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The Truth About Mold

By Jon Vacha

Mold plays an important part in our ecosystem by breaking down and recycling material in nature. Mold can become troublesome when it is allowed to grow inside our homes. It is important to know where to look for mold so a problem can be identified. Then, having the ability to clean up the mold and stop it from continuing to grow or return is ideal. There are thousands of types of mold, but one of the most common we find during inspections is called Cladosporium. This black pepper-looking mold can cause severe reactions to those of us with allergies, asthma, or more sensitive immune systems.

Mold needs moisture to grow. During home inspections mold is found near leaky pipes or places where water from the exterior is allowed to penetrate the house. In attics with insufficient venting, high humidity can allow mold to grow on the underside of the sheathing of the roof. Although mold in this location shouldn’t pose a risk to our health, it can cause damage to the integrity of the roof if allowed to grow and decompose the sheathing.

After mold is located and cleaned up, the moisture that had allowed the mold to grow needs to be cut off. Ventilation can be improved in an attic. A leaking roof can be patched. A leaky pipe can be fixed. But, the most common problem we find is also the most simple to solve.  By improving the grade around the house it ensures that water is draining away from the house instead of towards the foundation. If water is not against the foundation then it can’t find its way inside through basement walls. Also make sure the gutters and extensions are installed and working properly.

If mold is not identified visually it can often be suspected by its odor. A room or basement that gives off an earthy or musty smell can be an indicator that one should be suspicious of mold present. If mold is identified or suspected in a home, a mold test can be administered. An air sample is taken in the interior near the area of suspected mold and then a control sample is taken outside. Then, both samples are mailed into a lab for analysis. The results provide the clarity of knowing what type of mold is present and can give direction on how to move forward.