Mold has become one of the most feared toxins homeowners can face. Known by many different names including black mold, green mold, toxic mold, or most accurately, Stachybotrys chartarum. Mold removal is simple for small areas but larger surfaces require expensive professional mold abatement. It is important to be proactive to prevent mold.
Mold spores are in the air, inside and out of your house. They can come in through windows or on your clothes. Once inside, given the right conditions they will colonize. Mold spores can be toxic and the health effects for susceptible people can be devestating.
Our top ten tips to prevent mold
1. Use Mold Resistant Building Materials – most building materials are now available with mold resistant coatings or construction. Everything from framing lumber to wallboard can be purchased as resistant so it will prevent mold.
2. Keep Moisture Under Control – the relative humidity in your house should be below 50%. Pay special attention to dampness in basements, attics and crawl spaces. Make sure landscape grading leads water on downward slopes away from the foundation. Dirt covered crawlspaces should be covered with sheet plastic to make a vapor barrier and stop moisture. Read Understanding Home Moisture and What is Moisture?
3. Store Items Smartly to Prevent Mold– Any storage items you have need to be raised a few inches up from concrete floors. Keep them some distance from the foundation and you will stop dampness from reaching your valuables. Mold loves cardboard boxes so switch to plastic bins. Wood shelving is another favourite home for mold so consider plastic and metal shelving instead.
4. Ventilation is Your Friend – Areas of high humidity like kitchens and bathrooms need to clear moisture in the air with ventilation fans. Make sure they exhaust to the outside and not into your attic. Run the bathroom fan for a half hour after showering. Leave interior doors open to allow air to flow through in. Good ventilation will prevent mold.
5. Heat Finished Basements – Below grade spaces like finished basements are more likely to become infested and should always be heated to at least 60 degrees, even when not being used. The warmer the space, the less the chance that condensation will form and feed a mold problem.
6. Don’t Carpet Basement Floors – Carpets are notorious for mold. When you lay carpet in below-grade areas where relative humidity is often high, you are asking for mold colonies. Engineered hardwoods or laminates work better in basements.
7. Effective Air Cleaning and Filtration – When using a forced-air heating/cooling system don’t be cheap on the air filter. High quality pleated filters are a worthy investment. A MERV rating of at least 6-8 is advisable. If someone in your home has allergies get one rated at 11. You may also want to consider adding and electronic air cleaner to the HVAC system. Using ionization it charges particles so they stick to filters like a magnet.
8. Insulate Ducts to Stop Condensation to Prevent Mold – Ductwork that carries warm or cool air through your home needs to be insulated wherever it runs through spaces in your home that are not heated or cooled. Without insulation condensation forms inside the ductwork which will cause mold. Mold infested ducts will circulate spores to every area of your house.
9. Clean to Kill – Kill mold that is. Use mold-inhibiting cleaners in kitchens and bathrooms. There are special paints for bathrooms and kitchens that are mold resistant.
If you have extensive water damage after a hurricane or flood we suggest reading Mold Prevention Strategies and Possible Health Effects in the Aftermath of Hurricanes and Major Floods. It was originally prepared for public health officials but contains comprehensive information of value to the general public.