Whether you’re a home buyer, homeowner, or home seller, mold poses a wide range of problems, from cosmetic issues to serious health hazards. According to the Alliance for Healthy Homes, more than 1,000 types of molds have been found in U.S. homes, and approximately 6-10 percent of the general population, and 15-50 percent of people who are genetically prone to develop allergies, are allergic to mold.
Surprisingly, some of today’s advanced building techniques unwittingly foster mold growth in the home, especially when they are used improperly. As buildings are increasingly designed to prevent the infiltration and exfiltration of air, the materials used lock in moisture and humidity. Older homes can also be at risk thanks to well-intended but improperly placed insulation in attics to bathrooms with no ventilation.
Finding and removing mold is of the utmost importance, whether you intend to sell your home in the near future or not. Here, from Pillar To Post, are 10 tips for combating mold in your home that I’ve edited to be more realistic:
1. Call in an independent home inspection professional or a licensed engineer to assess water-damaged areas. Beware of contractors whose business is to make repairs as opposed to evaluating problems.
2. Keep humidity low. Humidity levels should be under 40% in order to prevent mold from spreading.
3. Replace any carpets and furniture that have ever been significantly damaged (i.e., saturated in water), even if they look OK on the outside. Not sure? Lift one corner to check out the underside. Still concerned? Buy an inexpensive test kit at CVS or Lowes for an initial determination.
4. Carpet in a bathroom or basement is never a good idea. Remove any that exists in those areas in your home. Rely on resilient materials or fiber products that self-ventilate and are made for such purposes. Commercial carpets or the old standby, indoor-outdoor carpet, are not recommended.
5. Use an air conditioner during the summer months, even if it’s set at a relatively high temperature, like 80. Use fans to circulate air.
6. Dust and clean furniture regularly, and vacuum carpets at least once a week (make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter). You might also consider a stationery air cleaner with a HEPA filter. They are good for one good sized room.
7. Provide adequate ventilation in hot or damp areas. The kitchen and bath are two of the highest-risk rooms for mold. Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom and make certain that they exhaust outside the building. Allowing exhaust to discharge into an attic or basement is inviting disaster. Also, make certain that ductwork is sheet metal, runs as straight as possible and uses as few elbows as possible. Too long a run or too many connections can reduce the effective exhaust by as much as 50%.
8. When you’re shopping for house paint for big or small painting projects, ask the sales rep about mold inhibitors you can add before painting. But remember, these are chemicals and some people can be sensitive to them as much as the mold.
9. If you have forced air heat (with or without central air), make certain the ductwork is clean on the inside. Once thought to be excessive, cleaning ductwork can significantly reduce allergens and eliminates material that mold can grow on. Also consider adding a high efficiency filter or an electrostatic air filter. Your local HVAC technician can help with this.
10. Don’t neglect areas underneath the house, like your basement or a crawl space. Avoid gimmicks like fans that exhaust basement air through a duct to the outside, drawing the “conditioned” air from within the house. Sounds like a good idea, but it puts a strain on the air conditioning system because it technically creates a vacuum and pulls in unconditioned air from the outside. Best to seal floors and if facing high humidity, invest in a commercial dehumidifier that will work at lower temperatures and extract far more moisture than household types.
If you are not highly allergic to mold, when you do find mold in your home, remove it with a store-bought anti-fungal solution, or get rid of it with a weak bleach solution – 1 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water. Or, if your think you are allergic to mold or it exists in a larger area, either buy a test kit or call in a professional to help. Need a reference? Just contact my office and we can give you names of people who simply test or can remediate. Ideally, that’s two different parties.