Scientific Background on Mold
Having a mold free environment requires the knowledge and understanding of how mold grows in the first place. You may have heard the term “ubiquitous” before which means present, appearing, or found everywhere. The reason this term is used is because mold is not just indoors, it is also outdoors and part of our ecosystem. It’s irresponsible to lump up mold which has various genus and species, into one category and call it ubiquitous because it gives us this sense that there is nothing we can do to stop mold from growing indoors. That couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, there are many species of mold that are not ubiquitous and actually grow more commonly indoors than outdoors, depending on the climate. These are what we commonly call “water damaged molds” which are the ones that certain people are known to be sensitive to that create adverse health reactions. Species like Chaetomium and Stachybotrys Chartarum require a chronic source of water and moisture before they commonly begin to grow.
How Mold Reproduces
Mold is like a weed in the sense of how it reproduces. I use this analogy a lot because it’s really illustrative of how mold works.
Weeds produce seeds that get aerosolized and find more water and soil to begin to plant its roots and grow into more weeds. This is why when you have weeds in your front lawn, they can quickly spread and take over your lawn. Mold is very similar except the term for “seed” with respect to mold is called a spore. Because mold commonly grows outside you’re going to have spores produced by common outdoor molds enter the home naturally.
An important strategy when testing for mold inside is to also do a baseline mold test outside for this reason. It gives us an idea what is naturally occurring in your area that will be present inside. Oddly enough, people who are feeling adverse health effects inside but not outside, can mean one of three things. One, the quantities in the air due to the near infinite volume of air outdoors, provides very little contamination entering your body with each breath. Two, there is more mold per volume of air being produced inside your home creating a much larger impact on each breath you take. Three: The species present inside the home are more toxigenic, allergenic, or pathogenic than the molds in the air outside. One would conclude then that it matters what species are present and what quantities the spores are being produced. There’s also the possible presence of bacteria and its byproducts as well as biotoxins that could be a health concern when dealing with water intrusion.
Since mold requires water, moisture, or high relative humidity before a spore can begin to grow and colonize; Correcting deficiencies in the home that lead to excess water, moisture, or high relative humidity are key to maintaining a mold free home. It’s also important to note that keeping the home clean of naturally occurring dust on a consistent basis will provide value as mold requires a food source such as porous materials, dust, and debris.
How to Prevent Mold
So how do we prevent our home from becoming mold infested? There are several strategies one must take to prevent mold inhabiting your home and the costly remediation services that come with it.
- Making sure your roof is inspected regularly for any signs of degradation of the roof structure, missing shingles, and flashing integrity.
- Inspecting around exterior windows and doors for any gaps, such as loose caulking or cracks that can occur as the home settles will be crucial to preventing unwanted moisture, water, and humidity from entering the home.
- Inspecting the grading around the exterior to ensure it’s not sloped towards the house. This can be problematic if you have a basement or crawl space as it leads more water than usual during rains that will push against the foundation due to hydrostatic pressure. Also, if you are built on a slab, moisture can wick into the sill plate of the house during heavy rains or snow if your grading is too high, causing unwanted moisture intruding into the living space.
- Inspecting any patios or decks you may have that are typically secured to the home in some fashion. Making sure it is counterflashed properly, does not have any points of entry that could cause unwanted moisture and water intrusion.
- Making sure you have proper ventilation in an attic space will help hot humid air escape through the venting system during summer months when our attics are most vulnerable. I have seen many clients get new insulation installed in their attic at a recommendation by a contractor and unfortunately adding new insulation on top of old insulation improperly, can lead to blocked ventilation in the soffit vents.
- Making sure you have proper ventilation in your bathrooms and kitchens to remove excess moisture during showering and cooking. Making sure your bath fans are devoid of dust so that they are working efficiently and sized properly for the size space you have. You also want to make sure there is adequate makeup air to the space or the fan will not work as intended to remove the moisture during use. Checking to make sure that none of these exhausts exhaust out into your attic added unwanted moisture to your attic space is also effective. If you do see this flawed design, hiring someone to extend them outside will be beneficial.
- If you have a basement, ensuring you have proper moisture countermeasures such as a moisture blocking primer on your foundation walls in conjunction with a dehumidifier to keep the relative humidity around 40%.
- If you have issues with water penetration in a basement space, having a proper waterproofing strategy installed such as a French drain will be key. We are against the vinyl wall insulation covering system as it is phenomenal for creating a pathway for water but, it’s flaw is that it traps moisture between the vinyl and the foundation wall, allowing mold to grow behind it (and eventually that mold will start to impact the living space).
- If you live in a humid climate like the southeast, installing a whole home dehumidification system may be the most practical way to deal with humidity in the summers as the HVAC may not keep up with it’s natural dehumidification process.
- Remember to keep your windows closed on extremely humid days or rainy days to prevent unwanted water, moisture, and humidity in your home.
- Protecting your HVAC is essential as the coil constantly condensates and drains out through its drain line. This makes the coil the most optimal place for mold to grow should the spores make its way through the return ducts to the coil. Protecting your HVAC system with a product like the Intellipure air purification system provides protection removing particles as low as 7 nanometers in size. UV Light technology is great in theory except that it takes approximately 10 second of dwell time to kill environmental contaminants. Due to the velocity of the air flow, particulate generally pass through the UV Light much more quickly, making it more of a “feel good” than it is effective. Filtration and purification is by far the most effective way at keeping your coil free from mold and other contaminants.
- In the event of a tragedy such as a sudden and accidental pipe burst, you want to immediately turn off the source of water (if possible), document the damage, clean up the excess water, contact your insurance company, and using dehumidification only (as opposed to fans and blowers that could spread environmental contaminants if already present) begin to dry out the space. From there we recommend hiring a consultant to evaluate the presence of mold, bacteria, and their byproducts before any professional begins to remove any material. Check out our education page on the insurance process to become informed of commonly asked questions regarding insurance.
A good way to check if you have mold now, is to lift open your toilet tank and see if you have mold growing in the tank or on the tank cover. As mold becomes aerosolized and finds areas with water such as your toilet tank, it can begin to grow in and around it. If you do have mold in your toilet tank, odds are you have a source somewhere in the home. Check out our partners page to perform an inspection to help locate and eradicate the mold now before it gets worse.
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