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When Mold Takes Hold

Posted August 21st, 2015 under renovations and repairs.

Ah, mold. A problem that has existed forever, and can be anything from a non-issue to a major health hazard, depending on the circumstances (and who you ask).

Mold is present at low levels everywhere we go, both outdoors and indoors. It is part of the natural process of decay and can never be eliminated completely.

However, there are certain areas within a home and certain conditions that can enhance the growth of mold, leading to much higher levels than normal.

What Causes Mold Growth

Moisture and heat are the two greatest contributors to mold growth. Typically, areas of the home that remain both warm and moist are most at risk for mold growth.

Bathrooms are the prime culprit. After one or more hot showers, high humidity lingers here the longest. Often, mold becomes visible as a little black band at the corners of the bathtub or shower, or as spots on the ceiling.

Another common source of mold is leaking windows, basements, and roofs. Often, water will run down behind the drywall and keep it damp for a long time, creating an ideal environment for mold growth.

Leaking in the roof can go unnoticed for years if the leak only penetrates far enough to encourage mold, without becoming noticeable in the living space.

Finally, leaking water pipes, condensation on pipes, leaking toilets, and leaky drains are all potential sources of mold if the area remains moist and does not evaporate.

Effects of Mold

When people think of mold, they typically think of health effects. However, left unchecked, mold can destroy the wood structure of your home, requiring costly repairs.

Health effects are less common. Although there are over 250 species of mold, only a few are thought to cause health effects such as allergic reactions or respiratory problems. Experts are still not in agreement on the danger of these effects or how they happen.

Preventing Mold Growth

Preventing mold is easier and much less expensive than trying to deal with it after it has set in and becomes a serious problem. Here are some steps you can take to keep your home mold-free.

First of all, keep control of steam and humidity. Air out the bathroom after showers and baths, even in the winter. When boiling food, use your range hood fan to pull away the moist air. Make sure your dryer’s steam exhaust is properly connected. Don’t over-use room humidifiers.

Secondly, keep control of leaks and water. Keep windows closed during storms or if rain is forecast and you’re going out. Keep your roof in good repair, and check your attic from time to time for dark spots (water stains) under the sheathing.

Make sure your drainage system (eaves troughs, down spouts, and grading) is working to keep water out of your basement. If you have a sump pump, test it regularly to make sure it is working properly. If you find a leak in your plumbing, repair it promptly.

Finally, don’t forget to inspect your home periodically. Check behind any furniture that sits against outside walls (where condensation can accumulate without being seen). Pull out your fridge if it sits in a confined space (the condensor can also create moisture). Look at the ceilings in each room and the wall below each window.

When Mold Takes Hold

If you discover that your home has a mold problem, don’t panic. If the problem is small and localized, you may be able to take care of it yourself, but always use the proper equipment (including masks).

For larger problems, it’s best to work with a mold abatement company. Get several quotes. Don’t be scared into doing more than necessary. Focus on solving the immediate problem, then upgrading your home and habits to prevent future problems.

Want to know more about mold in homes? Just ask me, I'll be happy to help.

--Peter

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