By: Christopher Brooks
There are numerous health risks to mold when it occurs in the home. This can even happen in a new concrete home if it has not been properly protected against mold. Moisture is vital for mold to exist. Moisture - water - in your home can come from many sources. It can enter the home by leaking through basement walls and floors. Even cooking will add moisture to the air. The amount of moisture that the air in your home can hold depends on the temperature of the air. Moisture can cause biological pollutants such as mold to grow.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the key to mold control is moisture control. It recommends drying out damaged areas and items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth. If mold is a problem in a home, the EPA suggests cleaning it up and removing excess water or moisture. Repairing leaky plumbing or other sources of water is also important. Mold should be washed off hard surfaces with detergent and water. The area should then by completely dried. Absorbent materials that become moldy, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, often need to be replaced.
One key ingredient
"Mold needs one key ingredient to be able to flourish within your home. That is high levels of moisture. The wetter your personal environment is, the more likely mold might become a problem," said Jim Kobialko, marketing manager at SuperSeal Basement Systems Ltd. in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, manufacturers of SuperSeal dimpled air gap membrane for exterior or interior foundation walls and on floors.
"Toxic mold, known as Stachybotrys Chartarum, is a greenish-black color that can grow on building materials and other household items with a high cellulose content and a low nitrogen content, Kobialko said. "Normally the indoor levels of toxic mold are low. However, a toxic mold in any amount can cause health problems." Only trained professionals using a microscope can identify the toxic mold Stachybotrys Chartarum.
Other possible health problems include allergic rhinitis (cold like symptoms), dermatitus (rashes), sinusitis, conjuctivitis and asthma aggravation.
Some building materials trap moisture underneath their surfaces. This provides a hidden moist environment where mold can grow. "A homeowner may suspect hidden mold in his home if there is a musty smell, but he cannot see the source. Another factor could be if there has been water damage and building occupants are reporting health problems.
"Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult," Kobialko said. "In mold removal, disturbing potential sites of mold growth can be dangerous. For example, removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores from mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you suspect you have a serious mold problem you should contact a restoration contractor who is experienced with mold removal.
"The contractor can examine all potential affected areas and take readings of all molds. The contractor will then hire an independent hygienist to test the mold and recommend what steps to take in mold removal."
Kobialko says if you can control moisture in your home, you will have a solid grasp on controlling mold. Moisture can leak into your home and promote mold growth through basement floors, showers, leaky pipes; even mopping, etc.
If you are building a new home, ensure you have a waterproofing material that lets your house breathe. Make certain all leaks in your home are sealed, however do not make your home airtight as that will seal moisture in and promote the growth of household mold and mildew.
Kobialko says the most common place for mold to form is in the basement or crawl space. "There are three reasons. First, hydrostatic water pressure. It forces moisture out and water through the porous materials or any cracks in the foundation wall. Second, capillary rise. It forces moisture and water through the porous materials or any cracks in the concrete slab. And third, higher relative humidity. It diffuses moisture from the upper levels to the lower levels of the home. The area with the highest relative humidity is usually the basement or crawl space
"Products such as SuperSeal dimpled membrane as a subfloor, under your concrete slab and on your foundation wall will not only help keep moisture out of your home, but it will help allow moisture within your home to escape," Kobialko said. "SuperSeal Dimpled membrane allows your home to breathe and can help in preventing excessive moisture within your home."
It is designed using an air gap system that provides several benefits, including: bridging gaps, cracks and voids; allowing the wall to shift and crack without affecting performance; removing 100 percent of the headwater pressure off the face of the wall; helping prevent external moisture from entering the home; helping internal moisture within the home to escape; and contributing to environmental responsibility.
Mold removal can require specialized equipment that can be very expensive. In some cases it is covered by homeowners insurance. "However, mold and mold removal in general has become such an issue, some insurers may include out clauses in policies," Kobialko said. "In addition, the Canadian insurance industry is developing a new standard exclusion clause relating to mold and mold removal, which will apply to both property policies and liability policies for damage to the homeowner and third parties. The risk is also rising that homebuilders may be held liable for personal injury caused by mold in homes."
Litigation against homebuilders and renovators is soaring. It will be best to discuss mold and mold removal with your insurance agent the next time you review your policy.
Dave Polk, president of epro Services Inc. in Derby, Kan, said insurance companies are alarmed at the costs associated with this litigation that has led to increases in insurance premiums and the threat of exclusion of mold claims or withdrawal underwriting in certain situations.
Polk's company is manufacturer of the E-Wall waterproofing system, engineered as a complete envelope moisture protection for below-grade new construction. His system boasts full adhesion, seamless installation, flexibility, positive drainage protection, under-slab barriers and ecologically safe.
"What does the mold issue mean to builders and homeowners?" Polk asked. "It means its necessary to control mold by controlling moisture. In other words, solve moisture problems before they become mold problems."
"One of our customers right here in Wichita had a half a dozen jobs recently involving mold removal," he said. "Six different homeowners selling their properties couldn't close because inspection revealed mold in the crawl spaces. It was necessary to remove the mold and install barriers to prevent further mold growth. I'm also aware of instances where homes couldn't be sold until mold was removed from the roof. The owners had had their homes re-roofed, but no effort was made to remove mold as a result of weather damage. Also, no protective underlayment was installed. So the homeowners had to pay for remedial work in order to have closing."
Polk suggests the following for new residential construction:
* Waterproof slab and moisture proof basements, crawlspaces and under the slab.
* Install water managed wall systems with such key components as: proper drainage planes, drainage space under cladding (brick, stucco, siding), flashings (around windows, doors to footer or wall), and weep holes.
* Install a shield and roofing underlayment systems with proper insulation and air gaps to prevent condensation.
Interior moisture management
Inside the home Polk recommends:
* Properly wrap all plumbing pipes to prevent condensation.
* Vent all moisture producing areas (bathroom, kitchen, laundry room and appliances).
* Insulate properly to reduce condensation on cold surfaces.
* HVAC system needs to be designed with adequate returns for proper ventilation and the ability to maintain 30 to 60 percent relative humidity in all areas of the home.
Effective waterproofing is the best step to eliminate the appearance of mold in a new home. Researching the various waterproofing systems available for new construction is a worthwhile endeavor for any builder or potential homeowner.