As host and executive producer of the HGTV series “Income Property,” Scott McGillivray is obviously a fan of home basement renovation. But he’s seen enough to know that a quality project puts safety first.

“I’ve been involved with around 300 renovations,” McGillivray says. “It’s rare that we don’t encounter something hazardous that can be a threat to health and safety.”

Where harm hides 

Between electrical or plumbing problems, mold, lead, asbestos and rodents, the list of potential hazards is so long that McGillivray says he often tells people: “You may not know, but your home could be killing you.”

Of course, when a basement renovation is done right, there is potential for great reward. The key is knowing what to watch out for, recognizing your own limitations and acknowledging when it’s time to call an expert.

Mold can be a big problem with basements. As McGillivray says, “Moisture likes to find its way down, and even if the roof or a shower has a leak, the water can run down into the basement and create a mold issue.”

HOME IMPROVEMENT: Renovating a home gives it a brand new feeling and a new comfort to slip into. However, remodeling runs the risk of opening you up to a host of hazards that could potentially kill you. Photos: HGTV

While mold may not be visible until demolition reveals it on drywall and studs, it is easily recognizable once exposed. While some inexperienced DIYers may feel inclined to rip it out, that’s only part of the solution. “Mold needs two things: organic material and moisture. If you have those two things, it will continue to grow,” McGillivray says. “Clearing up the mold is part one, but finding and repairing what caused it is part two.”

DIY: Follow Scott McGillivray's nine tips for successfully executing a basement renovation.

Asbestos and lead

While we now know that asbestos is toxic, many homes built before the 1980s have insulation, adhesives, floor tiles or ceiling panels that contain the material. In older homes, lead is another hazardous material that can become toxic if paint particles are disturbed when a wall is sanded down or demolished. Lead can also be found in pipes, which then makes its way into drinking water.

In order to prevent exposure during demolition, McGillivray mentions a good rule of thumb is to “stop if something is suspicious or you can’t identify it.” Moreover, he says, “If you’re not an intermediate renovator and don’t have experience identifying harmful materials, you should call an expert.”

FAMILY IRRITANT: When it comes to homes, many hazardous materials can be hiding in plain sight. While renovating, it's especially important to keep track of anything suspicious that may harm you and your family.

McGillivray follows those guidelines himself, and has called on a remediation company to remove hazardous materials many times. Based on those 300 safe (and beautiful) renovations, it’s a strategy that works.