Mold growth is a common problem for many homeowners, but if you have a basement, it could be especially problematic. Not only does mold leave unsightly stains, but it can also weaken your walls, floors and even the ceiling! There is however, an even bigger concern, and that is the health risks that can occur with exposure.
Your family can come into contact with mold spores through skin contact, inhalation, and even ingestion! Symptoms of mold exposure can often be overlooked, but they can include a runny nose, watery eyes, scratchy throat, fatigue, mild allergic reactions, and an unpleasant feeling when breathing. In some cases, although rare, mold can even be toxic!
The most frequent places to find mold is in a bathroom, kitchen or basement, but if the conditions are favorable, it can be found in any room. There are three things that mold needs to grow:
Surprisingly, in as little as 48 hours mold growth can begin. Mold spores thrive and reproduce in damp or wet areas of a house. Pipes, walls, roofs, even house plants can provide a warm, moist environment, nutritious environment for mold to thrive.
In 2003, the University of Arizona conducted a study and found that 100% of the homes in their study had mold. Not all of the homes had the dangerous type, but needless to say, it was still startling that all of the homes had mold!
It's important to remember that mold can develop on nearly any surface.
Here are a few:
- Ceiling Tiles
- Cloth & Clothing
- Household Dust
- Wood Products
If you have mold growth, follow these steps:
Step 1: Assess the Situation
Okay, okay, you probably think you already did this step since you've already discovered that you have mold growth. But it's important that you take your time and do an honest assessment of the situation.
If your mold damage requires professional clean-up you may want to consider filing a claim with your insurance company. Read our post Water Damage Insurance Claim Tips.
If you find that you only have a small amount of mold from a leaking appliance or a small plumbing leak, you'll likely be able to do the clean-up yourself. However, some mold infestations are very invasive and can grow rapidly. These types of problems are best left to the professionals.
We recommend testing for mold even if you don't see any signs. There are horror stories of homeowners who never thought they had a mold problem until they suddenly started feeling sick. Sometimes mold will begin to smell before it's visible, and testing will alert you to the problem and get a jump on the resolution.
Step 2: Protective Equipment
Taking on a mold crisis requires using protective equipment. You should wear rubber gloves and goggles to protect yourself from mold spores. In extreme cases, or if you are sensitive to mold, you should consider wearing a Tyvek body suit.
It's important to be aware that even a small exposure to mold can cause irritation in your eyes and nose. Recurring lung problems can also be a concern. Be sure to make safety a high priority.
Step 3: Determine and Fix
In order to grow, mold at least needs darkness and moisture. This means that mold requires moisture or a water source, so in order to solve the problem, you first must identify the cause.
Broken pipes within the home's walls, holes in the exterior siding, and a backed up drain all can cause enough moisture to create an environment for mold to thrive. Basically, any place that is damp has the potential of becoming a breading ground for mold growth.
Contacting a contractor or mold specialist for clean-up is often worth considering. They'll be able to pin point the exact location of the problem, make the necessary repairs and leave your home mold-free.
Step 4: Carpets
Basement carpets are especially prone to mold. Cleaning the carpet with a shampooer can sometimes be effective, but frequently mold seeps below the visible part of the carpet and the problem is much worse than what you see on the surface.
Removing the carpet is usually the best choice. Cut or rip the carpet into sections, including the pad, and place the sections into a double bagged garbage bag. Take care when removing the bags from your house, and use the closest door available to the outside.
Hauling old moldy bags through your home may allow spores to escape and spread into other areas of your house.
Step 5: Drywall
Drywall can often be the telltale sign that you have a mold problem in your home. If you are able to see signs of mold on drywall a professional should be called for repair and clean-up.
When mold begins to grow on building materials, including drywall, it's frequently due to high humidity levels within the home, or because of a flood. Many homeowners try to solve the problem themselves by spraying the moldy drywall with mold killer that can be purchased over the counter.
However, these products rarely resolve the source of the problem, and just like your carpets, what lies beneath must be addressed.
Other times homeowners clean the surface with bleach. This is not recommended, although, it is true that bleach can kill the majority of the mold growth on drywall. Some spores would likely survive and if exposed to moisture again, they will regrow.
Even "dead" mold can be a health hazard.
Cut and remove a 24" section of the drywall. This will allow you to look inside your walls to see if the insulation is mold-free, check for damage on any internal structures. If you notice mold on any studs, plywood or other building materials they will all need to be replaced.
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Step 6: Clean Up
Whether you should do the clean-up yourself depends largely on the size of the mold problem. If the area is less than 10 square feet, it's likely something you could tackle yourself. However, if the area is larger and there has been a lot of water damage, hiring a professional may be the best choice.
If you choose to do the work yourself, carefully remove all carpet, insulation, drywall and other materials that were affected by mold. For concrete surfaces, linoleum and tile, clean with a mixture of bleach and water. Never use bleach on porous objects, wood or drywall.
After you have completely cleaned the area, allow it to dry by opening windows and/or using fans.
Tips and Techniques for Cleaning Mold
- Hard Surfaces - Scrub with detergent and water until mold is gone. Then allow to completely dry.
- Porous or Absorbent Materials - These are items such as carpet or ceiling tiles. If they become too moldy they may need to be thrown away. Mold will grow in the crevices and empty spaces of porous materials making it nearly impossible to completely remove.
- Never caulk or paint moldy surfaces - Paint will frequently peel when applied over a moldy surface. Always clean-up the mold and throughly dry the surface before painting.
Step 7: Repair
Any studs, plywood, carpet, drywall will need to be replaced. If you are comfortable doing the work yourself you can save some money, however, hiring a contractor is often the preferred choice.
If you have done the clean-up work yourself, the cost should be greatly reduced. One benefit of hiring a contractor is they will have first hand knowledge of your situation. They'll often have suggestions and helpful tips that directly apply to your home and can help you prevent a future outbreak.