Mold: the Great Destroyer

By: Quinn Kiet

Although it is a natural and necessary part of the life cycle, mold is insidious in a home, and once it starts growing, it can be extremely difficult to stop. Not only does mold slowly destroy anything it grows on, it can cause and aggravate many health problems.

Because mold spores are everywhere, the key to preventing it from growing is to avoid creating the conditions it thrives in. Basically, mold will grow anywhere there is moisture. Therefore, to avoid mold, one must keep their home dry. Cleaning off the growing mold is not enough. The cause of excessive humidity must be eliminated, or else the problem will persist and the damage will only get worse.

It is of utmost importance that any water leaks be halted as soon as they develop. Old or damaged roofs may be allowing water to seep in, damaging the frame of the home. Improperly installed or worn out gutters can allow water to drip onto the outside wall of a home, where it gradually penetrates the surface and can result in moldy insulation, drywall and wood. If a basement leaks, mold can grow there, causing a musty smell and poor air quality.

Basements can leak for a variety of reasons. If drain spouts end too close to the house, excessive water may saturate the ground and cause problems to the foundation. If drainage is poor in the soil around a home, basements may be the easiest place for water to flow in heavy rains or when snow melts. Even if a major leak is not visible, general dampness can cause problems as mold growth can occur on anything in a damp space, such as furniture and carpeting.

Sometimes, mold growth occurs around windows, where inadequate insulation causes constant moisture build-up. Because of the temperature difference between the inside and outside of a home, water in the air is attracted to windows, particularly those that are single paned or have a broken seal between panes. If the frame and sill are wood, mold will gradually cause rot. Mold can even grow on metal and plastic window frames, and while the damage caused is far less, it must be cleaned immediately to avoid possible health hazards.

Oftentimes, leaking in the interior of a building is from leaking pipes or faucets. Leaking pipes within a wall can cause severe damage to insulation, drywall and even the wooden frame of a home. Under or around sinks, mold can eat away the wood of cupboards or counters, requiring their eventual replacement.

Wherever the moisture is coming from, it must be eliminated. Repair roofs and gutters before they wear out, and be sure they are installed by experienced professionals. If moisture in the basement is a problem, it may be necessary to install better drainage around the outside of the home.

To completely avoid the risk of further mold growth, completely remove anything mold-damaged. Replace drywall, insulation or wood, if necessary, and say goodbye to that old couch and especially the moldy carpeting. Mold is extremely difficult to clean, and you don't want your furnishings to be a health hazard. Avoid humidity build-up by keeping your home, even little used rooms or storage spaces, warm and dry, and arranging furniture in a way that allows for air flow. Book cases placed up against cold outer walls can often encourage mold growth in an otherwise healthy home. If you suspect that your vents or air ducts are contaminated with mold, have them professionally cleaned before you turn on any heaters, or you will have unhealthy mold spores spread throughout your home, just waiting for that damp spot to land and grow.

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