Awareness of how water interacts with buildings will be:

Your Superpower

Mold is easy to understand!
It needs moisture + food (organic matter) to grow.

As a general contractor, I often lament that our buildings are made of organic matter: Wood is, and always will be, mold food.

Keeping our buildings dry is a matter of saving both our health and property: Water truly is the destroyer of buildings.

Not because water dissolves the structure, but because water allows mold to grow.

The mold is what breaks down the structure.

But long before the structure is compromised, mold will make a building unhealthy to live in — and if you’re quite sensitive to mold, living in a so-called “sick building” can severely impact your life.

The good news: You don’t have to feel uncertain, afraid, or helpless when it comes to the health of your home.

Instead, I encourage you to become empowered — through awareness of your building! Know how it interacts with moisture, and know what to do about it.

Confusion disappears when we understand how buildings work.

There’s no reason you can’t become a top tier home inspector — for yourself.
This page is designed to get you there.

1

Explore the Building

Inspect every inch of your home — looking for signs of moisture or water intrusion.

Become a Do-It-Yourself Building Inspector

You don’t need all the answers immediately, and being unsure about something is okay.

Instead, learn the process of inspection.

Where to Begin: Inside or Outside?

It doesn’t matter whether you begin inside or outside — but I like to start outside.

The first thing I look for is the “exterior grade.” Does the ground slope away from the house?

We’ll explain this in the next sections.

2

WATER

How It Comes

Where It Goes

As you look at a building, use your imagination. How does water interact with this structure?

  • Where does water come from (rain, ground, plumbing pipes)?
  • Where does it go?
  • Can moisture enter the house?
  • Can moisture leave the house?

It can be shocking how easily water finds its way into buildings.

The Foundation

Buildings require drainage away from the foundation.

This is a non-negotiable matter. Water that stands around — or pools up against — a building will always find a way inside.

Not only is this structurally unsafe, it leads to moisture in the house. Moisture wicks up through the foundation walls, and mold develops inside walls and flooring. The water has to go somewhere, so humidity rises inside, feeding mold everywhere.

Instead, water should be directed far away from buildings, and not be allowed to sink near the foundation.

Most local building codes require one foot for every ten feet — and that should be treated as a bare minimum.

Here’s what a proper slope should look like.

Example: Proper Slope Away From House

Notice the foundation is “above grade” — meaning, it’s above the ground level.

Because the foundation is higher than the ground, the builder can “back fill” dirt up against the foundation.

This creates a slope away from the house, allowing water to safely go somewhere else (not the house).

(Close-Up)

If the foundation is not built high enough above the ground (“grade”), water will stay near the house and sink into the soil, close to the foundation.

Example: Foundation Installed Too Low

Water that sinks next to the foundation will spread out, and find its way into the house.

Because the foundation is the only part of the house that can be in contact with soil, installing a foundation too low means that top soil cannot be added to create a slope — there simply isn’t room.

(Close-Up)

But there’s another reason it’s so important to set the foundation above the grade…

Buildings Settle

Buildings tend to settle — into the earth.

Over time, this can create a slope toward the house, causing water to pool against the house.

Example: House Settles Into Ground

This is a very precarious scenario. Water will find its way inside — quickly — when this is happening.

If there’s a basement, it will be constantly leaky, damp, and humid — and almost certainly moldy. The humidity will rise up into the house above.

(Close-Up)

Driveways must be sloped away from the house too. If the house isn’t set high enough, the proper slope on the driveway will not be possible.

Homes On a Slope

Homes that are built on a slope are particularly at risk.

Water will always flow downhill, and without wise engineering, the water will pool up on — and inside — the house.

To solve this, homes on a sloping grade should be built:

  • High enough that the foundation will be completely above the grade at the highest point of the house
  • With room to create a downward slope on both sides (toward a drain on the high side)

When the slope is steep and high enough, a retaining wall will be required to achieve proper slope.

(Close Up)

If the slope continues on both sides of the house, the foundation will need to be quite tall.

Basements

All of the rules still apply — and are all the more important — when basements are a factor.

The foundation must be set high enough that the first floor is equally as high as it would be without a basement. The ground must slope away from the house on all sides.

It’s easy to imagine how disastrous water intrusion can be when basements are not protected by a proper slope away from the house.

Basements must be fully waterproofed, though this is difficult to observe after construction has ended.

Gutters

Gutters are essential to keep water away from the foundation.

Even with a proper slope, falling water (from a roof) will erode the grade in no time, and create a pocket for water to pool against the house.

Downspouts should empty onto a splash block, not the ground. A splash block distributes water further from the house, preventing similar erosion pockets where water can pool up.

Image result for water on side of house

The Roof

Roofs must be completely watertight — no exceptions. Any water through the roof means damage and mold, and it doesn’t have to take very long.

Shingles

Even slightly loose shingles can let water into the building.

Nothing should ever penetrate shingles. Creating a direct hole through the roof — by nailing, screwing, or stapling anything on top of the roof — will cause a leak. All nails/screws must be covered by a shingle above it.

Roof Vents

Roof vents are pipes that penetrate the roof. These are vulnerable areas that must be “flashed” correctly to prevent leaks.

A typical flashing collar looks like this:

It should be installed like this — with the bottom flange poking out, and the shingles overlapping on the top side:

Singles overlap the top side, bottom side is uncovered (it “shingles” over the shingle below it).

Chimneys

A notable weak spot in a roof, chimneys must be flashed properly at their top, and at their bottom where they meet the roof.

Step flashing is inserted into the grout (between bricks) so that water runs down the bricks and onto the flashing. The flashing must overlap the shingles (otherwise it will direct water under the shingles).

The fancy triangle piece above the chimney is called a “cricket.” It directs water around the chimney — instead of pooling up against it. It’s essential for any chimney.

Plumbing Leaks

The more plumbing in a building, the more likely a leak will develop inside one. More pipes means more opportunity for a problem.

A pipe can leak anywhere, but fittings and connections are where most leaks occur.

The biggest risk comes where one pipe meets another, or attaches to a fixture (faucets, drains, etc).

Be sure to monitor sinks, showers, and toilets regularly. Look for any signs of leaks — bubbling, cracking, and musty smells.

A leak under a sink.

Appliances Use Water

So many appliances use water.

Appliances that use water must have a supply line (where water comes in), and a drain out — which connects to the sewer line, out of the house.

Appliances can get moldy themselves, especially if they have build up of organic matter inside. Drain lines are potentially moldy, as well as inside the machine itself.

Moldy, stinky, clogged up, dirty washing machines, dishwashers, hot tubs, jacuzzi baths, HVAC housing, and more — are quite common in the modern house.

It’s not just mold that can also grow inside the housings and pipes — especially when unable to air out and dry — noxious and harmful bacteria can, as well.

  • Refrigerators
  • Washing Machines
  • Dishwashers
  • HVAC Systems
  • Freezers
  • Garbage Disposals
  • Toilets
  • Sinks
  • Showers
  • Water Heaters
  • Humidifiers/Dehumidiers

Front-loader washing machines are much, much more prone to microbial growth than top-loaders.

Washing machines must have their doors left open when not in use. Front-loaders require frequent “clean” cycles — though they won’t completely prevent (or resolve) mold issues.

Appliances can also leak and spill water outside the unit. Lots of damage can occur this way.

Washing machine leaked, feeding mold in the flooring.

It’s important to point out that once water enters a drain, the only thing that takes it all the way to the sewer system (or septic tank) is gravity (barring a pump in some cases).

Sewer pipes must be clear of debris (so don’t clog them up with fat, grease, or paper products), and they must be installed to slope slightly downhill.

The following graphic doesn’t show the sewer pipes sloping slightly downhill, but it does demonstrate how sewer pipes all work together.

HVAC Systems

HVAC units aren’t connected to the plumbing system, but they do create water.

Condensation is created when air is rapidly cooled, and that water has to go somewhere.

It hangs around on the coils for a while, then drips to the drain pan, below.

Then, down the drain (condensate line) it goes, outside to the ground — or sometimes to a sewer drain.

Inspecting each of these components is essential to knowing the health of an HVAC system. Microbial growth can occur anywhere: coils, drain pan, condensate line / drain.

Humidity meter — An invaluable, yet cheap tool.

Condensation can also occur inside the ductwork.

The biggest risk for ductgwork condensation is humid air in the home. A well-functioning HVAC system should pull moisture out of the air when it cools. In ‘heat’ mode, it will not dehumidify, though.

Indoor humidity is usually related to outside weather — if its humid outside, it’s more likely to be humid inside.

But tighter buildings can trap humidity inside even when outside air is dry.

Showers, cooking, breathing, hot baths all add humidity to the air. In winter, when the heat is on, the air is not getting dehumidified. Sometimes humidity can rise high, especially in tightly-built houses. Running exhaust fans after baths and showers is critical to removing excess humidity from a house.

A humidity meter (cheap on Amazon) can provide valuable insight into how much moisture your HVAC system is being exposed to.

Windows

Windows are a weak area in the wall assembly and, therefore, they are notoriously leaky.

When leaks do happen, the water enters the wall below the window.

For a window to be installed correctly, it must be flashed correctly — and this is somewhat rare to find, at least in America.

Residential buiding inspectors aren’t typically looking for proper flashing, they just want to see that there is flashing. Whether it’s according to manufacturer instructions isn’t so important!

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to inspect a window’s flashing after the building’s cladding as gone up.

Therefore, the only way to know for sure if a window was installed properly, is to observe during construction.

If you’re buying a house that you didn’t inspect as it was constructed, you can’t know for sure the windows were flashed properly.

How big of a deal is this? Good question. In my experience, perhaps 10% of all houses I’ve observed get the window flashing details entirely correct. Higher quality builders get it wrong almost as often as lower-quality builders. Products and systems are changing, and builders often have a hard time keeping up — or don’t even know there was anything wrong with the old ways (there definitely were).

Water that leaks under a window will not be able to dry out — not with insulation present, and drywall. Moisture inside walls rarely can dry out, not when leaks happens repeatedly.

Brick sills must be angled away from the house — to let water run away, rather than back toward the window.

Just like with foundations, if water can pool up against any part of the house — including a window — it will find a way in.

3

Inspect the Entire Building

Get curious. Explore every room up close.

Look in corners, and where walls meet the floor and ceiling. Look inside closets and cabinets.

Keep your imagination active: How might water arrive at any location inside the house?

Don’t forget that humidity above 60% represents enough moisture to substantially feed mold; stagnant or trapped air — like in an upstairs closet — can become humid.

  • Rooms
  • Closets
  • Corners
  • Bathrooms
  • Basements
  • Garages
  • Attic
  • Crawl Space

Nooks & Crannies

  • Cabinets
  • Electrical outlets (sniff)
  • Drains
  • Under stairwells
  • Appliances
  • Behind appliances

Outside

  • All siding
  • Roof and gutter systems
  • Foundation
  • Windows
  • Penetrations (Vents)
  • Drains

The more often you inspect your house, the better you will understand it — and the more likely you are to find problems — swiftly — after they begin.

Remember, there is no such thing as a maintenance-free house.

Use Your Nose

A moldy smell often tells the whole story.

In other words, if you smell a problem — there is one.

Your nose can’t identify the species of mold — or whether it’s something else.

Perhaps the problems is a dying animal in the crawl space (or, in a wall, or behind a tub surround). Or maybe it’s a biofilm in the dishwasher or kitchen sink drain.

But very often, where there is moisture and organic matter, there is mold.

And your nose can help you find it.

Explore cabinets, corners, closets, air conditioners and appliances — and give a good sniff.

After all, if there’s a musty smell, chances are there’s mold growth somewhere.

Your nose is important because mold isn’t always visible — it’s often tucked away inside walls and ducts, or under flooring.

But if you can smell it, it’s there.

Even when hibernating, mold can still release toxic fumes and spores long after the leak has been fixed and the mold has dried up.

It’s possible and even common to smell mold that hasn’t been actively growing in some time — yet still affects the health of the home.

Trust your nose. It could be your most reliable tool. 

Weak Nose?

Rudy Gobert, NBA player, ten days after being infected by COVID-19.

Anosmia is the scientific name for a weakened sense of smell.

Losing a sense of smell is often related to weakened health.

What causes anosmia?

  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Diseases involving organ injury and energy deficiency
  • (Smoking)

Mold affects the body in terms of allergies and infection.

Losing your sense of smell is one sign of mold exposure.

Image result for mold in wall
Mold growing in and behind cabinetry.

Use Your Eyes

While mold is often unseen, it isn’t always hiding.

Even if mold starts out in hiding, water moves — it soaks through materials.

Mold grows, and follows the water.

Over time, as leaks continue to leak, the chances of mold becoming visible rise, especially if we are willing to look for it.

Shower panels were not properly siliconed. Silicone is the preferred type of caulking in most showers.

Visible Mold

  • Around air vents
  • Molding, corners, wallpaper
  • Flooring
  • Surfaces
  • Discoloration/Stains
  • Drains
  • Showers
  • Washing machines

“Crawl space air will eventually be indoor air.”

– Eric Davis, Building Biologist

Using Your Senses

To successfully stop mold, the location and extent of moisture intrusion must be identified.  

Because mold is often not easily seen, it can escape our attention and grow exponentially into a massive problem before it’s noticed.  

Humidity enables mold growth — especially in crawl spaces and garages — usually made worse by poor airflow (trapped air).  In trapped spaces, humidity enters a space, moisture in the air rises, and then can’t leave.

Too, summer climates often have humidity in the 70%-90% range. Air doesn’t even need to be trapped to encourage mold growth when humidity is this high.

Related image
Mold growth in a crawlspace.

Observe all of these spaces. Look with your eyes for any sign of fungal growth. Does the air feel damp? Measure humidity with a cheap hygrometer. Notice any musty smells.

Mold rarely stays in one place — it spreads.
Keep looking, in all places.

4

Extra Tools

Infrared Cameras

Infrared cameras don’t see mold.

But they can show surface temperature — and moisture traps heat. Therefore, where there is water, there will always be a cooler surface temp.

That is how infrared cameras can show us where moisture lies inside walls.  

(Water always soaks up heat — it’s a heat sink — meaning, water traps heat, so less heat ever reaches the IR camera).

Seeing inside the walls via Infrared Camera is a much better first option than cutting holes in walls.

Purchase an Infrared Camera

Cheaper models run from $75-$350.  

Higher-end models are in the thousands.

The cheaper models are sufficient to keep track of your home and other buildings. A Building Biologist will have a top-shelf instrument.

FLIR Infrared Camera for iPhone/iPad

FLIR makes both a standalone IR camera, and a device that attaches to an iPhone.

View on Amazon.

Moisture Meter

Moisture meters are cheap and simple to use, but are very limited in what they can show us. They will only show moisture on the surface, not what is inside a wall.

Simply hold the meter up to a wall and check the moisture content of this area of the wall.

Readings above 12% suggest potential moisture issues, and above 17% confirm moisture problems.

General Tools MMD4E Digital Moisture Meter

5

Certified Building Biologists

A professional guide for home inspection?

A certified Building Biologist will go above and beyond a typical home inspector.

They will have rigorous training, high-quality instruments (including an infrared camera), and will be able to help guide you through the process of determining causes, solutions and severity of issues.  

Eric Davis is a fantastic Building Biologist in the Southeastern US. (LINK)

Best of all, Building Biologists are well-versed in the science of making homes habitable and healthy.

Professional-grade air quality tests can be performed (of much higher value than store-bought tests and can include other contaminants besides mold), non-visible moisture and leaks can be detected, and even EMF testing (which can be important, too).

Ultimately, however, your best guide is you — you live in your home on a daily basis, and you’ll need to be in charge of any remediation work done on the house.

If you don’t make sure the job is done right, it probably won’t be.

Building Biologists are well trained, but that doesn’t mean they are perfect. They’re human just like everyone else. Find someone you trust, and who you trust can work alongside you to meet your goal.

Building Biologists Don’t Do The Remediation

While a Building Biologist may be highly adept at solving moisture issues, it will be construction crews who do the work on your house.

You’ll need to find a contractor who understands how to remediate and remove harmful mycotoxins and spores without spreading them.  

Unfortunately, most contractors and specialized mold remediators will not be versed in careful, complete remediation.

A remediation job can be a difficult, complex, and expensive process. Stay on top of the process.

Be up front with your contractor about what you need, get a signed contract for the work, and monitor the work each day. Be selective about who you hire, shop until you find someone willing to do what you’re asking.

6

Mold Testing

Mold testing can be a legitimate way to identify species of mold in your home.

It can also be an unreliable, expensive endeavor.

HERTSMI

Get a cheaper HERTSMI test right away — if you want.  

  • Only tests for 5 molds.
  • Cost: ~$190

ERMI

More extensive and expensive.

  • Tests for 36 molds.
  • Cost: ~$290

Air Test

Woe-fully incomplete test, by itself.

  • This only gives you a tiny snapshot of what’s happening in your building.
  • Likely to seriously underestimate any mold issues.

Petri Dish

Nearly worthless.

You can buy these cheap kits at Home Depot.

  • These tell you very little.
  • If mold grows incredibly fast, this might indicate a severe problem.
  • Otherwise, this test is of little scientific value.

(no affiliation)

Mold Tests are NOT Perfect

No tests — even the best ones (ERMI, HERTSMI) — are definitively conclusive, and here’s why.

There will always be room for error with any scientific test. What’s more, tests only show a snapshot in time rather than an entire picture.

Testing surfaces only shows what was on a specific surface on the day of the test.  

Too, it’s possible for some spores to be airborne, or follow airflow patterns to a different surface in a room.

It’s also possible for cleaning to interfere with surface tests.

Testing the air only reveals the contents of the air during the test period. Varying humidity levels can skew air test results. Air tests won’t reveal what is on surfaces.

The Limits Of Testing
  • No test is can find spores resting behind the toilet or inside walls.
  • Tests don’t identify the location or size of mold growth. Tests likely won’t reveal problems that are only beginning, in their infancy.
  • Mold’s toxic odors often seep through the walls while the spores remain behind walls, hidden from mold tests.

Mike Schrantz, Expert

Mike Schrantz owns and operates Environmental Analytics, an environmental consulting firm. Here’s a quote of his from an interview with Chris Kresser.

“It’s hard to ignore that testing that by itself doesn’t always cut it. [The] visual [component] is, in some parts of this, just as important, dare I say slightly more important, than data itself.”

Mike Schrantz

Schrantz is a knowledgeable, data-driven expert. He is performing a service for a fee, and he doesn’t want to depend on guesswork — so he uses testing, reports and data. “I think, maybe…” doesn’t work so well when you’re charging people lots of money and guaranteeing results.

That said, even a super data-driven expert like Schrantz says that focused, motivated, curious observation is (to some extent) more important than testing.

Do tests have a place? Sure. Absolutely. More information is always good, as long as we understand that mold testing results are simply a limited snapshot of one place at one point in time.

But the best information comes from you.

Walking around, poking around, looking with your eyes, smelling with your nose — using your awareness.


The Chris Kresser Mold Story

The internet-famous acupuncturist and health blogger, Chris Kresser, bought a 1920’s house in the (very-humid) Bay Area a few years ago.

They suspected mold and decided to test for it.

Chris hired Mike Schrantz, who flew in (multiple times) from Arizona. He did extensive testing, but the tests didn’t show much mold, only slightly elevated spore counts. They wanted to explore more — to make sure the house was safe — so they cut holes into walls and removed some sections of walls. Testing still didn’t show much.

It was only a few rainy days later that Chris noticed one of his walls was wet to the touch (and bulging a little) next to a window. That’s a MAJOR sign! So they tore out the wall and found the window had been leaking.

Inside the wall, they noticed mold growing above the window — which indicated moisture above the window. Looking higher up, they found a failed gutter system that was pouring water into the walls — and mold was everywhere.

Finally — after all moldy materials had been removed and the area scrubbed clean, they retested… and failed the ERMI test.

You don’t just inspect once and that’s the end of it.

Chris Kresser

On a blind hunch, they guessed the cleaning crew had not cleaned very well — simply because the ERMI test employee saw more dust on the floors than he’d expect after a thorough cleaning.

So they cleaned more thoroughly and tested again, and their new ERMI score “passed.” (Now, even this latest ERMI score doesn’t show what spore counts look like after, say, 12 months. It’s possible they didn’t fix the problem and more water intrusion will happen soon. It’s also possible the mold VOC’s permeated the house to an unhealthy level, even if mold growth has been entirely stopped).

Said Kresser: “In all of the testing that we did, the testing just pointed to a problem, but the place that ended up being the most significant issue was something that was not identified with any of the previous testing and that we actually found by good old fashioned visual observation.”

Don’t Obsess Over Tests

It’s easy to become obsessed with testing mold counts.

This line of thinking will not serve you well. Instead, trust your nose and how you feel and use tests as an adjunct.  If the air doesn’t smell fresh, that’s 50% of what you need to know.  If you feel poorly, that’s almost the other 50%. Tests aren’t always reliable, and no two people will react identically to the same result, anyway.

If you have the money to perform tests, yes. Do multiple. If you’re remediating, yes — do several rounds of tests.

But don’t trust them implicitly. Don’t wait around for months wondering, waiting — thinking someone is going to swoop in and tell you what to do. Instead, be vigilant. Be curious. Get to know your building. Inspect it frequently. Understand it. Take steps to improve and protect your health now.

These tests aren’t perfect, and sometimes under- or over-report the severity of mold present in a various parts of a building.

Greg Muske’s Experience

Greg Muske of biotoxinjourney.com is a wonderful resource for the mold community, and he is very pro-testing. He, like many mold advocates, experts, and doctors — focuses a large majority of their energy on mold avoidance.

“My house is a perfect case in point. We’ve now spent over 2 years and $8,000 doing all of the above mentioned tests numerous times (7 ERMI, 40+ spore traps, a couple dozen Petri dishes, 2 VOC tests, and one mold-dog) in an effort to find out if the new home I built has mold issues. We’d do a round of tests. I’d tear into the house even more. Nothing would be found. I’d then go back and re-evaluate the test method before testing in another way. Round and round and round we went. None of the tests seemed definitive. Talking with four different professional inspectors often left me with more questions than answers.”

“You’d think that with this arsenal of tests along with the expertise of a mold inspector that you could tell if a building is moldy or not. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not always so straight forward.”

Greg Muske

If you need to take action — even major action — mold testing can help confirm what you’ve already realized via your own inspection and intuition.

This website is designed to help you get there: fully aware, equipped, and ready to act.

“Mike, I’ve heard you say it, I’ve heard other people say — if you smell a mildewy, moldy smell, that’s enough, right?”

Chris Kresser (in conversation with Mike Schrantz)

7

Water Intrusion
MUST Be Stopped

A mold test won’t show a water leak. Moisture intrusion must be discovered — by you.

This means homeowners and renters alike need to be aware of all potential sources of water intrusion — whether from pipe leaks, rain fall, flooding, or humidity.

Stop Active Leaks

Identify all areas of excess moisture. Get all leaks fixed immediately!

Each minute a leak continues to drip increases risk.

There’s never a good reason to wait to fix a leak. If you’re renting, there’s never a good reason to wait to report one to the landlord.

Turn water off to the pipe immediately (find the house’s water shut off) and call a plumber.

Use fans and dehumidifiers to dry the area as quickly as possible.

Heat lamps can help dry materials without blowing mold spores around (but be careful, they’re very hot).

Consider whether the leak soaked deep into the flooring or behind walls. If so, will it be able to dry out — or will it remain damp for weeks?

Moisture intrusion from the ground is not ever safe for a building or home. If your home — or basement — leaks after a rain, it is causing mold issues, and chances are, your home is not currently healthy to live in.

Look For High Humidity

High humidity is a form of water intrusion.

Identify any areas with high humidity. Trapped air — in closed-off spaces — often allows humidity to rise.

If you pay attention, you can feel how humid air is.

Put a hygrometer in various places around the house. You want indoor humidity to be lower than 60%. Under 50% is even better.

Humidity above 55-60% increases the chance that mold will be growing in the area.

After you’ve found humid areas, ask why? What is causing this area to be humid?

Humidity tends to find it’s way into a space easily, but struggles to leave.

Look For Any Sign of Mold Growth

It only takes a steady drip — or high humidity — for mold to grow.

Watch for more than just visible mold. Look for signs that water is, or has been, present: bubbling, warping, smells, and other signs of mold growth.

Find and stop leaks and moisture intrusion immediately — either by yourself or with a plumber. 

It only takes 24-48 hours for mold to sprout when an area is damp.

8

RESULTS: Your DIY Inspection

Now that you’ve explored your home, your awareness has grown. You have a better idea about how it’s doing!

Now, take stock of your current situation — what’s going on, and how bad is it?

You likely fit into one of three scenarios:

All Clear?

All Clear?

Now, you need to stay vigilant — and prevent mold growth in your space.

Small Problem?

Small Problem?

Can you handle this yourself?

Severe Problems?

Severe Problems?

Mold has spread onto porous building surfaces that must be removed professionally.

9

SMALL PROBLEM

Stop moisture source. Clean. Dry.

Throw away exposed objects.

You had a leak, with some mold growth, but it’s minimal. It’s contained — not spreading everywhere.

A small leak — or maybe one appliance — appears to have caused some mold growth.

Being a small problem, you might be able to handle this, yourself!

Plan of Action

Have a plan before you start cleaning. 

Consider the following:

  • Cleaning materials needed (Benefect/Concrobium, microfiber towels)
  • PPE — Personal protective equipment (gloves, face mask)
  • How to dispose of ruined objects and towels (trash bag, nearby)
  • How to ensure spores won’t be spread (being careful)

Tread gently and carefully as you fact-find. Limit touching surfaces as you explore contaminated items. Wash your hands immediately after and shower, if necessary.

When you’re ready to clean, do so precisely and quickly — all at once.

First, Remove Exposed Items

Quickly pull out all questionable objects that were exposed to mold.  

This includes plastic, wood, and cloth materials.

Mold can attach to plastic.  Get rid of any plastic that’s been exposed to mold.

The only items that should be saved are expensive or meaningful items that have non-porous surfaces.

Have a trash bag handy that you can quickly tie-up and remove from the home.

Then, Clean Up The Area

Wipe mold up very carefully and slowly, so it isn’t disturbed — which will cause it to release more spores.

Go over the area multiple times, and saturate with a disinfectant cleaner (suggestions here) extremely well. To greater reduce the odds of mold returning, wipe down the area with disinfectant every day for a week, and then weekly going forward.

Look to see if there’s a chance the mold has spread inside walls, cracks between finishes, or mechanisms. If so, those materials need to be removed.

Have a trash bag on hand to immediately put dirty and contaminated wipes in.

Be mindful of getting mold spores on your hands. Close the trash bag immediately when done, wash hands, and remove the bag from the house.

Finally, wipe down everything in the room with microfiber and a great disinfectant cleaner. Clean sheets if in a bedroom. Change clothes and shower off, then get outside for some restorative fresh air.

Be mindful that disturbing mold will make it more likely to release invisible spores in all directions. Clean gently, carefully — even surfaces outside the immediate area.

The Best Disinfectant Products

Benefect Decon 30
Buying in bulk saves money.
Vital Oxide
Just use an empty spray bottle.

These Are Both Incredible Products

  • Both of these products kill 99.99% of all microbes — true hospital-grade disinfectants.
  • Both are safe to clean food surfaces with. They claim you don’t even have to rinse a food surface before using it to prepare food.

The Best Product To Prevent More Mold

Concrobium Mold Control

Other Options

Cleaning Vinegar — add Essential Oils

Mix in a spray bottle.  Vinegar doesn’t have to be diluted.  Put as many drops of Tea Tree oil (or other oil) as you like — the only concern is the cost of the oil.

Other essential oils are quite antiseptic — Thieves oil, clove oil, etc.  I like using them, but they’re an expensive option.

Thieves Blend

Tea Tree Oil

You can substitute Borax (in water) for the vinegar, too — it’s highly antimicrobial/antifungal and safe. 

Hydrogen peroxide kills mold — but be careful not to get it in your eyes.

Bleach and other harsh chemicals may agitate mold and cause them to release more noxious VOCs & mycotoxins — while giving off noxious chemical fumes themselves. The water in bleach can also soak into porous materials and cause more mold to grown. Bleach is not a high-caliber option for mold, and is only remotely appropriate on a non-porous surface.

Be Mentally Ready

Cleaning mold can feel disturbing.

It’s normal to feel violated: Your home or workspace needs rescuing from a potential threat to your health.

If you’re not quite ready to tackle the problem — that’s okay.  Take some time, gather your thoughts, and proceed when ready.

For many folks, mold exposure causes mental or emotional distress. 

If this applies to you, let yourself mentally prepare for the challenge — and be sure to get some fresh air afterward. Take a warm shower or bath, get clean, and take care of yourself.

Take some prophylactic gut supplements (colostrum, probiotics, etc), and don’t skip a meal after cleaning mold.

Do the work right: Keep spores contained, and remove all compromised materials. Then be done with it.

Ozone & UV

Ozone & UV light are hostile to mold, and can be used to discourage further mold growth after moisture has been removed.

Both are best suited for prevention — and once a moldy area has been cleaned, that’s precisely what’s needed.

Ozone the area frequently over the next several weeks, and continue treatments 1-2x/month indefinitely.

Never breathe ozone gas. Always ventilate an area entirely before re-occupying.

Was Cleaning Enough?

Maybe you thought this was a small, manageable problem.

But after cleaning, you’re wondering if the problem was fully eliminated.

Sometimes, a small problem looks manageable at first — only to later prove its true colors: it’s a large problem.

10

LARGE PROBLEM

Get professional help.

Sometimes, it’s best to move & leave belongings behind.

The problem is severe when mold has grown onto porous construction materials.

Here, you will likely need professional help.

Too Bad To Remediate?

With large problems, you’ll need to make a decision, up-front.

If the mold growth is severe enough your best bet may be moving to a new home.

This is because remediation is widely known to be unreliable and extremely costly.

Your health matters most, here. Can all mold materials and all spores be removed from the house?

Factors To Consider

  • How long has this house been moldy?
  • Was this contained
  • Did it spread to the whole house? 
  • Was there traffic through the contaminated area(s)?
  • Did mold spread to the HVAC system?
  • Did tests show high spore counts?
  • Did tests show particularly dangerous mold species?
  • How do you feel being in the house?
11

The Path Forward

Develop Trust in Yourself

(&, if needed, a highly-skilled Building Biologist)

The internet abounds with information about mold illness.

It’s smart to research this. Why? Because the person to fix the situation is probablyh going to be you.

You might be needed by your family — to learn about mold, to diagnose the problem, and to fix it. You might be needed to lead them, to guide their thinking about how serious and manageable the problem is.

Some family members may need to be talked off the ledge, while others need to hear the importance of action.

Your communication skills might need to grow. Learning to express the needed thoughts, with the optimal tone — while giving respect to others’ feelings. This could be a huge opportunity to mature as a person.

You might have to grow your communication skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork skills, and empathy — all while facing difficult emotions yourself. Mold is known to bring emotions to the surface, and make them feel more intense and less predictable, less steady, and less stable.

Of course, if you suspect a Building Biologist would be helpful, hire one.

Will Remediation Work?

Remediation very often falls short of its goal of making a home healthy.

It’s common that remediators fail to remove all moldy materials from a house. Many companies fail to prevent the spread of mold spores around the house while work is done.

It’s also possible you may be too sick — too sensitive to mold — to tolerate all but the best, most-thorough remediation work.

If this is you, keep in mind that workers, crews, and contractors who are experienced, educated, and committed enough to remediate at a high level are very, very rare.

Beware Low-Ball Quotes

Conventional mold remediator employees may say: “you don’t have a very big problem.” 

This conclusion is often reached after only a superficial visual examination.  

You may be quoted a price you’ll be more likely to agree to pay — rather than the amount of work and price that will thoroughly remedy the problem.

Remediation, Lawsuits, & Stress

As wild as it sounds, leaving a home and its belongings behind is often the safest, easiest, and most productive solution available.

Leaving is also often more cost-effective, believe it or not.

Rather than remodel and remediate — which could be spending tens or hundreds of thousands on improvements that will never be recouped upon resale of the house — you might consider selling your house “as is.” The price may need to be reduced to reflect the work that needs to be done.

The remarkable reality is that most buyers will not care about mold, even when explicitly told what’s happening in the home. After all, mold is, on principle, “everywhere.”

The unfortunate result of remediation is that families spend tens of thousands in multiple failed remediations, only to finally realize they need to leave the house.

By law, mold issues must be disclosed to potential buyers. That said, many simply won’t care that there’s a problem. Hopefully, if we sell a moldy house to someone else, they will have no trouble living in the home themselves after they have the remediation work done (which we must assume they will do).

12

If You Remediate

Remediation is common, because indoor mold is common.

Mold remediation companies do exist in most areas.

However, remediation work is no simple endeavour.

Remediation Is Risky

Sadly, there are more bad remediation stories than happy endings.

READ MORE ABOUT REMEDIATION: Get Clear.

This is for several reasons: big money is involved, the variables are complex, companies are not trustworthy, and your sensitivity may leave you with exacting needs that can’t be met by most businesses.

Mold “experts” in your area usually aren’t experts in mold illness — their primary interest is to sell you on their service, not your long-term health.

Awareness is Your Superpower

Explore buildings. The more you learn about the “built environment” and how water interacts with it, the better off your family’s health will become.

If you suspect “something isn’t quite right” — you have the capability to poke around and discover the facts.  

This completes Inspect.
To continue, select Clean.

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