You wake up with a stuffy nose, again. You rub your itchy eyes, drag yourself through your morning routine and head out the door. By the time you get to work you feel better and have a great day. You sing along with the radio as you drive home. You walk in the door, put your keys down, and kick off your shoes. As you walk over to look through the mail, you make a quick stop to get a tissue because you feel a sneeze coming on. Your rub your eyes which are beginning to itch again. You wonder: What’s going on? Am I allergic to my house?
There are thousands of species of the fungi commonly known as mold. Mold exposure, especially for those with asthma or mold sensitivities, poses a serious risk to your home and family. Everything from yourself, to your pets to even your belongings can be harmed due to mold exposure. So what exactly are the health risks of mold exposure? Let’s look at the impact of mold and how to keep your home mold free.
Keeping water out of your house is a priority for every homeowner. Unlike foundation cracks or other damage, most homeowners aren’t surprised to learn their basement windows are a major risk factor for water intrusion. Waterproofing window wells and the windows inside of them is an important step toward keeping your basement safe from the weather.
But what are the best steps to keep a basement dry? Get tips to keep water out of your basement and learn the warning signs that might indicate a breach in your foundation from EverDry Toledo, serving Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
The Best Steps to Take to Keep Your Basement Dry
#1. Keep Water Away from Your Foundation
Water typically enters your basement by seeping in along the foundation. Your home has a few defenses against this, but they need to be maintained to keep them working.
The first major step is to inspect and clean your downspouts and gutters. They help direct the flow of water away from your foundation. However,
debris builds over time and can cause blockage
Before you tackle your mold problem, you’ll want to wear some protective gear to prevent illness. Not all mold is inherently dangerous, but identifying which type of mold you have is usually more difficult than simply looking at it. Inhaling mold spores can cause anything from simple allergic responses to severe sickness – for you or your pets.
Your mold-busting gear should include:
- Breathing mask
- Goggles or protective eyewear
- Waterproof gloves
All of these will help you prevent unnecessary contact with your mold. In addition to protective equipment, we recommend opening windows and improved ventilation as you will be working with chemical cleaners.
How to Clean Mold off Walls
Before you clean the mold off your walls, make sure you know what type of wall you’ll be cleaning. You don’t want to cause more damage, and how you clean drywall will be different than how you clean a concrete wall:
Cleaning Mold Off Concrete or Brick Walls
If mold appears on concrete or brick walls, it’s very simple to clean it off, though it might be an indicator of a crack in your foundation. You will need to use a cleaning agent that is antimicrobial, which you can purchase at almost any hardware store or even make yourself. Once you’ve put on your protective equipment, simply scrub the moldy surface with the cleaner until it’s completely wiped away. Some specialized cleaners will have additional instructions – if you’re purchasing a cleaner from the store, make sure to follow its directions closely.
One way to reduce your chances of dealing with moisture problems in your stone or brick basement is DuraShield. These panels create a barrier against moisture, insulating your basement walls and giving it a finished look with no maintenance required.
Cleaning Mold Off Painted Walls
Mold is common in rooms that have a lot of moisture – like your bathroom or basement. Ideally, these rooms should be painted with water-resistant “wash-and-wear” type paint that will prevent mold from growing deeper than the surface. It also makes it easier to clean when you do spot growing mold.
If you plan to use store-bought mold remover, make sure the formula is mild enough to minimize any damage to your paint. It’s possible, based on the severity of the mold, that you may have to repaint or even replace part of the wall. With the mold remover and a rag or towel, spray the affected area and scrub the mold. You may have to do this multiple times. Afterwards, spray water on the area and wipe it with a new towel or rag to clear the surface of any remaining mold remover.
Cleaning Mold Off Unsealed Drywall
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to clean mold off unsealed drywall. Drywall is porous, which means the mold may be visible on the surface, but it’s also growing inside the pores. Without water-resistant paint, it’s very likely that by the time you notice the mold, it’s already inside the drywall too. You can look for mold by cutting inspections holes into the drywall. Remove the insulation and use a mirror to inspect the other side of the drywall.
If mold is growing on the insulation, it will need to be removed and replaced. Likewise, if you find that your drywall has mold beneath the surface, you will need to remove and replace it as well.
Unless you’re trained in mold remediation, the most you can do is temporarily reduce the overall mold growth by using a mold removing cleaner and scrubbing the visible mold away. You will need to contact your local mold experts for an inspection to discover the full scope of your mold damage. Even if you clean away all the mold, if it still has a source and some mold remains, it will continue to grow back.
Sometimes with porous surfaces, you will have trace amounts of mold that you can’t remove. If that’s the case, your only option may be mold encapsulation. To encapsulate mold, purchase a mold sealant and apply it to the mold after you’ve done everything to clean and scrub it away. This should be used as a last resort if the mold can’t be removed and the surface the mold is on cannot be replaced. If you think you need to do this, you should first contact a mold professional to make sure you don’t risk making the problem worse.
It’s often surfaces like brick or wood that will require encapsulation. Non-porous surfaces, or those that can be easily replaced like drywall should never need to be encapsulated.
DIY Mold Removal Cleaner
If you only see a small amount of mold and don’t want to purchase a mold remover, you can also create your own mold removal solution from common household products. The most common solution is simply a mixture of ¼ cup of bleach with 2 cups of warm water. Pour this combination into a spray bottle and it functions similarly to a store-bought cleaner.
Identifying the Source of the Mold
After you clean away any visible mold, it’s critical that you backtrack and find the source. Without correcting the cause of the mold, it’s guaranteed to come back.
The best way to fight mold is to prevent it
But how do you know which molds are dangerous and which are benign? It starts with knowing the properties of mold and understanding the symptoms they can cause. Read on and learn about house molds that could be affecting your family right now!
Stachybotrys Atra: Infamously Known as the “Black Mold”
Stachybotrys atra, or Stachybotyrs chartroom, is a specific type of toxic mold. This is what most people refer to when they say, “black mold.” While sometimes found in grain or soil, it’s much more frequently found in building materials that are rich in cellulose – often following water damage. High moisture content is a requirement for black mold to grow, so it is unlikely to be found in homes that are properly inspected and have been protected through waterproofing services.
This species of mold appears black or dark green, and has a unique shiny looking surface. Some would describe it as slimy-looking, but if it dries it often becomes gray and powder-like. The problem is when it comes to black mold identification, the only real way to confirm if it’s the dangerous, toxic species is with a microscope. Many different molds have similar appearance to Stachybotrys atra. Only with careful examination by an expert, practicing caution, can the species be accurately identified.
Low levels of Stachybotrys atra tend not to have any effect, though if you’re immuno-compromised it’s more likely to cause symptoms. Larger volumes of the mold lead to higher exposure, which can cause a variety of symptoms sometimes referred to as Toxic Mold Syndrome:
- Chronic coughing or sneezing
- Throat irritation
- Asthmatic Attacks
- Chronic Fatigue
- Persistent Headaches
These symptoms usually diminish or clear completely soon after removing the mold and its source.
Black mold affects animals too. While you may not notice a small spot of mold growing in that dark corner of your basement, you can be sure your pet will! Their curious nature may lead them to direct contact with the mold, causing illness or other reactions. If you have pets, keep an eye out for symptoms and take them to the vet immediately! Then,
contact a professional to inspect and locate the source of your mold problems.
That means you need to allergy proof your basement, and you’ll need to know where to start. EverDry Toledo can help! Read this list to learn the steps you can take to reduce your chances developing mold in the basement.
#1. Use a Dehumidifier
Excessive moisture creates the ideal environment for mold in the basement and dust mites. By reducing the moisture levels, you can make it difficult for them to thrive in your basement. When using your dehumidifier, you’ll want to aim for 35-45% relative humidity. Higher humidity is what promotes molds and dust mites, but if the humidity is too low it can promote viruses.
#2. Improve Ventiliation with the E-Z Breathe System
The E-Z- Breathe System can improve your air quality with no regular maintenance required. Once installed, this unit protects your home from poor air quality, as well as molds, toxins, and allergies. Learn more about improving your home’s atmosphere with the E-Z- Breathe System.
#3. Immediately Remove Mold in the Basement
This may seem obvious, but even the tiniest bit of mold needs to be removed as soon as possible. Never let the problem get out of hand and you can save yourself a lot of trouble down the road.
While some people believe musty smells are typical for basements, they’re not – they’re only a strong indicator of mold or mildew. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there! The moment you think you notice the smell of mildew or mold in the basement, identify the source and remove it.
#4. Replace Carpeting
Wall-to-wall carpeting may look nice in your basement, but it can absorb a lot of moisture over time. To prevent allergens, consider basement floor options like cement, slate, or linoleum. There are plenty of ways to keep your floor looking great without the need for carpet – and almost any other option reduces your risk of promoting mold in the basement.
#5. Fix Plumbing Leaks as Soon as Possible
Small leaks can be dealt with on your own with the right DIY knowledge, but sometimes the small problems are indicators of a bigger issue. It’s always best to call a professional to safely deal with any plumbing issues before they become disasters. Take every leak or break seriously, as water can quickly cause damage that requires costly repairs.
#6. Fix Cracks in the Foundation Immediately
It’s critical that you keep the foundation secure. A small crack inside of the foundation often means more cracks on the outside – and these all lead to water seepage that can not only foster basement allergens, but also cause severe damage to your home or property. If you notice cracks, contact us and we may be able to help prevent further leaks with
foundation crack injections
Frozen pipes can be more than a temporary inconvenience. Left unchecked, a frozen pipe could burst, leading to significant water damage and creating an environment where mold can thrive. But by following simple winterizing steps, you can keep your plumbing intact despite the freezing temperatures.
Tip #1: Turn Off Your Water Supply
Lead in Your Drinking Water
Recent headlines about the Flint Water Crisis have people wondering if lead could be a problem in their home. The answer is, maybe. Aging infrastructures, including municipal pipe and plumbing system component, are the main contributors of trace amounts of lead in the water supply today. Some major U.S. cities still have lead piping bringing water to homes and businesses. The pipes are coated with copper, zinc, or lead, which forms a coating that prevents the lead from leaching into the water.
Nearly all homes built prior to the 1980s still have lead solder connecting copper pipes. However, most studies show that exposure to lead-contaminated water alone would not be likely to elevate blood lead levels in most adults. Risks will vary, however, depending on the individual, the circumstances, and the amount of water consumed. For example, infants who drink formula prepared with lead-contaminated water may be at a higher risk because of the large volume of water they consume relative to their body size.
What you can do about it – Short of replacing your plumbing (even then, the source of lead may be in the pipes coming to your house), you can invest in a water purifying unit for your drinking water. Or before using any tap water for drinking or cooking, flush your water system by running the kitchen tap (or any other tap you take drinking or cooking water from) on COLD for 1–2 minutes before using it for drinking or cooking.
Colorless and odorless, carbon monoxide (CO) is truly a hidden danger. According to the CDC, more than 400 people in the United States die every year from accidental non-fire related CO poisoning. Products that can produce deadly CO levels include generators and faulty, improperly-used or incorrectly-vented fuel-burning appliances such as furnaces, stoves, water heaters, and fireplaces.
What you can do about it – The easiest precaution to take to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning is to install CO detectors on every level of a home. Additionally, have your furnace inspected annually by a licensed HVAC professional.
Dryer lint – it doesn’t sound dangerous at all, does it? But it can be, if it collects in your dryer vent. More than 15,000 fires are sparked every year by clothes dryers. Lint and other debris can build up in your dryer vent, reducing air flow to the dryer, backing up dryer exhaust gases, and creating a fire hazard.
Here are some of the signs that it’s time to clean your vent:
- Clothing does not dry completely after a normal drying cycle.
- It takes longer than 35 to 40 minutes to dry your clothes.
- You smell a musty odor when you use the drying cycle.
- Clothing seems unusually hot to the touch after they’ve been dried.
- The dryer vent hood flap does not properly.
- You notice debris on the outside dryer vent opening.
- Your laundry area seems excessively hot.
- Large amounts of lint accumulate in the lint trap for the dryer during operation.
- Lint collects around the edge of the lint filter.
What you can do about it – You can clean the dryer vent out yourself (an annual cleaning is recommended). Check your local hardware store or online for tools to make the job easier. Our you can hire a professional to do it for you; a cleaning done by a professional usually runs $100-$150.
Faulty Electrical Outlets or Switches
Light switches and electrical outlets can wear out over time, creating an unseen fire hazard within the walls of a home. Your first clue might be a crackling sound or an unusual odor when you use the outlet or switch. Another clue would be an outlet or switch that suddenly seems loose.
What you can do about it – If you notice any unusual sound or smell coming from the switch or outlet– or if you can wiggle it – it’s time to replace it. Putting in a new switch or outlet is a relatively easy task (you can find instructions online), but always remember to turn of the circuit breaker! If you’re unsure, hire an electrician.
Mold is everywhere – in the air you breathe, in the food you eat, and in the home you love. Most of the time, mold doesn’t pose much of a health threat, unless you’re allergic to it. When you breathe in mold spores your immune systems responds by creating allergic reactions. Quite often, the more exposure you have to mold, the more sensitive to it you’ll become. Symptoms of a mold allergy are similar to other allergy symptoms and include coughing, sneezing, sore throat, itching, wheezing, or even hives.
That being said, there is a type of mold known as Stachybotrys chartarum – or (toxic) black mold – which can pose serious threat to your health. Symptoms of exposure to black mold are serious, and include:
- Brain fog
- Shortened attention span
- Difficulty concentrating and paying attention
- Slowed reflexes
- Memory loss and memory problems
- Impaired learning ability
- Aggression and other personality changes
What you can do about it – Left unchecked, mold can damage your belongings, your home, and even your health. The best way to prevent mold in the home is to control the indoor humidity. Make sure plumbing leaks are promptly repaired. If there is water damage in the home, it should be cleaned and dried within 24-48 hours. Use an air conditioner and/or a dehumidifier during humid weather to reduce moisture buildup.
If you suspect that mold may be invading your home, Team EverDry is here to help! Contact us online or give us a call at (419) 469-5833 to schedule
a free 20-point basement inspection