By Ardith Stephanson
Devastating photos and videos from floods on the west and east coasts of Canada are shocking and sad.
Severe rainstorms and flooding have chased many people from their homes in mass evacuations, along with washed out highways, overrun farms and businesses, and massive property damage. British Columbia and Atlantic Canada are reeling from the floodwaters, leaving many of us wondering: are floods getting worse?
If you own a home, other relevant questions you’ve likely asked are:
· Is my home protected from a flood?
· Can floods be prevented?
· Are floods covered by home insurance?
A natural weather disaster can’t be prevented, but there are some key points about flooding and water management that are important for homeowners to know.
Let’s take a look at 4 facts to know about flooding and your home.
It’s true that one thing you can’t control is the weather. But it does appear that water issues in general are increasing in frequency.
The Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation is an applied research centre at the University of Waterloo. The Centre helps homeowners, communities and businesses to identify and reduce risks associated with climate change and extreme weather events.
A study conducted from 2016-2018 involved developing and testing a nationally applicable home flood risk assessment tool. The tool was used to conduct over 500 Home Flood Protection Assessments in Saskatoon, Burlington and Toronto.
The study concluded that residential basement flooding is on the rise across much of Canada, caused by “intense rainfall events combined with aging infrastructure, increased urbanization, loss of natural infrastructure, and a lack of flood protection measures at the household level.”
In 2018, the Insurance Bureau of Canada placed an average price tag of $43,000 per flooded basement.
Added to the concerns over potential water damage, homeowners also have to worry about insurance coverage.
CBC’s Marketplace found that some homeowners lost their flood protection because of multiple claims or because of the growing risk of climate change. The Insurance Bureau of Canada told Marketplace that it estimates six to 10 percent of Canadian homes are “currently uninsurable due to flooding and that estimate could go up as more insurance companies update their risk assessments to account for the rising threat of climate change.”
It’s important to know your insurance coverage, and to find out if you can take steps to protect your home that will help ensure you do have proper coverage.
Either way, there are steps a homeowner can take to protect their home from water damage.
The Home Flood Protection Program does provide information for homeowners to help identify and limit their risk of basement flooding. The program identified 10 top actions that can be completed to reduce the risk, and many of these are not expensive changes to make.
Examples include keeping the floor drains clear and testing your sump pump regularly. If you’re on a flood watch, it’s worth having backup power installed for your sump pump.
If you do have a heavy rain incident, it’s important to check your home for signs of water damage. Unseen water can quickly create mold, which is a health issue that impacts indoor air quality.
For instance, look for:
· water stains
· smelly attic or basement
· water seepage
· leaky roof
Even a heavy rainfall or rapidly melting snow can cause issues, so it’s worth booking a mold inspection by professionals. The team at got mold?™ offers mold inspection services in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
Despite the best preparations, water damage can still happen. Flash floods from extreme amounts of rainfall, rising water levels from snow and ice melt, or water damage for those properties located near rivers and lakes can all have serious consequences to your home or business.
If you do experience flood damage, there are some key steps to take to ensure your safety as you begin the flood restoration process.
Besides the development of mold that’s already been mentioned, there are other concerns that arise in the hours after severe water damage:
Contaminated Water: Floods can cause a backup of sewer lines, bringing sewage into the home. Even flood water can be contaminated with bacteria that can make you sick. Make sure you wear hip waders, rubber boots, and rubber gloves any time you will be coming in contact with floodwater. Wash your hands frequently and take other safety measures to combat the bacteria that can arise in water damage situations.
Drinking Water Precautions: If flood water gets into the drinking water supply, it can quickly cause contamination. Public health advisories suggest checking with the local authorities to see if drinking water is safe or if a boil water advisory is in place after a flood. If you have well water, you need to test the water before drinking it.
Contacting the professionals at got mold?™ is the best option if your home experiences flood or other water damage. We will work with you through the flood restoration process.
In recent weeks, many of us have wondered: are floods becoming more frequent? Are floods caused by climate change?
Whether flood news is top of mind for you as a homeowner or business owner, or you simply want to ensure your home is safe from dangerous air quality issues like mold, you can trust the experts at got mold?™ to provide you with advice and resources to deal with flood damage, water damage, sewer backups and more.
Ardith Stephanson is a freelance writer and journalist who shares some of her own stories at theardizan.com
We understand that sometimes, you want answers, quick! That’s why we’ve put together the cliff’s notes versions of our answers to some of your most common black mold related questions!
No, not all black mold is toxic because not all black molds release mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are what are considered carcinogenic, nephrotoxic, hepatotoxic, neurotoxic etc. However, even mold that is not toxic can have a negative impact on your health. Learn more about toxic vs non-toxic black mold.
All mold should be considered hazardous and removed from your home. All mold spores can cause allergic reactions and have a negative impact on your health. Prolonged exposure to mycotoxic black molds can cause mycotoxicosis (mold poisoning), which can lead to severe complications and even death. Learn more about toxic black mold.
Yes! High concentrations of mold spores in your indoor air compromises indoor air quality and can lead to mold poisoning and allergic reactions. Learn more about indoor air quality testing.
A professional air quality test can not only help you determine whether your indoor air quality is safe, or if mold spores are present, but it can even help you narrow down the source of the mold within your property. Just because you can’t see the mold, doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and a professional air quality test can help you find dangerous hidden mold growth. Learn more about air quality testing.
If you are experiencing an allergic reaction to black mold, you can develop upper respiratory symptoms that mimic those of the common cold or the flu. Prolonged exposure to toxic black mold can cause cognitive decline and neurological symptoms (including “brain fog”) and can lead to serious health complications and even death. Learn more about the symptoms of mold exposure.
The key to preventing mold growth in your attic is to ensure you have proper ventilation, a good movement of air/airflow and to prevent moisture from getting into the attic. Learn more about preventing attic mold
Preventing mold in your basement can be challenging because it is underground. You need to ensure that your foundations are solid and are not letting ground moisture into your property. You also need to ensure adequate airflow/ventilation. Learn more about preventing basement mold.
If you think you need a mold inspection, the answer is yes, you need a mold inspection. There are many reasons you might need a mold inspection, including because you can see mold, you suspect mold due to changes in the way your house smells or certain areas look (e.g. bubbling paint); or maybe you’re purchasing a new-to-you home. In all these cases and more, you need a professional mold inspector to evaluate your property and test for mold. Learn more about mold inspections.
A professional mold inspector will examine the exterior and interior of a property looking for mold growth or any potential signs of mold. They will also be paying attention to risk factors for future mold growth. They will take samples to confirm whether or not there is hidden mold growth and will take samples of any visible mold to establish its species. Learn more about what is involved in a mold inspection.
Vinegar can help reduce the appearance of mold, but it can’t kill it and the mold will return unless you address the root cause. Learn more about DIY mold removal.
Sort of. Mildew is a specific kind of mold. So, all mildew is mold, but not all mold is mildew! Learn more about different types of black mold.
Mold mites are to mold as dust mites are to dust. These tiny arthropods live on patches of mold and feed off the fungi. They are too small to bite or otherwise harm humans, and they may be all but invisible to the naked eye, but, if you have mold, you probably have mold mites, and, just like dust mites, they can be an allergen and can cause contact dermatitis! Learn more about the symptoms of mold exposure.
You may be tempted to test your indoor air quality yourself. After all, there are a seemingly endless variety of DIY air quality monitors available online. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these monitors are either unreliable or entirely nonfunctional, and those that aren’t cost significantly more than a professional indoor air quality test! Learn more about professional indoor air quality testing and why we don’t recommend wasting time and money on DIY methods.
Mold causes a smell that is often described as: damp, dank, earthy, urine-y, ammonia-y, mushroom-y, or musty. Learn more about how to identify black mold by site, smell and more.
While there are several DIY methods for mold removal at home, you are highly unlikely to be able to kill mold in your home yourself. DIY methods typically improve the appearance of mold at best. Learn more about how to remove black mold.
Mold removal refers to the removal of mold from a surface, but not the treatment or removal of the surface itself. Mold remediation is a comprehensive process that strives to eradicate mold and mold spores from a home or building by removing all contaminated materials. Learn more about our 8-step mold remediation process.
Mold removal costs vary depending on the location, size, severity and complexity of the project and whether or not we discover other hazardous materials, like asbestos, that require remediation. The good news is that mold and asbestos remediation don’t have to be expensive. We offer comprehensive initial inspections for a flat rate of $195, and that entire amount will be credited to your final invoice should you proceed to mold removal and remediation with us. That means, if we do find mold that requires remediation, you can essentially get your inspection absolutely FREE.
If there is a black discoloration of the grout or other surfaces in your bathroom, yes, you have black mold in your bathroom. But, you don’t need to panic! Some black molds are comparatively harmless, but you’re still going to want to remove it right away! Learn more about toxic vs non-toxic black mold.
Technically, mold cannot grow on fiberglass insulation as it cannot feed on it. However, when dust settles on your insulation and mold spores come to rest on the dust, the mold spores can grow and thrive by feeding off of the dust, making it appear as though the mold is growing on the insulation itself.
Mold cannot cause you to develop asthma if you do not suffer from asthma, however, mold exposure can trigger an asthma attack in asthmatics, and cause upper respiratory irritation and sensitivity in anybody, even non-asthmatics. Learn more about the symptoms of mold exposure.
Mold testing can not only confirm whether or not you have mold growth in your home, private or commercial property, but can also identify the specific species of mold, giving you definitive information about its potential toxicity and the associated impact on the health and wellness of those using the space. Learn more about the importance of mold tests and how to test for mold.
We recommend completing a comprehensive mold test when:
There are a variety of species or types of black mold, and black molds are some of the most commonly occurring molds in commercial and residential settings. That does not necessarily mean that the black mold in your house is toxic, but certain kinds of black molds are potentially hazardous to your health and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Black mold is even thought to cause, contribute to or exacerbate certain health conditions including chronic lung and airway issues like asthma.
Not every fungal growth or mold that looks black is toxic. The two most common types of toxic black mold are Stachybotrys Chartarum and Aspergillus Niger. Because both of these molds produce mycotoxins, which are dangerous and harmful to both people and pets, it is better not to take any chances with mold growth in your home! All black mold should be considered potentially dangerous until it has been professionally tested, and all mold, including all black mold, should be removed from your home.
Some black molds are not toxic, but they may still be allergenic, and all mold growth in the home should be addressed and eradicated in order to ensure the health of you and your family, including your four-legged family members. Non-toxic black molds include Ulocladium, Pithomyces, Stemphylium, Dresclera, Alternaria and Aureobasidium, but the most common non-toxic black mold is Cladosporium. Most people can come into contact with Cladosporium daily with little to no negative effect, but heavy exposure can increase the risk of allergic reaction, especially in asthmatics. Although all black mold can trigger symptoms of allergies and cause respiratory symptoms, there are two kinds of toxic black mold that can be more deadly: Stachybotrys Chartarum and Aspergillus Niger.
Stachybotrys Chartarum grows and thrives on cellulose-rich building materials in damp or water-damaged buildings. Cellulose is the main component of plant cell walls, which means that this potentially deadly black mold grows and feeds on the cellulose in wooden and wood-containing building materials including timber, drywall, wallpaper and even carpeting! That doesn’t mean it can’t grow anywhere else, but it is more likely to thrive on organic compounds in moist environments.
Just because you can’t see the mold, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. But, when you can see Stachybotrys Chartarum it appears as a greenish-black mold that looks slimy when wet. It can also look black and sooty.
This is one of the most common kinds of black mold and it too can produce dangerous mycotoxins that threaten the health and quality of life of those who live in contaminated houses. When growing in a contained environment, like inside a house, toxic black mold affects the indoor air quality and when spores containing mycotoxins are inhaled, you can experience symptoms ranging from mild to more severe.
Aspergillus Niger is a dark gray to black colored mold that is flatter and appears dryer than Stachybotrys Chartarum. This black mold occurs both inside and outside and commonly grows on spoiled food but can thrive on damp building materials as well, and airborne particles often become trapped inside ventilation systems, spreading the spores throughout your home.
This kind of black mold’s mycotoxins are neurotoxic to humans and animals and can cause a wide variety of symptoms. Coming into contact with and inhaling airborne spores has a negative effect on your health and can cause any and/or all of the following symptoms of toxic mold exposure:
The illness caused by Aspergillus fungi is called Aspergillosis, and there is more than one strain that can cause the illness. While certain Aspergillus fungi are relatively harmless, exposure to Aspergillus Niger can cause similar symptoms to those resulting from exposure to Stachybotrys Chartarum. These may include:
These are considered allergic reactions to exposure to the mycotoxins of this kind of black mold. Aspergillosis can, however, be deadly, and symptoms will vary based on the kind of Aspergillosis you develop. Allergic Aspergillosis, AKA Allergic Bronchopulmonary Aspergillosis is the most likely effect of exposure in healthy adults, however, the very young, very old and immunocompromised can develop Aspergillomas and/or Invasive Aspergillosis, which spreads quickly and can be fatal.
People with cavities in their lung tissue, which can be caused by, for example, emphysema or tuberculosis (TB), can develop fungus balls or Aspergillomas in these cavities when fungal spores are inhaled and take root and grow. Early symptoms are similar to those of Allergic Aspergillosis, but, without treatment, they can exacerbate the underlying chronic lung disease and cause more severe symptoms, which, in addition to the cold-and-flu-like symptoms described above, may include:
This is the most severe form of the disease and it spreads quickly and can be fatal without swift and efficient treatment for black mold exposure. Invasive Aspergillosis occurs when the mycotoxins that cause symptoms and the disease spread from your lungs to other organs like your kidneys, brain, heart and skin. The disease only progresses to this point in severely immunocompromised people such as those who are undergoing chemotherapy, those with underlying diseases of the immune system and those on chronic immunosuppression drugs, including those who have undergone bone marrow transplantation. Signs and symptoms will depend on which organ systems have been infected. However, common symptoms include:
It can be very difficult to distinguish between the symptoms of a common cold or respiratory infection and those of toxic black mold exposure, especially in people with an otherwise healthy immune system. It is often only when toxic mold exposure symptoms are severe, as is often the case in the very young, very old, or those with compromised immune systems, that red flags are raised and sufferers and their doctors discover black mold is the cause. This is why it is so incredibly important to consider mold as a possible cause of chronic cold-and-flu-like symptoms. Complete, professional black mold removal and remediation can improve your indoor air quality and your quality of life and prevent illness and even death.
The biggest problem with black mold and even mold in general is that it is insidious and sneaky. Just because you cannot see it with the naked eye doesn’t mean it isn’t there, and isn’t causing damage whether to your health or your property! So, how do you find mold in your home if you cannot see it? Keep an eye out for these telltale signs of mold growth!
If you have a musty or earthy smell in your home that you cannot get rid of, or a urine-like smell which isn’t being caused by pets, you may have a mold growth problem. Often the smell of mold is described as a “damp” smell.
If you are suffering from what seems like a chronic cold, you may be living with mold! Mold exposure can cause allergic reactions and upper respiratory symptoms even when the colony is not visible. If your symptoms improve when you are outside the affected area, for example, out of the house or office, you may be dealing with mold.
Sometimes it doesn’t look like mold, but it could still be pointing to a mold problem! Warped walls and bubbling paint, for example, are just two of the examples of visual cues which aren’t mold but which may signal a larger mold problem or the potential for mold growth due to water damage and/or damp air.
The only definitive way to find mold when it is growing in places that cannot be seen is by performing comprehensive mold testing. By testing the indoor air quality in a building, we can even narrow down the point of origin or where the mold is growing based on the area in which the most mold spores are present in the air sample!
The easiest way to identify mold in your home is to call in a professional mold inspector who can use tests like the air quality test to help you determine if you have mold in your home, and who can help you identify the type of mold you have.
Similar to a home inspection, a mold inspection begins from the outside of a property and will involve checking every part of the property to see where the source of any mold issues stems from.
A professional mold inspector will check where water may be able to enter the home via cracks in siding or near windows and will check if there are issues with the roof or eavestrough; which can help determine or eliminate potential sources of moisture issues.
The inspector will then check for visible signs of mold inside the home. This can include checking around pipes for water damage, looking around windows, checking ceilings for water stains, looking in attics to see if it is properly ventilated or if water is able to get in, and examining the basement for signs of damage to the foundation and/or moisture accumulation.
A thorough inspection requires asking questions! Your inspector will ask questions to get a better understanding of the history of the home, especially if it is an older one. Asking about any past water damage issues, what caused the water damage, if any flooding has occurred, as well as the health of the current occupants are all important and necessary questions to better understand the likelihood of mold growth.
This stage of the inspection process can help uncover any mold issues that cannot be seen. A minimum of two samples will be taken, one outside the home and one inside. This will determine whether the inside fungal ecological level is normal (the same as the outside sample) or whether the level is higher. An air sample can also determine the species of mold and the concentration.
If, during a mold inspection, a spot of mold growth is found, physical samples will need to be taken. This can be done by taking a tape or swab sample. These samples will then be tested, and the results of these tests will help determine the course of action to take when planning for mold removal.
Just because you have black discoloration on your walls or ceilings doesn’t mean it’s necessarily black mold and also doesn’t mean it has to be Aspergillus Niger or Stachybotrus Chartarum. The only way to positively identify the species of a mold colony is to have a sample analyzed by a microbiologist. Not all black molds are toxic but all mold should be addressed as any mold can cause property damage if not be damaging to your health. The first step to correctly identifying black mold is collecting and properly testing the appropriate samples.
The three main types of mold tests are:
A comprehensive black mold testing strategy can incorporate all three if the situation calls for it. The samples collected for all three types of tests are not only examined microscopically, but can also be subjected to Culture Tests.
Mold culture tests are conducted when mold spores from a sample collected for air mold testing, surface mold testing or bulk mold testing are used to grow larger mold colonies in a lab. Culture tests help microbiologists identify the species or type of mold when it is not possible to identify them definitively by air testing, surface testing or bulk testing alone. Other tests can identify living and nonliving molds in your home but culture testing relies on living samples replicating in a laboratory environment.
Dead mold particles in your home can still cause allergic reactions and other symptoms if you are exposed to them, but mold cultures can help distinguish between living and nonliving mold types present in your home and can help us narrow down exactly which types of mold are present and in which quantities.
Most DIY mold testing kits or at-home mold sampling kits rely on growing mold cultures, usually in petri dishes, and some of them will then allow you to send those cultures to a lab to be analyzed later. Unfortunately, improper sample collection, cross-contamination and naturally occurring and acceptable levels of spores in the air all make these DIY mold testing kits unreliable at best. While mold growth on a DIY culture can prompt further investigation, simply being able to grow a sample won’t tell you whether the mold is dangerous or mycotoxic, what kind of mold it is, how high the concentration is in your home, where it’s coming from, or whether or not there are other types of mold present.
This method takes an air sample from a building and then tests the air sample to determine the concentration of mold spores in it. Air samples are collected at various locations throughout a home or building and these samples are examined under a microscope at the lab in order to determine not only how many mold spores are present, but also which types of mold spores are present.
Mold air testing takes samples from inside and outside a home or affected building so that a proper baseline can be established and comparison made. If the sample taken inside has a higher concentration of mold spores, or types of mold spores not identified in the control sample, further investigation must be undertaken to find the source and fix the problem.
Mold air testing is invaluable because it can help you identify the presence of mold even when you can’t see it. The limitations of mold air testing include that room air and mold spore concentrations in the air can fluctuate depending on things like ventilation. For example, if you left a window open prior to sample collection, this may skew the results. Following the proper protocols for mold air sample collection is paramount for achieving a reliable result.
Mold surface testing can be especially useful if mold is suspected due to visual changes in building materials. Mold samples are collected by swabbing, tape lifting and swiping methods, and may also reveal spores and growth where mold is not visually observable.
Similar to mold air testing, surface testing results can vary based on activity in the home or building and proper sample collection protocols and preparation methods must be followed if you want to get accurate results.
Bulk mold testing requires us to remove a physical piece of the building material etc. that may be contaminated with mold for further testing. This could mean removing a piece of wallpaper, carpet, drywall, wood, etc. This bulk sample is then examined microscopically by an expert microbiologist who will identify any mold particles present.
Bulk testing should be performed with caution as sampling can disturb mold colonies and cause an increase of mold spores in the air at the sampling site. That is why air samples are often taken alongside bulk mold samples so that the air samples before and after bulk sample collection can be compared, and so that the air and bulk sample results can be compared to determine if mold is causing your poor indoor air quality.
Bulk mold testing can give you a clear idea of the concentration of mold particles in your home.
There are several popular “home remedies for black mold growth”, including dousing it in vinegar, bleach, baking soda and other caustic chemicals and purpose-made cleaning agents. However, most DIY mold removal methods are best suited to improving the visual appearance of mold and do not address the mold growth at the necessary level to impede further growth in the long term. Improving the surface appearance of mold may also lull you into a false sense of security while mold growth spreads to and damages other building materials! Improper removal or incomplete remediation can and will lead to recurrent mold growth, so it is best to do it right the first time!
A simple bleach-and-water solution is popular for improving the appearance of surface mold in moisture-rich environments like your bathroom. Scrubbing grout, shower drains and window ledges with bleach can improve the appearance of black mold but will not prevent it from returning, especially on porous and semi-porous surfaces such as wood, drywall and carpeting.
If you prefer a natural, organic approach to mold removal, you may be tempted to use lemon juice or white vinegar to remove mold, and this solution may be sufficient for reducing the appearance of black mold on hard, non-porous surfaces like those that your shower tiles and bathtub are made out of. You can scrub the surfaces with a scrubbing brush dipped in lemon juice or white vinegar, or you can combine one or the other with baking soda to make a paste.
Making a paste out of baking soda and an acid like white vinegar can help you improve the appearance of more stubborn black mold. Apply the paste and scrub with a scrubbing brush, then leave to set and work on the stain for several minutes before wiping your paste away with a soft cloth. This process may have to be repeated several times to improve the appearance of the stain.
Certain essential oils are considered to have antibacterial and antifungal properties; these include tea tree oil and grapefruit seed oil. Mix a tablespoon of either of these with one cup of water in a spray bottle and shake thoroughly. You will have to continue shaking throughout the process to ensure you are dispensing the oil. Spray the mixture onto the mold until it is saturated. Then allow it to rest for 10 minutes before scrubbing it and rinsing the grime away. The recommendation is that you spray more of the solution on after you have finished cleaning, to enhance and prolong the antibacterial and antifungal effects, however, you should be careful about how you use essential oils around pets and small children.
Unlike essential oils and even certain chlorine bleaches, hydrogen peroxide does not need to be diluted. Apply hydrogen peroxide directly to the mold and allow it to rest until it stops fizzing. Then, wipe the hydrogen peroxide away with a damp cloth and repeat as necessary.
The bottom line is that, while many DIY mold removal tools and strategies will remove or improve the appearance of mold, none are likely to kill it and the mold will return in due course unless the source of the problem is identified and professionally rectified.
We take great pride in our award-winning mold removal service - after all, “mold” is in our name! As the Consumer’s Choice Award Winner in the Mold Removal category, our team is not only qualified to take on any mold situation from start to finish but proven to ensure a safe removal process and provide excellent customer service.
We identify and assess the origin of the contamination and determine the extent of the damage.
Once we’ve identified the root cause of your mold growth problem, we need to remedy it. This work will be as minimally invasive or extensive as the situation calls for and will vary based on the source of the contamination.
Even though we are remediating mold contamination, we need to test unraveled project materials further for other hazardous chemicals and substances like asbestos and lead paint.
Once we have determined the nature of the materials we are working on, we can set up the necessary containment and decontamination equipment. This will include decontamination chambers & negative air filtration units as a bare minimum. If high-risk asbestos is found, a portable shower for workers is also required.
This step sees the physical removal of the mold occur, along with asbestos abatement as required/if indicated.
Once the mold is removed, we can focus on odor removal and air washing in an effort to improve indoor air quality.
Once indoor air quality has been improved we can begin the process of cleaning, including HEPA vacuuming and air scrubbing.
The last step in our process is repeat testing to ensure that your indoor air quality has been restored, and all traces of mold have been successfully removed.
Safe indoor air quality is our number one goal for all our clients, their loved ones and pets; and our professional teams are standing at the ready to help you protect your home or commercial property from invasive mold growth.
You know what they say! An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; and the same is true of mold growth. Preventing mold from taking hold in your home or office building is far easier than removing it once it’s started to grow. Mold is naturally occurring and is found both indoors and outdoors. It can enter your home through open doorways, windows and vents, through heating and air conditioning systems, on your clothing, or even on your pets after coming home from the park. Taking reasonable steps to prevent mold growth in your home include monitoring humidity levels, addressing moisture sources and being proactive about home maintenance including fixing leaks as soon as possible!
Leaky pipes are a significant source of mold issues in both homes and commercial buildings. Water from leaky pipes can pool behind walls or under cabinets and cause hidden mold problems. Routine maintenance and checks should be performed on your property to ensure that all leaks are caught and rectified quickly to prevent the risk of moisture building up and creating the perfect environment for mold to grow.
Our team worked on a project in Regina where a couple had purchased their home during the dry season, and without getting a mold inspection prior to purchasing. Within a year, they noticed mold growth in a storage room in their basement and contacted us to investigate.
When we opened up the wall cavities to begin the removal process, we not only found asbestos-containing vermiculite, but found that the mold continued beyond the confines of the storage room and into adjacent rooms including the furnace room and the entire basement required remediation.
We isolated the cause of their moisture problem once we removed all the insulation and found what appeared to have been a quick-fix patch job of their home’s foundation. Vertical and horizontal cracks had been insufficiently sealed from the inside and were allowing water to enter the basement. This is why we recommend checking your foundations and having a professional mold inspection prior to purchasing a home.
Monitoring humidity levels in your home is key to preventing mold growth. Anytime the RH or “Relative Humidity” of an indoor space goes above 50%, it becomes a concern. A 35-45% RH is considered the acceptable level in a built environment. The higher the humidity, the greater the accumulation of condensation and the greater the risk for mold growth.
Check the primary moisture hotspots, like your kitchen and bathroom, regularly to ensure no area of your home stays damp for a prolonged period. Run extractor fans, open windows, or run a dehumidifier if necessary. Prolonged rainy periods can make a home feel damp and bring with them a musty smell, but a dehumidifier can prevent opportunistic mold from taking hold.
The easiest way to prevent pipes from freezing and then bursting, causing water damage and creating the perfect environment for mold to grow, is keeping your property at a consistent temperature in all areas; even if you will be leaving the home during the day or overnight. Running the heat at 21 or 22 degrees is better than risking the damage of a frozen and burst pipe.
You can also leave a tap to drip (while taking appropriate safety precautions, of course), keep a door open or closed as needed to help warm air circulate, or turn the water off completely and run your taps dry if you know you will be leaving your home for an extended period of time.
Cleaning your gutters of leaves and other debris in the fall can help prevent eavestroughs clogging up and water building up too close to your home. You’ll also want to ensure all downspouts drain at least six feet away from the building and that they are not clogged!
There are certain areas of the home, and then certain parts of those areas that are more prone to developing mold growth than others, and that’s usually because of the materials they’re made up of. We’ve put together some troubleshooting tips to help you prevent mold growth where it occurs most frequently.
Preventing mold under your floorboards or under your vinyl flooring is all about minimizing exposure to moisture! Improper sealing of vinyl flooring, or gaps in floorboards can lead to moisture entrapment and accumulation underneath the nonporous surface and this can lead to mold growth over time. So, you should be regularly checking the seal on your vinyl flooring to ensure there is no lifting or peeling where it meets walls and other surfaces, and that there is no other damage that could allow moisture to accumulate underneath the flooring. If you have known gaps or poor seals in your vinyl flooring or floorboards, cleaning up liquid spills as quickly as possible becomes paramount. Use ultra-absorbent materials to draw out as much moisture as possible and then, pro tip, take the little packets of silica that come in electronic- and shoeboxes and place those in the gap or crack to absorb remaining moisture and discard after 24hrs.
If you’re undertaking construction in a notably humid environment it is always wise to choose mold-resistant drywall, however, even mold-resistant drywall is not 100% guaranteed to prevent mold growth. Using a mold-resistant paint in humid rooms like your kitchen and bathroom can also help prevent mold growth, as can running a dehumidifier. Preventing mold growth on your drywall is all about mitigating environmental humidity and preventing water damage by being proactive about plumbing and home maintenance as leaks can cause mold to begin growing within as little as 24hrs.
Preventing mold growth and moisture accumulation underground is tricky and requires proper ventilation, waterproofing, and insulation. Aside from ensuring your basement is structurally sound, you should consider checking the drainage around your property, as porous walls could transmit moisture from the ground outside during rainy spells and trapped moisture will increase the relative humidity and risk of mold growth. As a last resort, buy and install a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air in your basement.
A fall attic inspection should be part of your annual winterizing routine! Inspecting your attic’s insulation and ensuring that you both have enough and that it is evenly spread with adequate ventilation is essential. Having proper ventilation and air flow in your attic will help prevent ice damming and attic frost, which are leading causes of mold growth.
Ice dams occur when a ridge of ice forms and traps melt and runoff, causing it to pool. That pooled water can then leak into your home and not only cause water damage, but create the perfect environment for mold to grow. You can help prevent ice dams from forming by clearing your roof or having it professionally cleared after heavy snowfall. You can also help prevent mold in your attic by ensuring all eavestroughs are cleared and functional.
Attic frost occurs when warm, humid air from the building accumulates and condenses in the colder area of the attic. It usually appears on the underside of your roof sheathing and when the temperature warms up again, it melts and can leak into walls, improperly sealed light fittings, attic hatches and more. Small amounts of attic frost developing overnight during temperature dips is not abnormal or uncommon, and small amounts should evaporate and allow the sheathing to dry when adequate air flow is present. However, larger amounts of attic frost and melting can cause serious water damage which can lead to mold growth.
The worst cases of attic frost we have encountered resulted from a bathroom fan or dryer vent routing hot air, damp air into the attic instead of outside. The resultant moisture settles into the drywall of your ceiling and your wall cavities and causes mold growth.
Carpets are at high risk for mold growth due to their absorbency and the fact that spores can settle easily onto the surface in empty rooms. Preventing mold from forming and growing on carpets means reducing the humidity in those areas and ensuring that the padding beneath your carpet does not get wet; whether from direct spills or moisture seeping into the floor from underneath it. If you suspect a carpet of being moldy you should always check both sides, as mold growth may not be visible from the top, but may be running rampant underneath.