a while, your body just tunes it out, but it's an actual like stressor on your body and the constant stress is something that builds up over time.

 

Which is a part of how we [00:03:00] approach building is to limit the amount of stress on your body so you can Be well and focus and be creative and you know, it's like things that continue to build. So of course like living next to the highway like I had mentioned train station subways like what else? Yeah, I mean, you know, it's pretty self explanatory But like Jen said, I mean you're it your mind will kind of trick you you're it will turn off those noises after about 10 or 15 minutes but it's still stressing your body.

 

And so that's, that's kind of where, you know, insulating your home good is, is, is a way to, to eliminate a lot of that using really nice windows or good quality windows will eliminate some of that. Cause I mean, I mean, we understand it's not always possible to find that perfect lot out in the middle of nowhere away from, from everything people do live in cities.

 

And so there's ways to work around it.

 

Jacqueline: Makes sense. I mean, [00:04:00] here. So I'm in Greenville, South Carolina. I'm in an apartment building. I'm about a 15 minute drive from the airport, which originally I was like, this is great I could just hop on a plane to go home. And now I'm rethinking, hmm, do I actually really want to be this close?

 

But it's okay. It's, it's temporary for now. Um, but anyway, I, I probably should have started with this, but the concept of healthier homes is something that I've become incredibly interested in over the past several years particularly as I've been more acutely aware of how my environment is really impacting my health, which I know resonates with you both, especially you, Jen.

 

So with that, I would love if you both could maybe share a bit more about your backgrounds and how you essentially found yourself in this very unique and needed space.

 

Jen & Rusty: Um, it was a little over 10 years ago. I was at SMU doing my MBA and I was like always healthy and nothing was ever wrong with me and suddenly I had rashes and my hair started falling out and [00:05:00] like, I just was tired all the time. I was like, what is happening? What is going on? I'd seen a bunch of different doctors and nobody knew what was wrong with me.

 

They thought I had like lupus and put me on medications for that just made things worse. Turns out, um, I found a really horrific black mole problem behind the walls of my, it was like a new apartment too. Um, so that was, that was an indication like, okay, maybe this is what's going on with me. I found an environmental doctor in Dallas and they tested me.

 

I had high levels of mycotoxins in my body, which are the metabolites from mold they're carcinogens, they're terrible. They, they derail. your immune system or my immune system. And that's when I started to learn I become allergic to everything, like my clothes, my makeup, like not even like trees, grass, weeds, sure.

 

But like foods, basically my environment around me and, um, chemicals were the worst. And that was really the toughest part is like, okay, now I need to [00:06:00] find a place to live. And if it was new, then I would react to the amount of formaldehyde and everything else that you find in new builds today. Or if it was a little bit older, there was some little bit of mold in the HVAC or in the showers.

 

It's like, okay, well maybe like there's someone that builds healthy homes and it didn't exist. And so I was like, I guess I need to do this myself and I'm a marketing person. This is, I'm not a builder. So I set out and like researched everything, like got all the different materials and would like put them next to my bed to like sleep next to them and see if they would bother me.

 

And, um, I built my first healthy home. And shortly after that, that was in Houston. I moved to central Texas where we are now because I got a job at the Hill Country Builders Association as a director. And that's where I met Rusty. So long story short, we started dating, got married, and he's a long time, general contractor.

 

 

Jacqueline: Perfect match. 

 

Jen & Rusty: He was like, why don't we start building houses? It was, you're kind of, you cut out a lot of that story. Yeah, but no, I, when I met Jen and learned about her situation, even before we started dating, I mean, it was kind of inspiring to know that. You know, every nine people out of 10 probably would have just given up. It's like, man, my life is going to be this. This is going to be my life forever. I'm going to have to keep moving and dodging this problem.

 

And Jen really said, no, that's not what I'm going to do. I'm going to build a place for myself. And so. Um, and it worked. I got well. Yeah. And so at the time I had a commercial general contracting firm and I ended up selling it and told Jen is like, this is what we should do. This, I think, I think building healthy homes is a good business.

 

And so that was five or actually six years ago on January 18th. [00:08:00] No. Okay. January 18th, 2018, we founded JS2 Partners. And so six years ago, and it's really beyond our expectations has taken off.

 

Jacqueline: That's incredible. It's so funny, Jen, even prior to my meeting you, I remember I was just sitting with my mom one day because I was just going through like all the things I needed for my apartment, recognizing that I wanted, you know, a zero VOC couch and furniture and whatnot. And I had this, like a similar concept in my mind.

 

And I was like, wouldn't it be cool just to like build a completely non toxic home? I mean, obviously I don't have a Rusty, maybe one day we'll, we'll see if I come in contact with maybe Rusty's doppelganger, but, 

 

Yeah, but um, it's a really fascinating concept. And one thing you touched on that I think is really interesting that, obviously, I didn't necessarily realize until recently is that people usually think that new houses are the best, right?

 

But clearly, that's not necessarily always the case as you [00:09:00] just, you know, as you experienced, Jen, because things like VOCs and whatnot, um, you know, those all affect our health. So can we perhaps maybe go through like the pros and cons of buying new versus a slightly older home and if someone opts for buying an older home, what are some ways to make it a healthy home?

 

Jen & Rusty: So for, for new construction, I mean, the bulk of the new homes sold are going to be what we would call a production home. They're not going to be custom homes. And so their main goal is speed and cost reduction. And so what that means is every product in that home is going to have some sort of formaldehyde in it because formaldehyde speeds securing process.

 

And then the materials in there are going to be cheap and most of the cheap materials are not going to be exactly healthy. Or quality. And so the new homes are, are tough. I mean, I know not everyone, especially nowadays can afford a [00:10:00] custom home. And so these, you know, these are challenges that, that are, people are faced with and we're, we're not trying to scare anyone off from buying a new home.

 

We know that that's. That's for some people that's their only option. And so there are ways to, to, to mitigate a lot of those VOCs, like the walls and the ceilings are a big surface in a new home. And so you could repaint it using, you know, healthier homes paint. I mean, you could, those, that's a big, big change in a home.

 

It's the largest surface inside your house because a lot of times the paints that they use also have formaldehyde and lots of other solvents and stuff in them just so they cure quickly or don't freeze on the job site. , If you can, like, contain that with the paint, I think that makes a huge difference for indoor air quality.

 

There's also, of course, like, a plethora of things you can do for your indoor air quality for an existing home. As far as, like, looking at older homes, of course, a pro would be, that it's off gassed for a while. But a con would be that there's [00:11:00] maybe, like, been a moisture problem. So you need to, like, really do your due diligence to see if there's leaks under the sinks.

 

Or if it appears like, you know, the sheetrock looks damaged, like from a moisture issue. And it's not necessarily the end of the world, but if so, like, did the previous homeowner take care of it appropriately? Cause there's definitely a right way and a wrong way to take care of a problem. So it doesn't turn into a mold

 

We always suggest to somebody who's buying an older home is to hire their own inspector, not just, not just rely on the banks inspector, because their sole job is to get that loan approved. Like that, that's how they get paid. And so I'm not saying they're malicious, but they're probably glossing over a lot of problems.

 

So it's. It's best to hire your own inspector. Even if the, you know, the bank's like, well, I'm not going to put any anything into it, but it could be a big, it could be a deal breaker. Like if your inspector finds something that that bank inspector maybe didn't didn't crawl in the [00:12:00] attic to look for maybe, you know, look in the crawl space, you know, things like that.

 

It's a pretty cheap way to, to get a better look at an existing home.

 

Jacqueline: And my understanding, too, after reading your book, is that new homes can actually have mold, too. Right? Which could be the result of, like, a downpour or other water exposure during the, like, actual construction. How, how do you both avoid that?

 

Jen & Rusty: Well, I mean, so that you can't control mother nature. Um, you know, the, the lumber from the time that tree was harvested, it was milled and it's put on a train car and it was taken to your hardware store. It's been rained on numerous times. Uh, it's going to get rained on in the job site. Uh, the, the main thing is, is not letting it sit on the job site wrapped up in tarps.

 

That's the biggest, that's the biggest offender because wood is wet by nature. So if you wrap it up in plastic, people think, Oh, I'm keeping it dry. It's like, no, you're creating the perfect [00:13:00] environment for, for mold to grow. And so we want that wood on the site and we want it installed as soon as possible.

 

And then, you know, you get your roof on, you get it dried in. And at that point you should be fine. But I would suggest for someone looking at a new home, like in a, say a subdivision or, or development, don't go, don't just look at the one you want to buy, go look at the ones under construction, you can get a good idea of what that, what that builder is doing because for Jen and I, our builds.

 

You know, we're, we put just as much attention behind the wall as we do to how it looks after we're done. I mean, that's, those are the things that are important to us. Unfortunately, that's not important to a lot of other, you know, production style builders. And so, you know, you, you mentioned the downpour and the first home that I ever did in Houston, it like, it rained for like three weeks straight and I was like, yeah, I mean, Houston is super humid [00:14:00] too.

 

I was like, man, this is like my worst nightmare. And then that's when we came up with a solution of putting on like spray backpacks and using the super hardcore hydrogen peroxide based mold killer. And the whole home wants this dried in spray everything, and it kills it right down to the roots.

 

Then we seal it with a non toxic sealer. So the sealer actually not only helps with keeping. Moisture out, but it also, um, creates like a barrier. So you don't smell the pine turps. Like if you go into a new construction site, it has a real strong smell, even several years after the home is built, because the whole thing is wood, it's all lumber, and that can be irritating, especially for people with allergies.

 

So that kind of, it gets rid of all that too, and formaldehyde is naturally found in wood, so it seals that in. We've, we've heard some suggestions, uh, I think the craziest one that we've heard is, was that they should buy us, or rent a circus tent and put it up over the home while it was being built. [00:15:00] And we're like, no, no, no.

 

Like you're, you're not, this person's not involved in this job anymore. It's like, please, like, let's be practical. Practical is really important. And there's a lot of like big ideas out there and it's like, that sounds cool, but that doesn't really work in real life.

 

Jacqueline: I'm just beyond impressed with the depth of knowledge you both have, and certainly, like, you did so much research. A lot of this is over my head in terms of materials. I mean, I finished reading your book, but I still feel like a newbie, so kudos to you both. Um, my other question, too, is so, aside from, like, hiring someone to come inspect for mold, right, how does one even test to see if their home is toxic?

 

So let's say someone isn't necessarily experiencing any symptoms like Jen was, they're assuming everything's fine, but, you know, how can we tell if someone's home is toxic? Is there a test to determine VOCs in the air?

 

Jen & Rusty: Yeah. There's meters. We actually, you can buy them on Amazon. [00:16:00] Um, and they're pretty decent. They're pretty accurate. If you look for like a TVOC meter, which means total, that's one way of approaching it, but they actually have meters that like will test specifically for Formaldehyde, which is obviously a big offender.

 

Um, and then the one thing to think about though, with the total VOCs is like things that are like vinegar, like white vinegar or, um, like essential oils that are, aren't toxic to people are still VOCs. And so you kind of have to take it with a grain of salt. You know what I mean? You don't want to test like right after you've just cleaned your house, right?

 

Even if you use like vinegar and rubbing alcohol to clean your house, which is. It's a good way to do it. It's going to, it's going to, it's going to register, it's going to register as a 

 

 

Jacqueline: To that point too, can you just explain to listeners what is a VOC?

 

Jen & Rusty:  It's like an off gassing of materials. So if you think about like a boiling pot of water, [00:17:00] the steam is a vapor. A lot of materials, once they get warm or get in humid environments or just in general, start to cure. Yeah. The curing process that creates. It's off gassing, it's just the nature of the materials inside and off gassing of toxic materials like, um, solvents.

 

It creates things like carcinogens and, um, things that can make people that are not previously allergic to things become sensitized. So they're called sensitizers. And then from then on out, you're, you're sensitized and become allergic to more things, which is what happened to me. Um, and as far as mold goes, they also produce.

 

But they're in the form of mycotoxins and you can test for mold to the army test is one that we've used. It's like you have a little cloth and you wipe different places. Um, real time labs does mycotoxin testing for houses now, which is pretty cool. And that it's important to do that style. Like if, [00:18:00] let's say you're buying a new home, like it would be ideal to take that army test because it's like a little, like a cotton swab or something.

 

You can go all over the house and you just collect dust samples on this swab. And so you want to do it before it's clean, like it's, it's intended to be done to collect dust that's circulating. And they look at what kind of specific mold spores are on there because certain ones are related to water problems inside buildings because there's a ton of mold outside like every day every time you open the door to your home. Yeah, I mean mold is everywhere and a lot of those air tests they test air outside compared to what's inside and then if it's the same like if it's a really moldy day outside you have a bunch of mold inside.

 

They're like, oh, it's normal for us. We actually filter the air before it ever reaches the inside of the home. So that test would not even be applicable.

 

Jacqueline: Wow, that's so interesting. So ideally, we want to [00:19:00] buy items that are VOC free, like furniture, paint, etc. But let's say someone can't afford to do so they purchased a piece of furniture from Ikea. Are there ways to help with that off gassing process to like accelerate it and I remember back in college or right after college when I first moved into my apartment I had this wooden bed frame and my mom was on Google for hours searching how to do just that, right?

 

How to off gas VOCs and she came across this article that said if you put like baking soda it'll help with that process. I don't know if either of you have heard of that but are there any other things that people could do to mitigate the VOCs like if they purchase furniture with

 

Jen & Rusty: Put him outside, like in the sun. Um, I even do that with like new shoes. I have rubber soles, like we have a little area in our garage. It's like for all the new stuff, um, thunderstorms. Like, I know that sounds funny, but they have a lot of negative ions. And so like, if you have [00:20:00] an ionizer too, like running it in a, like in a room with Yeah, that helps to speed up the process a lot. And then also sealing it. Like we steal a lot of things. We have. Non-toxic sealers that are like matte, you can't even tell that they're on there. But I mean, in a, in an ideal world, yes, there would be no MDF, no particle board, none of that stuff. But like you said, like if you have older furniture that's like a heirloom or you have piece pieces that you can't really afford to go buy, like a solid wood stuff, sealing it is like a really easy.

 

Way to, um, get rid of off gassing.

 

Jacqueline: Interesting. All right. Noted. So let's shift to the other end of the spectrum. Let's say for listeners out there who can spend millions and millions of dollars, what is the ideal type of flooring that you recommend? So, so many people today are using all these engineered woods that just make me cringe.

 

Like whenever I [00:21:00] walk into Home Depot, you can just smell the scent. It's horrible. Um, so just in terms of like, yeah, so just in terms of materials, like what are your favorite things to use.

 

Jen & Rusty: Porcelain. I love porcelain. It's cheap and it's all natural. It's made out of like stone and clay. It's Kalen. Um, and it's super easy to clean. And I mean, yeah, I mean now it comes like, it looks like wood. It can look like marble can look like all sorts of beautiful things. The technology that these, these porcelain manufacturers have today.

 

I mean, it's, it's, it's really amazing. Like we're, we're sitting in one of our model homes right now. And it's, there's

 

Jacqueline: I was gonna ask. It's beautiful.

 

Jen & Rusty: Like this is a porcelain floor, but people come in and they think it's wood because it's got a really wood look tile. And so, I mean, that, that's kind of our go to. Concrete, like concrete floors are cheap.

 

I mean, [00:22:00] basically they have their pros and cons though. Cheap is a relative term to some people. Well, you don't have to, like if you're building a home, Concrete is certainly not cheap. It's a slab. Yes, that's true. Um, cork flooring. We do some click together cork flooring, which is really cool. It can look like wood too.

 

Um, and there are certain brands that are zero VOC. There's also some engineered wood, like very select few brands that are zero VOC. I would look for ones that don't have any MDF or particle board in them and also use, uh, from all the hype free clues. Yeah. And those are, you know, those are going to be on the higher end pricing, you know, per square foot.

 

You know, we're talking probably starting at like 15, 16 a square foot and going up from there. Whereas like porcelain is 3, 5, 7 square foot. So it's a big difference.

 

Jacqueline: Interesting. Yeah, and I'm so glad you touched on to the glue part because I again naive me when I was just [00:23:00] researching this I was like, oh, it's simple. You could just purchase non toxic flooring, but the installation process also has to abide by, you know, clean and strict standards, right? Including the glue and all of those materials.

 

So that's why I really love what you both are doing. Um, and also to have you heard of hemp wood flooring by any chance? Yes.

 

Jen & Rusty: I've heard of hemp used in walls, but not flooring.

 

Jacqueline: What are your thoughts on that?

 

Jen & Rusty: Well, the hemp used, there's a lot of, um, products out there that are like new and like innovative, but we actually went to this summit. Yeah, so I think a lot of times people are trying to blend the two worlds of like green with healthy and it's certainly not true green is not healthy sometimes it is but most for the most part it doesn't really take in indoor air quality into the two different goals.

 

Yeah, and so we went to a, it was a hemp Crete deal and they were talking about using hemp Crete for [00:24:00] walls. Uh, there's, there's some additives in there that they wouldn't share with us. And then also they haven't done any, this particular brand, and I'm not going to mention it because I mean, I don't want to disparage the people, but they hadn't done any testing.

 

And so it wouldn't be approved as, as like through a city permitting office. There's energy codes, like you have to like rate everything that you put into a home into a big calculator and get it approved before you can ever build because you have to have a certain R value, which is like an energy value.

 

They were like, oh, I don't know. Like, well, beyond our value, it was a structural issue too. I mean, so I'm all about new cool things, but you really got to do your due diligence. 

 

Jacqueline: Yeah, there's the other so many out there. So going back to air quality though, so I was also surprised to learn from your book that standard practice in HVAC installation is to route fresh air directly into the home without filtering first, right?

 

And [00:25:00] you, you briefly touched on it before, but how do you both like approach that 

 

Jen & Rusty: The first thing is, is don't try to be an expert, hire the expert, like hire a HVAC contractor that's willing to sit down and talk about it. And really plan and think out how am I going to approach my indoor air quality? Because it really is, you can build like a healthy home using all these products.

 

But if you don't put that effort into the HVAC system, you're, you've kind of defeated the purpose. And so it's, it's, it can be retrofitted too. Yeah, it can be retrofitted, but you really need to work with your professional on that. Uh, we purify the air as it comes into the home. It never really made sense to me to bring in fresh air, circulate it, and then filter the return.

 

Cause you've, you basically, you know, if you have allergies, you've basically spread all of the pollen in the, in the, in the trees and grasses and weeds and everything around you. You're home before you filtered it. And so [00:26:00] that's important to us. I want to talk about the purification system. 

 

Jacqueline: That sounds interesting. Let's, let's talk about it.

 

Jen & Rusty: It's like the UV lights. Oh, or the, um, electrified. They create a small amount of ozone. And so that's what ozone's people think. Oh, ozone is bad. It's not like really small amounts of it. It helps to, um, get rid of odors and to kill microbes. And then it turns back into oxygen. And so that's important.

 

Whatever system you put in, like it's. Whether it be the UV lights or the electrified, um, filters to have some small amount of ozone in your home. And then the filters need to be like high level, like MERV 13. Um, I know that we had some issues recently trying to find, um, ERV and HRV. Uh, filters, because there was a lady that was having issues with, um, the smells from her, her neighbor's house coming over.

 

[00:27:00] And so that was something that I hadn't really thought about. It's like, well, if you don't have central air, and all you have is an ERV and HRV, which are energy recovery and heat recovery systems, they like help to balance the air. So you don't get. Negative pressure inside the home, like having good filters in those two.

 

My stuff, I sound like a total nerd. Like if you turn off your exhaust fan, then if you don't have something that makes the air not start pulling from like your, um, your sub floor, your attic or your, like your wall sockets, your outlets,

 

Jacqueline: Yep. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Jen & Rusty: but you know, what Jim was saying about the air purification, that's where working with that professional is important because.

 

It, let's say that, that you went and you bought that, that electro purifier and you just installed it, which you could, it's going to create ozone even when your, your unit is running. And that's, that's that, I mean, when it's not running and that's when, when you run into issues with [00:28:00] the ozone and when like it starts burning your eyes and you can smell it.

 

If you work with a professional, they can wire it up in a way where it's only producing ozone when that unit is running. And that way you never really know that it's, it's producing the ozone. And so it's doing what it's supposed to do. And so it's just, it's just really working with that, that AC and heating professional

 

Jacqueline: Yeah.

 

Jen & Rusty: too.

 

I think that's important to bring up. Like we did a whole home dehumidification systems that are integrated into the HVAC system. So not only does the air come in and get purified, it also gets dehumidified because like keeping it between 30 and 50 percent inside a home is ideal to help avoid mold problems and moisture problems.

 

And that's a lot of that's climate dependent as well, where we're at humidity is a, is a, you know, main concern. 

 

Jacqueline: It definitely is. You, you mentioned wiring, Rusty. So in a different avenue, [00:29:00] how can we wire a home to minimize any electromagnetic disturbances? I know you both touched on shielding in your book. Could you maybe elaborate on, first of all, what that is and then maybe cases where someone should consider using it?

 

Jen & Rusty: So shielding is kind of a double edged sword. Um, there, there was a home that we were working on. Um, It was actually, I think it was the, yeah, one of the very first ones, the lady wanted to do like foil backed, uh, plywood around her home to help, like keep any EMFs out from other people's houses.

 

But the, the issue you run into that with is. If you bring something inside the home that has EMF, electromagnetic frequencies, um, it bounces inside the house. So like shielding is a cool thing to do. Um, we've done shielding on those ERV systems for a guy that wanted them, like, since they're in his ceiling, he wanted [00:30:00] to make sure that the electromagnetic frequencies weren't going into like where he sat in his office.

 

But if you start shielding a lot of things, then you can, like even your car keys with little like, um, or Bluetooth on your phone, like things that constantly will, um, radiate EMFs, it just becomes like exponential inside a home that has too much shielding. So we try and stay away from shielding, but wiring is critical.

 

That's, that's, that's kind of where we really focus on is. Is like, we put the, like the main electrical coming into a home. We always want to put it like in the garage or the farthest away from the living environment as we can get it. And then we really want our electricians to run in, in straight lines and 90 degree turns.

 

If you don't want to see all these wires going everywhere in a home, because. It just, that's where it creates the issue. We try, [00:31:00] we stress not to run parallel with water lines. So you're not creating any of that polarity issues there. Or like behind the bed, like where you sleep. Yeah. Don't, don't run it behind your head where you sleep.

 

Um, you know, if you mentioned earlier, like if money wasn't an issue, there is certainly ways to do it. You could run it in metal conduit, which is really, really expensive. You could use braided wire. They use it in like hospitals. And that's really expensive. I mean, we're talking about doubling the cost of a typical wire.

 

You know what to the, what's the EMF? Um, cause there's two different types of EMF, right? It's all one continuum. You have like electricity in the walls and then you also have the radio frequencies. And something we've run into, I'm actually EMF sensitive is like the refrigerators and your HVAC and like your garage door and your sinks and your toilet, everything has Bluetooth.

 

I'm like, why, why does your dishwasher [00:32:00] need to talk to your car? But, so I think the reason why I bring that up is it's just something to be cognizant of, because again, that's a constant, like wifi, Bluetooth is not good for our bodies. And so if you're not using it, just turn it off. Like this is that part of it.

 

If, if, and, uh, you know, if somebody's in an existing home and they're, they're dealing with some EMF, one of the things is, is rest and recovery. And so it would be. Pretty minimal to isolate that bedroom, all the circuits in the bedroom, and then install a kill switch for when it's, you know, sleep time. You know, you can go in your bedroom and you can kill all those circuits and, and, you know, sleep and not have to worry about it bouncing around.

 

Jacqueline: What about for someone like me who lives in an apartment, where I can't necessarily mess with any wiring, and I certainly can't control if my neighbors turn off their Wi Fi at night?

 

Jen & Rusty: there is, um, oh, what's that? There's a website they sell. EMF. Oh, I can't think of it.

 

Jacqueline: There's so [00:33:00] many, Jen. There's like, I know Lambs Clothing, I've heard of like Aries Tech, Defender Shield has a bunch of like products for like your laptop and your phone, um, SafeSleeve. 

 

Jen & Rusty: you can sleep underneath the canopy. Yeah. They make it like they make like a Faraday cage canopy. Like it goes over your bed. It's like a copper mesh type. There's clothing, like you said, some of it's actually pretty cute. Like it has woven copper, silver, whatever, all the different, that's like above my head.

 

Jacqueline: Yeah.

 

Jen & Rusty: Like it's broken up with. What metal there's also EMF metal or EMF paint. Um,

what's, yeah. Pretty cool. Let's go down a rabbit hole real quick with that stuff.

 

Jacqueline: Yes. No, that's, I, I find this stuff so fascinating. So interesting. So let's say there are listeners out there right now who are just overwhelmed with all of this and they're like, , [00:34:00] I need to, you know, need to move to a completely different place. For people who can't afford to build a brand-new home, right?

 

If they had to prioritize two rooms in the home to make as nontoxic and healthy as possible. What would they be?

 

Jen & Rusty: I think the best choice would be the, like their bedroom, their sleep areas. Uh, 'cause I mean, that's where you're gonna spend a third of your time Yeah. Is in that bedroom and so. That's one. Yeah. Furniture. Yeah, the painting the walls, and then, you know, if you can seal up that furniture, or get, you know, try to get a non toxic mattress, those areas are very important.

 

And then it comes down to where do you spend the other part of your time? For most of us, that's going to be in the kitchen and selecting some good non toxic cookware, you know, painting. We, we always say painting because that's, that's usually the biggest offender of in your homes of hazardous air pollutants and stuff.

 

So, I mean, [00:35:00] gas, avoiding having gas stoves. I mean, I know a lot of people love cooking with them and you can turn on the vent, but. Um, some, like, I think California maybe is outlawed selling, or is going to outlaw selling, um, gas appliances just because, like, there's leftover benzene and all sorts of nasty stuff that happens whenever it burns and it's, um, it's just, yeah, nasty stuff.

 

But I also think it's important to stress that we're not trying to scare people. We're not trying to create this like panic where everything around you is bad for you and all that stuff. We get it. It's becoming aware, like every little thing counts. Like if you, like you said, for your bedroom, my mattress, I mean, that's, that's that third of your life.

 

That's a big deal. So yeah, I mean, there's, there's ways to work around it. Like we, we, we get it. Not everyone can afford to buy a new healthy home. One thing I forgot to mention that I [00:36:00] love is. A grounding sheet just to go back to the, um, I guess the bedroom and then the EMF you put it underneath your sheets and like it plugs into the grounding part of the outlet.

 

And so as you sleep, it helps you ground.

 

Jacqueline: Interesting. I actually got my mom a grounding mat that she, I forget the company, but she would sleep on it. But I didn't know there was an actual sheet. I have to look that up, Jen. I love that. Super interesting. Going back to furniture, I mean, you both have such incredible pieces on your site.

 

Do you notice the clock in the background? Yeah.

 

Jen & Rusty: Where is it? I can't see it.

 

Jacqueline: Can you see it? Wait, hold on. One of your pieces, and I have the wreath on my door. Um, it's absolutely beautiful. Anytime friends come over, they're always like, where is that clock from? And I, I always give you a plug. But how did you, like, I guess, even first start, like, sourcing pieces to have on your site?

 

Where did that idea come from?

 

Jen & Rusty: We were [00:37:00] building homes for people and they were like, okay, so here's the keys to your healthy home. But then, then what they put in it, and that was something that. I had been researching for years as well, like putting together, uh, interior design, like portfolios for people. And it was difficult, like trying to call stores and figure out like, what do you put stain repellent or fire retardants on your rugs?

 

Like it was, it was such a challenge that we're like, you know what? Like when our book came out, we're like, why don't we. Start like an online e commerce company where we vetted everything. And like, it's kind of like going to Whole Foods. Like you just know that there's going to be like nasty stuff in your foods.

 

And so we were like, all right, rugs, lighting, um, furniture, wallpaper, like paint, paint everything that you go home. Yeah. And when, when Jim says vetting, I mean, we're going to these places, like we're going, you know, to the trade shows, we're meeting the [00:38:00] manufacturers, we're seeing the products made, we're touching, feeling.

 

You know, smelling, you know, and, uh, and, you know, luckily we have our resident canary in the coal mine here. So, but, uh, uh, so it's very important to us that we've seen the people that are making these pieces and, and knowing what we're putting on that site is truly, you know, what we're representing it to be.

 

So, I mean, we're going in two weeks to, to meet some manufacturers and so, and then we're, we're going again in April. So, I mean, it's. It's a big part of our lives now. It's is and it's fun. That's fun. You know, we get to travel around a little bit. 

 

Jacqueline: Can I tag along? 

 

Jen & Rusty: Come.

 

Jacqueline:  You both could teach me how to identify good processes from not. 

 

Jen & Rusty: We go to North Carolina.

 

Jacqueline: Oh my goodness. Let me know. It's not too far from me. I would love that.

 

Jen & Rusty: we'll be there in April. 

 

Jacqueline: Keep me posted. So for, for those people like me out there who [00:39:00] don't understand exactly what to look for in that process, are there certain like certifications or labels that , indicate it's a solid piece of furniture?

 

Like I've heard of green guard. How much faith do you put into that? 

 

Jen & Rusty: It's, it's tough. I mean, those, those, uh, those, they focus on VOCs and like Jen said earlier, vinegar is a VOC. Rubbing alcohol is a VOC. It's not necessarily bad for you, but it is a VOC. Where we try to focus is hazardous air pollutants, right? And so that's, that's where a lot of those certifications let slip through.

 

Uh, it's, if you really dig into them, which we would encourage people to do, and not really focus on what they're eliminating, focus on what they're letting pass, and then make the decision based on that. I mean, it's a good start for those certifications. Yeah, it's like, it's a, a nice thing to have, like Green Guard Gold [00:40:00] Certified.

 

But they allow formaldehyde, they allow like cradle to cradle. I mean, I hate to say things like, but I think the reason is because it's so difficult to find pieces of furniture that, that are like absolutely clean, that they had to like, let some level of like tar and like things that we don't feel comfortable having in our paint, our furniture, in our homes.

 

So, I mean. Honestly, we've looked into having like our paint certified and it was I'm not kidding like anywhere between $30K to $100K a year. I'm like, we don't do that for one year. So that's what I was going to say. A lot of the stuff on our site, it's like, it's like they're, they're handcrafted pieces and they're custom pieces.

 

And so those are like us, they're like small businesses, they're family businesses. They can't afford those [00:41:00] certifications. So I would, I would suggest people not to let that certification be the end all be all of their decision, because Somebody that's hand crafting a table out of solid wood. They're not going to be able to afford to have that certification.

 

So, I mean, it's, it's like, if you look for things made out of stone or metal with not a lot of like natural finishes, um, solid wood. Then you should be good or like fabrics that are natural, like cotton or modal bamboo, things like don't actually, well, cotton is the exception to that rule. But a lot of those things like, um, eucalyptus fabrics, they don't require any kind of, um, pesticides because they're like naturally pest resistant, resistant as they're grown.

 

So you can pretty much know that, you know, your, your tensile outfit or tensile sheets, aren't going to have pesticides in them.. 

 

Jacqueline: Wow. I just need to like re listen to this whole episode again and just take notes on all of this. 

 

Jen & Rusty: Yeah. 

 

Jacqueline: I am learning so much. 

 

Jen & Rusty: Well, it's a [00:42:00] lot and I mean, we get it. And so what we always stress to people is don't think it's too much. Don’t get overwhelmed with it. You know, take it piece by piece. There's, you know, make it a step by step process. If you're looking to make a change. I mean, most people can't do it all at once.

 

It's just nobody can. I mean, it's so it's like a way of life, like a mindset kind of just decide, okay, I want to improve what's around me and like how I live. And then you just take it baby steps.

 

Jacqueline: yeah, it truly is. And you both have done again, most of the brunt work with your book, which I will be including in the links in the show notes. It's so comprehensive. Again, I read it two times through and I'm, I'm still learning. I'm still learning things that I didn't necessarily pick up the first time around.

 

So thank you for, for that. Um, and do you both just build homes in, Okay. your area in Texas or do you do other states

 

Jen & Rusty: now we're, we're working on that. We're trying to develop a [00:43:00] product to bring that we can scale into other areas. We're, we're working on that, like actively working on that. And you know, even kind of leaning into more of a development type model where maybe even doing some build to rent, you know, because not everybody can afford a new home.

 

And so, you know, having a healthy place to rent is important to people. It's, it's really tough. We get calls. I get, I get chill bumps just thinking about what I'm about to say, but we get calls weekly from all over the United States and they're all for the most part, heartbreaking stories. The last one we got was, was a lady and her two kids are sick and they, they're on their third home and they keep moving into moldy homes and it's, her kids just can't get well.

 

And they're like, they're in upstate New York. And she's like, please, please, please. And I just. You know, you want to say yes to everyone, but I could only imagine the red [00:44:00] tape to even attempt to build a house in New York. That's why I wrote the book. Yeah. Trying to like, you know, spread knowledge and help people.

 

We also were building our first two tiny homes and those are, you can transport them anywhere. Yeah. 

 

Jacqueline: That's so exciting! I love that. So for folks who are in state near you, what is the process? If I were to come today and say, Jen and Rusty, I want a healthy home. What does the process look like?

 

Jen & Rusty: We have a questionnaire that we would send someone and um, it gives us a good sense of where they're at in the process, uh, of what their needs are, but it also gives that person, that client, a good sense of what they need. Some of the things in that questionnaire items that they might not have thought about because there are hundreds, thousands of moving pieces in a building at home.

 

I mean, it's, it's a lot. And so we try to break it out and focus on the most [00:45:00] important parts for people. And so that would be the first step, you know, then, then, you know, come in, interview two or some homes, uh, and then, you know, like Jen said, let us do what they hired us to do. A lot of times that's tough for people to kind of let go.

 

And so for us. You know, obviously budget is an issue. We can only build this cheap as the labor and materials will let us build. But the biggest aspect of any build for is trust. If there's no trust, there's no sense in even starting the project because it's going to break down. It's not, it's not going to go good.

 

And so our biggest obstacle was overcoming what that previous contractor did to someone like, and letting people know that we're different. We're really trying to do this different. We really care about you. So, uh, And starting with the design process too, that's always helpful. If we can be a part of [00:46:00] design, whether it's working with architect or drafting team.

 

And then from there, like we help them pick out their, um, appliances and fixtures and everything that goes into the home so we can help guide them as to like what materials to use and what materials aren't best for a healthy home. And we do that before, like we won't break ground on a house until the client has selected everything.

 

Most builders do that as they go. We're, we're not that way. We want that stress. to go away. Building a home is stressful financially, mentally. Uh, and then the further along it goes, it gets more stressful. And so if we can eliminate that selection process during the build time, it, it really, really helps the clients.

 

And then it saves a lot of time too. We, we kind of We have a saying, like, when we're sitting at the table and we're signing a contract to build a new house, I tell them, it's like, it's like a marriage, it's like, we signed a contract, we're happy, it's our, it's our first wedding day, everybody's happy to [00:47:00] start a new life, and then in six months, we're going to have our first little argument, and it's going to be about money, and then, you know, and then in 12 months, you know, when we hand them the keys, it's like, okay, we're happy.

 

We're going to just, we're going to be friends for life, but maybe, you know, the marriage is over at this point. So that's kind of how.

 

Jacqueline: love that. That's so true. That's so true. Well, I mean, obviously this is my first time speaking with you both. But I can tell you, you have such pure intentions and, and good hearts to help people, and that definitely shines through. I wish you were, uh, building out of state, but who knows, maybe at some point I'll be one of your first customers. 

 

Jen & Rusty: certainly a goal of ours. Uh, we want people to know that, um, you know, a lot of that comes down to the hiring, the labor market. You know, it's really tough to, to, you know, hire new people because our model is we're not drive by contractors. Like we got to have someone on site full time. And so that person has to be bought into our process and, and, and so [00:48:00] it's, it's tough to, to build outside of our market. We're headed that direction.

 

Jacqueline: You are. That's exciting. Have you ever thought of having an HGTV show?

 

Jen & Rusty: We probably wouldn't be able to build anymore, but yeah, whatever he says, he says it's actually, yeah, it would be, it might, it would probably end up having to be like on HBO or something. Maybe, maybe not HGTV. We've been approached a couple of times, but the ideas and not by HGTV, I don't want to make that impression, but we've been approached a couple of times with some ideas.

 

And they just weren't authentic for us. The main thing is being true to what we're doing. We don't wanna create, you know, any sense of drama, you know, in building you don't have to create it, it's there. Yeah. I mean, it's every day it's like a challenge to overcome. We would, we would, it would have to be something true to what we're doing.

 

Jacqueline: Yeah, I love that. Well, this has [00:49:00] been such a wonderful episode again there is so much in here to unpack. We could have a whole other We'll have a wholeother episode on other specific topics, but this was, this is a great high level initial rundown of a few things I wanted to cover. But with that, where can listeners find you?

 

Jen & Rusty: um, healthier homes.com. Mm-Hmm. That's, that's where all the, the furnishings, the paint and all that stuff. And a lot of good info. Js two partners.com. It's our. Um, building website and then social media at Healthier Homes by JS2 on Facebook and

 

Jacqueline: your Instagram account. I love your design. I love everything about it. So I definitely will be linking all of those the show notes. Isn't it funny though, Jen, how like you came from a marketing background and you technically are using marketing in your role now, right? Like it's not like it's a lost skill and it's funny because I, I find myself doing kind of a similar thing.

 

So. It's funny, the path life takes you.

 

Jen &Rusty: Oh, yeah. If you start [00:50:00] your own business. Or like what you're doing, start your own podcast and I mean, it, it, it's like all the little different pieces, even the ones that aren't so fun, like the business planning and like the financial goals. 

 

Jacqueline: Gotta do it all.

 

Jen & Rusty: Having Jen as a part of the business is like, first, she's my wife. It's awesome to work with your partner and have a good time, but marketing for a home builder is really, really tough because everyone can put up pretty pictures on the website and it's like, how do you, how do you separate yourself from the rest?

 

Jacqueline: I mean, and to that point too with you guys, it's not necessarily about just the pretty pictures, it's about the education behind why you're doing what you're doing, 

 

Jen & Rusty: A hundred percent. I have a hard time like trying to. Figure out like how much do I want to push what's healthy and like creates wellness. And then how much do I want to push? Like what's pretty, you know what I mean? Like I don't want to scare people off by like [00:51:00] doom and gloom. Like, it's just like Rusty said, that's not our intention, 

 

Jacqueline: I understand. Well, I'm happy to be a sounding board for you, Jen, whenever you need it. But my last question for you both is, what does being well and strong mean to you?

 

Jen & Rusty: That's such a cool question. You know, being well is, is for me, a level of stress and enjoyment in your life, be it environmental stressors or, or personal stressors or business stressors. And then, so trying to eliminate those by being in a healthy environment, it kind of occurs naturally.

 

And then the strong part comes from what, what I, what my daily tasks in the, in the construction side of the business is. Is getting people bought in, getting our trades people bought in to what we're doing and doing it differently and making them adhere to that promise. And because at the beginning it was a struggle because we're doing something different.

 

And so that's, you know, being strong and [00:52:00] steadfast and doing it for Jen, you know, having that inspiration of doing it for her. I agree. Yeah. It's a holistic thing. A lot of people think about, Oh, well, you know, I eat healthy, I work out and they don't think about what's going on around them and like how their environment affects them.

 

So I, I think being well and like having a strong constitution all comes from looking at the whole picture, you know, and your environment is something that's a part of that. Yeah.

 

Jacqueline: Absolutely. Well, thank you both so much. This has truly been one of my favorite conversations. I'm so excited to share it with listeners and I, I do hope to have you both on again soon. 

 

What to be aware of when building a healthy home
How to mitigate noise pollution
How Jen & Rusty found themselves in this industry
Pros & cons vs buying a new home from an older home
The problem with cheap materials
Formaldehyde in paints
Doing due diligence to assess mold in older properties
Why you should hire your own mold inspector
How to prevent mold development during home construction
How can you determine if your home is toxic?
What is a VOC?
How to reduce VOCs & accelerate off-gassing of new furniture
Healthiest materials for flooring
How to ensure clean air in your home
Air purification systems
How reduce EMF exposure
The two rooms to prioritize making as non-toxic as possible
Why you should avoid using gas-stoves
Grounding appliances & why you should use them
What to look for when shopping for non-toxic furniture
The process for building a home with Healthier Homes