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SALT LAKE CITY -- Mold, mayhem and murder: All are words that bring fear to your heart, words that cause insurance executives to drool. That notwithstanding, one of these words might just be getting a bad rap — and it’s not murder.
Professional home inspectors and mold remediators routinely see the results of mold and water damage in predictable places. Over time, pros learn that a small amount of knowledge and a few inexpensive tools can resolve a problem before it starts. With mold and other home inspection issues, there is often a $10 dollar fix and a $10,000 fix. If proper steps are taken at the right time, you get to choose between the two price tags. If not, you get the $10,000 fix assigned to you with uncommon and unkind clarity.
Start with the bottom line
The bottom line with mold management is this: Keep things dry. Keep your shower area dry, keep your window wells dry, keep your foundation dry, spray the yard — not your house — with your sprinklers and get on top of plumbing leaks quickly.
Hysteria and hoopla
Here are some more basics: According to the EPA, molds produce allergens, irritants and, in some cases, potentially toxic substances called mycotoxins. The EPA also advises that inhaling mold may cause allergic reactions in certain sensitive individuals. Responses include hayfever-type symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose and red eyes. While certain individuals with severe lung and respiratory issues can be severely affected, many healthy adults only report minor complaints. If you have respiratory problems, you should take appropriate steps. If not, take a moment to perhaps breathe a bit easier.
Some have been known to complain that mold makes their face tingle, and others have reported that a mold spore has eaten a part of a loved one’s face away. These stories are easy to create and entertaining to pass along, but lack a base in science. Mold spores are lung irritants, not flesh-eating bacteria.
Hey, it’s natural
Mold is a living organism and requires moisture to live. According to the New York State Department of Health, mold will grow and multiply under the right conditions, needing only sufficient moisture and organic material such as wood, cardboard or the paper in drywall. In other words, it grows on anything wet that is or was wood. While mold does grow on cheese, in rotting food and in a shower surround, this is a less interesting type of mold.
The EPA reports that there are many types of mold, and that none of them will grow without water or moisture. Outdoors, molds play a vital part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves, dead trees and grass clippings. Indoors, there are similar very common sources of mold, including such inoffensive sources as house plants. Plants can be a good source for mold colonies because mold has everything it needs to live: constant moisture and decaying materials.
Green is good
Don’t think you can make your home mold-free by throwing out your house plants — every time you open a door or window, some spores come in and others leave. There is no way to make your home completely mold-free. The reality is that a large percentage of the breaths you have taken in your life have included some mold spores, so to trying to eliminate mold will be an unrealistic task.
No shame in the frame
You may have driven past new homes under construction; You have probably seen hundreds or thousands of them in your lifetime. As rain and snow soaks the home, the frame construction is subject to all of the conditions that mold needs to survive — except time. The water part of the equation is there, and the wood makes a tasty meal, but the wood does not stay wet long enough to build large colonies of mold. As the wood dries, mold spores die and their offspring move to greener pastures. What do we learn from this? A single and short-lived water event that dries out completely is not usually cause for undue concern.
How to get rid of it
Your goal should not be to eliminate spores, but to control the number of spores to a reasonable level. Indoor mold growth can be managed by controlling indoor moisture, so watch for leaks inside your home and make sure the sprinklers are only watering your grass, not your home. Make sure that drainage around your home is properly done, and glance at your water heater from time to time just to make sure it’s not leaking.
If there is mold growth in your home, fix the water problem, then clean up the mold. If you clean up the mold first without addressing the water problem, the mold will return like an old “Poltergeist” movie. Save your sanity and avoid the bad reruns; keep things dry. If you have more questions, call a reputable home inspector or a mold remediator that you trust. Now, breathe deep — you have this one covered.
Experienced home inspectors see homes in an entirely different way. To learn more, please visit www.crossroadsengineers.com. Get the free ebook "The Home Maintenance Guide." The book & blog provide more learning about mold control in the home.