Mold Guide for Homeowners
Mold is a common problem for homeowners around the world – a troublesome bane that can not only compromise the integrity of a home, but may also affect the health of its inhabitants. Nonetheless, many people are not well aware of the numerous dangers of mold, the most effective methods for its prevention, and the best ways to get rid of the harmful fungus once and for all.
Knowing such important facts and proven prevention techniques, however, can make a big difference in the struggle against mold – it can help people better protect theirs and their families’ health, as well as the soundness and value of their homes.
You will find all this crucial information in our comprehensive mold guide. Following the proven mold guidelines below is certain to save you plenty of troubles when dealing with mold in your home:
What Is Mold?
Mold is a fungus that causes biodegradation of natural materials – its purpose in the eco-system is to break down dead organic matter, so that it can be “recycled” into the environment. Once the mold spores get indoors, however, they can quickly affect large areas of the property and cause severe structural damage and serious health problems.
There are three basic requirements for mold to develop – mold spores, organic food, and moisture:
- Mold spores exist everywhere in the outdoor environment and can get easily get inside the home (thorough open doors and windows or attached to clothes, shoes, and bags). The greater the concentration of mold spores in the indoor air, the greater the chance for a mold problem to occur;
- Organic food is available in abundance in the home – wood, leather, fabric, carpet, paper, paint, grout, insulation materials, and other organic household materials provide an ample food source for mold, so that it can grow and reproduce easily;
- Moisture can accumulate in the home as a result of flooding, pipe leaks, condensation, etc. and provide the right conditions for mold to start developing. Even high indoor humidity levels can result in mold growth.
Common indoor molds
There are over 10,000 species of mold but only 5 of them are commonly found indoors:
- Alternaria is one of the most allergenic kinds of mold and a risk factor for asthma. It does not require much water to grow and can develop on almost any household surface or material. It is usually black, grey, or dark brown in color and has a suede-like texture;
- Aspergillus thrives in warm, humid climates and appears in grey, brown, green, yellow, or white hues. It can cause respiratory infections and inflammation of the lungs in people with weak immune systems;
- Cladosporium has a characteristic black or olive-green color. It can grow in lower temperatures than other kinds of mold and is usually found on cellulose surfaces. Cladosporium mold can lead to hay fever, asthma, and infections of the skin, eyes, and sinuses;
- Penicillium has long tentacle-looking structures and appears green or blue in color. It is most often found on carpeting, wallpaper, and insulation;
- Stachybotrys chartarum is also known as “black mold”, because of its greenish-black color. It produces toxic compounds that can cause severe health problems, such as respiratory problems, asthma attacks, chronic sinus infections, and inflammation of the lungs.
How to Detect Mold in Home
Mold can often remain hidden for a long time before homeowners become aware of the problem – it usually starts growing in very inconspicuous areas of the house (inside walls, on the back side of wallpapers or paneling, on the top side of ceiling tiles, behind leaky appliances, within insulation, inside ductwork, in crawl spaces, etc.) and is only noticed when the spores have already affected large areas of the property and caused considerable structural damage.
Therefore, it is of paramount importance that you learn to recognize the very first signs of mold growth in your property and act fast, even on very small amounts of mold (one square inch of mold can have more than a million spores). If you don’t take quick and efficient measures to fix the problem and get rid of the mold spores before they have spread throughout the home, you risk a long, difficult, and expensive mold remediation process, as well as serious health issues.
The detailed mold identification guide below will help you detect mold in your home as soon as a couple of days after it has started developing. You need to watch out for:
- A musty smell;
- Cracked or peeling paint;
- Discoloration and/or bulging of the walls;
- Cracked or loose tiles;
- A softer, spongy feel of the floor or walls;
- Too many ants in the home (most ants make their nests in moist wood, so their presence in the home may be a sign that mold is decomposing the floorboards or is rapidly growing within the walls or the insulation);
- Allergic reactions among the members of your household that have no logical explanation
- Visible black spots on the walls or the ceiling.
If you notice any of these tell-tale signs of mold growth in your home, you need to act without delay.
How to Get Rid of Mold
Your first task when you detect mold growth in your home is to carefully inspect your property and find the source of excessive moisture that allows mold to develop. It may be a leaky pipe or a leaky roof, inadequate air exchange or too much condensation, etc. Either way, you need to fix the problem and remove the source of the moisture, so that the spores cannot continue to reproduce and spread any further. Then, you need to kill the existing mold spores and restore the sustained damage.
DIY Mold Removal
If the contaminated area is small, easily accessible, and easy to clean, you can successfully remove mold by yourself. Just make sure you:
- Wear personal protection equipment (gloves, goggles, and a respiratory mask) when cleaning up the mold;
- Use only quality fungicide sprays – bleach and other household cleaners are not strong enough to eliminate the mold spores (they just hinder their development for some time), while paint and lysol can only hide the damage, not repair it;
- Eliminate all the hidden and dormant spores too – spraying only the visible mold patches won’t solve the problem, as the hidden spores will remain and will start growing whenever favorable conditions occur;
- Remove any moist materials and repair or replace any affected household items and surfaces.
If you have health problems, however, or if the affected area is large and difficult to treat, you are strongly recommended to ask for professional assistance.
Professional Mold Removal
Hiring an experienced mold removal company to take care of your mold problem is the right course of action when:
- Mold is growing on drywall, wood, or other porous surfaces. In this case, the mold colony will have already penetrated the material and the only way to eliminate all the mold spores will be to replace the contaminated material or take advantage of some specialized mold removal techniques that can only be performed by experienced professionals;
- Mold covers large areas of your home. In this case it will be very difficult to get rid of the mold spores and the risk to your health will be extremely high;
- Mold grows inside the HVAC systems or inside places that are difficult to reach and repair – professional equipment will be required to remove the mold spores from such poorly accessible places;
- You or members of your family are already experiencing mold exposure symptoms. In this case you need to get rid of the mold as soon and as efficiently as possible (before the associated health problems become more severe).
Mold removal specialists have the extensive experience, advanced equipment, and professional know-how to completely remove mold and restore the safe and healthy living conditions in your home. They will discover all the mold spores in your property, use advanced equipment and powerful cleaning agents to kill them, remove water-damaged and mold-infested materials, replace drywall and other badly damaged household materials, repair any sustained damage, disinfect the contaminated area, purify the air, and take efficient precautionary measures to prevent mold from reoccurring.
Just make sure you hire properly licensed, insured, experienced, and trustworthy mold removal professionals for your mold remediation needs – ask several mold removal companies in your area for mold assessment, find out if they use reliable air testing methods, if they have appropriate equipment and quality cleanup products, if they test the air after completing the project (to verify that the mold problem has been properly addressed), learn what kind of insurance they have and what kind of services are included in the offer, etc. and choose the mold remediation company that offers the highest quality services at the most reasonable price. You’ll ensure your peace of mind and the excellent condition of your property.
Once you get rid of mold, however, make sure you prevent it from affecting your home ever again.
How to Prevent Mold
As already discussed above, you cannot prevent mold spores from entering your home or deprive mold of its “food”. Therefore, the only way to prevent mold growth in your home is to control the humidity in the indoor environment and make sure the ambient conditions in your house or apartment are not right for the fungus to develop:
- Ensure proper ventilation and good air circulation – keep the windows open when the weather allows it, run exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens, keep the air ducts clean and in good condition, etc.;
- Keep indoor humidity levels below 45 percent – use air conditioners and dehumidifiers to control your indoor climate and keep air humidity low;
- Clean, dust, and disinfect household surfaces on a regular basis to prevent the accumulation of dust and dirt on your furniture, carpets, and other household items (it has been found that about 80% of household mold grows on dust);
- Remove mold-affected materials to prevent mold spores from contaminating other items;
- Inspect your property at least twice a year (as well as after major storms, torrential rains, snow meltdown, etc.) to detect mold growth in its early stages and prevent it from spreading;
- Keep your property in good repair – make sure the roof and the chimney are in excellent condition at all times, repair foundation cracks and fix plumbing leaks without delay, leak-proof doors and windows, keep the gutters clean, keep the basement and the crawl spaces beneath your home dry, make sure the soil around the home is graded so that water flows away from the foundation, etc.;
- Do not let wet items stay inside – don’t hang wet clothes to dry inside, dry everything well before storing it indoors, take wet shoes off at the door, vent appliances that produce moisture to the outside, etc.
Proper mold prevention will ensure a healthy, mold-free living environment and will save you a lot of money and trouble down the road.