What is Mold?
Molds are fungi which are present in indoor and outdoor air. Molds are present throughout nature and in our living environment. They are a necessity or we would all be covered in debris. In nature, molds help break down dead materials and can be found growing on soils, foods, plant matter and other items. They are vital to our existence. Molds produce microscopic cells called “spores” which are very tiny and spread easily through the air. Mold spores act like seeds, forming new mold growths (colonies) when they find the right conditions.
Mold becomes a problem inside our homes when conditions exist that allow the mold to grow and multiply. Each and every person has a different tolerance to molds and other allergens. Over time exposure to mold can cause sickness, major health issues and depending on the type of mold it can even cause death.
What does Mold need to grow?
Mold needs three key elements to grow and thrive.
Moisture – including humidity from poor ventilation.
Nutrients – the majority of the components used in construction.
Temperatures – Mold can survive in temperatures between 32 and 120 degrees. The temperatures that we like to live in (between 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit) are the most conducive to growth.
Out of all the elements above, the one we can control the easiest is the moisture. Excessive moisture can be from many sources from a faulty exterior component that allows water to enter the home, to inadequate ventilation and excessive humidity.
When molds are found inside a home they should be cleaned and removed as soon as possible. The source of moisture must be found and fixed to prevent mold from returning. It is recommended to have a local environmental company remediate an area in Terry B's Home Inspections excess of ten square feet. In my experience I have followed behind and seen many mold specialty companies throughout the Portland and Vancouver area only clean up or remove mold and not address the cause. The mold problem typically returns.
How do I tell if I have a mold problem?
Investigate. 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. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms. Look for visible mold growth: it may appear Buyers Edge Home Inspection's 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.
Search behind and underneath materials including carpet and padding, wallpaper, vinyl flooring, sink cabinets, furniture or stored items (especially things placed near outside walls or on cold floors). Sometimes invasive techniques may be needed to inspect and clean enclosed spaces where mold and moisture are hidden. For example, opening up drywall may be required to determine if mold is within the wall.
If you have a mold problem in your home you likely have a moisture problem as well.