GIMME SHELTER- Funny smell? Make sure it's not mold

Dennis Bianchetto
Cville-Enviro, Environmental Construction Services 

Q: I'm worried that my house might have a mold problem. How can I tell if I should have it checked? Also, what are some of the dangers of mold infestation?

A: Generally, there are four warning sings of mold infiltration. If you notice a damp, musty odor in your home, see evidence of water leaks or water seeping through the foundation, or have family members complaining of constant coughing, dizziness, or flu-like symptoms, you may want to have your house checked for mold. 

Due to our moderately damp climate, Central Virginia is an area very prone to mold in homes. The adverse effects that mold can have on a family, especially children and those with compromised immune systems, can be devastating– not to mention the damage it can cause to the structure itself.

Molds are but one type of fungi that exist in nearly every location across the globe, both indoors and out. The purpose of fungi is to break down organic material and recycle it for future use by plants and animals. In damp conditions, mold is able to grow on such diverse materials as wood, carpet, drywall, insulation, cloth, and all types of food. 

Molds grow best in warm, damp, humid conditions, and they spread and reproduce by making spores that germinate and expand. Outdoors, mold can be found in shady, damp areas or places where leaves or other vegetation is decomposing. Indoors, it can be found where humidity levels are high, such as basements or showers. 

 Generally, after a flood or some type of water infiltration, homeowners have 48 to 72 hours to dry the area before mold begins to grow. If you have a leak, fix it and dry the area immediately. Also, check the bottom two feet of drywall, as that's a common place for mold to grow. 

If you have a home with a crawlspace, you should investigate what lurks in it. It is often the culprit and an area that should be given special attention. Your crawlspace should be completely sealed with a properly installed vapor barrier between it and the ground and the humid outside air; this includes closing off all crawlspace vents. Additionally, the vapor barrier should run up the foundation walls and then be affixed and sealed to the wall with a waterproof adhesive. By properly encapsulating the crawlspace, homeowners will not only see a reduction in odors, but they can potentially lower their energy bill 15-30 percent. The key to keeping mold in check is keeping the humidity level below 50 percent. If the humidity is below this level, mold goes dormant.

Long-term increases in humidity in the home can also foster the growth of dust mites, another major cause of allergic reactions and asthma. Allergic reaction is the most common malady associated with exposure to mold spores.

Dennis Bianchetto



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