Summer provides ideal conditions for mold growth in many regions of America. The combination of humidity, rainfall and tightly sealed home envelopes help mold grow out of control in a hurry. Fortunately, you can take steps to keep this problem from ever happening. Follow these tips to ensure a mold-free home for the season.
Mold needs water to grow, so moisture control is your best weapon. Cooking, showering, running the dishwasher and outside air entering the home all help mold grow. Make sure bathroom kitchen fans run properly, and that they vent to the outside. When you observe excess moisture on the walls and ceilings of those rooms, wipe it away promptly. If you live in a particularly humid area, you may need to get a dehumidifier.
Make sure your drainage systems are in good order. And also make sure your foundation slopes away from the home so ground water and rain don't pool near the home. Your gutters and downspouts should direct water at least three feet away from the house.
If you have a crawlspace, install a specialized sheet of polyethylene that prevents moisture from seeping through and giving mold a foothold on the surfaces. If you have a damp basement, run a dehumidifier to keep it dry.
Keep an eye on soft goods in storage. Clothing, paper and cardboard all provide excellent breeding spots for mold if they come in contact with water.
Air circulation slows down mold growth. Even in rooms you don't often use, keep the vents open so the air conditioner runs through them. (This is a good idea anyway; it's a myth that closing vents to unused rooms increased HVAC efficiency.)
Periodically check for plumbing leaks. Pools of unchecked water are quick to grow mold.
WHAT TO DO IF MOLD DEVELOPS
Once mold gets a foothold, it can be difficult to remove. If you find it covering a small area, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it can be scrubbed away thoroughly with a mix of detergent and water. However, if it covers more than 10 square feet, or you don't feel confident in doing it yourself, you should call in the assistance of a professional remediation company.
The best practice is to hire separate mold testing and remediating companies. A tester can confirm the substance is mold and determine the extent of necessary remediation. Hiring separate companies prevents conflicts of interest; you can have more confidence in a mold tester who doesn't stand to profit from recommending more work. Mold removal can be a very expensive job, so you want the most reliable information.
Most states don't license mold removal companies. Ask if they're familiar with EPA standards, or seek companies with separate accreditation such as Mold Removal Specialist certification from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification.
Paul F. P. Pogue is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.