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Hidden House Mold Problems

Jun 1, 2008
We humans have a lot more in common with molds than we realize.

1. Molds enjoy the same indoor temperatures that humans enjoy

2. Like humans they thrive in home environments that provide protection from intense direct ultra violet sunlight.

3. They share our taste in building materials, we like drywall and wood because they are affordable and convenient building materials, mold likes them because they are a great food source when wet.

4. Both humans and molds love modern plumbing, we love it when it works and mold loves it when it fails and starts to leak.

One thing that sets humans and mold apart is the fact that humans have seven layers of skin, each with its own structure and function, this skin keeps us from drying out. Mold on the other never got around to developing anything like skin to keep it from drying out when water and humidity are low. Mold did develop something called spores; these tiny prologues (seed like structures) can endure dry conditions for at least 20 years inside a wall for example.

The Problem

Provide uncontrolled moisture or humidity above 60 to 65% indoors and the dormant spores will start to sprout and you have a very hardy pet. Because mold can and often does grow in concealed areas you may not know you have mold, and this is the problem.

Molds reproduce through tiny spores and these spores are invisible to naked eyes. They float through air indoors and find their way into every nook and cranny of your home, even inside walls, behind cabinets, under crawl spaces, and into attics. One of molds favourite hiding places is inside AC units and ducts. When you install wall paper they sit on the wall as you cover the microscopic spore, and stay dormant under the wall paper till moisture enters the picture.

Hidden mold is more of a concern than visible mold because hidden mold and the moisture problem that caused it often go unnoticed and uncorrected for long periods of time.

The health Effects

Persons with asthma or allergy experience runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, breathing difficulties, rash on skin, and more. Sounds bad but not terrible you say? Give these symptoms a try day and night, night and day for a few years and tell me it is not terrible. Constant allergy is terrible all by itself, but allergy in turn will rob you of sleep, and may result in damaged mucus membranes that will in turn result in more colds and sinus infections, and in general make you miserable.

The solution

As hidden mold becomes worse and produces odor, or shows itself as visible mold spots, or results in increasing health problems, act immediately and call a mold testing company to send out a mold inspector. Also contact your doctor if illness is experienced.

Inspecting for hidden mold issues and finding the sometimes complex conditions that caused the mold takes a certified mold inspector about 2 classroom days to learn how to do it wrong, and it takes a trained and experienced mold investigator many years to learn how to do properly. Even for an experienced inspector it can be difficult or impossible to find all hidden mold. Detection of concealed problems is not only trickier than it sounds but it creates a risk of stirring up concealed mold spores. For example opening up drywall can expose a homeowner with asthma or allergy to heath problems related to a sudden exposure to high spore levels. Even when a non specialist does manage to find mold often much of it is still un discovered. If all the mold is discovered the task is still only of the way done; now you have to figure out why the mold started, without this knowledge you cannot address the root of the problem. Next a plan of action called a remediation protocol must be drawn up. Many mold inspectors do not provide this service for fear of making a mistake, this protocol is a complicated and detailed scope of work showing what must be done to properly and safely correct the problem without spreading contamination and without exposing workers to health risks associated with mold removal. Finally a separate mold remediation firm not finically connected to the inspectors firm must remove the mold.

During the inspection, the inspector may check the attic including areas under some insulation, the crawl space may be entered and inspected, the bottom of the carpets or pads may be inspected, AC ducts or AC units may be opened, it is often revealing to cut AC plenums open. Some of the worst hidden mold problems are those hidden in plain sight, often tiny dust like colonies of white or golden tan pen asp mold will grow on many surfaces throughout a property, their favourite places to grow are on clothes in humid closets, and on any dust surface, these colonies result from humidity problems and can be almost impossible to see.

No mold inspection professional can guarantee to find all hidden problems. Even with infrared cameras, moisture meters, borescopes, and inner wall air sampling tubes, all designed to help find hidden mold and moisture conditions, expecting a human to find all organisms living in hidden places is not reasonable. But if health complaints or odor lead you to believe that you may have concealed mold problems, your best remedy by far is to contact your doctor and also to hire an experienced, trained, certified mold professional to inspect for it and provide detailed written information on how to correct any problems found.
About the Author
Mr. Watters provides mold testing and inspections in homes and offices throughout South Florida. He has conducted home inspections since 1993 and mold inspection services since 2003. click here for our inspection site! Find additional mold testing info here.
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