Take control of mold growth

(MS) -- Moisture buildup can increase the probability of mold growth. For homeowners, mold growth can lead to poor indoor air quality and worse.

Using a modern insulation material, such as spray foam insulation, in crawl spaces helps reduce airborne irritants and promotes better indoor air quality.

Properly insulated crawl spaces control moisture and air seal and save on energy bills while improving occupant comfort.

The United States Department of Energy suggests homeowners properly insulate the crawl space within their homes to protect from two main problems. Firstly, by maintaining an acceptable temperature within the crawl space during winter, homeowners can avoid cold, uncomfortable floors above. Secondly, removing excess humidity in crawl spaces during the warmer summer months can decrease the chances of mold growth or buckling hardwood floors above.

Spray foam insulation, like that available from innovators like Icynene, can help reduce the likelihood of moisture gathering within crawl spaces. Left uninsulated, homeowners run the risk of compromising their home's durability and comfort not to mention possible unexpected repair costs.

Get the facts about mold and your health

Mold can grow in many areas of a home. Though not always dangerous, mold can, in certain instances, cause serious illness.

Experts estimate that there are tens of thousands of different types of mold in the world. A type of fungi, molds are single-celled or multicellular organisms without chlorophyll that reproduce by spores and live by absorbing nutrients from organic matter. Fungi can be classified as molds, mushrooms, rusts, mildews and yeasts. Some of the common types of molds found indoors include cladosporium, alternaria, penicillium, and aspergillus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that molds can be a health hazard to some people. Some individuals are more sensitive to molds than others, and may experience anything from a mild allergic reaction to severe symptoms, such as trouble breathing or other complications with their lungs.

Mold spores travel very easily through the air and can also travel on people and pets. Coming in contact with mold in one location and then traveling to another can cause spores that hitched a ride to dislodge in the new area. People who may have never had mold problems at home before can find that mold quickly takes root if mold spores have been accidentally brought into a home.

In addition to moist areas, molds flourish in other conditions as well.

* Food source: Molds are not picky eaters and can feed on various materials, including wood, fabric, wallpaper, and drywall.

* Air: Although mold needs oxygen to grow, mold fares best in areas that are poorly ventilated.

* Warmth: Mold can grow in temperatures between 40 and 110 F. Therefore, unless it's below freezing outdoors, there's a good chance mold spores are thriving.

Mold's versatility to live in a variety of areas and feed on just about anything make it a formidable foe. But there are natural ways to tackle it.

Mold thrives in moist conditions, so removing the source of moisture is the primary way to control mold growth. Invest in a dehumidifier if your home is plagued by moisture. Dehumidifiers are especially useful in basements and crawlspaces where moisture tends to be a problem.

It's also good to avoid using bleach to address a mold problem. Although bleach is an excellent disinfectant, it is not always successful in killing mold spores. The most it may do is whiten areas where the mold is growing. Plus, bleach has its own strong aroma and can be noxious to breathe in at high doses.

Instead of bleach, consider all-natural methods of controlling mold. Straight vinegar reportedly kills 82 percent of mold. Using it in a spray bottle on mold can help to kill it and keep it at bay. Tea tree oil and grapefruit seed extract are also very effective at eliminating mold. Unlike other methods of mold removal, grapefruit seed extract does not have an odor.

Keeping a home ventilated is another way to fight mold. Mold prefers somewhat stagnant conditions, so allowing fresh air into the house can make it harder for mold to thrive. In bathrooms and kitchens, use exhaust fans or open windows to reduce the humidity and moisture left behind.

Mold can be an irritant to people who are sensitive to the spores, but in many cases, mold is more of an eyesore and a nuisance than something a homeowner needs to worry about. Using some smart strategies to reduce its growth can keep mold under control.

Spray foam insulation combats mold

(MS) -- If you worry about mold in your home and are trying to find solutions, you can take one simple step to help prevent it from happening.

Mold is commonly found in houses that have poor wall insulation. As moisture builds up, the interior of the walls can slowly rot. This gives off a foul smell and reduces the overall stability and quality of a property. You may need to completely strip your walls to effectively repair them.

Such a repair can be expensive, but in order to prevent this situation from occurring, you can choose an alternate kind of insulation for your home. Spray foam insulation, like Icynene, is a good choice, especially for preventing mold. Unlike other insulation, spray foam protects your walls against moisture by forming an air barrier.

Prevention of mold, dust, dust mites and other common airborne irritants will improve the quality of the air in your home and ultimately the investment value of your house.

Good and bad of molds

People often hear the word "mold" and run for cover. But not all molds are a nuisance or a danger, nor should all molds be decimated.

Good Molds

There are many molds that are beneficial both from a medical standpoint and an industrial one. Mold is a type of fungi, and just like mushrooms and yeasts, which also belong to the fungi family, there are some types of molds that can be used in foods, medicines and industry.

Fungi is beneficial in that it survives on many different types of materials. It digests its food externally and absorbs nutrients into its own cells. Fungi, and molds, break down trash and help decompose materials. Without fungi, there might be piles of garbage lying around.

Molds are used largely in food. The "bleu"in bleu cheese is a type of mold. There are also molds present in Roquefort and other types of cheeses. Molds may be in the cheese itself or an important component of the rind. Molds are also used in the production of wine and other fermented items. Yeast, another type of fungi, helps to leaven bread and is instrumental in the production of beer.

The molds used in these applications are cultured molds and are carefully monitored. Molds that grow on their own on food can be harmful and contain mycotoxins that might be carcinogenic. Mold can be cut away from hard cheeses, but soft or processed cheeses infiltrated by mold should be discarded.

Penicillin is one of the more recognizable molds used as medicine. The bacteria-fighting properties of penicillin were discovered quite by accident from a mold culture. But now penicillin and its derivatives are some of the most widely prescribed antibiotics.

Molds can be used in the production of plastic and in other industries. Other molds are used in recycling processes and to compost garbage because of their ability to break down organic materials. Homeowners may add a type of mold to their septic systems to help dissipate waste.

Bad Molds

The molds many people are most familiar with are the bad molds that compromise living areas and make individuals sick. Molds may contribute to allergic reactions and respiratory issues. Because they spread quite easily, it's best to determine possible mold breeding grounds and address the problem immediately.

Molds need a good food source and damp, warm conditions in which to grow. Food sources can be wood, drywall, paper, or fabric. Keeping a home free of excessive humidity and standing water are keys to preventing mold growth. Heating and cooling systems should be inspected and well maintained because they can easily spread mold spores through the home. Other repairs, such as preventing leaks or water from entering the home from outside, are other keys to mold control.

Should mold be present, a professional may be needed to clean the area. Consult with an expert if mold is a problem in a home.

Make indoor mold growth a distant memory

Homeowners who have had prior issues with mold know just how pesky a mold problem can be. When mold spores land on surfaces that are wet, mold may begin to grow indoors. And the growth of mold takes just a matter of hours. According to the National Association of Home Builders, all it takes is 48 hours for a moist environment combined with room temperature to produce mold growth.

When mold does begin to grow, homeowners will notice a less-than-welcoming aroma often characterized as musty. In addition, mold growth, which is most common in areas of the home like the kitchen, bathroom and basement where humidity and moisture levels are higher, can be unsightly and unhealthy. In 2004, the Institute of Medicine linked indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough and wheeze in people who, prior to exposure, were healthy. The IOM also found exposure to mold can exacerbate asthma conditions for people who already have asthma and even linked respiratory illness in otherwise healthy children to exposure to mold.

What such research highlights is the emphasis homeowners must place on removing mold from their homes. While mold is a natural part of the environment that is impossible to eliminate entirely, homeowners can take steps to stop mold growth in their homes and protect themselves and their families along the way. When addressing a mold problem, keep in mind the potentially negative impact mold can have on your health and dress accordingly. Wear long sleeves, gloves, protective goggles, and even a mask or respirator that covers the nose and mouth to reduce your risk of developing a respiratory illness.

* Fix leaky pipes and additional water problems. Mold growth can cause cosmetic damage that can never be repaired. But fixing leaky pipes and addressing other water problems, including leaky windows, is a good way to stop future mold growth and prevent further cosmetic damage to the home.

* Scrub and dry moldy surfaces. When addressing moldy surfaces, scrub them hard with detergent and water. Once finished, dry the surfaces thoroughly. Going forward, routinely clean areas of the home that have had mold growth in the past.

* Discard certain materials that fall victim to mold. Porous or absorbent surfaces will likely need to be discarded once they have been victimized by mold growth. Ceiling tiles and carpets, for example, are especially difficult to rid of mold once it's settled in because the mold finds cracks and crevices in which it essentially hides from cleaning. In such cases, it's best to simply discard the items and have them replaced.

* Do not mask the mold problem. Painting or caulking over mold won't work. When applied to moldy surfaces, paint typically cracks. Instead of wasting paint and time, scrub and dry the surfaces, making sure all the mold is gone, and then paint or caulk.

* Leave big jobs to the pros. Smaller mold growths can be addressed by the average homeowner. However, when mold growth is especially large or mold has grown on valuable items, including heirlooms, it's best to hire a professional. When doing so, try to find one a friend or neighbor can recommend, as not all mold-removal specialists are created equal. If it's hard to find a recommendation, look for a specialist who is affiliated with a professional organization. Such organizations typically insist their members have a certain level of experience and training before they can become members


Banish bathroom mold and mildew

Mold and mildew thrive in dark, warm and wet areas, which makes bathrooms prime territory for these unsightly substances. Learning about the conditions that are conducive to the growth of these fungi can help homeowners keep mold and mildew at bay.

Mold and mildew can grow on just about any surface, including wood, glass, tiles, grout, silicone, porcelain, and many other materials. Perfect conditions for mold and mildew growth include areas that have poor or low air circulation and ventilation, low lighting, high humidity, dampness, and warm temperatures. Considering bathrooms generally meet this criteria, mold and mildew are commonplace in bathrooms.

Mildew is a form of mold. Health experts say that mold can cause asthma, sinusitis and other breathing problems. Others claim it may lead to more serious health implications, such as cancer, immune-system disorders and memory loss. However, research has yet to determine if there's a connection. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are between 50 to 100 common indoor mold types that have the potential to cause health problems.

Mold and mildew can also make rooms smell bad and musty, while the appearance of mold can mar a normally attractive-looking bathroom. These substances tend to spread quickly, so it's up to homeowners to get it under control before mold and mildew become a problem.

* Control humidity. Humid conditions breed mold and mildew. Open a window before and after showering and bathing, or turn on the exhaust fan and let it run for a while to clear out the humidity.

* Shed some light on the situation. Darkness is a friend to mold and mildew. Keep the lights on in the bathroom after showering to inhibit growth. When the bathroom is not in use, leave the blinds or drapes open if there is a window to let in natural sunlight and some fresh air.

* Test home humidity. A hygrometer tests the humidity levels in a home. Levels above 60 percent can breed mold and mildew. Consider using a dehumidifier in the home to take humidity out of the air. Industry experts advise keeping home humidity between 30 and 60 percent for optimal comfort and safety.

* Wipe down the shower walls. Use a squeegee or a wash cloth to wipe down damp walls and the tub to remove excess water.

* Use bleach and vinegar. Bleach and vinegar inhibit the growth of mold and mildew. Use a cleaning solution of vinegar and water, which is less caustic than bleach, or mix five parts water to one part chlorine bleach to clean bathroom surfaces. Use a stiff-bristled brush or old toothbrush to get into grout lines. If there is mold growing in the corners of tile where the tub meets the tile, soak a cotton ball in bleach and place in the corner. Remove a few minutes later and rinse.

* Saltwater soak. After cleaning shower curtains in the washing machine, soak them in a saltwater solution to prevent the growth of mold and mildew in the future.

* Use special paint. Fungus can grow on the paint in a bathroom as well. Use a special mildew-resistant paint in areas prone to moisture.

Mold and mildew have grown in just about everyone's bathroom at some time. By eliminating the conditions that help it thrive, it's possible to keep these fungi in check.

Ways to Reduce Moisture In the Home

Many homeowners worry about moisture in the home, which can lead to a slew of health ailments, including asthma or upper respiratory problems. After a long winter, homeowners concerned about moisture often look to solve problems that might have revealed themselves when the cold weather arrived.

In addition to health concerns, moisture can also negatively impact the value of the home. Mold growth and pest infestation are common side effects of excess moisture, neither of which is attractive to prospective buyers. To combat moisture in the home, homeowners should consider the following tips.

* Fix plumbing leaks. Plumbing leaks are often evident to the naked eye, as most occur at the fixtures. Check to be sure leaky toilets aren't contributing to mold growth in the bathroom.

* Check the windows for leaks. The winter months often reveal leaky windows, which should be repaired once spring begins to avoid excess moisture that can result from spring rains.

* Reduce internal moisture sources. Moisture is not caused solely by external sources like rain or groundwater. Inspect the washing machine to determine if there are any leaks that are making the home less healthy and hurting its value.

* Install an exhaust fan in the bathroom if there's not one already. Without an effective exhaust fan, a bathroom is much more susceptible to mold growth. When installing an exhaust fan, be sure it's vented to the exterior of the building and not elsewhere inside the home, such as an attic or crawl space.

* Point rainspouts away from the home. Be sure the downspouts are directing rainwater away from the home's foundation. In addition, carefully clean out gutters in the spring and make sure they're securely intact to reduce the likelihood of water damage.

* Address any ventilation issues. Ventilation helps add or remove humidity, helping homeowners steer clear of moisture problems. If any ventilation concerns arose over the winter, make those issues a priority once spring cleaning and maintenance begins.

Keys to Fixing Wet Basements

A wet basement is something thousands of homeowners contend with but none look forward to fixing. Water entering the basement can be an expensive repair job, and it seems like few homes are impervious to water infiltration.

Water can enter a basement or crawlspace in a number of ways, seeping through the floor if the surrounding ground is constantly saturated or entering through cracks in the foundation walls. Leaky basement windows could cause water to enter, while improperly draining downspouts and gutters may cause water to pool around the home's foundation and enter the home.

A wet basement can decrease a home's value and potential damage what's in the home. Standing water in a basement can also pose health hazards, such as mold and mildew growth, and can prove a breeding ground for insects that like moist conditions.

There are a number of techniques used to combat basement water issues. A waterproofing company can help homeowners ascertain what method will be best for the type of water issue they have.

* Find the source of water. Sometimes water remediation requires minimal effort or simple solutions. It may be a grading issue on the property or landscaping that is causing water to pool around the home's foundation. Fixing these issues can alleviate water in the basement.

* Create a barrier. A dampness or water issue may be remediated by creating a barrier between the water and the inside of the home. Waterproofing paints and sealants can be applied to both the outside and inside walls of a basement. However, waterproofing application on the outside of the home may cause disruption to landscaping and the need for excavation to reach foundation walls. Inside application is easier, but eventually the product may need to be reapplied if water pressure causes the sealant to blister or peel off. A plastic vapor barrier can be installed in crawlspaces that have vented concrete or dirt floors. This will help to protect against moisture in the space.

* Install drains. Various drainage systems are designed to help with basement water issues. Depending on the drain, it may be installed at the perimeter of the basement interior or on the exterior of the home. The drains are designed to capture water from the ground and direct it far away from the foundation. Drains can gradually become clogged with sediment and dirt and may need to be cleaned or replaced. Newer innovations in basement drainage systems that alleviate clogging issues are available through reputable businesses.

* Use a sump pump. For other water issues, a sump pump can help gather groundwater in a sump pit and pump it out and away from the home. It's a good idea to have a backup source of power for the sump pump because if the power goes out, the sump pump will be rendered useless.

Water is the No. 1 enemy of basements and crawlspaces. It behooves the homeowner to take fast action to correct water issues in the lowest part of the home to ensure comfort and safety.

Waterproofing a basement is generally not a do-it-yourself job. It requires the expertise of a trained contractor who will do a quality job.



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