Mold is sneaky. It hides in dark places and has a ravenous appetite. It can be harmful to your health and property and can be difficult to remove. While you may be focused on preventing mold in your basement, it's important to recognize that it can grow in just about any other place in your home.
There are over 100,000 different species of this living organism called fungus. Each has different characterizing features and varying toxicity. All, however, require moisture to grow and organic matter to derive energy. If your skin is crawling thinking about what might be lurking behind your walls or under your carpeting, you should do an inspection. Obviously, prevention is preferred, but you'll want to be sure your home is spore-free first.
Search For Mold: Upper Levels
Professionals are available to perform a comprehensive mold inspection and identification process, but unless you have already discovered a major mold problem, you can perform the initial investigation yourself. Be sure to protect your eyes, nose and skin from spore exposure by using goggles, a mask/respirator and gloves.
Before you begin, think about any past water leaks or floods your home has experienced. As mold thrives in dark, damp places, it's important to recall where leaks originated. This is where you should start. Look for visible signs of mold growth or damp, musty odors. Remember what moldy bread smells like, and let your nose guide you.
Next, search rooms where family allergies seem worse. A whopping 10-20% of people worldwide have a sensitivity to mold spores, so it's possible someone in your family may be experiencing symptoms. Congestion, wheezing, asthma, eye irritation or skin rashes could be exacerbated by exposure.
Carefully check near pipes, sinks and other typical water sources. Kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms, where moisture accumulates with condensation and humidity, can breed mold. While you may not see a big, furry black spot on your wall, look for water damaged materials that are warping or bulging. Cracked or peeling paint, stains, discoloration and even small dots of mold growth can signal a larger colony nearby.
Don't forget to check air ducts as well. Remove register covers and inspect with a flashlight to be sure they are also mold-free.
Search For Mold: Basement & Crawlspace
Your unfinished basement may smell musty, or if you have a leak, you may notice mold growing on the walls or ceiling joists. If you have a finished basement, mold may not be as obvious. It can attach itself to the front and back sides of wallboard, carpeting, ceiling tile and even upholstery.
Crawlspaces are generally dark, moist and hot, so if you have one, be aware that conditions are very conducive to mold growth. Take care to wear protective clothing and a respirator as it's possible you may find mold in your basement crawlspace.
Search For Mold: Exterior Deck
Wood decks are also susceptible to mold and mildew growth. It's not uncommon for excess moisture, poor ventilation and lack of regular cleaning to encourage this problem outside. Unfortunately, if you've found mold on your deck, you may have larger problems such as splintering, cracked boards, graying and rotting.
Finding & Fixing Water Problems
As you've probably figured out by now, water infiltration anywhere in your home can be a major problem. If you've discovered mold, you must have excess moisture or a water leak. Before you begin the mold removal process, it's important to fix the cause. Upper levels of your home will primarily be due to plumbing leaks in the kitchen, bathroom or laundry room. If you've discovered mold on the first floor that's not near a water source, look up. Water leaks may have originated from a second floor bathroom.
Basement and crawlspace leaks can be traced to condensation, windows and window wells, foundation wall and floor cracks, sump pump, gutters and downspouts, exterior grading slope, weeping tile or sewer backup. Once these issues have been addressed, you can move onto the next steps.
Mold Removal, Treatment & Prevention
Start by throwing out anything that has become wet. Remember, safety first. Don't try to salvage items to save money or mold will regrow. Run a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air. A wet vacuum will help in removing standing water.
Use natural products like a sodium carbonate mold control product or hydrogen peroxide for a safe, effective and inexpensive method of mold removal. These products can be used for preventing mold in your basement and upper floors. Hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent, so it will remove dark stains. The sodium carbonate will leave an invisible layer or protection to prevent mold from growing back.
Deck mold requires a different process. You'll need to pressure wash the affected areas, then apply a wood deck treatment of water, ammonia-free liquid dish detergent and bleach or vinegar. Leave on for 15 minutes, then scrub and rinse. This will kill mold spores and lift stains. Apply wood deck sealant with a fungicide to prevent re-growth.
If you suspect you've got mold in your home, don't ignore it. Early detection and treatment will protect your family's health and your property's value. Remember, if you're unsure of anything, seek professional assistance or test your indoor air quality for added peace of mind.