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Can You Kill Mold By Drying It Out?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020
mold issues

No moisture, no mold. It sounds like a simple solution to mold issues in a home. Since mold is a fungus that requires moisture to grow, just drying out mold growth ought to eradicate it in short order. Right?

Like many easy answers to complex problems, it ain’t necessarily so. While moisture is the key factor that triggers the active growth mode that causes mold issues, ironically, the absence of moisture alone doesn’t make mold go away. Here are two reasons why:

  • Mold can exist in more than one living state. Active or viable mold triggered by moisture grows and releases microscopic airborne reproductive spores that spread that growth to other locations in the house. These spores contain mycotoxins that cause allergic reactions or other symptoms when inhaled by certain individuals.
  • In the inactive state, an absence of moisture causes mold to be dormant and cease growth—yet not be technically dead. Inert spores from dormant, dried-up mold can be just as allergenic as active spores from living growth if inhaled. Moreover, moisture from any source such as water damage or leakage—or even simply sustained high humidity—quickly reactivates dry, dormant mold growth and triggers the release of reproductive spores once again. Mold issues then recur throughout the house.

Successful mold remediation isn’t a one-step solution. It requires multi-faceted treatment to ensure comprehensive decontamination.  

  • All mold growth must be tracked down and physically removed from wherever it exists in the house. No existing mold—active or inactive—can be left behind, as any remaining growth may likely reactivate at some later point under certain conditions.
  • After removal, areas of contamination must be directly treated with EPA-approved fungicides to sterilize surfaces and prevent regrowth.  
  • The source of water which triggered active mold growth must be identified and permanently eliminated.
  • If mold growth occurs as a result of a water damage incident, prompt professional water damage remediation includes standardized mold prevention methods like air sampling to detect the presence of spores and proven techniques to locate and remove mold growth and sterilize affected surfaces. 

Does Insurance Cover Mold Damage?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020
mold damage

Mold damage in homes is common, but is it commonly covered by standard homeowner’s insurance? Like so many questions about insurance coverage, this typical answer frequently applies to mold damage, too: “It depends.”

Specific circumstances surrounding mold contamination issues can spell the difference between fair insurance compensation and having to pay for the damage out of your own pocket. Here are some examples of when homeowner’s insurance coverage applies to mold damage and when it doesn’t.  

Sudden and Accidental” Incidents

This represents the largest category of mold damage that does qualify for coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy. Water damage inside the house is the most common cause of mold. The “sudden and accidental” term applies to unforeseeable water damage incidents such as sudden pipe breakage, an appliance overflow, or a ruptured water heater. Another cause that qualifies under this category is mold due to water released by firefighters extinguishing a fire in the house.

Maintenance Issues and Chronic Causes

Mold may be caused by ongoing problems that aren’t recognized and/or not responsibly addressed by the homeowner. This includes scenarios like a roof leak that isn’t repaired in a timely manner or neglected household plumbing maintenance. When mold ensues after one of these preventable causes, coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy will usually be denied.  

Certain circumstances beyond the homeowner’s control may also rule out compensation for mold damage. For example, if mold growth is triggered by high humidity which is a natural feature of the local climate, insurance compensation for mold remediation will be denied. 

Are There Other Options?

In certain cases, insurance companies offer a special mold endorsement to a standard homeowner’s policy that includes many types of contamination not usually covered. This is available at an increased yearly premium.

What About Flooding?

Water damage and resultant mold contamination due to outdoor flooding or inundation from severe storms aren’t covered by homeowner’s insurance. Insurance coverage for damage caused by flooding is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program, a program administered by the federal government and available to all homeowners.  


Is Indoor Mold Causing Your Allergy Symptoms?

Thursday, June 11th, 2020
allergy symptoms

What are the facts about the connection between indoor mold growth and allergy symptoms? Mold and the microscopic airborne spores it releases are ubiquitous on planet Earth. In fact, you’re probably inhaling mold spores at this moment. Of the nearly 100,000 mold species in nature, however, only about 12 types are typically found inside houses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health issues due to mold growth are primarily related to:

  • The extent of exposure. The concentration of mold spores in outdoor air is very dilute. However, airborne spores released by active, growing mold inside the enclosed environment of a house may accumulate to very high levels. This elevated daily exposure may cause allergy symptoms in susceptible persons.  
  • Mold type. Individual sensitivity to mold varies widely, as do potential symptoms. Spores released by certain mold types such as Stachybotrys chartarum carry mycotoxins which may trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. However, a specific person may be uniquely sensitive to spores from any particular type of mold—or experience no reaction at all.

How Mold Thrives

Certain conditions must exist for mold growth to gain a foothold and expose residents to possible ill effects:

  • Indoor temperature. The most conducive range for mold growth is 70 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  • Food supply. Mold growth thrives on cellulose present in wood and building materials like drywall, paper, fabrics, and even household dust.
  • Moisture. Contact with moisture triggers long-dormant spores into an active mode in just 48 hours. Active growth releases airborne microscopic reproductive spores. Inhalation of reproductive spores is a proven cause of allergic symptoms in individuals with a sensitivity to mold mycotoxins.

Moisture = Mold

Moisture is the most critical factor in mold growth, particularly immediately following a water damage incident. Professional mold remediation includes these strategies:

  • Rapid response with research-proven measures to inhibit activation of dormant mold and release of allergenic spores.
  • Where mold is already established inside a house, professional remediation methods include determining the extent of contamination with air samples, tracking locations of active growth, and utilizing proven mold removal and decontamination methods, including EPA-recommended antimicrobial solutions, to permanently eliminate mold.

Selling Your Home? Resolve Mold Issues First

Thursday, May 7th, 2020
mold problems

If you’re considering putting your home on the market and the house has an ongoing mold problem, what’s the preferred strategy? Should you offer the house at a discounted “as is” price—mold contamination included? Or is it a better idea to take control of the issue and get professional mold remediation now, before trying to attract prospective buyers? Here are some facts to take into consideration when you’re selling a house with a mold problem.

  • You can’t keep it secret. A known mold issue—or even knowledge of conditions that would likely trigger contamination such as water damage—are facts that, in most states, must be divulged to prospective buyers in a pre-sale disclosure. If existing mold not mentioned in the disclosure is discovered after the sale, the seller may be liable for civil damages.
  • In the real estate industry today, the presence of mold is considered a substantial liability. Neglected mold contamination is often a deal-breaker or at least a substantial negative impact on market value.
  • Many qualified buyers won’t make an offer on a house with existing mold issues—at any price. There’s simply less risk and headaches by offering fair market value on an uncontaminated property, versus dealing with potential issues that accompany the moldy house down the street.

Before You Sell

Mold issues resolved by a qualified mold remediation service eliminate the stigma that drags down a home’s value. In fact, proof that a house has been certified mold-free by trained professionals is a positive selling point.

  • If you know or even suspect mold contamination, get testing and inspection by an IICRC-certified mold remediation provider. This includes in-depth visual inspection in areas where mold is likely to occur, air samples to detect mold spores, and attention to secondary factors associated with mold, such as ongoing moisture issues or water damage.
  • If the presence of mold is confirmed, have the problem professionally resolved before listing the house for sale. Once the home is declared mold-free, you’ll have written certification to substantiate that fact as an extra inducement to attract qualified buyers and the most favorable offers.

Killing Mold Is Not Enough

Thursday, April 30th, 2020
killing mold

Is simply killing mold an effective quick-fix to decontaminate your home? Since toxic mold is a living fungus, it might seem logical that applying anti-microbial disinfectants to kill visible mold growth would resolve the problem. Indeed, numerous options are available to kill mold, from DIY approaches such as household bleach up to spray application of professional biocides. However, as a comprehensive treatment to eliminate contamination inside a house, here are two reasons why merely killing mold alone falls far short:

  • Topical disinfectants don’t kill all the mold. Studies show that surviving spores remain in the residue of dead mold if treatment is limited to the direct application of disinfectants. Over time, active mold growth will recur at that location and elsewhere and the process of increasing contamination throughout the house will resume.
  • “Dead” mold can be still toxic. Both living and dead mold spores contain mycotoxins proven to trigger allergic responses in certain persons. Dead spores from the residue left behind following application of disinfectants readily circulate in house air currents and may be inhaled by occupants.

For a truly comprehensive treatment and verifiable results, professional mold remediation includes these steps:

  • Take air samples to determine the extent of contamination inside the house.
  • Locate all existing mold—not just the visible, readily accessible contamination. This includes the original focal point of contamination and all secondary sites.
  • Physically remove all mold from surfaces. Where mold growth has penetrated below the surface of certain building materials such as drywall or wooden structure—or deeply infected carpet or insulation— these materials may need to be removed and replaced.
  • After all mold growth and residue is removed from the house, treat affected surfaces and adjoining area with EPA-approved biocides.  
  • Resolve secondary conditions that support mold growth. Since mold spores are ubiquitous in both outdoor and indoor environments, comprehensive remediation must also include identifying and eliminating sources of moisture that are a major factor in activating indoor mold growth.
  • Take follow-up air samples to confirm successful remediation.

How to Prevent Carpet Mold After Water Damage

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Carpet mold is a common consequence in the aftermath of water damage. A carpet presents a perfect environment for mold growth. The fibers capture dormant airborne mold spores present in any home. Microscopic bits of cellulose—mold’s favorite food—are also attracted and retained in carpeting by static electricity. Moisture, then, is the only missing element. Once water damage occurs, soaked carpeting will often spawn mold growth in 24 to 48 hours.

Simply allowing carpet to air dry is not enough. Drying a wet carpet does not eliminate the inherent mold potential. Here are some standard steps to prevent carpet mold:

  • Not all wet carpet is an appropriate candidate for cleaning and mold disinfection. If water damage is Category 3 “black water” — raw sewage from a backup or outdoor flooding that inundated the house—the carpet is toxic and typically needs replacement.
  • The process must begin ASAP. The mold clock is ticking as soon as water contacts the carpet.
  • Remove standing or pooling water on the carpet with a wet/dry vacuum.
  • Powerful water extractors pull deeper water out of the carpet and, in some cases, out of the padding beneath, as well. If water damage is Category 1, originating from a clean source like a broken water pipe, professional extraction methods may eliminate the need to pull up the carpet and remove the padding. If Category 1 water has remained in the carpet for more than 24 hours, however, or if the water originated from a contaminated Category 2 or 3 source, the padding may need to be removed and replaced.
  • Steam cleaning—not just hot water extraction—provides superior mold decontamination. Professional carpet steam cleaners inject steam above 212 degrees, high temperatures necessary to kill mold growth. Most pro steam cleaning units can also inject mold disinfectants along with the steam, as well as deodorants.
  • Professional air-moving equipment designed to direct high-volume air across the surface of carpet and floors should be utilized to rapidly dry the carpet after cleaning. To support drying, dehumidifiers should be kept running in the affected room.
  • Moisture meters should be utilized to confirm that the carpet is fully dried.

Is DIY Mold Removal Ever Safe?

Thursday, February 27th, 2020
DIY Mold Removal

Is DIY mold removal safe? It depends. Will it fully eliminate mold contamination from a house? Probably not.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mold contamination larger than 3 feet by 3 feet should be left to qualified mold remediation professionals. If a very limited area of mold growth on a non-porous surface is all you’re dealing with, put on gloves and eye protection. Mix 1/2 cup of household bleach with a quart of water, saturate a rag and wipe away the mold. Leave the surface wet and open windows to ventilate fumes until it dries. You’re done. Or are you?

What You Don’t See

Superficial mold is often only the visible evidence of more extensive, covert contamination you can’t see. Mold flourishes in chronically damp and dark spaces of a structure not frequently (or easily) accessible. From that primary focal point, active mold releases airborne reproductive spores that spread contamination throughout the house. DIY mold removal such as wiping away a very limited spot is well and good—if you’re careful. But, it doesn’t address the comprehensive problem in a contaminated house, nor potential hazards that come with removing it.  

How the Pros Stay Safe

Professional mold remediation teams arrive fully trained and prepared to locate and safely neutralize all mold growth inside a house, wherever it may be. Teams typically include a designated health and safety technician specifically certified by the IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning Restoration and Restoration Certification) to assure the safety of mold remediation workers. Crews are also specially equipped to reduce hazards when working around mold, including:

  • Full face mask with a filtered respirator
  • Protective overalls and booties
  • Rubber or nitrile gloves
  • Air exchangers to vent spore-contaminated air from the structure and induct fresh filtered air during the project
  • HEPA-grade air scrubbers to capture airborne spores in the indoor environment
  • Specially formulated antimicrobial chemicals to sterilize contaminated surfaces

Established safety procedures and specialized equipment for comprehensive mold remediation are beyond the scope of the average DIY-er. For anything beyond the most minor contamination, follow EPA recommendations and call a professional.

How Does Household Mold Affect Asthma?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020
household mold

Household mold and asthma frequently develop under the same roof.  Asthma is a sensitivity in the air passages leading to the lungs. By itself, the asthmatic condition is frequently silent until some specific “trigger” is inhaled. Typically beginning with shortness of breath and tightness in the chest, an asthma attack can result in a variety of acute symptoms, including wheezing, coughing, a sensation of straining for air and excess congestion in the lungs.

It’s In The Air

Indoors, asthma may be triggered by a variety of airborne irritants: dust, pollen, lint, pet dander, cigarette smoke, and air pollution. A common asthma trigger is spores released by household mold. Airborne mold spores contain mycotoxins that are a known respiratory allergen. In outdoor air, the concentration of mold spores is usually very diluted and does not cause symptoms in humans. Inside an enclosed structure, however, levels of these toxic microscopic particulates may become elevated to an extent sufficient to trigger a reaction in individuals with a predisposition to asthma.

Finding Mold And Fixing It

Effective asthma prevention includes reducing exposure to triggers in the indoor environment. An elevated spore count is one indicator of active mold growing somewhere inside the house that may be responsible for asthma reactions in occupants. The presence of chronic moisture that promotes mold growth is another red flag.

Professional mold remediation utilizes a proven treatment sequence to eliminate contamination:

  • Air sampling to determine spore count and estimate the extent of mold growth inside the house.
  • Locating all active mold growth and testing to establish the specific type.
  • Removal of active mold and sterilizing surfaces where mold growth occurred with EPA-approved fungicides.
  • Identifying and resolving ancillary causes inside the house that promote mold growth, including prior water damage and ongoing moisture issues such as plumbing or roof leaks.
  • Controlling indoor humidity to maintain safe levels that do not support mold growth.
  • Conducting one or more follow-up air samples inside the house to ensure that remediation is effective and mold growth has not recurred.

Can Mold Dry up and Go Away on Its Own?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Any type of mold in the home is a concern and may be linked to certain physical symptoms and/or chronic illness. Mold growth generally requires specific conditions to remain active and spread contamination.  Homeowners often ask a very good question: If we simply eliminate these conditions, won’t existing mold in the home just die and go away by itself?  

What Mold Needs

Mold is a fungus that prefers a particular temperature range, a dark environment, a little bit of microscopic food (usually cellulose of some sort) and moisture.  Of these ingredients, moisture is generally considered to be the definitive trigger that promotes active fungal growth. No moisture—no mold.

Dormant vs. Active Growth

Visual evidence of existing mold growth doesn’t tell you everything you need to know, however. Moisture-deprived mold may indeed appear dried-up and lifeless. In a sense, it is: without moisture to keep it active, the mold fungus mass stops growing and becomes inert. However, while the fungal mass is dead, microscopic spores that trigger regrowth and contamination aren’t.  In dry conditions, spores go dormant until exposure to moisture recurs. Once that happens, spores rapidly activate and begin spawning mold growth again, including airborne reproductive spores that spread contamination and may cause physical reactions in susceptible persons.

What To Do About Dried-Up Mold

  • Not everything that looks like mold is mold. Sampling and testing by a qualified mold remediation specialist is required to confirm the presence of dormant or active mold as well as determine the type. Air samples are also taken to identify airborne spores and estimate the extent of active contamination.
  • Proven mold remediation techniques utilized by professionals include physically removing active or dormant growth, then sterilizing affected surfaces with EPA-approved fungicides. In cases where mold has penetrated certain building materials, these materials may be cut out and replaced to totally eliminate growth.
  • Reducing moisture is also vital to prevent recurrence of mold in the home. Plumbing leaks, roof leaks and other moisture sources must be resolved. If chronically high indoor humidity is an issue, installation of a whole-house dehumidifier is also recommended. 

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Black Mold

Thursday, October 17th, 2019
black mold

Though there are approximately 20,000 species of mold, only about five are commonly found inside structures. One of these species, Stachybotrys chartarum, is also known as “black mold.” It’s not the most common type encountered inside houses, but black mold has a reputation for triggering particularly problematic symptoms in certain people exposed to it. Here are five questions and answers about Stachybotrys chartarum to clear up some confusion surrounding it.

  • Is black mold always black?  No, it may also appear dark green or gray. Conversely, other types of more common mold that may appear black are not the Stachybotrys chartarum species.
  • Does black mold occur more frequently inside houses than other mold?  Actually, the reverse is probably true. Stachybotrys chartarum tends to require more moisture to proliferate than most other common mold types. Therefore, it is most likely to be found only in more chronically wet indoor settings.
  • Is there something about black mold that makes it especially toxic to humans?  For individuals with a sensitivity to mycotoxins contained in airborne mold spores, black mold is associated with a wider range of reported physical symptoms than other types of mold. However, the severity of reactions to black mold spores also depends upon the extent of contamination inside the home as well as the duration of exposure. Individuals who are not sensitive to mold mycotoxins may not experience symptoms from black mold exposure.
  • Is black mold contamination more difficult to remove than other types?  No, the same basic mold removal techniques are involved: First, eliminate the source of moisture that triggers active mold growth. Then, test to confirm the type of mold present on the premises. Locate all active mold growth and physically remove it. Disinfect surfaces where mold existed and remove any materials that are permanently contaminated. Follow up with later air sample testing to confirm decontamination.
  • Are physical symptoms caused by black mold permanent? For most people who experience a reaction to mold exposure of any type, including black mold, symptoms will gradually disappear when professional mold remediation techniques are utilized to remove contamination inside the house.