Water damage is no joke, and during a flood is one of the most common times that you are going to experience the most of it. It’s the year 2019, and with numerous floods that are almost as bad as 1993, there have been numerous homes and even commercial buildings compromised. Even just a little bit of seepage from flood waters can ruin the structural integrity, as well as pose numerous health risks for you when it comes to causing mold to grow in your homes. In this guide, we’ll teach you some good tips that can help you remove the risk for mold before it can start.
Remove Excess Water
Make sure you get a wet/dry vacuum or hire a company that specializes in home water removal as quick as possible. Moisture is the most common thing that can not only damage your home’s structural integrity, but it’s also a cesspool for bacteria and mold, especially when it sits for long periods of time.
Use Fans, Wet Vacs, and Shampooers, and Open Windows
Getting some industrial sized fans and opening windows on hot sunny dry days can greatly increase the chances of your home drying out faster, and even works great on carpets.
Don’t just settle with a cheap dehumidifier that won’t do the job. Also, if you have flood damage, you’re probably going to need more than one dehumidifier in order to remove excess moisture that evaporates into the air some.
Shampoo Your Carpets
What? You need to get them wet again? Yes, you do, but use a professional solution and you can easily mix in a little bit of Lysol cleaner to help not only eliminate bacteria and disinfect everything, but also to help kill unwanted mold as well (and get the smell better in there too).
Okay, so maybe not every single thing, but baseboards, walls, and floors at least – pretty much anything the storm water or flood water touches. Storm water is full of germs and bacteria, especially river flood waters that lay stagnant. If you can’t wash and scrub your baseboards or walls with bleach, be sure to use a strong solution of Lysol to water as well (use about 10 oz. of Lysol per gallon of water) in order to kill all the germs.
Your Furniture May Be Hiding Something
Furniture is often a secret carrier of mold after and during a flood. While you may have the whole house clean and are working on drying it, even moisture and mold spores in the air can float down and seep into your couches, loveseats and more.
This year marks a great flooding time for much of the United States, and it’s imperative that you have a good protective method in place when it comes not only to water damage to your home, but also to mold. It can literally cause serious bodily harm if the spores are inhaled and grow in your lungs, as well as cause a lot of damage. If you’re in the real estate market, water damage can even destroy the integrity of your home’s value very quickly as well, so it’s best to take action as soon as possible.
With heavy rainfall comes a tremendous amount of moisture. Leaks and condensation increase, temperatures and warm drying daylight decrease.
These are optimal conditions for mold growth, both interior and exterior. As exterior mold spores explode in number some of them are bound to settle in our indoor environments. Here’s an overview from the EPA on Mold growth in the home.
So what can you do to reduce to likelihood mold will take hold?
I have some tips to minimize the conditions conducive to mold growth and maximize you and your family’s health.
Mold needs 3 conditions for optimal growth:
The Right temperature. Some mold species can grow at low (below 50 degrees F) and other species at high (above 90 degrees F), but most common mold species that grow indoors grow ideally at 55-85 degrees F. Unfortunately this is the optimal temperature for human comfort. So it is unlikely you can keep your home at a temperature that is inhospitable for mold growth. So we will not concentrate on that.
An organic food source. Different species of mold like to eat different things, but they all need something organic to munch on. Many mold species love cellulose, i.e. wood and paper. These are the natural composters and when it rains these species start to eat up all the fallen branches and leaves in the forest, as well as our yards emitting millions of spores that make their way into our homes. Inside our homes molds like to eat wood. This is what “dry rot” is, fungi usually consisting of 2 species, Ascospores and Basidiospores. Other species like to eat paper, such as cardboard boxes, books, and paper backed wallboard, such as sheetrock. Pennicillium/Aspergillus and Stachybotrys (colloquially known as toxic black mold) are often found on wet or moist paper. Cladosporium, the species most often found growing on windowsills and in bathrooms, can eat a variety of Biofilms (household dust consisting of epithelial cells (dead skin cells) insect parts, pet dander, natural fibers such as cotton and linen, etc.). Some mold food sources we cannot easily remove from our home such as framing lumber and wallboard, but others we can, such as cardboard boxes.
This is the big one and the one I will be giving tips on below. Mold needs moisture. There is a common saying in our business: “Mold is the symptom, moisture is the problem”. Mold growth either needs liquid water or high humidity. Liquid water can come from condensation on windowsills and in bathrooms, or from leaks, either internal or external. Without liquid water mold will not become active unless the humidity is high, usually 60-80% RH depending on the species. When the humidity is high enough, mold can become active and grow by absorbing moisture directly from the air.
Here are some tips to reduce both food sources and moisture in your home and thus reduce the likelihood and amount of mold that may grow inside your home:
Let’s start outside. When it rains water can easily enter what we call the “Building Envelope”. It is very important to make sure your site drainage system is clear from debris and working properly to move rain water away from your home, foundation, and crawlspace.
Clean the roof of any leave or other debris.
Make sure downspouts are in good repair, not clogged, and properly attached any extensions or the site drainage system.
Make sure all property drains are clear of debris and flowing freely.
Check the “Building Envelope” for possible sites of water intrusion, i.e. leaks.
Window and doorframes are spots where water can intrude. Check all door and window frame caulking for cracks and gaps and repair where necessary.
Inspect the sealant around roof penetrations. Repair where necessary.
Check building siding for cracks, peeling paint, holes, etc. Anywhere water may be able to get in.
After a heavy rain walk around the entire house and look for standing water, and clogged drains. Look inside the crawlspace and make sure there is no hidden flooding. Carefully check the inside of the house, take a close look at the ceilings, around windows and doors, and walls for small leaks. Because all big leaks start out as small leaks! Check under sinks and around tubs and toilets to make sure there are no plumbing leaks adding moisture to the interior of your home.
Assuming there are no leaks and your drainage system is working well, what other sources of moisture can address?
Inside a home the occupants can produce a tremendous amount of moisture. On average each human occupant expires (breathes) and perspires (sweats) about 2 POUNDS of water into the air a day. Pets can also add to this moisture source. During the winter we often close out windows, as it is cold out, and most residential heating systems have no way of bringing in fresh air or ventilating out moist, stale interior air. Thus interior humidity can often increase to levels above 60%, which is ideal for mold growth.
So what can we do about Mold Growth?
Monitor interior humidity. Small, portable humidity monitors are available for around $10-15 and can be placed around the home. If RH (relative humidity) is consistently above 65%, action should be taken. Ideally, interior RH should be between 45-55% RH. Below 40% RH mucous membranes start to dry out and can cause occupant discomfort.
Open windows when practicable to help flush out moisture and other interior contaminants. Even 1 hour a day can make a big difference, although 3-4 hours is recommended.
Run ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens to help exhaust excess humidity from cooking and bathing. Run fans in bathrooms for at least 20 minutes after bathing. Timer switches can be installed on most bathroom exhaust fans and are highly recommended.
Wipe excess condensation from windowsills. Inspect windowsills often. Do not keep curtains closed as this can trap moist, cool air and promote excessive condensation.
The above tips can help reduce moisture sources, what can do we do about reducing mold food sources?
Do not keep books, papers, or cardboard boxes in moist areas such as attics, garages, basements or crawlspaces. Attic and crawlspaces should not be used as storage areas, but if you must store items in a garage or basement, we recommend sealed plastic bins.
Keep areas mold likes to grow clean and dry. This means cleaning dust (biofilms) from windowsills, baseboards, and doorframes. Vacuum carpet regularly with a HEPA vacuum. The recommendation is to vacuum and sweep one day per week PER OCCUPANT, including pets!
Check behind drapes and furniture for hidden condensation and biofilms. Allow airflow to reach these areas by opening drapes often and moving furniture a few inches from walls, especially exterior walls that can become colder and promote condensation.
Also, trust your nose, that musty smell is a sure indication of active mold growth. That musty smell is caused by microbial VOC’s, airborne chemicals that are a metabolic by-product of mold digestion.
If you think you have a hidden source of mold, call a professional Certified Microbial Investigator for a full mold inspection. Excessive interior mold can cause structural damage to your home and its contents, as well as allergic and respiratory reactions in some occupants. Take heed and be diligent, and you can survive this hopefully wet winter relatively mold-free.
With just a few weeks before the start of Hurricane Season 2017, all eyes turn to Florida, which had remained relatively unscathed by Mother Nature’s torment in recent years until Hurricane Matthew barreled up the Atlantic coastline last September — leaving behind more than $800 million in claims in the Sunshine State.
Yet there is another destructive storm hitting Florida that’s causing untold damage. This tempest has been created by unscrupulous contractors, lawyers and their legal tool: Assignment of Benefits. It’s one that has inflicted countless painful injuries to not only the insurance industry but also to homeowners as well.
Category 3 water damage problems located in Santa Monica, CA
Santa Monica, CA | During this mold inspection many abnormal conditions were noticed by the mold inspector. Within the bathroom of this apartment water was found below the linoleum flooring. Our moisture meter detected moisture up to 99-100%. The origin of this moisture problem was the toilet. An improper seal between the toilet and the flooring allowed black water (category 3) to seep in between the building materials.
In order to repair the area a restoration company must be contacted to remove materials and sanitize the structure. Category 3 water intrusion carry bacteria and increase the chances of mold growth within your home.
Following proper restoration a post remediation mold and bacteria inspection should be completed to verify the area is cleaned properly and ready for reconstruction.
As many residents continue in the cleaning process, there could be hidden damage the flooding may have left in homes. Experts explain just how serious mold can be and what you need to know to protect you and your family.
Certain types of mold can grow within 48 hours and in some cases it can take just three weeks for mold to surface, but the excess moisture in a home is all the mold needs to grow.
“Anytime you have water come into your home, and it’s not properly dried you’re going to have mold, it’s indefinite, it’s going to happen,” explained Michael Burke, a bio-hazard expert, with A&I Fire & Water Restoration in Myrtle Beach.
Burke said when checking a home for damage, it should be a priority for homeowners to look for mold. Burke says his company has been busy responding to calls since the flood about water damage, and particularly mold concerns. “When we come in, we get the water out of the house, we extract the water from the house, remove any wet building materials, that won’t dry out or can’t dry out in a sufficient amount of time, then dry the structure out,” he explained.
Mold can quickly develop; it can take 48 hours or even three weeks before the signs surface. Burke said mold won’t always be seen. It could be hidden behind walls, underneath the home and even inside insulation.
Burke said people that suffered actual home flood damage are not at risk. He said homes that did not get water damage could still see mold because of the excessive moisture of the rain and water.
“Having a house on a crawl space or a raised house it could be growing underneath the house whether it’s in the insulation, the duct work, or the structure,” said Burke. “Look at the two-by-fours too, it (mold) could grow down there and initially start to develop in the house.”
The health risks from mold can be serious. Symptoms include shortness of breath, a stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing or skin irritation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, even more serious risks could include mold infections developing in the lungs. Burke added, “If you have allergies, asthma, or something similar, it may be a problem right away. Some people may not notice it for years that mold could be growing in their home.”
Burke adds trying to remove the mold on your own can be done, but he recommends calling a professional to make sure the mold is disposed of properly, and to prevent re-growth.
Household products, like bleach, are not recommended. Burke says most products contain water, which will make the treatment ineffective as mold could resurface from moisture once it begins to dry.
“Using bleach or something like that isn’t sufficient enough, you actually need some antimicrobial, a product the Environmental Protection Agency regulates to kill mold,” stated Burke.
Homeowners concerned about mold should contact an industrial hygienist to have air quality test performed that will check for mold in the home.
Burke says there is an industrial hygienist in most of the counties in the area.
Check out the Fungi in Tarzana, CA. These molds/toad stools/fungi were found in some damp soil below a home. The exhaust for the dryer had detached and began pumping lint and moisture within the crawlspace. By increasing relative humidity in a small area fungi, molds, critters, and bugs can thrive.