Mold and Mildew are problems that every single home will have to deal with. Infestations of these fungi, if bad enough, can wreak havoc not only in your home but with your health as well. Granted, some people are more sensitive to mold allergies than others, but the simple fact remains – it is not healthy to keep around. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) offers a good overview of the health effects associated with mold. The overall consenses is, it needs to be erradicated both for your health and your home.
What is Mold and Mildew?
In a nutshell, they are fungi. Mildew is simply a generic term for mold growth, however it’s characterisics are not as invasive. Mildew is more of a whitish or light greyish color, and grows very thin. It is most commonly found on organic surfaces such as wood, paper, fruits and vegetables, and live plants. It can grow indoors or outdoors, and thrives in warm moist environments.
Mold, a fungus as well, is in fact very invasive to your home. It is normally seen as black in color, and its growth can be quite violent to the surfaces it attaches itself to. Like mildew, mold thrives in damp and wet locations, warm and humid environments.
If you have ever let mold run amuck in the shower, then no doubt you have seen the damage it can do to the tile grout. This same damage and worse can be seen on drywall and the wood structure within the walls and ceilings. It basically sets whichever surface as home, then as it grows it eats away at that surface. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!
While the effects of mold will vary depending on the circumstance, the underlying fact is, it’s bad. For most people, depending on the mold infestation, can experience stuffy or runny nose, coughing, or even symptoms that resemble seasonal allergies such as itchy eyes and wheezing. People who have mold allergies can have more serious effects, and these if left untreated can result in more serious issues such as respiratory infections.
Healthy people are not immune to these effects, and if anyone does have any health issues, more caution does need to be considered. Have asthma? Then you may want to consider scheduled inspections for mold so you can make necessary repairs and remove the growth before it sets in too much. Breathing in mold can, especially if you have mold allergies, cause asthma attacks.
On the lighter side, let’s give credit where credit is due. In London in 1928, a lackadaisical researcher named Sir Alexander Fleming left for vacation leaving some of his work out in room temperature, only to return to find mold had grown in a culture plate of staphylococci. Instead of wasting his work and starting over, he decided to look more in to it. He found the mold had inhibited the growth of the staph. This led to further research and in no time drastically changed the research of medicines, as well as the well being of the public over all.
What Causes Mold and Mildew?
For the extreme most part, mold and mildew thrives in warm, moist environments. Shower stalls and bath tubs are among the most obvious places, and I would bet that everyone who reads this article will agree that they have noticed mold growth in these areas. Let’s take a look at other areas that need to be checked.
In the Attic
If you are able to look in the attic, inspect the areas under the roof. Any kind of roof leak that allows rain water to the inside of the attic may cause mold to grow on the roof planks. Areas that need to be focused on would be vent pipes, vent fans, and even the underside of roof valleys. Basically any device that penetrates through the roof can develop a failed seal which can allow for a leak, and therefore allowing water to get inside the attic.
In the crawl space or basement
Crawl spaces and basements offer a wonderful environment for mold and mildew to grow. They are naturally damp and humid, and even in the winter months can allow for a bit of warmth since the area can still retain some of the warmth from the ground and home both. Areas to check are similar to the areas in the attic, check for penetrations from the crawlspace or basement in to the home and even to the outside. Focus on the areas where plumbing and drain pipes are at the kitchen and bathrooms.
Yes, a leaky window can allow water to not only get inside the home, but worse inside the walls. If water does get inside the walls, since there is no air circulation to dry it quickly, mold and lidew will be sure to set up residence.
Because the whole job for air conditioning is to change the temperature of the air, a byproduct of this is condensation, which is simply pulling moisture out of the air. Areas to look at are around the furnace or air handler and along the air ducts as much as possible. Sometimes the furnace or air ducts will ‘sweat’, causing moisture to accumulate and eventual attract mold and mildew.
Inside the home
Inspect areas under cabinets at sinks, check around air conditioning vents, and as stated above check around bath tubs and shower stall. Any water connections such as water heaters, washing machines, and dishwashers are potential leaky culprits that need to be inspected as well.
How to Prevent Mold and Mildew
The first line of defense is to go through the inspections stated above. While inspecting these areas, pay attention to any moist spots. Check to see if you feel any drafts around doors and windows, and look for any sunlight coming in through any parts of the attic that you should not see it. If you do feel or see any flaws, but don’t see any moisture or growth, then take action to make the repairs before you have any issues.
If you do find any moisture building up, the first thing is to dry the area as much as possible. If any growth has started, clean it. Only after the area is dry and clean of any mold or mildew growth, then take the steps necessary to make any repairs as necessary. An example would be if mold was found around a water connection to the washing machine, dry the area, clean the mold, and locate the source of the leak and repair it. If you make the repairs first, then you will not only allow the growth to continue to increase, but you will allow the health risks to continue. Not to mention, you want to ensure everything is dry so you can tell if there is only one repair to make, or if there are multiple issues. Dry, Clean, Repair.
Checking for and repairing water leaks will help reduce the risks of mold and mildew around appliances and utility areas. In the shower, a good tip is to keep the shower curtains or door open for a while to help it dry out. The standing water is the main cause for the growth, and allowing the air to circulate will help pull the moisture out.
We hope you learned a little about the causes and risks of mold and mildew around your home. Please feel free to ask any questions or simply leave a comment below. thanks for visiting!