MOLD/AIR QUALITY

I live in an older home. My son’s bedroom is in the basement. He has been sick a lot since we moved in. Someone suggested we might have mold, what now?

Mold is a dreadful word to a lot of homeowners. The first sign of a cold and some people think it is their home that is causing it. Having said that it very well could be an allergy to mold that is causing your sons issues.  First things first, only you know how characteristic this is of your sons’ health. If you think it is something in the environment of the home you should investigate. I personally would check for moisture first. I would start with the walls of his bedroom using the moisture meter and thermal camera, moving outward as necessary. I would also look at the furnace for combustion and venting issues. Lastly I would be able to take air quality sample and an outside sample to see if there are mold spores in the air that could be the reason for your sons problems.

Why do I have mold?

This is the case of a very severe mold development. Hopfully someone would move towards getting this issue cleaned up before it is allowed to go this far. The problem with mold beyond the obvious look is the effects of mold spores on the body. Most of us have been exposed to mold and have come away relitively healthy. I have a brother on the other hand that was over exposed to mold and has become supersensitive to it. When you allow mold to grow in your home you will most likely become sick over time. If you are experiencing headaches and colds more then normal you should consider mold as a possibility. A home must work as a system in order to be safe to inhabit. it is the job of the inspector to determine if there are any red flags that might indicate one or more parts of the system are not properly working. Perhaps later on I will go into the various potential issues that might lead to mold growth. But for now I recommend you do what you can to eliminate mold as a possibility if you are not healthy.
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I am afraid of mold and want to know how to spot it in my home.

Mold is a very large subject and something I can only touch on here. First of all I will say every home has some mold. Secondly mold can produce serious side effects in people but it should not be feared. Sometimes mold is portrayed as a silent killer but this is more for media effect then fact. I recommend following some basic practices that will keep mold levels normal within your home. First of all be aware that mold will only grow if it has a source of moisture and a material to attach to. For the most part moisture levels below 16% do not provide a good enough environment for mold to thrive. Secondly surface materials such as drywall paper and carpet are much more likely to grow mold than a concrete wall so if you see moist drywall think mold is possible and do all you can to dry things quickly. In General controlling moisture controls mold.

Does your Home contain Lead Paint? Is it making your Children sick?


Until recently I always thought of lead paint poisoning  as a plot by people in plush carpeted rooms in a high rise building with nothing better to do then scare the rest of us into a cave where we could find safety from the world. For those of you reading this you know what I mean,  there is something  new every day that seems to threaten our health. I always reflect back to my childhood and say we all did that or ate that way and it never seemed to hurt us. Well I still stand by that for the most part but after taking some training this week on the effects of lead paint on children under six I began to think they may be onto something here.

Every so often I get calls from frantic homeowners asking if I can help them discover what may be making their children sick. They claim it must be inside their home as they are mostly sick at home and it has been prolonged sicknesses that medications don’t seem to help.  More often then not the problem turns out to be mold related and thankfully I have been able to help them discover the problem and point them towards the path to correcting it. Then there are the times that I cannot pinpoint any triggers and air quality testing indicates the air is clean. From now on I will be asking more questions as they relate to Lead Paint.

If you are like I was you are likely saying it is not likely lead paint. Truth is I will always recommend that the parents of sick toddlers and children under six have their LBL or Lead Blood Level tested. It is worth a shot and it may just be the problem.  It is said that a few chips of lead paint are enough to cause lead poisoning in a child. It is hard to believe but I guess it is a fact and who am I to argue.

Lead paint was widely used up until 1978 when it was banned from use.  So if you live in a home built in 1978 or earlier chances are that your home may have lead based paint.  If you have small children living in the home you will want to consider this a potential hazard to their health. Of particular concern is the possibility of lead poisoning when you decide to renovate this home. In the U.S. lawmakers have passed laws requiring special training for renovators who work on pre-1978 homes where children may be present. It is taken very seriously and if a renovator fails to become trained or follow the proper containment, cleanup and documentation procedures they will be prosecuted.  For more information and brochures online about lead paint go to: www.epa.gov/lead If you have more to add please comment!

WHAT TO DO IF YOUR BASEMENT FLOODS

HOW TO DEAL WITH A FLOODED BASEMENT

The recent heavy rains in Lloydminster and Edmonton have left a lot of families in a tough position. If your basement has moisture in the floors and walls you need to act quick to avoid the worst impact of the moisture, MOLD. Mold will begin to grow within 48 hours in the right conditions so removing the moisture is critical as fast as you can.

First things first. You need to determine if the moisture/water is from ground seepage or from sewer water. If the water is sewer water you will likely have insurance, but good luck getting insurance from ground seepage. In any case you should call the insurance company right away and ask them what you should do. The worst thing to do is nothing.  Trust me when I say the problem will only get worse if you ignore it so don’t procrastinate.

I recommend that you have a plan in place within 24 hours of the flood occurrence. I recently was asked to sample the air in a flooded basement before the removal of the damaged drywall and flooring. I could see lots of mold like growth in the week old flooded basement and could not see the point in telling the clients they had mold when it was so obvious. Testing is important after the remediation is complete and the basement is thought to be mold and moisture free. Testing the air beforehand is pointless in my opinion.

Once you are satisfied that the moisture is dried up and the wet materials have been removed and dried out you can have the area tested for mold spores in the air or if you wish to proceed without the testing (not recommended). Before restoring the building you should try to fix the issue that led to the moisture in the first place. Often this is poor drainage outside and around the home. In any case you will want to be sure the problem does not re-occur. If you take anything from this article it should be that quick action is necessary if you get water in you basement.

WHY IS THERE MOLD ON MY CEILING?

Mold requires moisture to grow. This moisture can form when the outside elements make their way in (intrusion) or when the inside air tries to get out (condensation). The picture of mold in this situation is from condensation. Upon discovering the mold the homeowner called me and I guessed right away that this was a problem caused by condensation forming above the ceiling and leaking back onto the drywall. I did consider that it might be something else but the lack of rain for several months led me to believe otherwise.  A quick look in the attic above the affected area confirmed what the Thermal camera was telling me, there was a void in the insulation.

The missing insulation would have been caused in one of two ways, it was never put there or it was blown back by high winds into the soffits. My guess it that the wind storm last summer blew the insulation back exposing the drywall in the ceiling and created a great spot for condensation to form and mold to grow. If the original insulator had not blown the insulation in properly, the mold would have shown up earlier.

So the thing to take away from this is that the attic insulation is critical. It should be approximately 12″ thick or R-40 and it needs to be distributed evenly. Make sure if you are in the attic that you look for frost which indicates heat loss and try not to disturb the insulation any more then necessary.

Mold caused by frost in the attic No insulation near soffit

I AM SICK – COULD I HAVE MOLD IN MY HOME

Every home has mold but not every home is a sick home. In fact mold spores are everywhere in our environment. Without mold life on this planet would not be possible. From my limited experience in this area I have discovered two extremes in terms of peoples reaction to mold. On the one hand I have received calls from people that have concerns about mold in their homes because they have been feeling uncharacteristically tired and sick. Often these people hear about the effects of mold on the body and wish to know if this is their problem even though there is absolutely no evidence of mold in terms of smell or visual evidence of mold. If the home is dry and there is no smells or visual apparent mold, you likely don’t have a mold problem. I am not down playing the effects of mold as I have seen first hand how it can ruin a persons health. At the same time it is a stretch to say that your home has mold because you are feeling sick. Of course for some people having an air quality test completed is worth the money so they can have the peace of mind of knowing for sure.

On the other extreme I have been in situations where the smell is so bad that I have to put on my mask or I start sneezing in the first ten minutes. This leads me to an important point about the effects of mold. Some people seem to be able to withstand high mold levels while others get just a sniff and it sets them back a week. I have no idea why this is the case I just know from experience that it is. I suppose it has a lot to do with the immune system. In any case a home that smells musty and has an obvious moisture problem is likely going to have some mold growth that will eventually affect those living there.

The key to preventing mold is to starve it of the moisture it needs to grow.  Most molds require about 20% or more moisture content and a surface that will hold that moisture well. Drywall is a great mold surface if it gets wet and stays wet.  If your home experiences a flood it will be necessary to remove the affected drywall and insulation with in 48 hours.  Once again it is important to do all you can to control the water that is in or outside your home. This is usually done by installing eaves troughs and downspouts and correcting the slope around the home. It is also a good idea to have a sump pump in your basement to catch the water before it gets into the basement.

Finally it is not always necessary to panic about the presence of mold. If you see a small piece of drywall for instance that has a black mold like substance on it you might be able to simply tape a garbage bag over the area and cut out and dispose of the moldy patch. If there is a large area of mold you will require the professionals to do a proper and safe cleanup.  Well there is a lot to say about mold but I will sign off for now and touch on it again another time.