A guide to understanding and handling mold issues while moving polarized opinions toward a middle ground.
Mold. It’s a simple four-letter word that leaves nearly every homeowner wondering what to do about it. Half of the population doesn’t worry a bit about the presence of mold in their home and takes the rumored DIY approach to remediating it by putting bleach or primer on suspect spots. The other end of the mold spectrum, however, has homeowners fleeing their homes at the first sign of mold, fearing it will be the cause of their death.
So, why are there such differing opinions on what to do if mold creeps into your home? The truth is there isn’t much research surrounding the topic of mold. Instead, theories are passed down from generation to generation and, just like our political system, the two sides hold tight to their opinion. Studies are so limited that doctors tend to lean on the always cautious side, escaping the potential liability. Rarely, does anyone land in the middle when it comes to mold.
Even though mold can seem like a tricky puzzle to solve, it doesn’t have to be impossible. There are a few governing bodies that tell us about mold and what to do with it. The CDC, EPA and IICRC hold the same stance on mold. If detected, it needs to be removed.
Understanding the guidelines is easy. Figuring out the best way to remediate the mold in your home is the hard part. Here’s why – every single situation involving mold is different. The mold problem in your neighbor’s house is completely unique to yours.
To better understand, think about a bee sting. You’re out in your garden one afternoon and suddenly feel a sting on your leg. You quickly realize you’ve been stung by a bee. You walk into your house, grab an ice pack and place it on your leg. After awhile you may use some hydrocortisone cream to get rid of the itchiness. Overall, the bee sting was mostly an annoyance and you got back to gardening.
Meanwhile, the bees seems to be out in full force because your neighbor is cutting the grass, and he, too, gets stung. However, his experience is much different than yours. He happens to be severely allergic to bees. He needs immediate attention before his bee sting becomes highly dangerous to his health. His wife dashes in to the house to grab his EpiPen before he loses his ability to breathe.
You see how both you and your neighbor were affected by bee stings, yet your situations were very different? Mold is the same way. If you find mold, it needs to be removed, but whether you do it yourself, hire professionals, take down an entire wall or just remedy one spot will be determined by a few factors. Piecing together the right solution for your mold issue is like putting a puzzle together, so let’s start with a few of the corner pieces.
What should I do when I spot mold?
The quick answer is you should make the decision to remove it. There are over 100,000 species of mold. While only a few of them are actually claimed as toxic, it’s very difficult to determine which is which. Stachybotrys chartarum, or black mold, is often thought of as a dangerous form of mold. But, there are many other species of mold that are black and not claimed as toxic.
The bottom line is that it’s expensive to pinpoint the exact type of mold you’re dealing with and how it will specifically affect you, so as the governing bodies suggest, remediating all molds, using the same tried and true methods, is the safest bet. In other words, the focus should be less on the type of mold and more on taking the appropriate actions to remove it.
How do I remediate my mold situation?
This is where you have a few options and it’s important to figure out which one works best for your particular mold scenario.
Determine the water source.
First, you want to find the heart of your mold problem and to do that you need to identify the water or moisture source. Like any plant in nature mold cannot survive without enough water. By determining where the H2O (water, moisture, and/or humidity) stems from will help in figuring out the extent of growth and help you decide on a course of action.
Here are some situations you may encounter and what to do:
You see some mold spots in your garage. This happens because moisture and humidity in the garage can cause mold to form and spread.
What to do: In most cases mold in an unairconditioned garage can simply be removed. Because outside air is flowing in and out of the garage on a consistent basis, there isn’t as big of a concern for mold in areas “not under air” and can be removed simply. However, reach out to a professional if you have questions or concerns.
You find an obvious leak on the walls and see spots of mold. Likely, the source is a leak in your plumbing system and the mold is most likely contained to a small section of wall, just about five square feet.
What to do: If you’re comfortable, you can remove the mold yourself. Because you’re dealing with such a small area and you don’t see any signs that it’s spread, a DIY approach can work. The most important part of removing mold yourself, however, is following the proper guidelines to keep you and your family safe. Any visible mold growth or water damage that expands beyond a two square foot area should always be assessed by a professional.
Increased humidity and moisture, caused by your HVAC system being off, doors and windows staying open for an extended period of time or the thermostat being left in the ‘on’ position, has caused mold to grow visibly on furniture and clothes, as well as microscopically in the air.
What to do: It’s best to call in an expert for this job. If no one in the home is having allergic reactions, there is no need to dive into emergency panic mode. However, the mold is likely airborne and will require a professional team to remove what’s visible and return the air quality to a safe level. This is done by performing an air quality test once the mold is removed to make sure the spores have been extinguished.
The mold is gone. Now what?
Once you’ve gone through the mold removal process, hold tight because the job isn’t quite finished. While you may not see anymore evidence of mold, it’s critical to test your air to ensure mold isn’t airborne. An air quality test will determine the number of mold spores, non-visible microscopic organisms, in the air. Ultimately, the main fear when it comes to mold is making sure our air quality is where it needs to be, so shouldn’t objective testing be completed to verify safe air?
Caution: In our opinion store-bought tests can give off false positives as well as false negatives and for this reason we don’t recommend using them. It’s best to opt for a professional air quality test to be sure your air is healthy and breathable.
The bottom line
Mold doesn’t have to be such a controversial topic. Every situation involving it is different, so instead of debating one side or the other, the middle is the best and safest place to land in regards to mold.
Removal is important. How you go about it will change depending on the case. Any way you look at it, you’ll eventually get the puzzle finished and be back to living a healthy life in your home.