Molds are fungi that reproduce by releasing spores. These spores occur naturally and are all around us, both indoors and outdoors. Mold can grow on almost any organic material and thrives in warm damp environments.Some people are particularly sensitive to the spores and have severe reactions. Young children, the elderly, people with weak immune systems and people with respiratory problems seem to be most affected. Common health issues caused by mold include: asthmatic episodes, respiratory difficulties, fever, head aches, diarrhea, sore throat, cough, burning eyes and nasal congestion.
Some forms of mold are considered toxic. Once identified, toxic mold should be addressed immediately through remediation.
Mold usually can be seen or smelled. However, some types of mold are difficult to recognize and samples need be sent to a lab for positive identification. The cost for a lab test is about $50. It is not necessary to determine the type of mold before it is removed, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC suggests removal of mold as soon as it is discovered.
Mold needs moisture and organic material to grow. Your house supplies the organic material. Mold can grow on carpet, wallboard, wood, cellulose insulation, ceiling tiles and furniture – just to name a few sources.
Since there is no way to control the availability of the organic material, the most effective way to control mold is to control moisture in your home.
You should be cautious if the home:
- Has active and/or persistent basement water problems that appear difficult to solve
- Is an EIFS stucco home with substantial water penetration behind the walls
- Has physical water damage over a lengthy period of time
- Has a disclosed mold problem
Be especially careful with EIFS homes because the mold can be growing inside the walls and out of sight.
The cost to solve and remove mold will depend on the scope of the problem. Small issues may be easy and inexpensive to address. However, serious mold problems may prove substantially expensive to resolve with proper methods.
Simple Steps to Control Moisture in Your Home:
- Repair roof leaks immediately
- Correct damp basements at the source
- Keep air conditioner drip pans operating correctly
- Keep indoor humidity low by running an air conditioner
- Use a dehumidifier in rooms that are prone to moisture
- Use bathroom vent fans when showering
- Remove carpet from bathrooms and replace with vinyl or tile
- Dry clean carpets rather than steam clean
- Repair plumbing leaks
- Take action to control condensation build-up
- Wipe up heavy condensation on windows and pipes when it occurs
- Repair or replace leaking windows
- Keep the exterior caulking maintained
- Paint exterior hardboard siding every five years
- Keep gutters clean
- Replace siding that is absorbing moisture
For small areas of less than 10 square feet, use a commercial product or clean with a solution of one cup bleach in one gallon of water. If the area is substantially larger you may need to hire a professional mold removal specialist. Often, if mold growth is substantial the carpet, ceiling tile, wallboard, cellulose insulation, wood sub-flooring and paneling will be affected and may need to be removed and replaced.
What if the Home I Love Has Had this Problem?
Make sure that there is no active mold issue. Be certain the source of moisture is corrected and all damaged material has been replaced (carpet, drywall, etc.)
Rely on your agent to give you a detached, unemotional perspective. Sometimes people make their worst decisions when they want something too much. Do not be blinded.
Use common sense; a little bit of mold from a moisture source that is easily corrected should not prevent you from buying the home you love. On the other hand, if you know there is a current and/or substantial problem with mold think twice before making an offer. In January of 2005, it became a requirement to disclose mold issues on the Seller’s Property Disclosure Statement.
For more information and the latest updates on this issue as it develops, visit the EPA website.
Jeff’s Notes: If a home has an obvious, substantial, recent, or ongoing problem with mold, I would not purchase it. There is too much risk that the market will be more sensitive to mold issues in the future than today and you could find your home tough to sell when you move.