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Mold: Five Warning Signs Your Home May Have It

Date: Tuesday, 10 February 2009

You’ve remodeled your home and you’ve lived to talk about it. And despite the problems and inconveniences (contractor from hell experiences excluded, thank you very much!) you’re happily into choosing home furnishings, colors, textures and all the fun stuff that goes into designing the interior of your home.

As time passes and the rains begin, you begin to notice a musty smell in various rooms of the house. The first thing that comes to mind is mold and you proceed to look for obvious signs of water intrusion such as discoloration on the walls, ceiling or even puddles of water. You find nothing, but you can’t deny the musty odor that was never there before and seems to be getting stronger. What do you do next?

The first thing you need to do is to locate the source of the mold, what’s creating it, what’s feeding it. Mold needs moisture, nutrients and a suitable place to grow. Somehow water is accumulating or leaking into the cavities of your home, which is a perfect place for mold to grow should moisture exist within. You should consider the possibility of water leaks and that in it self can be difficult to locate on your own.

Testing for mold really isn’t necessary if you can visibly see it or smell it. You should save those resources for getting rid of the mold (remediation) and locating the source of the leaks or moisture in order to correct the problem. Unless, of course, you’re in litigation related to the problem as I was with our contractor and you need that as part of your evidence. Or if money isn’t an issue and your allergies are through the roof and perhaps your physician wants to know exactly what types of mold are affecting you.

Either which way, the key is to clean up the mold, locate the source of moisture and fix it.

WHAT IS MOLD?

Molds are fungi. Molds grow throughout the natural and built environment. Tiny particles of mold are present in indoor and outdoor air. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soil, foods, plant matter, and other items. Molds produce microscopic cells called “spores” which are very tiny and spread easily through the air. Live spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions.

Mold should never be permitted to grow and multiply indoors. When this happens, health problems can occur and building materials, goods and furnishings may be damaged.

Mold can affect the health of people who are exposed to it. People are mainly exposed to mold by breathing spores or other tiny fragments. People can also be exposed through skin contact with mold contaminants (for example, by touching moldy surfaces) and by swallowing it.

The type and severity of health effects that mold may produce are usually difficult to predict. The risks can vary greatly from one location to another, over time, and from person to person. The following types of people may be affected more severely and sooner than others:

Infants and children

Elderly people

Individuals with respiratory conditions or sensitivities such as allergies and asthma

Persons having weakened immune systems (for example, people with HIV infection, chemotherapy patients, organ transplant recipients)

Those with special health concerns should consult a medical professional if they feel their health is affected by indoor mold.

Some types of mold can produce chemical compounds (called mycotoxins), although they do not always do so. Molds that are able to produce toxins are common. In some circumstances, the toxins produced by indoor mold may cause health problems.

However, all indoor mold growth is potentially harmful and should be removed promptly, no matter what types of mold is present or whether it can produce toxins.

With that said, let’s look at the five warning signs that your home may have mold. Again, investigate don’t test.

#1. Noticeable mold odors. The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists.

#2. Mold growth becomes visible. It may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green. Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. When mold is visible, testing is not recommended.

#3. You notice excess moisture or water damage. Look for water leaks, standing water, water stains, condensation problems. For example, do you see any watermarks or discoloration on walls, ceilings, carpet, woodwork or other building materials?

**Search behind and underneath materials (carpet and pad, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets), furniture, or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes destructive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden; for example, opening up a wall cavity.**

#4. You begin suffering from (or you notice a worsening of) allergy-like symptoms.

These include:

Nasal and sinus congestion
Persistent cough
Wheeze/breathing difficulties
Sore throat
Skin and eye irritation; itchy skin
Upper respiratory infections (including sinus)

#5. On the exterior of the house there are areas that appear to be “wet” or do not dry out for days after rainy weather. There could be some water in the walls or cavities that are holding water indicating a leak and nowhere for the water to escape.

We had all of the above in our home as a result of shoddy construction and it took two remediations and three reconstructions to get a clean bill of health. I personally went through two rounds of Prednisone to help with the sinus infections, as I’m highly allergic to mold. It’s nasty stuff, to say the least.
The next article will deal with CLEANING UP MOLD including some tips on what to do if it becomes a medical problem and as result, how you may be able deduct the repairs on your tax returns.

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Jody Costello

Americas’ Home Renovation Planning Expert

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eLocal.com

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