Special guest post by Jon Labelle
Have you ever come face to face with a wet patch in your basement completely covered with a black fungus-like substance? What you are seeing is mold taking over your house. Mold reproduces with the help of spores, invisible to the naked eye. They produce enzymes that allow them to decompose and digest organic matter and are carried by air. They thrive in warm, moist and humid environments and surfaces. While they are an integral part of the natural cycle, they are a health hazard inside the house, not to mention, if left alone they will digest your house.
Mold is a major nuisance to houses. This stinky growth tends to blacken the grout lines in your shower, discolors the walls, darkens the decks, and grows on and rots wood everywhere. The microscopic spores it releases can cause allergic reactions such as a running nose and sneezing. Every home gets mold infestations, the trick is to stop them before they get out of hand and harm you or the house.
If your home has suffered water damage it is going to be prone to a mold infestation. Some of the factors contributing to the growth of mold in your home are as follows:
- Sewage back-up
- Plumbing problems
- Damp basements or crawlspaces
- Overflows from sinks and bathtubs
- High humidity
The worst part of this infestation is the speed with which it creeps up on you. It takes barely 24-48 hours of water exposure for mold and mildew to develop.
Identifying Mold and Mildew
Mold and mildew, both can be categorized as close cousins of the fungi family. Mold appears as a black, brown or green film or fuzz that thrives on rotting food or any other organic material, as well as non-living materials such as tile, plastic, insulation and Sheetrock.
Mildew appears more powdery and forms a flat pattern. It usually target moist, organic surfaces like paper, books, clothing, ceilings, walls, floors and furniture. The appearance of one is usually a sign that the other is lurking nearby.
How to Tackle a Mold Infestation
Dry All Wet Materials–Begin drying any materials that are retaining moisture. Use fans and dehumidifiers and move wet items away from walls and off the floors. Finding out the source of moisture and plugging it is important in stemming the growth of mold.
Dispose All Contaminated Material–Items that have absorbed moisture and have mold growing on them, need to be thrown out. If there has been flooding, remove the sheetrock a level above the high-water mark. Any porous material that shows visible signs of mold should be thrown away.
Clean Thoroughly – Surface mold growing on non-porous materials can usually be cleaned. Thoroughly scrub all the contaminated surfaces with hot water, a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner. Use a stiff brush to scrub out all the contaminants. Rinse the area with clean water and collect the excess rinse water and detergent with a wet/dry vacuum, a mop or a sponge.
Disinfect Affected Surfaces–Mix ¼ cup of bleach per gallon of water and apply to surfaces that show mold growth. You can use a spray bottle or a garden sprayer. Allow the solution to dry for ten minutes. Never mix bleach with ammonia as it can result in toxic chlorine gas.
Remain Alert for Future Signs– Be alert to the signs of mold returning to the areas of past infestation. If it does return, repeat cleaning steps or in cases of heavy infestation take professional help. Re-growth is usually a sign that the moisture has not efficiently been controlled.
How to Prevent a Mold Infestation
Fix All Leakages and Dampness in the House–Leaky roofs, plumbing fixtures, and damp walls can be the prime causes of mold growth. Repair or replace old heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems as they may be contributing to mold growth and its spread through the house. If your basement accumulates water, invest in a water powered sump pump or a dehumidifier.
Increase Air Circulation in Your House–Provide fresh, warm air to all the areas of the house, especially along the walls. Open windows regularly and use fans to circulate air in the rooms. Moving furniture and objects away from exterior walls is a good idea. Using exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms can help prevent moisture from accumulating.
Dispose Wet Items–Always clean and dry out damaged carpets, clothing, bedding or upholstered furniture within 24-48 hours. In severe cases consider removing the damaged furnishings in order to avoid spread or another outbreak of mold.
Install a Dehumidification System– Now available with most heating and cooling systems, it lets you set the ideal level of dryness for your home. Levels between 30% and 50% of humidity are generally recommended. Install this in areas prone to moisture, like attics or basements.
Use Your AC Regularly– Regular use of air conditioning will keep your home cool and dry in the peak season for mold and mildew growth, summer.
Clean Regularly– Dusting, sweeping and vacuuming on a regular basis will remove or kill mold before it gets a chance to spread. You can use elbow grease to remove surface infestations.
Stay Updated on Your Repairs– Make sure your roof gutters, exterior basement walls etc. are well maintained and actively discourage water accumulation.
Cover Cold Surfaces with Insulation– Without insulation cold surfaces like pipes and walls can create condensation and thus increase humidity.
Mold or mildew can infest any location prone to moisture. Keeping an eye on any stray leakages, regularly venting moisture-generating equipment, and avoiding over-watering plants are a few ways to ensure your house stays mold-free.
When you are disinfecting your house of mold by yourself, ensure that you are wearing gloves and using masks to prevent inhaling the spores.
If not taken care of soon, mold or mildew will not only cause grave damage to your home, they can also cause serious health issues. There are more than a 100,000 varieties of mold floating around us, some more harmful than others. It just goes to emphasize the importance of timely prevention and care to ensure they do not infest your homestead.
Author Bio: Jon Labelle is the marketing manager of Aquamaster Plumbing, a basement waterproofing company that offers professional and efficient waterproofing solutions for commercial, and residential clients in Toronto and Mississauga.