A Growing Problem...Mold

mold spores in homeMold spores can literally be found everywhere, but when the conditions are right, mold can begin to grow, and if that occurs inside a home or other habitational property, it is always a concern and can be a real problem.

The types of molds that can become problematic in residential properties need just 3 things to grow:

  • Food - Anything that used to be alive (wood, cardboard, paper, wool, silk, leather etc.)
  • Temperate climate  - Molds thrive in the range of 68 degrees to 86 degrees (the same range we typically like to keep our homes)
  • Water - Very little water is needed. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) indicates that indoor humidity levels above 60% is sufficient to allow mold to develop.

Since our homes normally contain a lot of potential mold "food," and are normally kept at temperatures which are conducive to mold growth, all that is missing is water.

Water is the most likely cause of damage to property across the nation.  It includes everything from: overflowing sinks, leaky or broken pipes/hoses, drain or sewer backups, or water from heavy rains or river/coastal flooding.  If water is in contact with any form of dirt (remember, flood waters generally contain lots of "dirt"), the growth can occur even more quickly since dirt always includes organic materials (i.e. "mold food"). 

In any case, water damage must be remedied quickly and thoroughly or it will result in mold growth.  Completely drying the surface is very important since any excess moisture will result in mold growth.

Due to the downturn in the housing market, there has been a spike in demand for mold removal services.  When a home is foreclosed upon, it is usually left vacant and neglected, which is a condition that makes it very susceptible to mold growth.  When conditions including food left in cupboards, faucets dripping and used dishes remaining on counters go unattended for several weeks, or when any property - foreclosed or otherwise - is left unattended for prolonged periods, it's at risk.

Mold is often seen as obvious "growth" or even "discoloration" on materials like paper or wood.  Colors can range from white to orange and from green to brown and black, and it gives off the well-known "musty/moldy" smell.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), "the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing and wheezing in otherwise healthy people.  The IOM also found limited or suggestive evidence linking indoor mold exposure and respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children."

The CDC recommends that all molds found in the indoor environment be eliminated, adding, "Generally, it is not necessary to identify the species of mold growing in a residence, and the CDC does not recommend routine sampling for molds."  Since all molds have the potential to cause allergic or allergic-like symptoms in people, especially highly susceptible individuals, they should be eliminated whenever found.

There is no practical way to eliminate all of the mold spores in an indoor environment.  But there are many ways to help control moisture and mold growth in your home or property.

Mold Prevention Tips 

Stop the Water
  • Fix leaks in pipes and any damp area around tubs and sinks so mold spores don't have a growing environment.
  • If you rebuild or remodel, do so with water-resistant building materials, such as tile, stone, deep-sealed concrete, waterproof wallboard, water-resistant glues etc.
  • Prevent seepage of water from the outdoors into your house.  It's important to have rainwater from gutters or the roof drain away from the house.  The ground around the house needs to slope away to keep the basement and crawl space dry.
  • Ventilate any crawl space as much as possible to allow for thorough drying.
Keep it Dry
  • Reduce the moisture in the air with dehumidifiers, fans and open windows or air conditioners, especially in hot weather.  Do not use fans if mold may already exist; a fan will spread the mold spores.
  • Try to keep the humidity in your home below 40 percent.
  • In moisture-prone areas, consider easy-to-clean water-resistant floor coverings, such as vinyl or stone tile.
  • Reduce potential for condensation on cold surfaces by insulating.
Dealing with Mold
  • If you discover mold, the first step is to find and eliminate the water source, as above.
  • Then, if it is a small area (less than about 10 square feet), and you feel comfortable, clean the mold with a detergent solution and thoroughly dry all materials.
  • If it is larger than 10 square feet, consider calling a professional mold remediation company.

Article courtesy of Condo Media magazine, September 2010 issue, page 39.