The Ultimate Guide to Basement Mold
Curious about mold? This essential guide to mold explains how to identify it, why it's a big deal, and what you can do to stop a mold problem.
Mold issues are more common than you may realize, and one study found that 47 percent of U.S. homes have dampness or mold problems.
In this guide to mold, we’ll cover the basics, including why mold issues are important, how to identify mold, and what you can do about it.
1. Why Is Mold So Bad?
Mold in your home is a big deal, especially if it is a toxic mold infestation. Not only does it look bad, but it can impact both the health of the occupants and the structural integrity of your home.
When it comes to your health, it’s not always easy to trace problems back to mold in your home. If you start to cough or your child is diagnosed with asthma, your first step may not be to crawl around your basement or crawl space looking for any mold that could be the potential culprit.
Your doctor may be able to deduce if incessant exposure to mold is a contributing factor to your health issues through a line of tests and exploring all possible culprits. However, there is no specific test that links directly to mold exposure.
According to the CDC, indoor exposure to mold is linked with:
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy eyes or skin
- Shortness of breath
- Development of asthma in children
Toxic black mold can be especially dangerous. In Cleveland, OH, there was one of the world’s worst outbreaks of infant pulmonary hemosiderosis (lung bleeding). This prompted the CDC to research a potential link to black mold. As it stands today, the CDC stops short of linking toxic black mold to diseases like infant pulmonary hemorrhaging, saying, “Further studies are needed.”
In 2020, nine military families in Fort Hood sued their housing provider for “pervasive mold and other airborne toxins,” citing health problems including headaches, nausea, infant impaired lung function, brain fog, hair loss, labored breathing, and joint pain.
A similar issue with mold remediation occurred at Fort Meade in Maryland.
There are also property damage issues that can occur from mold growth. After mold damage, you may need to throw out porous materials like drywall or furniture. Mold, dampness, and dry rot can cause structural damage, warped boards, and weakened walls.
In the Fort Hood mold infestation, the moisture and mold growth caused a structural surprise. One of the families reported that their son “fell through a wet, soggy bedroom wall, revealing large amounts of mold.”
2. How Do You Identify Mold?
Mold toxins can travel via airborne spores, affecting air quality throughout your home. There are three ways you can identify mold in your home:
- Visible mold growth
- Musty smell
- Respiratory symptoms
Mold can be difficult to identify because you don’t have to see it for it to be present. It could be in your basement, crawl space, walls, or attic. There have also been instances where mold in an HVAC unit causes it to spread via the ventilation ducts.
Your nose may be the best way to test for mold. As one mold remediation specialist told the Washington Post, “That funny smell—we usually call it a musty smell—that’s from mold spores feeding on nutrients and off-gassing. That’s the first key that the homeowner can say, ‘I’ve got something going on here.’”
3. Where in Your Home Is Mold Commonly Found?
The ideal conditions for mold growth are damp areas that have limited air circulation or sunlight.
Mold is commonly found in:
- Crawl spaces
- Inside walls
- HVAC or air ducts
4. Moisture and Mold Problems
All types of mold require moisture to grow. Therefore, a mold problem starts as a moisture problem. Mold can begin to grow on damp surfaces within just 24 to 48 hours. If left unresolved, any mold problems will compound over time.
A wide range of circumstances can cause moisture in your home.
You could face weather issues such as a humid or coastal climate, flooding, or heavy rains. These issues can often be managed with better drainage, a sump pump, or dehumidification.
You could also have moisture issues where groundwater seeps into your basement or crawl space, adding humidity to your entire house. Basement waterproofing or crawl space encapsulation can provide more permanent solutions for these circumstances.
There are also water issues that stem from plumbing problems, interior water leaks, or poor ventilation in bathrooms or kitchens. Fixing the problems with your interior house systems could resolve issues where daily water usage is causing your mold problems.
5. What Should You Do About the Mold?
The potential dangers of mold mean it’s important to talk to a professional. They have the skills and resources to help identify what type of mold you have and how to remove it and protect your home against it.
In some cases, mold cleaning with a bleach solution could be all that’s required. If there’s a more extensive problem, mold remediation could be needed.
6. How Can You Stop Mold From Coming Back?
If you clean up mold without fixing the underlying moisture problem, the mold will likely return.
This means dealing with moisture problems is a critical part of stopping a mold problem.
First, locate problematic sources, like leaks and condensation buildup. When warm air mingles with a cold surface, water droplets form. Wipe down problem areas and address any leakage.
Reduce moisture with basement waterproofing or crawl space waterproofing and encapsulation. The air quality of your home starts with the ground level. Because warm air rises, the air from your basement or crawl space will circulate throughout your house because of what’s known as the stack effect. This means mold spores in your basement or crawl space could spread throughout your house. Similarly, moisture in these below grade areas could create conditions for mold growth in the upper stories.
Additionally, reduce the levels of moisture in the air if your relative humidity is above 60 percent by dehumidifying. Ideally, your home’s relative humidity should fall between 30-50 percent. Improving air circulation can also help to keep your home dry. It’s especially useful to use exhaust vents to manage steam in the bathroom or kitchen.
Flooding and high rains are also a common cause of mold growth. Rather than dealing with water and mold growth after the fact, you can be prepared by installing a sump pump that will automatically remove any water that enters your house.
If the humidity in your home is too high or you are detecting mold in your home, contact your local foundation professionals today for a consultation on the next steps.