Crawl Space Mold: The Problem Signs
The problem with mold is that, rather like pest infestations, by the time you can see visible evidence, it is generally already well entrenched in your home. This is due in no small part to the fact that bleach and certain other cleaning products are known to kill spores. As such, mold is more likely to take root in areas that are not frequently used or cleaned.
There are some exceptions, of course if you have a particularly humid kitchen or bathroom that is poorly ventilated, you are very likely to find it on the ceilings in these areas. Assuming the mold formations are not visible, however, there are some warning signs you should be aware of.
Recognizing these problem signs early will help you to find and address mold before it gets out of hand.
High Indoor Humidity
A high level of indoor humidity is a serious red flag when it comes to mold and mildew . There are a number of ways to test your homes interior humidity but being on the lookout for condensation is a simple way to monitor the situation. A certain level of humidity is normal, and there will be times when you see condensation that is not concerning for example, humidity forming on your kitchen windows when you cook.
As such, we recommend that you report any lingering bad odors in your home if you can find no obvious cause for the scent. A professional will be able to investigate your home and isolate the precise cause of the bad smell before suggesting a solution that is tailored to your needs.
If You Use Bleach To Clean Up Mold
- Never mix bleach with ammonia or other household cleaners. Mixing bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products will produce a poisonous gas.
- Always follow the manufacturers instructions when you use bleach or any other cleaning product.
- Open windows and doors to provide fresh air.
- Wear rubber boots, rubber gloves, and goggles during cleanup of affected areas.
- If you need to clean more than 10 square feet, check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guide titled Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, which gives advice on all building types. You can get it by going to the EPA web site at .
How To Test For Mold In 6 Steps
Mold infestations can usually be seen or smelled, but they can also remain hidden behind walls or under carpets. Testing isnt necessary if you can see or smell mold that is confirmation enough to call a professional and begin the remediation process. Testing for mold in the house may be necessary if requested by a health professional or needed for legal purposes, such as a lawsuit with a landlord. Another reason to consider testing is if you arent able to see or smell mold in your home but are having unexplained symptoms associated with mold. Always follow the instructions provided with a test kit , but this is generally what to expect:
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Is Sampling For Mold Needed
In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards. Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association , the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists , or other professional organizations.
Q: What Are Some Of The Key Questions That People Should Ask When Interviewing Inspection And Remediation Companies
A: The first thing that I would do is I would interview an inspector and a remediator separately. I dont think it should ever be the same person . I think that theres a conflict of interest there.
Hire one person that the only interest they have is making sure theyre identifying the problems inside that could be causing you adverse health reactions. Then you have a person thats going to take that data and actually be able to fix it.
And then the nice part about this checks and balances system is that the person who found the issues is going to come back and verify that the other person did it properly. Make sure you have an unbiased project and that the product is done right.
Id also ask the testing company and remediation companies if they typically work with immunocompromised individuals even if youre not immunocompromised yourself. This allows you to weed out people who dont necessarily have the health effects in mind.
If they dont think mold impacts your health, they might not be a company youre looking for. I dont think that theyre going to be as thorough as one would like, and making sure that its fully eradicated.
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How Can I Test For Toxic Mold
If you suspect or fear toxic mold is growing in your home, you wont need any special tests. A test such as the viable test kit we learned about above will detect all kinds of molds present. By sending your petri dish to a lab, you can get a better idea of which types of molds that are growing and then take the correct actions.
The next step should always be to consult a professional for further tests and investigations. Test kits are more of a guidance than something to fully rely on.
Its also important to understand that simply because its called toxic mold, it doesnt mean its toxic to you. As we mentioned above, molds that produce mycotoxins can affect some individuals, while others wont be affected.
However, if you suspect that you have been exposed to toxic molds, your doctor can run a few tests. A blood test can help to determine if youve been poisoned by checking biotoxins in your blood .
Most Common Places To Check For Mold In Your Home
If you have allergies or a chronic lung disease like asthma, youre probably very aware of the effect mold can have on your health. But even if you have a healthy immune system and no allergies, mold can cause a variety of health problems coughing, wheezing, and throat, skin, and eye irritation, to name a few. Mold is everywhere and, though you cant fully control your exposure to it outdoors or in public spaces, you can check for mold in common places around your home and take measures to prevent and remove it.
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When Is Mold Testing Not Appropriate
Areas outside the conditioned air space.
Airborne mold testing doesnt make much sense for crawlspaces and attics. Those areas are directly linked to the outside air and therefore not a controlled environment. If the test results come back high, it may simply be due to the outside environment. Additionally, in the unconditioned areas, your primary concern is the building structure, not the air quality.
Because you do not breathe the air in the attic or crawlspace, an air quality test in these areas is of little value. In a crawlspace this is complicated even further by the natural mold growth that occurs on the damp soil. Because of these factors, in attics and crawlspaces, a tape lift sample or visual observations is superior.
Similar to an unconditioned space, if a project is open to the outside air, it is not a good candidate for air testing. This is often the case during new construction. This can also occur during a renovation. For example, if the side of a house was removed for a remodel project, any testing collected inside the home would be of limited value. To accurately test the air, a temporary wall must be constructed first. Due to cost of building a temporary wall, it is often better to focus on visual observations and skip the air testing.
Obvious & extreme levels of mold
How To Test For Mold
You probably dont need to do mold testing or buy a mold test kit, especially if the fungus is visible. Because the health effects of mold vary from person to person, the CDC says that if you can see it or smell it, it should be removed, no matter what type of mold is in your home.
While its not possible to completely eliminate mold in your house, you can prevent a build-up by cleaning up any wet or damp spots and fixing any existing water leaks.
Neither the CDC nor the EPA recommends doing routine mold samplingsboth organizations point out that there are no federal limits for mold in buildings, so people cant check their apartment complexs compliance with the law, for example. Plus, the testing can be expensive.
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Mold Toxicity Vs Mold Allergies
Often times confusion surrounds the different mold illnesses, specifically mold toxicity and mold allergies. These two separate illnesses illicit different reactions in the body and can affect a person differently.
Mold allergies are caused by mold spores that become inhaled and stimulate symptoms similar to those of hay fever . Mold toxicity, in comparison to mold allergies, is caused by the volatile toxic vapors that are dispersed by mold that in turn elicits a chronic inflammatory response.
Diagnosing this condition is very hard, especially for medical professionals who often misdiagnose it because of the wide variation of possible symptoms. The first step in diagnosing mold toxicity or even mold allergies is identifying mold within your environment, particularly in your home.
The Facts About Mold In Your Home
Mold is a fungus that reproduces by creating small spores that work like seeds. Every home has mold. Mold spores can be unwelcome guests floating in on the breeze through an open window or door, hitching a ride on clothing or hiding in plain sight on packaging materials like cardboard or paper. Once established, it will look like fuzzy spots or blotches that can be black, green, brown, yellow, and even orange or white.
There are nearly 1,000 types of household mold. A few common culprits are Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Penicillium. The dreaded black or toxic mold that you see in the headlines, Stachybotrys chartarum, also know as Stachybotrys atra, isn’t a common mold, but it’s not rare either. It will look dark green or black.
You can’t keep mold out, but you can make it less welcome. Household mold needs hospitable conditions in which to thrive. One key ingredient in establishing and maintaining a mold colony is moisture. If you don’t have a consistent source of moisture, mold won’t be able to survive.
In the next section, we’ll take a look at ways to check for mold.
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Using A Mold Exposure Test
A mold exposure test is often the best way for you to check for mold on your own. You can pick one up at any home improvement or home supply store.
Simply follow the instructions on the box. Usually, youll just brush the surface where you think mold may be present, and send the test strip or brush in for a laboratory analysis. If mold is present, youll be notified.
How Mold Gets In
Mold requires three basic things to take root: moisture, food, and the presence of spores. If one of these things is missing, mold formation becomes highly unlikely. Unfortunately, most places have native mold species and spores present to some degree. This means that all mold needs to find in a property is a suitable food sourcesome form of organic material and an appropriate level of humidity.
Exposed Wood and Textiles
When mold forms in a crawl space, it is most likely to set up shop in exposed wooden beams or joists, exposed insulation, or any organic materials/belongings you have stored there.
If your crawl space has been waterproofed and sealed at some point, it should have no issues with mold. An internal leak from your plumbing system or appliances can change all of this, however, and leave you with a serious mold problem.
If you have damage to your propertyfor example, cracks in your crawl space walls or you are in need of foundation repairyou are far more likely to have issues with dampness in your home. With dampness, of course, comes mold.
Once mold gets into your home, it can take some time to form and spread. Learning to recognize problem signs and red flags is all-important when it comes to nipping a mold infestation in the bud.
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Types Of Mold Inside Air Vents
Lets be clear: Any kind of mold in your air vents is bad mold. Yet, there are a few different species that can form depending on the exact situation.
Below is a list of the most common types, along with their distinguishing characteristics:
- Acremonium: White and powdery
- Alternaria: Dark green or brown with a velvet texture
- Aspergillus: Mostly green, yellow or white, but can take on different colours
- Chaetomium: Brown with the texture of cotton
- Stachybotrys: Toxic black mold
- Fusarium: White, pink or gray-coloured, associated with water damage
As soon as you notice any signs of mold in or around your air vents, its important to contact a professional and licensed mold company.
Check Your Petri Dish
After 48 hours, check your petri dish for signs of mold growth. If you do not see mold, wait another 24 hours and check again. If you still dont see mold, wait again for 24 hours and check one last time. If you do not see mold growth after 96 hours, your test did not detect any mold. If you do see mold on your test plate, you should take additional steps to remove the mold.
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Finding A Mold Problem
MDH does not recommend mold testing in many cases, especially as the first response to an indoor air quality concern. Instead, careful detailed visual inspection and recognition of moldy odors should be used to find problems needing correction. Efforts should focus on areas where there are signs of liquid moisture or water vapor or where moisture problems are suspected. The investigation goals should be to locate indoor mold growth to determine how to correct the moisture problem and remove contamination safely and effectively.
How To Test For Toxic Mold
If you have mold in your home, your nose is one of the most inexpensive devises you can use to detect it. Mold smells, and chances are, you’ll be able to detect the distinctive odor that taints the air around moldy walls, carpeting and other objects. The struggle is in understanding when mold is dangerous to your family or home.
The term toxic mold is a little confusing. Some molds, like Stachybotrys chartarum or black mold, produce mycotoxins, toxic substances that cause health problems in some people. There is no direct link yet between mold-produced toxins and serious conditions like idiopathic pulmonary hemorrhage in infants, but there are concerns that exposure to these toxins can exacerbate existing lung conditions and allergies, and possibly cause problems in otherwise healthy people. Common molds that aren’t considered toxic also have the potential to cause reactions in some people, which makes it important to get rid of any type of mold you find in your home as soon as possible, particularly if you suspect that someone in your family is having a reaction to it.
Mold can be scary. There are potential health implications for your family, and a mold outbreak can take a financial toll, too. Once established, mold can be very invasive, releasing millions of spores into your home. Many homeowners’ insurance policies now exclude or limit coverage for mold related problems.
First up, let’s learn a little more about household mold.
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Mold Inside Air Vent Filters
Because theyre porous, air vent filters serve as excellent, accommodating homes for mold spores to take up residence. If theyre allowed to grow and spread on the surface of your filter, it wont be long before theyre flying through your entire house.
This is why its important to change your air filters regularly. Most manufacturers recommend that you perform this step every 60 to 90 days.
Poor Reason For Testing #3 To Learn If The Mold Is The Toxic Kind
Many, if not all, molds may produce one or more substances broadly called mycotoxins. Molds that are known to be able to produce mycotoxins are referred to as “toxigenic.” Mycotoxins may harm living tissue if enough of the agent enters the body, but science does not yet know how much of the many mycotoxins that could be present are necessary to harm a person, especially by breathing it. It is simply safest to assume at this time that any molds may produce mycotoxins or other harmful substances in some circumstances and they ought to be removed.
Testing for mold is not the same as testing for mycotoxins. Since toxigenic molds may or may not be producing mycotoxins depending on the environmental conditions, their presence does not necessarily indicate that known mycotoxins are also present or that occupants will be harmed. Likewise, failing to detect molds that are currently recognized to potentially produce mycotoxins, does not mean that mycotoxins or other harmful substances are absent. MDH advises that any mold growth indoors should be safely removed regardless of whether toxigenic species have been found.
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In The Walls And On The Floor
From top to bottom, mold growth is likely in a bathroom. In addition to the places mentioned above, pay attention to any water leaks coming from the walls or floors these leaks can cause mold to grow quickly. Bathroom rugs are also known to harbor mold, and are usually not washed as often as they should be.
Some tips to keep your bathroom free of mold
- Use a ventilation fan during your bath or shower, and keep it on for at least 30 minutes after
- Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to keep humidity levels down throughout your home
- Keep all surfaces, including counters and floors, clean and dry
- Check for leaky faucets and pipes