Wednesday, March 21st, 2018 by Bill Cowley
Mold is the unfortunate aftermath of a water intrusion event like a leaky or burst pipe or an excess moisture problem from high indoor relative humidity levels. Time and time again, we are called upon to treat dangerous mold growth in attics, bathrooms, basements, and crawl spaces. Although mold growth can happen anywhere throughout a home, these particular spaces are notorious areas for mold growth.
Mold growth in the non-living areas of the home are particularly troublesome since homeowners can have a festering mold problem and not even realize it. Often, mold can be there for years and is not uncovered until a home inspection as part of the pending sale.
Also, airborne microscopic mold spores travel on air currents and permeate the entire home. This is how mold passively spreads, attaches to new surfaces, and colonizes. As a result, mold growth anywhere in your home is a health hazard. The “out of sight, out of mind” mold that’s hidden in the far reaches of your home is still quite capable of making you and your family members quite sick.
Mold, Moisture, and Bathrooms.
Bathrooms, by their very purpose, has water everywhere. They are regularly wet, hot, and steamy either in the morning or at night. The tile in and around showers and tubs is often shimmering with a glaze of water. If your home has children, the bathroom turns into a water park. Also, since bathrooms are our personal hygiene areas, they are filled not only with the home’s organic building materials, but our own organic residue as well --- our hair, our dead skin, and our skin oils. In short, bathrooms are an ideal mold breeding area and mold growth in bathrooms is an all too common occurrence.
To keep mold at bay, high-traffic bathrooms must be designated as high-maintenance areas of the home that require regular, vigorous, and deep cleaning. Non-porous surfaces should be cleaned with a weak solution of water and bleach. Bathrooms need to be properly ventilated and windowless “inside” bathrooms require proper ventilation. Bathroom fans are essential for removing excess moisture. With our bathroom mold jobs, the culprit is often a non-working bathroom fan that was never repaired. Bathrooms are relatively small spaces and it does not take much for a bathroom to turn into a steam room. Conditions are ripe for mold growth, and sure enough, that’s what happens. We are then called in to treat mold that has formed on the bathroom walls and ceiling.
Condensation, Mold, and Crawl Spaces.
Crawl spaces are notorious mold-breeding areas. Sometimes it’s because of damp soil or water intrusion around the home’s foundation. However, often, mold is the result of condensation caused by temperature changes. Summers in New Jersey can be blistering hot, but then cool down at night. As night approaches and temperatures drop, the amount of moisture the air is able to hold drops as well.
You can take steps to keep down the humidity in your crawl space by installing proper insulation on the walls and ceiling, installing a high-quality vapor barrier, encapsulating the space, and closing off the vents that are allowing in the humid outdoor air in the first place, and installing a dehumidifier. All of these measures will keep down moisture and make your crawl space resistant to mold growth.
Although we usually don’t think of attics as areas of mold growth, at least compared to dark and humid crawl spaces and basements, we often deal with attic mold. Attics are subject to water intrusion events because of roof leaks. Your roof is the barrier against the harsh outdoor elements of rain and snow, and with our Nor’easters and high annual rainfall here in New Jersey, our roofs take a beating. They must be kept in good repair.
Also, homeowners without properly functioning attic fans are asking for trouble. Good attic ventilation is essential to prevent mold formation up above. Attic fans cool hot attics by drawing in cooler outside air from attic vents (soffits and gables) and pushing hot air to the outside. To ensure that your attic is being properly ventilated, start by making sure that the soffit vents are not blocked. Also, the attic needs to be well-sealed and well-insulated from the rest of the home so the attic fans don’t suck the cooled conditioned air out of the house. Homeowners usually don’t think of attic insulation as part of mold prevention, but it’s a great side-benefit. Finally, make sure that the attic fan is in good working condition.
Basements and Mold.
Basements develop a mold for the same reasons that crawl spaces do – they are dark and can easily build up persistently high humidity levels in which mold thrives. Like crawl spaces, basements have water pipes running through them that can burst or leak, and basements are subject to groundwater infiltration and flooding with New Jersey’s high water table, especially in all of our Jersey Shore towns.
But mold growth can happen in other ways as well. We had a homeowner in Fair Haven who had a dryer vent that wasn't attached properly. The warm dryer air pumping into the cool basement air resulted in condensation inside the vent. But where’s the organic material for the mold? Aren’t dryer vents made out of aluminum or other inorganic substances? Just to show what items can be used as mold “food,” in this case, the dryer vent was filled with lint! Although we do not think of lint as organic material, lint is simply tiny bits of fabric fibers that are shred from the edges of our clothing. Fabrics made of natural fibers like cotton and wool generate more lint than synthetic fabrics, and this soft, clumpy material that we pull out of lint vent is a delicious food source for mold.
Mold thrives in dark, humid locations, and with condensation inside the dryer vent forming from hot air colliding with cool, conditions were ripe for mold growth. The lesson for mold prevention is keeping your home in good repair and making sure that any sources of hot air in your home are being properly ventilated outside. Pumping hot air into your basement, crawl space, attic, or wall voids (which are often easy cost-saving short-cuts for builders) often results in dangerous, hidden mold growth.
Read more about mold growth here
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