Mold is everywhere.
There are about 300,000 different species of mold in the world, and they live indoors and outdoors. No matter how careful you are, chances are you’re tracking around mold with you almost everywhere you go.
“You go outside and you’re touching leaves and you don’t wash your hands, you’re coming into contact with mold,” says Steven Mwaniki, a restoration project manager at Paul Davis Restoration of Northeast Indiana. “Maybe you’re collecting wood and not wearing gloves and it’s a little rotten, or maybe you’re touching decaying food, plant material or grass — they all contain mold.”
But mold in low concentrations from the outdoors isn’t necessarily bad. It’s when you bring those spores inside and they grow that you have to worry.
“When you’re outdoors there’s a lot of open air, so you’re not going to get sick from that mold the way you will once it gets into your home in a contained area,” Mwaniki says. “People get sick because you’re just sitting in your house breathing the same air for hours. It’s not because you were outside weeding plants.”
We all know that black mold is bad, and that it likes to grow in wet, damp environments and that we don’t want it growing in our homes. But how do we stop something that is so pervasive?
Let’s look at how mold grows, what steps you can take to prevent it from growing after a flood, and what you can do to eliminate it if it’s already growing.
HOW MOLD GROWS
Mold spores are relentless and will survive on a surface through the harshest conditions until they can grow.
“All mold needs a certain amount of water, food to eat, and the right temperature to grow,” Mwaniki says. “As long as it has all three things, it will grow like crazy.”
Water can come in any form, from high humidity in the air to a flooded basement. When you have a leak or flood in your home it provides the biggest missing component for mold growth — high water activity levels.
There are at least 3.6 million homes in the United States that are at an almost certain risk of flooding from rainfall — homes with a 20% chance of flooding each year. But water damage in a home can come from other sources, including burst pipes or broken sump pumps. In fact, 23.8% of all homeowners’ insurance claims are for water damage each year. That’s around 1 in every 50 homeowners!
If you own a home, the odds are that you’ll eventually be faced with unwanted water in your home. If it’s not taken care of properly, that can lead to bigger issues, like mold.
Most molds that are dangerous to humans start growing when there’s water activity between 0.75 and 0.90. When your floor and walls are flooded, your water activity is at a full 1.0.
“Any time you have standing water, everything it touches needs to be dried out quickly, within three days,” Mwaniki says. “The sooner you can remove water from the equation the less chance there is for mold to grow.”
PREVENTING MOLD GROWTH
Your first step should be to call a plumber to help you assess the damage and to help stop water from further affecting your home. A plumber can help you turn off the electricity to the affected area — you don’t want to start a fire or risk electrocution — and fix any leaks or burst pipes.
Once the risk of structural damage has passed, it’s important to contact your insurance agency immediately so you can make a claim.
Your next step after your basement — or any area of your home — has water damage is to remove the water. While you may be able to mop up or remove some water on your own, it’s best to call in the professionals.
Restoration companies are able to detect hidden areas of moisture that can lead to mold growth and properly dry them out. It’s important to note that restoration companies can only help you remove excess water as long as water is no longer flowing into your home — leaks and active flooding must be stopped first.
“I give people different options about what they can do. I like having options,” Mwaniki says. “There are some remediation services that I need to do as a professional, but there are some things homeowners can do on their own to minimize the cost.”
You can help the situation by creating airflow with fans, and by running a dehumidifier to pull excess moisture from the air. In fact, it’s a good idea to run a dehumidifier in your basement year round.
If you have any items that have gotten wet during flooding, you’ll want to remove them from your home and dry them thoroughly. If you’re able to sanitize any materials, it’s a good idea to do so.
You need to remove the excess moisture and have repairs done to water damaged areas of your home within three days to ensure you minimize the potential for mold growth.
After you’ve experienced water damage, Mwaniki says it’s important to continually check your home for mold growth.
“Keep checking stuff,” Mwaniki says. “Check your basement, check your attic, check your crawl space — crawl spaces can be crazy mold breeding grounds because people forget to check those confined spaces, and those are the areas that continue to bring in moisture and you don’t know until you’re sick.”
HOW DO YOU GET RID OF MOLD?
If you don’t get your home quickly after having water damage, you may have mold and not know it.
“Most of the time, you’ll start smelling something musty when you have a mold infestation,” Mwaniki says. “When you smell something musty, that’s a sign that you have very high humidity and something is cooking, something is off-gassing, which is mold starting to grow.”
If you’re starting to experience symptoms that mimic the common cold or the flu, which disappear or lessen when you leave your home, you may be getting sick from mold toxicity, Mwaniki says.
If you suspect you may have toxic mold in your home, Mwaniki recommends going to the doctor to get checked out, and then calling for mold remediation services.
“It’s better to get the mold at the source. Don’t go Googling stuff on treating mold on your own,” Mwaniki says. “There’s plenty of misinformation out there, so you need to get someone who is qualified and certified to deal with mold. This isn’t a do-it-yourself situation.”
He warns that if you’re untrained in dealing with mold removal you run the risk of cross contaminating your entire home with mold. That can quickly get expensive to fix.
Mwaniki says the first thing he always does if a home has mold is to reassure homeowners that it’s a solvable problem. But he wants people to know what they’re facing.
“I try to educate people when I can,” he says. “I try to work with people to explain what’s happening in their home. I don’t want to make people scared. I want them to understand exactly what’s going on and what we’re going to do to fix it.”
CALL PAUL DAVIS RESTORATION OF NORTHEAST INDIANA
If your home has experienced water damage from flooding or a leak, our restoration specialists are available 24/7 to help get your home back in order.
We’re ready to help you get your home safe and dry as quickly as possible, and to help you prevent potentially harmful mold from growing.
Call us at 260-436-7510 to speak to a knowledgeable restoration expert, no matter what restoration service you need.