What Causes Mold in an Attic?

What Causes Mold in an Attic?
The Link Between Ice Damming, Condensation, and Mold
Spring is finally here and temperatures are beginning to warm up. Because of the long, cold, and snowy winter, one of the key concerns we are encountering is ice damming.
One of the major problems caused by ice damming is condensation in the attic. Condensation is the result of the mixture of hot and cold air, which causes water in the air to cool and collect. In most cases, this will show up as frost in the attic.
The major concern with moisture in the attic is that it can lead to mold which could impact your health and the structural integrity of the home.
According to Calgary based Epic Roofing and Exteriors, there are four key causes of condensation:
1. Lack of air flow in the attic.
2. Insufficient insulation around ducts; this is the common reason you will notice water entering through a bathroom or exhaust fan.
3. Water or snow entering through gooseneck flashing on the roof.
4. Snow covered vents do not allow the attic to exhaust effectively.
You may have condensations issues if you notice these following signs:
1. Staining on your ceiling.
2. Condensation on your interior walls/ceiling.
3. Water entering in through a bathroom fan or kitchen/microwave hood.
If you have noticed any of these condensation signs, then the best course of action is to locate the leak and determine the cause, which may require the assistance of a professional.
How Do I Know If I Have Mold?
Once the cause is identified, then the next step is to determine if you have a mold problem. Mold is nature’s recycler and will only grow and proliferate when moisture is present. Condensation in an attic, heat and humidity from household activities (cooking, showering, etc.), and the fact that the attic provides an excellent food source for mold, provides the ideal conditions. All mold needs to grow is 24 to 48 hours and as long as the proper conditions exist, it will continue to proliferate.
The best method to determine if you have mold is to contact a professional for a mold inspection and air quality test. During the inspection, tape or swab samples of suspected mold may also be taken and sent to a micro-biology lab. Once the type of mold and spore count is determined, the Professional Remediator will provide you with a scope of work on the best way to remediate the mold.
Dry Ice Blasting: The Best Attic Mold Remediation Solution
With respect to attic mold, one of the best methods to deal with it is with Dry Ice Blasting.
The key ingredient required to dry ice blast is dry ice pellets which are created by taking liquid carbon dioxide from a pressurized storage tank and expanding it at ambient pressure to produce snow which is compressed to make hard pellets.
Dry Ice Blasting is a process in which a blasting gun fires dry ice particles, about the size of rice, at extremely high speeds to impact and clean the surface. The particles are accelerated by compressed air. When the dry ice hits the surface, it goes from a solid state to a gas state without passing through a liquid phase and cleans the surface.
Dry ice blast cleaning is a favored method of cleaning mold from an attic because it is so effective and efficient. The video below demonstrates this.
We are here to help, so please do not hesitate to contact us. Peace of Mind, just a phone call away! Toll Free: 1-888-909-MOLD (6653)

Why Do Ice Dams Cause Mold?

Why Do Ice Dams Cause Mold?
Recently got mold?™ was called by a customer that is experiencing mold caused by an ice dam. The long winter in Saskatchewan and Alberta and snow accumulation on roofs is leading to significant ice damming problems which ultimately could lead to mold issues. Pictured below is a home in Calgary that will have ice damming issues…notice the icicles!

Calgary Home With Ice Dam

HOW IS AN ICE DAM CAUSED?
According to the Ice Dam Company ice dams result from the escape of heat into the attic which eventually builds up and melts snow on the roof. The ice dam is the ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof which prevents melting snow from draining as it should. The water that backs up behind the ice dam can leak into the home and cause damage to walls, floors, ceilings, insulation, and other areas. This graphic, courtesy of the Ice Dam Company, provides you with visual warning signs to look for.
Pictured below is an image of a house we inspected. Apparently this home was just renovated, but the builder failed to insulate the attic properly and the end result was a significant ice dam, which ultimately will cause problems for this homeowner. Ice dams are preventable!

icedam

WHY DO ICE DAMS CAUSE MOLD?
The key problem caused by ice dams is the water and moisture that leaks into the home. Mold thrives on moisture and grows because it feeds on the materials that most homes are made of: wood, drywall, wallpaper, carpet, ceiling tiles, etc. The final component required for mold growth is a temperature of 5 degrees to 38 degrees. As long as these three ingredients are present, mold will form and continue to grow provided it has food to feed on. This is the reason that the structural integrity of a home is compromised–mold is essentially feeding on the home.
As mentioned earlier, ice dams are caused by heat escaping into the attic. Temperature, as you know, is one of the key ingredients required for mold growth. Heat in the attic, which leads to ice dams is caused by everyday activities in the household, such as cooking, laundry, showering, washing dishes, etc. Normally, these activities should not cause problems, ie. excessive condensation and heat in the attic. However, problems will occur if the attic is not properly insulated. One of the major causes of condensation in the attic is the lack of proper ventilation in the kitchen and bathroom required to vent vapour out of the home. Another major reason excess heat may build up in the attic is a direct result of builder negligence that vent bathroom and dryer vents into attics, crawl spaces, or over hangs, and not onto the roof. This poor building practice will cause problems because moisture and heat will build up in the attic. The Ice Dam Company provides an excellent visual of why black mold begins forming in an attic…click here to view.
Here are some general tips to prevent ice dams.
1. Make sure you have proper ventilation in the attic. Keep your soffit vent clear and open. Have a roofing professional check your roof and calculate the proper ventilation requirements. A well ventilated cold roof prevents ice dams.
2. If you have gutters on the house – keep them clean and free from leaf debris.
3. Ensure that your bathroom exhaust is vented through the roof and insulated if necessary.
4. Ductwork in the attic should be well insulated and sealed from leaks.
5. Air bypass – where warm air leaks through small cracks and openings – should be sealed. Check attic access ports in closets and can lights in the ceiling as potential areas of concern.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE CONDENSATION ISSUES IN MY ATTIC?
In addition to the visual external clues of ice dams, here are some tips to help you determine if you have condensation issues.
1. Check your attic for visual mold.
2. Check all penetrations in your ceilings such as light fixtures and make sure there is no excessive gaps between the fixtures and ceiling.
3. Make certain all drywall is finished properly with no gaps or cracks for moisture to migrate through.
4. Look for visible stains such as mold on the surfaces of the ceiling, walls of the living areas, floors, carpets, attic plywood sheathing, attic sidewalls, floor joist, wet insulation.
5. Check for moisture or high relative humidity over 65% and higher.
6. Smelling unusual musty or moldy odors is an indication that you may have a problem. High relative humidity or moisture may be the culprit.
If you are concerned that you may have ice damming issues, we recommend that you hire a professional to assess the situation
We are here to help, so please do not hesitate to contact us. A mold inspection is a cost effective solution to determining if you have to worry about ice damming, and the potential moisture and mold issues it causes. Peace of Mind, just a phone call away! Toll Free: 1-888-909-MOLD (6653)

Three Key Reasons You Should Consider Thermal Imaging

Three Key Reasons You Should Consider Thermal Imaging
Earlier this week, we discussed the problem of water stains and identifying the cause of the problem.
One method to identify potential causes of water leaks and moisture intrusion is to have a professional conduct a thermal imaging inspection.
Thermal Imaging, also known as Infrared Thermagrophy, are visual displays of the amount of infrared energy emitted, transmitted, and reflected by an object. Thermal imaging involves the use of high tech cameras that create pictures of heat rather than light. When used in a situation where there is suspected water intrusion, these cameras help find areas that are not clearly visible to the naked eye.
According to our founder, James C. Watson, thermal imaging is important for three specific reasons:

DETECTING INSUFFICIENT OR IMPROPERLY INSTALLED INSULATION
Thermal imaging can detect hot/cold spots in the wall where insulation has slouched over time, was incorrectly installed, or where insulation was never installed to begin with. This information is critical when trying to reduce your heating costs in winter and cooling costs in summer.
In addition, Watson points out that new home buyers should invest in a thermal imaging audit to determine if the insulation has been installed properly. The reason is simple: once the drywall is in place, it is not possible to see whether or not the insulation is properly installed.
MOISTURE INTRUSION / MOLD GROWTH

Thermal imaging will not detect mold, but will detect temperature variations behind a wall to assist in finding cold spots that may indicate a potential moisture or water intrusion issue. Once an area of potential concern is found, moisture meters can then be used to confirm if there is in fact moisture behind a wall. If a moisture problem is detected, then it is important to act quickly to fix the problem to prevent mold!
Detecting where moisture has entered your home will allow for quick repairs in order to stop mold from growing and causing health hazards. Thermal imaging can detect moist areas, allowing the home owner to repair certain areas instead of removing all materials and doing a major overhaul. This will reduce the cost of the repair significantly.
Identifying and removing moisture also stops your structural materials from rotting, which will maintain your home’s structural integrity, keeping your home safe for those who live in it.
LOOSE OR DAMAGED ELECTRICAL COMPONENTS
Loose, damaged, or dirty connections can result in heating. As the connection degrades over time, the circuit breaker can start to trip under little apparent load, circuit breakers can fail, or worst of all, a fire can occur. Utilizing thermal imaging to inspect the various electrical connections in your home will allow you to detect these problems and remedy the fault before any damage has occurred.
In summary, thermal imaging is essential if you are considering buying a home and is well worth investing in for your existing home because thermographic imaging cameras are able to detect serious problems the naked eye can’t see, such as: plumbing leaks; air duct; leaks; moisture intrusion; inadequate or non-existent insulation; heating and cooling losses; abnormal heat from an appliance or electrical system; unwanted animals; and poor construction. All of these problems can cause extensive damage to your home.

Why Should I Be Concerned About Snow On My Roof?

Why Should I Be Concerned About Snow On My Roof?
There are two key reasons you should be concerned about snow on your roof.
First and foremost, the primary reason you should keep snow off of your roof is this prevents ice dams. In fact, ice dams can not form without snow. To learn more about ice dams, check out this article: “Why Do Ice Dams Cause Mold Problems?

2 snow removal

Second, snow removal is important because you want to keep excess weight off your roof. One square-foot of snow that is one-inch deep weighs about a pound. This means that if your roof has 12 inches of snow on it then you will have thousands of pounds of stress on your roof. Keep in mind, this does not even factor in ice dams that may form as a result of having snow on your roof. One cubic feet of ice weighs about 57 pounds, meaning a typical ice dam could weigh thousands of pounds. For this reason, it is important to try to minimize stress on your roof to minimize leaking and potential cave-ins.

3 snow removal

Currently, Got Mold? is fielding many calls from concerned homeowners worried about ice damning issues. Luckily, insurance covers this problem. However, before an insurance company will step in to deal with water damage issues, they will request that the cause of the problem, i.e. snow on the roof, is cleared. Unfortunately, currently in Saskatoon, there is a three week wait time for most snow removal services. For this reason, Got Mold is pleased to announce that we just set up a separate snow removal division that will come to your home and remove the snow from your roof. If you are concerned about ice dam problems and have snow on your roof, give us a call. We offer a cost effective solution to your snow removal needs and can also help you minimize water damage problems and mold from becoming a long term problem.

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Even Our President Has Ice Damning Issues!

Even Our President Has Ice Damning Issues!
Earlier this year, we posted a blog, “Why Do Ice Dams Cause Mold Problems?” because this issue has become a serious problem in Saskatchewan. Since insurance covers ice damning problems, we have been informed that many claims are being submitted to insurance companies.
Interestingly, our President, James C. Watson, is having similar issues at his home. The first clue of a problem is simply by doing a visual inspection on the outside of the home. As you see from the picture of James’ home below, icicles are forming on the edge of the roof. Another strong indication of a problem is the fact that you see ice building up on top of the lower edge of the roof. Ice dams as little as 1″ thick can cause big problems. Since James suspected there may be problem, he decided to call a professional and get thermal imaging done.

james house resize

Thermal Imaging, also known as Infrared Thermagrophy, are visual displays of the amount of infrared energy emitted, transmitted, and reflected by an object. Thermal imaging involves the use of high tech cameras that create pictures of heat rather than light. When used in a situation where there is suspected water intrusion, these cameras help find areas that are not clearly visible to the naked eye.
Thermal imaging will not detect mold, but will detect temperature variations behind a wall to assist in finding cold spots that may indicate a potential moisture or water intrusion issue. Once an area of potential concern is found, moisture meters can then be used to confirm if there is in fact moisture behind a wall. If a moisture problem is detected, then it is important to act quickly to fix the problem to prevent mold!
This picture taken in the kitchen of James’ home clearly illustrates a problem. The darker the colour, the cooler the surface temperature is. Moisture and cold air intrusion will appear darker in an interior environment. Structure and corners will appear darker and is expected. An even colour indicates an even thermal seal. In this picture, the kitchen ceiling shows some moisture/cold air intrusion and is shown in the darker coloured areas.

infrared resize

If you suspect that you have ice dam issues in your home, it is important that you take action. If you have further questions, feel free to give us a call. We are happy to assist!