Photo by: Dr. David Midgley University of Sydney, Australia
Mold! Now What?
A while back I showed a home to my client. The home was a total renovation and my client was a first time homebuyer. He was really looking forward to seeing the house. The price was right, there was a tax abatement, and everything was new. We walked in, so far so good. As we walked further into the house there was this damp odor. As we walked down to the basement the odor got stronger and sure enough we saw it – MOLD – growing at the base of the wall. Needless to say my client wasn’t interested in that house anymore.
I think it’s important for people to understand the real story about mold. What it is, how to recognize it and most importantly, how to deal with it.
Molds occur naturally in our environment. They reproduce by means of tiny spores. When a person touches or inhales mold or mold spores, sensitive individuals may have an allergic reaction. It’s impossible to get rid of all mold and mold spores indoors; some mold spores will be found floating through the air and in house dust. The mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present. Controlling moisture reduces the threat of mold problems. A water leak or high humidity can lead to mold, mildew, or other biological growth. Depending on the severity, conditions can lead to rot, structural damage, premature paint failure, and a variety of health problems. Water can seep into your house from the outside through a leak in your roof, foundation, or small gaps around windows or doors. Water can also come from inside your house from a leaking water pipe, toilet, shower or bathtub. High indoor humidity caused by normal activities of everyday living such as showering, cooking, and drying clothes, can also be a source of mold, mildew or musty odors. Indoor humidity levels between 30% and 50% are ideal. For more information consult EPA’s Brief Guide to Mold in your home.
If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean it up and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the problem will come back. Stop water leaks immediately to minimize the potential mold growth. Increased ventilation and frequent cleaning helps to prevent mold from growing in areas where completely eliminating moisture is difficult, such as bathrooms. Use ventilation fans in kitchens and baths to control moisture. Check to make sure ventilation fans are venting directly outside. In some cases the vent fan may have been installed to vent into the attic or become disconnected or blocked.
How can you tell if it is mold?
Discoloration — Mold may be any color: black, white, red, orange, yellow, blue or violet. Dab a drop of household bleach onto a suspected spot. If the stain loses its color or disappears, it may be mold. If there is no change, it probably isn’t mold.
Smell/Odor — Sometimes molds are hidden and cannot be seen. A musty or earthy smell often indicates the presence of molds. But a smell may not be present for all molds. Even when you don’t notice a smell, wet spots, dampness or evidence of a water leak are indications of moisture problems and mold may follow.
When should you seek professional help?
- There is a lot of mold.
- The home is very damp and moist.
- Mold comes back after repeated cleaning.
- A family member suffers from asthma or respiratory problems or other health problems that appear to be aggravated inside the home.
Remember – your health and the health of your family is a very important part of home buying.