Wootten Home Inspections

About Mold and Mildew

   by R. Lee Wootten

There is increasing concern regarding the exposure of mold and mildew within our living environment. There are hundreds of different kinds of mildew within our environment. Of these only a few are considered to be toxic to humans. However some people that are exposed to mold and mildew above a certain level will develop health issues. Therefore is important that we as homeowners educate ourselves and take steps to eliminate the potential for the growth of mildew and mold within our living environment.

In this document I will address this issue and how to minimize our exposure. As a certified home inspector I have seen many conditions that promote the growth of mold and mildew. In reading this document please keep mind, I'm not certified to evaluate the potential health hazard from mold and mildew exposure within the home environment. If mold and mildew is found during the home inspection and is a concern to you as a home buyer it is highly recommended that you contact a professional in that field for proper evaluation.

We are all exposed to mold and mildew spores on a daily basis. The mold spores can enter the home on our bodies, clothes and any object carried. It is nearly impossible to eliminate all spores from our home environment. Therefore it is important to learn what steps must be taken to minimize the growth of mold and mildew within our home environment, thus minimizing potential health hazards to our families.

In order for mold and mildew to grow it must have moisture or high humidity, about seventy percent or higher. All of us have seen mold growing on bread or cheese. The bread and cheese were most likely exposed to mold spores when opened in our kitchen. These mold spores simply took advantage of the proper environment to grow.

OK, now that we have established that mold and mildew spores are constantly present within our living environment what steps must we take to minimize their growth and hopefully protect our families.

Let's start at the top of the house, the attic. First of all any leaks in the attic roof around vent pipes and chimneys will expose the attic to increased potential for mold and mildew. Bathroom exhaust fans not properly vented to the outside will also increased attic moisture. Trees overhanging and shading the roof can cause mildew on the exterior shingles and within the attic area. Proper ventilation of the attic is essential to minimize the growth of mold in mildew. This can be accomplished with proper soffit vents, gable vents, ridge vents, and attic fans. The requirements for your house will vary depending upon the structure and yard environment.

Many homes are equipped with air handlers for the heating and air-conditioning system located in the attic. There is a large pan with a drain located under this system. Should the strain become plugged the water can potentially build up in the pan and could overflow into the insulation and drywall below. This pan should be checked at least once a month during the air-conditioning season for the presence of water. If the drain is working properly and the air-conditioning is working properly no water will be present.

Within our living environment, the house itself there are certain areas and potential problems for mold and mildew. Obviously any plumbing leaks in bathrooms the kitchen or utility room must be eliminated and the moisture removed as quickly as possible. Any leaks discovered in these areas could result in moisture entrapment behind and under cabinets or vanities. This may require the removal of the cabinets or vanity to assess any damage to wall and floor structures. Should a leak be discovered a qualified plumber should be called in to eliminate the problem. Keep in mind this washer leak may have entered the insulation or duct work in the crawlspace. Any water infiltration in the ductwork would require immediate replacement of the affected area. The crawlspace insulation exposed should be removed and the adjacent area allowed to try for at least one month prior to reinstalling new insulation.

Any leaks around windows or exterior doors can also results in mold and mildew. These must be addressed on an individual basis to eliminate the leak.

Improper ventilation is perhaps one of the greatest causes of mildew and mildew within our living environment. Let's look at some examples, improperly vent bathrooms, boxes or clothes stored in closets close to the exterior wall, windows or doors not sealing properly thus allowing cold air intrusion, dryers or drier hoses that are defective and not properly vented to the outside of the house.

Look for areas in your own home where mildew can start. Take steps to minimize the mold and mildew potential and you have made a healthier living environment for you and your family.

Should you and your family have further concerns about mold and mildew it is suggested that you contact a professional and schedule an appointment to have your home evaluated.