Bob Price Home Inspections Ltd. Father & Son team Your #1 Home Inspectors


Mold


Do we have mold in our home?

  • Be familiar with the signs and symptoms of mold.
  1. Look for discoloration on ceilings and walls usually in the corners and along the base boards.
  2. Check for excessive moisture and or past water damage.
  3. If you have an earthy smell in the home such as a dirt odor almost as if you were standing in a area of your yard that never sees the sun.
  4. If you see a fuzzy growth in the walls or moldings.  

What is mold?

How does mold grow?

Mold spores exist readily in nature and are an important part of plants, soil and natural decay.

Mold needs food and water to grow.  The food is any cellulose material such as soil, wood, paper, organic debris, dust, fabric, drywall, carpeting, etc.  The water can come in the form of high relative humidity, small water leak or flood.

If your relative humidity is too high or you have condensation you could have a mold problem.  If you have had a water leak, roof leak, water appliance overflow, or flood you have 24 hours to clean it up before mold begin to grow.

Why is mold growth a concern?

The difference between mold growth outdoors compared to indoors is that outdoors there are a wide variety of mold types (genus and species) that keep each other fairly balanced. 

Indoor mold growth usually involves one or a few types of mold species that greatly outnumber the concentration found indoors even outdoors.  Mold amplification indoors is usually due to a moisture problem which will continue to fuel mold growth.  As time goes by the problem can become larger, more severe and more difficult to clean up. 

If the mold species found indoors is considered toxic or pathogenic and in large enough numbers, then a variety of health effects can occur.

Health effects can range from simple head aches, sinus or breathing problems to more severe nose bleeds, skin rashes, bleeding of the lungs, cancer, even death.

Why don't I just kill it with a biocide or bleach?

Many products exist that claim to rid your home or office of mold.  What these products are not telling you is that a dead mold spore is just as toxic or allergenic as a live mold spore.  The only difference is that it does not have the ability to grow any more.  You still have a mold problem!  Mold needs to be cleaned-up and removed from the indoor environment.

In many cases just as pesticides, the biocides used (including bleach) can cause a whole other problem of indoor environmental toxicity and pollution that is just as problematic as the organism it is intended to kill.

 

If I find mold why don't I just remove it and not bother testing it?

In some cases that is sufficient.  However, you don't necessarily need to see mold growth in order to have a significant mold problem.  Some molds grow inside the wall cavity without any evidence at all on the visible portion of the wall.  

In many instances mold may be visible in one room of a building, but the source of the growth is in another room or portion of the building which does not show visible evidence of growth in readily accessible areas.

Some of our investigations have resulted in significant mold growth findings where no mold growth was even suspected.

I found mold and have reduced the relative humidity to 30% to dry it out.

Although high relative humidity can cause mold growth, reducing the relative humidity to very low levels like 30% to dry out the mold is not advisable either.  Drying out the mold can increase the chance of it aerosolizing.  Mold has a natural defense mechanism where if disturbed, attacked or is dying, it will send out potentially millions of spores into the air that will settle and grow elsewhere.  Avoid high relative humidity, but also avoid drying out.  A relative humidity of 40% to 50% would be more advisable and have the mold tested and removed.

I found mold growing in a corner of my bedroom.  I will just replace the drywall.

If you have mold growth you need to know why and how much .  The source of the mold should be identified in order to avoid the problem repeating itself.  If there is a roof leak or other moisture problem it needs to be fixed.

A mold test should be performed to determine how bad the mold problem is, what type of mold it is and if it's in any other portion of the building.  With this data a proper method of removal can proceed.  In some cases a carpenter can replace the drywall.  In other cases the unaffected portions of the building, the occupants, and the people doing the mold remediation need to be properly protected.

We just bought a house and will be renovating.  How can a mold test help?

Especially in scenarios where you don't really know the history of the building, it is advisable to test for possible mold amplification before removing walls, carpeting, or doing another structural work.  If you start removing drywall and see the back side of it black with mold it is in many cases too late.  

Sick Building Syndrome or Building Related Illnesses are increasingly the result of either careless building maintenance, careless renovating practices, or toxic mold exposure caused by aerosolized mold spores due to the removal of building materials without proper mechanical safe guards.

What you should NOT do when faced with possible mold growth!

Cleaning Mold: Extreme caution should be exercised when attempting to clean up mold.  Mold growth from condensation around windows or on bathroom tiles if it is topical in nature and minimal in growth can be cleaned up.  Avoid bleaches or chemical biocides since these do not work and cause other environmental problems and health issues.  Soapy water with white vinegar, borax and water solution, or a detergent works very well in cleaning up mold.

If the mold growth is on drywall, wood beams, carpeting, insulation, etc,  you should have it tested to determine the type, quantity and toxic effects of the mold growth.  The cause and extent of the mold problem must also be determined prior to any clean up procedure.  Proper care must be taken to protect the individual, occupants as well as the remainder of the building when removing mold.

Disturbing Mold Growth:  Mold growth should be disturbed as little as possible.  If mold growth areas are touched, scrubbed, dried out or otherwise disturbed, mold spores may aerosolize and became part of the breathable air.  This may cause ingestion and inhalation of potentially toxic mold spores which could lead to a variety of serious health effects.

Avoid ripping up carpeting, destruction of drywall or any other destructive activities on building materials showing mold growth until you know what you are dealing with.  If wall cavities need to be opened for the purposes of testing, this must be done by a qualified professional with minimal damage to the wall itself.  Entry points into a wall should be as small as possible (usually no more than 1/2 inch in diameter).  All entry points or punctures in a wall suspected of mold growth must be properly sealed afterwards to avoid mold spores from aerosolizing.

Biocides: the use of biocides is not recommended by our company or by (ACGIH) American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienist which is a leading body in North America for Occupational and Environmental Safety as well as bioaerosol testing and remediation.  Biocides are not an easy fix for mold in buildings even though many manufacturers claim that they are.  Biocides kill the viability of the mold spore and can prevent mold growth from spreading.  However, biocides do not remove the toxic properties of a mold species.  By spraying biocides on mold growth you will only retard mold growth itself.  Dead mold spores can have the same toxic properties as viable or living mold spores.  The possible toxic health effects are not properly addressed through this method.

Drying:  Depending on the situation, it is not always advisable to dry out mold growth.  By drying out mold growth you are removing part of its sustainability and food source.  If a mold species is growing on building materials and the moisture is removed too soon before remediation, mold spores could aerosolize as a natural survival mechanism of the mold itself.  Some species of mold like Stachybotrys needs a lot of moisture for growth.  As long as it is wet this type of mold does not easily aerosolize.  If this type of mold growth is dried out and not immediately removed, it may become aerosolized.

Moisture intrusion into a building should be addressed as soon as possible, but so should remediation of the mold growth.

The information above was compiled from different web sites that deal with mold on a regular bases and are considered experts in the field. These statements are not a reflection of the articals written by Bob Price Home Inspections Ltd. 

There are many companies that can detect the mold and advise you where to turn for help. Bob Price would be happy to assist you in finding a company to help you deal with a mold issue.

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