News & Events: Blog

The Dysfunctional Friendship Between Mold and Building Materials

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2015 by Audrey Simmons


Mold on outer window of a house

Mold… We’ve all seen it in our homes, outside, and on an old sandwich. Some of us have had the unfortunate experience of a mold infestation in our home. What is mold? How does it grow? Can it negatively affect your health? Got Mold? will answer all your basic mold questions; and since it’s summer time, Did You Know? Summer is Prime Mold Season.

Not All Building Materials Are Treated Equally
Now that you have a good understanding of what mold is, did you know that it doesn’t affect all building materials the same way? Fascinating! Well… we think so at least. Removing mold from different materials in your home can range from simply cleaning it up to removing the material completely and replacing it. 

If Mold Has A Best Friend, It's Wood
Wood is highly susceptible to mold if it has been exposed to excess amounts of moisture without fully drying out. Even chemically treated wood planks can grow mold if saturated for long enough. Mold loves wood for two reasons: it’s porous, soaks up water like a sponge, and naturally contains food for mold. According to a study done by the University of Tennessee, mold eats nutrients on the surface of wood. Fortunately, contaminated wood does not have to be thrown out. Mold can be removed from wood by using a mold-killing solution such as Benefect and allowing the wood to dry completely. Even if there are signs of remaining mold, it will not continue to grow in a dry environment.

When Mold Has A Concrete Plan
So your home is made from concrete (cinder blocks). Although concrete does not naturally contain food for mold like wood does, it catches dust, dirt, and other organic materials in its nooks and crannies, which mold eats. It's also porous and has the ability to soak up water. The tricky part about concrete is, because of its composition, it takes on water slowly. This means you could have water damage and not know for a long period of time, or at least until the water soaks all the way through. Keep an eye on concrete in your basement and crawl space, as there is little light and high potential for moisture in those areas. The good news? You can clean mold off concrete by scrubbing it with a mold-killing solution, pressure washing the area to rid the concrete of organic materials, and allowing the area to dry completely. If the area remains wet, the mold comr right back.

Insulation And Mold, A Timeless Debate
Insulation vs. mold has been a tricky and ongoing debate because insulation can support a dry, temperature controlled environment while also maintaining a damp, dark environment. Fiberglass, spray foam, cellulose, or mineral wood - no matter what type of insulation you have in your home, if it’s porous and absorbent, it’s a great home for mold. Insulation has a natural ability to hold in energy. This is why the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends absorbent or porous materials be thrown away if they become moldy. The materials behind the insulation need time to dry before installing new insulation. Insulation that is porous will also attract and hold dust and dirt which feeds mold once it is there. Closed-cell spray foam is the only type of insulation available that is not porous, will not absorb water, and does not allow for mold growth. Check out why this guy is thankful for closed cell insulation.

When Drywall Gets Wet
When drywall is exposed to moisture, it becomes a haven for mold because of its porous nature. Unfortunately, similar to what happens with insulation, mold cannot be extracted from drywall. Once it’s there, it stays there. In order to rid your home of mold infested drywall, you have to cut it out, dispose of it, and replace it. You can protect your home by installing moisture and mold resistant drywall; but there is no such thing as “mold proof” drywall. Mold resistant drywall stands a lower chance of growing mold and mildew than traditional paper-faced drywall.

Tile And Grout
Tile and grout are commonly found in the more humid areas of your home such as bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. These areas tend to grow mold quickly and easily, especially when there is no proper ventilation system, or the ventilation system is not being used. Tiles are non porous, which make them super easy to clean. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Mold growth can be removed from hard surfaces with commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water”. On the other hand, grout is porous and will hold on tight to mold spores. You can clean it using a mold-killing solution, seal it with grout sealer, or scrape it out using a flat head screwdriver and install new grout. Remember, as long as you keep these areas dry after cleaning up the mold, any mold spores left over will not continue to grow.

Carpet, Mold's Favorite Hiding Place
Mold loves to hide underneath fixed carpeting (wall to wall) and there is no way to completely remove it once it’s there. Carpets are targets for spills, floods, leaks, etc. and easily soak up liquids and moisture resulting from these accidents. Like concrete and insulation, carpet can also easily gather organic materials to feed mold. According to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), mold growth can start on a damp surface within 24-48 hours. In the case of a flood, leak, or major spill, it will take much longer for the area to completely dry out. You may think your carpet is dry, but the pad underneath it could be damp without showing any signs.

Stop Mold Before It Starts
Ryan Carelson, a project coodinator at Baxter Restoration, tells us “Performing regular maintenance checks on your home is the best way to stop mold before it grows. If new cracks on the interior or exterior of your home are caught right away, the leak can be stopped before mold damage occurs”. Here are some other ways to keep mold at bay:

  • Install and/or utilize the ventilation systems in your bathroom, kitchen, and basement to ensure these rooms are kept dry

  • Leave your air conditioner on while you are on vacation to avoid creating a hot, muggy environment

  • If you have a leak or flood, dry it up immediately; it only takes 24-48 hours for mold growth to start

  • Clean and repair your gutters regularly to avoid unwanted water on your home

  • Build your home on a high point so water does not collect around the foundation

  • Maintain your air conditioner frequently to avoid leaks and water buildup (and extend the life of your unit!)  

  • The EPA recommends keeping your indoor humidity below 60% and purchase a dehumidifier if it is above this

  • Do not hang clothes to dry inside

  • Dot not install carpets in damp rooms like bathrooms and basements

According to the EPA, “If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem. If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back.”

 

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