Mold basics and prevention

When the word “mold” is used, it never seems to be in a favorable way, does it?  And yet, mold is around us everywhere.

For the most part, outdoors, it serves a useful purpose in breaking down organic matter such as downed trees, fallen leaves, and dead animals.  We wouldn’t have some foods and medicines without it.

Indoors, mold growth needs to be avoided.  Problems may arise when mold starts eating away at materials, affecting the look, smell, and possibly, with respect to wood-framed buildings, the structural integrity of the building itself.

As long as the three food sources are there for mold:  Moisture, Oxygen, and an Organic Source, it will continue to grow.  All molds need dark, too, which explains why we so often find it in crawl spaces and basements.  If you add sunlight and air circulation, these areas dry out, making them less hospitable for mold.  

Since mold requires water to grow, it’s important to prevent excessive moisture in buildings.  Some moisture problems have been linked to changes in construction practices since the 70s, which resulted in buildings being so tightly sealed that the diminished ventilation contributed to moisture vapor buildup.  Other moisture problems may result from roof leaks, landscaping or guttering that inadvertently direct water toward the building, or unvented combustion appliances.  Improper design and maintenance of an HVAC system, such as insufficient cooling capacity, can result in elevated humidity levels in buildings.

What are some tips to prevent mold?

  • Repair plumbing leaks and leaks in the structure as soon as possible
  • Look for condensation and wet spots.  Fix the source of the leak ASAP.
  • Prevent moisture from condensing by increasing surface temperature or reducing the moisture level in the air.  To increase surface temperature, insulate or increase air circulation.  To reduce the moisture level in the air, repair leaks, and increase ventilation.
  • Keep HVAC drip pans clean, flowing properly, and unobstructed.
  • Perform regular maintenance on your building/HVAC unit(s), including filter changes.
  • Maintain indoor relative humidity below 70% (25-60%, if possible)
  • Vent moisture-generating appliances, such as dryers, to the outside, where possible.
  • Vent kitchens and bathrooms according to the local code.
  • Clean and dry wet or damp spots ASAP, but NO MORE THAN 48 hours after discovery.
  • Provide adequate drainage around the building and sloping the ground away from your building foundation.  Follow all local building codes.
  • Pinpoint areas where leaks have occurred, identify the causes, and take preventative measures to ensure they do not reoccur.
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