|Do It Yourself: HOME IMPROVEMENT|
|If you suspect a mold problem in your home, one of the first places to check is the ductwork in all crawl spaces. They can breed mold if too much moisture is present.
"There's one reason why someone should be concerned about mold," Environmental Protection Agency engineer Bob Thompson says, "and you can sum it up in one word and that is damage." The damage can be to both your home and your health.
Thompson has seen firsthand what mold can do. "Mold can grow on most of the materials that are used in building a home. It can use it as a food source," Thompson says. "Mold will actually cause a physical change and sometimes chemical changes in these materials and make them worthless."
Mold spores commonly attach themselves to surfaces such as tile grout because the moist environment of a shower or tub allows them to multiply. As long as the water doesn't seep through cracks in the caulking, there's usually little concern that the mold will spread. In fact, the spores can be removed from the grout with commercially available cleaners. The real problem happens when the mold spores turn up on the material behind the tile and grout or on the wall studs. In this case, the experts say the homeowner should act quickly and cautiously.
If your home has a mold problem, your first thought may be to hire someone to perform a test or do a sampling to try and determine what type of mold and how much of it is in your home. The EPA actually discourages sampling simply because it's often too expensive and it's difficult to interpret the results. It's also extremely complicated to perform the test properly.
Blame It On Moisture
Realtors will tell you location, location, location is vital in buying a home, but where mold is concerned, the problem is moisture, moisture, moisture! Find the source of any moisture, and you've probably found the root to any mold problem. If you have problems locating moisture in your home, don't hesitate to call in a house inspector to help you find any unwanted moisture intrusion.
Where Are Most of the Common Moisture Spots in a Home?
Bathrooms -- This room is a major source for moisture in any home, which is why ventilation is vital. Without a vent and fan, the moisture can't be pulled up and out of the room.
Windows -- Most windows sweat, so it's important to wipe the moisture from the windows with a mixture of detergent and water.
Attics -- Dark patches of mold can spread under the insulation in an attic when humidity is high outside the home -- especially if you live near a body of water.
Kitchens -- Steam from cooking can produce excessive moisture.
Soffit Vents -- These vents attract moisture from outside the home.
Small Holes in Walls -- Outside moisture can reach the inside of your home through small holes in the walls.
Light Fixtures -- If your ceiling light fixtures aren't sealed well, moisture and humidity can penetrate your home.
Vinyl Wallpaper -- This type of wallpaper will "not" let moisture come through the wall as it should normally. It traps the moisture in the coldest part of the wall, which is the surface. This is where the moist air condenses, fueling the growth of mold.
Leaking Air-Conditioner Systems -- A typical air-conditioning system is only designed to do 30 percent of the work in moisture removal. Air conditioners can harbor dirt and moisture, which can lead to mold problems. Tip: Be sure to have your air-conditioning system serviced twice a year -- in fall and spring.
Roofs -- If the structure of your roofing system doesn't eliminate moisture and rain properly, you can not only see major damage to your roof, but the excessive moisture can lead to mold problems.
Crawl Spaces -- If you have missing downspouts nearby, a crawl space can develop a major moisture and mold problem. Faulty duct work can be the culprit here. This can become a breeding ground for problems right under your house.
Basements -- Usually the most damp room in the house.
Tip: Make sure all the vents and duct work in your home aren't leaking, and avoid setting the thermostat below 75-degrees in warm months.
Warning: Mold can grow on wet or damp surfaces within 48 hours.
Simply put, anything you can do to help prevent moisture in and around you home, the better chance you'll have to eliminate mold problems.