A home inspection I did the other day resulted in mold testing, which brings this post to mind. Most know it’s not healthy for us when inhaling or coming in contact with mold. Once in awhile I will receive a phone call asking for Mold testing. The answer is and always should be, to get the home inspected first looking for signs of mold or conditions conductive for mold growth, prior to taking samples. If you can smell or visual see it, you most likely have it, the questions remains, how bad is it. Every home has a degree of mold in it but ideally should be equal or less than the outside air mold content. As you may know, some days the outside air is higher with mold spores then others. The nice thing about our homes is we have the availability to control the inside air.
The simple fact is, mold needs moisture to grow. The first step is eliminating the source of moisture and keeping your home’s humidity level down, which helps tremendously. You definitely want your home less then 60% humidity and ideally between 40% and 50%. Mold can grow and thrive on surfaces with 60% humidity.
Here are some common ways to control or keep humidity levels down in your home. Running bath fans (and they should be vented directly to the exterior). Installing a humidistat that controls a HRV (heat recovery ventilator, which basically brings in fresh air), or is connected to your bath fans turning them on when humidity levels get high in the home. Dehumidifiers in the lower levels will also help. During colder months turn your furnace fan motor to “on” instead of “auto” to move the air in the home. Change furnace filters regularly, and you can even install a UV light that helps kill bacteria, duct mites, and mold. Fresh air intakes or HRV’s can help reduce moisture levels and keep interior air healthier. All this can help reduce general humidity levels in your home.
The second thing to talk about is moisture in general. This can include areas like crawl spaces, basements, and attics that can accumulate moisture if not properly vented or sealed causing moisture issues. Leaky or damp foundations is the most common cause for mold issues. Keeping a basement or crawl space dry is a must. Some simple things to do to help reduce basement moisture are making sure your grading around the home is positively pitched away from the foundation. Downspouts are connected properly and extended away from the foundation or into a storm drain. Cover window wells. Suggest a running dehumidifier. Even, carpet on concrete, can hold enough moisture for Mold to grow in the carpet fibers, because the concrete is damp. The dryer you can keep the basement the better your chances of reducing mold growth possibilities. For issues like seepage, leakage from cracks or higher levels of dampness on floors and walls, you may need to look into installing an internal drain system the leads to a sump pit and possibly patching cracks. I suggest consulting a foundation specialist for more information. Issues will very from home to home depending on age, type of foundation, and if there is a drain tile system installed. Attics need good ventilation to remain dry. Make sure no exhaust vents terminate in the attics space. Warm moist indoor air, exhausting into a cold attic in the cold months will create condensation in the attic. Monitor for roof leaks, usually around penetrations. Mold destroys the surface it grows on, in the case of being in the attic, it will break down the plywood roof sheathing or structural members if an issues is not corrected.
Lastly, if you do have a major leak from plumbing, basement, or a roof leaks, try to dry it out within 24-48 hrs. These are what we call one time leaks and generally don’t cause any issues if dried completely and correctly. Mold will not grow and thrive is the moisture is removed, but if let go or undiscovered, mold will have a chance to thrive and you’ll need to take more precautions and possibly be forced to call in a restoration company. If you take anything away from this article, it’s to make sure mold doesn’t have a source of moisture. Dampness in the corner of the basement or a small drip on a pipe can be a source. Eliminate moisture sources and it will reduce mold growth.
Some interesting facts:
- Mold is not a plant or an animal it is classified as Kingdom: Fungi
- The EPA does not have any standards for Mold
- Contrary to popular belief, it is not recommended to spray bleach on mold
- Dormant mold can be just as harmful as active mold spores
- If you can visibly see mold, there is usually no need to test, it needs evaluation and to be cleaned by remediation. Testing is handy if you feel there is a hidden issue or for some reason want to know specifically what kind of mold it is.
- In general, an area 3’×3′ or smaller can be cleaned or repaired by yourself, if the area is larger you should call in a professional
- Use your senses, if you can see mold or smell musty odors, eliminate the source of moisture, dry and clean the area. Remember mold destroys the surface they live on, and if not taken care of can eventually cause more damage and health issues.