Have you found mold in your home?
It’s something every homeowner fears, looking in the back of the closet, in the cabinet under the sink or peeling up carpeting that’s getting replaced and sudden finding patches of brown or black fuzz growing in your house. If you’re reading this article because this has happened to you, the first step is: don’t panic. But after you’ve taken a few deep breaths (preferably not next to the mold!) what do else do you do?
Think about your health
Have you been experiencing any unusual or unexplained illnesses lately? The worsening of existing respiratory problems, headaches? If so, you may have found the problem. Some varieties of molds can have negative effects on your health via microscopic airborne spores or fragments of mold. Consult your doctor and tell them what you’ve discovered. They may be able to figure out if your problems are really caused by mold exposure and if so, more effectively treat them. Though of course the best treatment is getting rid of the mold.
Determine the extent of the mold. The patch you can see might only be the tip of the iceberg. The mold potentially might extend through walls or floors and be growing out of sight. Check crawlspaces, dark corners, and anywhere out of the way around your home. Additionally, you might want to test for mold. While cheap home testing kits are available, they are notoriously unreliable and its generally better to call in professionals. Shop around to see who in your community has a good reputation and reasonable prices, though remember that even the most reasonable is likely to cost several hundred dollars for a thorough examination. Mold testers will likely not only determine the extent of your mold, but be able to give you advise on how best to go about the next couple of steps.
Determine the cause
Any professionals who test your home will likely have input on this, but here are a few things that you can keep in mind during your own investigations. Mold is alive, it’s a fungus, and it needs certain things to stay alive, mainly warmth and moisture. Figure out where the moisture is coming from and you’re that much closer to preventing the mold from spreading or returning. Many mold infestations are caused by leaky plumbing or roofs allowing water in parts of the house where it shouldn’t be.
And of course: get rid of the mold!
Depending on the extent of the problem you may be able to take care of it yourself. As a rule of thumb, if the mold covers less than 10 square feet, you might think about tackling it yourself. The general idea is to use something antimicrobial, like bleach or a fungicide, diluted with water and to take steps not to let mold particulates spread elsewhere in the house or into to your lungs! The EPA website has a number of helpful articles about mold remediation. These general guidelines can quickly become difficult to effectively implement on your own, requiring personal protective equipment and toxic chemicals. It may be simpler just to call in the cavalry. Just like when you’re looking for a tester, make sure to get more than one bid and ask around about the reputation of a given company, before making a choice. Mold remediation can be expensive, costing thousands of dollars, so don’t choose lightly. Consider contacting a local mold remediation company and your home insurance company to see if you can get a full or partial payment for the remediation.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Once your mold is removed you never want it coming back. Keep your house’s humidity low, preferably below 50%, and make sure water is not leaking into your house through damaged roofs, siding, around window frames or below ground. Ensure that none of your plumbing fixtures are leaking. A small drip can lead to big problems. Lastly, inspect your home regularly, checking out of the way and dark places to make sure that you never have to deal with a major outbreak again!