Mold is silent and sneaky, growing and spreading under your floors, in your basement, under layers of paint, and behind walls. Knowing what environments support mold growth and its signs are important when determining if you need to have your home tested for mold.
The dangers of mold in our homes
Mold is a naturally occurring fungus attracted to dark and damp spaces, meaning certain areas of our homes are ideal for mold growth. It’s to take measures to avoid the presence of mold inside your home.
Home foundations are typically made of porous concrete. It is the ideal environment for mold growth, being underground, constantly in contact with moisture, and never exposed to sunlight.
Normally, the mold stays on the exterior. The problems begin when foundation cracks allow mold to penetrate beyond the outside surface and enter into your house, where it will cause real damage.
Drywall does not mix well with moisture. When drywall gets wet, it may soak up the moisture and remain wet for weeks. The same goes for your roofing, behind your gutters, in bathrooms, and under and behind furniture. Anywhere that potentially traps moisture can become a mold breeding ground. Once a colony starts, it can grow fast.
Mold in your home causes serious health problems. The effects feel similar to cold-like symptoms at the start. Eventually, it can lead to headaches, itchy skin and eyes, breathing difficulties, aggravation of asthma symptoms, sneezing, coughing, and a runny nose. At this point, you likely have a robust mold infestation that professionals should address.
How do you know if you need mold testing?
Damp environments are breeding grounds for mold. Excess humidity, leaky or broken pipes, saturated concrete, or dampness from excessive water all set the stage for mold growth.
Some tell-tale signs are dark spots on floors, walls, and ceilings, the odor of mildew, sudden cold-like symptoms or respiratory agitation, or condensation on glass and metal from high humidity. If you notice any of these conditions in your home, contact a company certified in mold testing and abatement.
Keep in mind the mold may still be there even if you can’t see it. Pay attention and know what conditions will facilitate mold growth.
How does residential mold abatement work?
When you discover mold in your home, you can hire a professional contractor or remedy the problem yourself.
If the mold growth area is less than about 10 square feet, or roughly a 3 ft. by 3 ft. area, addressing the issue yourself will save time and money. The EPA has tips and techniques for household mold cleanup to help safely and properly mitigate mold. Be sure to monitor the area periodically to make sure the colony has not started to regrow.
A professional mold abatement program best serves larger areas or extensive infestations. Hire a contractor experienced and certified in cleaning mold. A specialist will do a thorough job in killing the growth and reducing the risk of the colony returning. Mitigating mold may mean removing sections of drywall, carpeting, and contaminated personal belongings. If the colony is not completely removed, it will likely start to spread again.
During the mold abatement process, it’s essential to remedy the root cause that attracted the mold. For instance, if contaminated water, such as a sewage leak, led to mold, consult with a contractor experienced in cleaning and repairing damage from contaminated water.
No matter how well you clean the mold, the mold will likely return if you do not repair the problem that allowed it to grow in the first place. Things like broken or leaky pipes, bad seals on HVAC equipment, or pooling water from humidity and condensation will continue to breed mold if not remedied.
How to protect yourself from mold
The best way to protect yourself from mold is to avoid it. Try to keep yourself and your family away from the mold until it is cleaned. Do what you can to limit mold exposure.
Damp places, such as a bathroom, may see mold reappear after being cleaned. Mold requires moisture to grow; limit your moisture, and you will limit your mold. Increase ventilation by opening a window or running a fan during showers until the bathroom is dry will help prevent growth. Regularly cleaning and wiping down surfaces in these areas also helps avoid recurring mold.
For owners with naturally humid spaces, like an unfinished or unconditioned basement, running a dehumidifier removes moisture from the air. Avoid storing things like paper, clothes, wood, or other natural materials in humid areas of your home, as they retain moisture and foster mold growth.
Residential mold testing & abatement
The best thing homeowners can do if they suspect mold is present is to test and mitigate if necessary. Not only can mold damage your property and furnishings, but the spores pose a serious health risk.