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How to Effectively Deal With Mold Damage in Your Home

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019

Many of the effects of mold contamination inside a house require the services of a mold remediation specialist to resolve. In most cases, homeowner’s insurance will stipulate a qualified professional with the credentials and technology to do the job. However, do-it-yourself efforts may be useful in dealing with both causes and effects of mold contamination in certain limited circumstances. Here are some suggestions:

  • Eliminate contributing factors. Homeowners can help resolve conditions which trigger contamination in the first place and then spread mold damage. Track down and resolve chronic moisture issues such as leaky plumbing, roof leaks and excessive indoor humidity. Ventilate damp spaces like the basement and attic that tend to spawn mold. Immediately dry any areas that accidentally become wet.
  • Protect air quality. Make sure your HVAC air filter traps airborne mold spores that spread contamination. Filters with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating of at least 11 will remove about 80% of airborne spores. In homes where mold damage is a concern the filter should be changed every month.
  • Increase circulation. Mold prospers in stagnant, dark environments, so keeping air circulation optimal also helps inhibit contamination. Regularly open doors and air out closed, unused rooms and closets. Make sure all HVAC supply and return vents in the house are open and unobstructed. Open curtains and shades to let in sunlight.
  • Tackle the small stuff. Though significant, advanced mold contamination doesn’t respond well to DIY methods, there’s no reason not to attack minor, limited outbreaks before they become major issues. Over the counter mold cleaners can be used to knock down mold growth on tile grout in damp bathrooms or kitchens, for example. Where caulking around windows or elsewhere is contaminated, it can be extracted and replaced with new caulking. If only a small area in a room—such as just one corner of a sheet of drywall—shows signs of mold, you can hire a inexpensive handyman to cut out that limited portion and replace it. Then, use mold cleaner as a preventive measure on all other surfaces in the affected room to inhibit recurrence.

When mold is present due to water damage, or if the mold contamination is significant, it’s time for a professional to be called to deal with the situation effectively.

When Mold is Hiding in Your A/C Ducts…

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Under certain conditions, your HVAC ductwork may be the perfect habitat for mold. Active mold growth thriving inside ducts can serve as a focal point of contamination as the system airflow disperses toxic spores throughout the house. This may trigger allergic symptoms as well as chronic illness in persons with a sensitivity to these pathogens.

How does this happen?

Ductwork is dark and dusty. Mold avoids sunlight and household dust usually contains the sort of microscopic food that mold feeds on. In this fungus-friendly environment, the only missing ingredient is moisture. Ductwork conveying cooled or heated air ought to be dry. In some cases, however, moisture can form:

  • If the air conditioner evaporator coil that extracts water vapor from the airflow isn’t performing up to specs, condensation may form on surfaces inside ductwork.
  • If ductwork is leaky, it may pull in humid outdoor air from the attic, crawl space or other unconditioned zone. Ducts become dank and mold growth may be activated.

How Will I Know?

If you suspect ductwork mold contamination—unexplained musty odors when the HVAC system is running are just one giveaway—an inspection should be performed. Most segments of the system are inaccessible to the average homeowner. A mold-remediation professional with specialized equipment is required to check all spans of ductwork.

Not everything that looks like mold is mold. If suspicious growth is discovered, it must be lab-tested to confirm active mold growth and to determine the type of mold.

What’s The Next Step?

  • A thorough duct cleaning procedure is required to remove active mold. This includes physical removal of growing mold as well as vacuuming the entire span to remove accumulated spore residue.
  • Affected duct surfaces must be sterilized with EPA-approved fungicides, as well as the system components like the evaporator coil and the condensate drain pan in the indoor air handler. A new air filter is also installed.
  • Conditions that promote mold contamination inside ducts must be addressed. Evaporator coil issues that allow excess humidity into the airflow, as well as leaks that pulled humid, unconditioned air into ductwork should be resolved to prevent a recurrence.

3 Hidden Places Mold Spores Can Thrive In Your Home

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

A typical individual mold spore is as small as 3 microns. By comparison, a human hair is over 100 microns wide. Mold is ubiquitous in nature and dormant mold spores pervade the environment, both outdoors and indoors. Once specific conditions of moisture, temperature and food supply are met, dormant spores can quickly become active and start to multiply. Live reproductive spores are released into indoor air, spreading contamination. Inhaling these living spores is a known cause of allergic reactions and even chronic illness in certain individuals.  

Here are three hidden locations where conditions are favorable for mold growth inside your house:

Down in the Basement

Damp basements are common due to lack of ventilation. Persistent dampness provides moisture for growing mold. Also, since household plumbing is often routed through the basement, small leaks and condensation on pipes contribute to the dampness. Mold dislikes natural sunlight and grows best in cool temperatures, so a darkened basement is a preferred location. The pungent musty odor often associated with basements is usually a giveaway that mold is growing there.

Up in the Attic

Mold spores lying dormant in a dark attic are waiting to be activated by contact with water. In enclosed attics, humidity often accumulates to high levels, providing sufficient water vapor to activate dormant spores. These spores grow well in porous material such as beds of insulation.  Minor roof leaks which may not be evident in living spaces below are another water source in the attic. Insulation material itself doesn’t provide mold food. However, the dust that accumulates within insulation fibers often contains nourishment and the paper backing attached to roll-out insulation batts provides cellulose, as well.

Inside the HVAC System

The condensate drip pan beneath the indoor air handler diverts condensation from the A/C evaporator coil into a household drain. If the pan drains sluggishly due to a clog, however, the continuous presence of warm stagnant water in the pan provides a perfect environment for mold. Spores pulled through the system airflow infect the water. Active mold growth may thrive in the drip pan and/or the system evaporator coil above.

How to Stop Mold Growth in its Tracks

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Mold growth inside a home is a dynamic process that requires very specific conditions to thrive. Dormant mold spores exist everywhere in nature, including inside your house. However, if the spores are deprived of mold-friendly conditions, mold growth will not activate and gain a foothold. Taking early measures to inhibit active mold growth may prevent contamination from reaching an advanced state.

Eliminate Moisture Sources

  • Repair any plumbing leaks and roof leaks and stop any infiltration of water through structural cracks such as the basement walls or foundation.
  • Dry out a wet crawl space, including installing a vapor barrier to prevent moisture rising up through the soil.
  • If incidental leakage or water spillage occurs anywhere in the house, dry out the area quickly and completely—mold growth can be triggered in only 48 hours after exposure to water.
  • Use mold-killing products to clean bathroom surfaces that are wet repeatedly.  
  • Make sure the central air conditioner drip pan in the air handler drains properly and does not retain water.

Lower Humidity

Water vapor in the air can trigger dormant mold spores into active growth mode. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends keeping indoor relative humidity between 30% to 50% to inhibit mold growth.

  • A basic moisture meter that displays humidity is an inexpensive investment and helps you keep indoor humidity levels in the mold-free zone.
  • Run exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms to vent humid air.
  • Make sure the clothes dryer is properly vented and the vent pipe is cleaned regularly.
  • In humid climates where indoor levels are difficult to control, consider installing a whole-house dehumidifier in your HVAC system.

Remove Contaminated Items

Signs of incipient mold contamination may be discovered in absorbent materials including building materials like ceiling tiles, as well as fabrics such as carpeting and carpet pads. These points of origin can become sources of spreading mold. Often, the simplest, most straightforward option is to immediately remove them from the house and dispose of them. Porous materials are extremely difficult to decontaminate even with fungicides. Eliminating contaminated items from the home environment permanently is the best mold-preventive course of action.

Preparing Your Home for Spring Mold Season

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

While mold growth can be an all-season event inside a home, spring is an especially mold-friendly time of year. Two of the three conditions that trigger mold growth—moisture and temperature—are common in spring, particularly in the most mold-prone areas of the house: the crawl space and the attic.

Active mold releases microscopic airborne spores that easily migrate from the source throughout the entire structure, spreading contamination and often producing physical symptoms such as allergic reactions and illness in certain individuals. Here are some things you can do to make this time of year less favorable to mold contamination in your home.

Check the crawl space.  After a long period of winter rains and/or melting snow, your crawl space may be chronically wet.  This ongoing moisture, plus darkness and warming spring temperatures, provides hospitable conditions for mold growth. To make it less accomodating, take these steps:

  • Make sure all crawl space vents are wide open and unobstructed to allow proper ventilation and promote drying.
  • If dampness persists, consider two additional options: A crawl space vent fan, designed for this purpose, can be installed to maintain constant outdoor air ventilation and keep the space dry. Dehumidifiers made for crawl space installation are also available where excess humidity in the crawl space is a problem.  

Inspect the attic. Roof leaks during seasonal spring rains can trigger attic mold growth. Exposed wooden structure inside the attic also provides cellulose that nourishes mold.  Roof leaks into the attic may not become evident in the living spaces below for some time, so visual inspection is required. For safety in the attic, wear a mask for breathing protection and step only on large wooden joists.

  • Look for signs of roof leakage such as dark spots or streaks on the sub-roof.
  • Check attic insulation for discoloration or other evidence indicating mold growth inside the insulation material.
  • Make sure all attic vents are open and unobstructed to provide adequate passive air ventilation. If wet or excessively humid conditions persist, a powered attic vent fan may be installed in the roof.

With Water Damage, What You See Is NOT What You Get

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

The visual effect of water damage inside your home can be shocking and discouraging enough: large pools of water where it doesn’t belong, saturated carpets, soaked furniture. But its real impact is often the consequence of what you can’t see. Water damage usually isn’t an isolated incident you can point one finger at. It’s an ongoing sequence of events that continues unabated until professional intervention with proven techniques interrupts the process.

Here are some results of water damage you may not see at first glance but may have to deal with eventually:

  • Extreme humidity. Water inundation causes humidity to soar within the enclosed confines of a house. Water vapor migrates invisibly into areas of the home apparently untouched by the water itself. The effect of extreme humidity can damage absorbent building materials as well as many valuable possessions such as photographs, books and sensitive electronics.
  • Hidden migration. Water flows through any tiny gap or opening, invasively spreading far and wide. By the time it’s even noticed, water may have seeped under baseboards and into wall cavities where the damage process proceeds sight unseen. It can penetrate flooring on an upper floor and begin slowly saturating the ceiling below (visible signs may not appear immediately). Metal components may not show evidence of contact with water until rusting appears much later.
  • Mold growth. Microscopic airborne mold spores pervade deep into the structure of any home. Until contacted by water—or even unusually high indoor humidity—these hidden spores remain dormant. When water damage occurs, however, mold growth is inevitably triggered, often in unseen locations within the house. Active mold growth becomes a concealed source of toxic airborne reproductive spores that may cause allergic reactions and illness in susceptible individuals.
  • HVAC damage. Water on the move may seep into ductwork routed through seldom visited areas like the attic and crawl space, causing hidden deterioration that leads to loss of heated and cooled air. Roof leaks can silently ruin attic insulation, degrading the effectiveness of the material and leading to unwanted heat gain or heat loss inside the living spaces of the house.

How to Easily Remove Mold or Mildew from Tile Grout

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Moisture evaporates rapidly from the hard, slick tile surfaces in your bathroom. Not so, however, from the grout joining those tiles together. The composition of tile grout, usually grainy and porous, tends to retain moisture and bacteria. This makes it an ideal breeding ground for mildew and mold, especially in a warm, humid environment like a bathroom. That fact becomes very conspicuous when white or gray grout gradually turns ugly brown or black due to contamination.

The appearance of mildew or mold—both are types of fungus—present both aesthetic issues as well as health concerns.  Here are some ways to remove it from tile grout:

Pre-treatment:

  • Wet a large sponge with water and wash down the areas of grout affected by mold or mildew. This is necessary to remove any layer of grime such as soap scum that may shield the fungus from the cleaning process.
  • Using a small brush with stiff bristles—a retired toothbrush may work, too—scrub the grout briskly. Even though the grout lines are typically horizontal and vertical, add a circular motion to the brushing process to ensure that you get into all the tiny crevices and cracks in the grout.
  • Rinse down the grout with warm water from a sprayer, then pat the surfaces dry with a cloth.

For minor mold or mildew:

Mix equal amounts of warm water and white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the mixture directly on the grout, saturating it thoroughly.  Wait about 10 minutes for the vinegar to soak into the mold or mildew spores, then vigorously scrub the grout lines with the stiff-bristled brush again. Rinse thoroughly with warm water and pat dry.

For long-standing contamination:

After the pre-cleaning procedure, saturate the grout lines by spraying a 50/50 mixture of warm water and chlorine bleach. Let the mixture soak in for at least 15 minutes, then briskly scrub with the stiff-bristled brush. Rinse well to remove all bleach residue and then dry with a clean cloth.  

Are Your Houseplants Harboring Mold Spores?

Thursday, February 14th, 2019

Not all sources of mold inside your home are accidental. Some are brought into the house, fed and watered, then thrive right under your nose. This contamination frequently affects houseplants and/or the potting soil where they grow. Mold flourishes anywhere there’s food and moisture along with a hospitable temperature. Soil inside the pot often accumulates mold-friendly nutrients provided by decaying leaves and other organic matter. Meanwhile, the regular watering provided by homeowners typically makes the pot a hospitable environment for mold growth.

Active mold contamination spreads throughout a house by releasing microscopic airborne spores. When inhaled, spores may produce a range of allergic symptoms and even chronic illness in susceptible individuals. Here are some steps to eliminate mold from the houseplants.

  • Wipe it off. Use a moist paper towel and, while supporting the stems with your fingers so you don’t break them, gently wipe down the plant leaves to remove any surface mold. Also wipe the stalk of the plant.
  • Take the plant outdoors and spray it with a consumer-grade fungicide formulated to kill mold. You can get advice from a garden center about which type of fungicide should be utilized for specific plants. Manufacturer’s info on the product label also typically provides a list of plants that are safe to spray.
  • Before bringing the plant back into the house, scoop out the top layer of potting soil in the pot, going as deep as possible without damaging roots. Replace this soil with fresh potting soil that is labeled as “sterilized” to kill mold during production.
  • Don’t over-water houseplants as excess moisture triggers mold contamination. Consult reputable sources for information about how often and how much watering is sufficient for a particular plant type.
  • Ultraviolet light present in sunshine is an effective natural mold-killer. Make sure your plants receive the recommended adequate daily sun exposure per the specific type.
  • Mold prefers a stagnant environment to grow. Place plants in areas where air circulation is adequate.

3 Potential Harmful Effects of a Damp Home

Tuesday, January 29th, 2019

mold growthA damp home is a house at risk. Chronic dampness issues can affect both the structure as well as the health of the indoor environment. Excessive moisture also makes indoor comfort control problematic and can raise monthly heating/cooling costs. Here are three specific complications of a damp home.

Mold Growth

Damp conditions inside a house elevate indoor humidity. Once humidity exceeds 60%, dormant mold spores may be triggered to become active growing mold that releases airborne reproductive spores. Persons sensitive to mycotoxins carried by spores may experience ill effects, ranging from allergies to chronic illness.

Effective mold control involves removing active mold as well as identifying ongoing sources of dampness that support mold growth and correcting them.

Structural Deterioration

Certain zones prone to chronic dampness—primarily the attic and crawl space—also contain exposed wooden structure vulnerable to moisture.

  • When condensation forms as humid attic air cools overnight, or roof leakage occurs during rain, chronic attic moisture can cause wood rot and warping in rafters, roof sheathing and other wooden components.
  • In the crawl space, dampness often persists as soil moisture due to high ground water exudes from the dirt floor. Wooden floor joists and subflooring may decay in these wet conditions. Certain types of termites also thrive on damp wood.

Effective attic ventilation to reduce humidity controls attic condensation. Annual roof inspections catch leaks before they become a threat to the structure. In the crawl space, installation of a vapor barrier keeps soil moisture out.

Temperature Issues

A chronically damp home environment is difficult to heat and cool consistently. Clammy, cold indoor conditions in winter can exacerbate a variety of illnesses and degrade comfort overall. In summer, high indoor humidity makes the house feel hotter than it actually is and reduces the effectiveness of air conditioning.

A whole-house dehumidifier maintains indoor humidity in the recommended range in all seasons and promotes a healthier, more stable and comfortable home environment.

 

How to Detect and Remove Mold in a Crawl Space

Thursday, January 17th, 2019

mold in crawl spaceWhen mold remediation professionals search for the origin of contamination inside a house, the crawl space is usually a prime suspect. Cool temperatures, moisture, absence of ultraviolet sunlight and ample food sources like cellulose in exposed wooden structure make that cramped space beneath your floor a perfect breeding ground.

Microscopic airborne spores released by active mold growth may continuously infiltrate living spaces above through tiny cracks and gaps. When inhaled, toxic spores may cause allergic reactions and other chronic physical symptoms.

Is The Crawl Space Contaminated?

Thriving mold growth in the crawl space is often unnoticed by residents. Even when it’s suspected, the signs may be ambiguous:

  • A chronic musty odor emanating from below. It’s hard to miss, but it may be dismissed as simply common mildew or moisture-related issues.
  • Splotchy growth visible on wooden surfaces in the crawl space such as trusses and subflooring. The growth may be fuzzy or flat. Coloration is typically white or black, but may vary into greenish or purplish hues, too.

Because not everything that looks like mold is mold and not all mold types produce mycotoxins that trigger reactions in humans, inspection, air sampling and testing by a qualified mold remediation specialist is critical to confirm presence of mold and determine the type of growth.

How Is Mold Eliminated?

Successful mold remediation incorporates a two-fold approach:

  • All active mold growth must be located and physically removed. Then, contaminated surfaces are sterilized with EPA-approved disinfectants specially formulated for the type of mold. Where growing mold has penetrated the surface of wooden building materials, those components may need to be replaced.
  • To prevent recurrence, conditions that promote mold growth in the crawl space must be addressed. Moisture sources such as water intrusion during rain and plumbing leaks should be eliminated. The dirt floor may require a plastic vapor barrier to keep out rising soil moisture. In dry climates, addition of vents to increase crawl space cross-ventilation may discourage mold. Conversely, in humid climates, sealing the crawl space entirely and making it a conditioned zone of the house may be preferable.