Mold growth is all about moisture, so it stands to reason, if you live in an area prone to high humidity, then the chances of your home developing a mold problem are much higher. Anything over a 55% RH level promotes mold and fungi growth. Often, heating and cooling systems will mask that there is a humidity problem, and it's not until you actually test the room with a humidity sensor or plug in a dehumidifier that the condition is obvious.
Physical Signs of Mold:
1. Mildewy or musty smells in the house can be a sign of a mold problem. The presence of this odor does not mean you have a problem, but it should prompt you to look for further signs.
2. Increased or chronic allergy or respiratory problems, especially by all or most household members is a common sign that there is a problem. According to a 1999 Mayo Clinic study, almost all chronic sinus infections (we're talking about 37 million Americans), are a result of mold.
3. When levels of toxins from black mold or other fungi reach high levels, toxic poisoning can occur. Common signs include headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness.
Signs of Mold in Your Home:
1. Water pipe leaks, especially those that have gone undetected, are perfect breeding grounds for mold.
2. Areas of the house that may have been damaged from flooding is a common site for mold growth.
3. If your house has ever had a leaky roof, one logical place to look for signs of mold is the attic. Look for evidence of water damage or mold growth in ceilings on the upper floors.
4. Use of humidifiers can raise the moisture level to a point where mold growth is encouraged. Regulate the humidity level so that it stays within a 55-60% RH range.
5. A damp basement or crawl space can be a haven for mold growth and go undetected for long periods of time. Water leaks from upper sources may also make their way down and add to the problem.
6. Yellowy colored stains on walls, ceilings, and carpets are a sign of excessive moisture. A green, brown or blackish color may indicate the presence of mold. A medical grade black light shone over the area will indicate a yellow glow if mold growth is present. Also look for areas that are bowing or swelling due to excess moisture. Paint peeling and loosening drywall tape are also common indicators.
7. Blocked gutters can cause water to be absorbed into walls through the roof or collect at the base of the foundation.
8. Signs of condensation around windows, walls or pipes, or rusting metal is a sure sign of high moisture that may lead to a mold problem.
9. Warped wood is a sure sign of excess moisture. A build up could cause mold growth.
10. Mold growth behind tiles in a humid bathroom is a common area for detection. The grout is porous, and once the water penetrates, dirt is trapped and encourages mold cultivation.
11. If the steam from dryers or other appliances are vented indoors, this also can be a sign of a problem area. Check for indications of mold around the vent and surrounding area.
12. Be on the lookout for the presence of any wet articles in the house such as rags, indoor clothes dryers or areas where there is poor ventilation.
What to Do:
When you see actual spores of mold growing, perhaps in a small area of the bathroom or shower, take immediate action before it spreads any further. You'll need to identify the cause of the problem and check to see if it has spread to any other areas. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the area and dry completely. Any spores left behind will continue to grow once the area is exposed to any moisture.
Taking an actual sampling of the mold and sending it off for testing can be expensive, and may only tell you what you already know. You may be better off identifying the extent of the problem and fixing it right from the start.
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