What do old bread, gourmet cheese, and post-Sandy Brooklyn have in common? Mold. This variety of fungus not only spoils food and gives blue cheese its bite, but it also lurks within the depths of water-logged walls and furniture in flooded houses. There it can result in serious health risks for occupants and big headaches for property owners looking to sell their homes. Here’s a brief rundown on mold, what it is, what it can do to you, and what you can do to it to ensure a healthy living condition and the well being of your home.
What is mold?
Mold is everywhere, and you can never be completely rid of it. Any given surface in your home will almost certainly have some traces of microscopic mold spores. By themselves, these tiny spores are mostly harmless. Introduce water, however, and the spores grow into colonies that spread across surfaces and into structures. That, in turn, creates spores on a massive scale — sufficient to cause health problems when inhaled. Allergic responses include sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and rashes. Mold can trigger attacks in people with asthma, and can even bother non-allergic folks.
How do I annihilate spores?
Homeowners or their contractors should perform a four-step process to remove the mold, and make sure it doesn’t come back.
1) Demolition: If your home or basement sustains serious flooding, your only recourse is to gut it. Furniture, cupboards, dry wall, and insulation all must go. When tearing out dry wall, make sure you remove everything up to four feet above the high water mark in your home.
2) Dry: The drying process begins. Contractors and mold remediators should use fans to pull the moisture out of the support beams, and dehumidifiers filters to suck the spores out of the air.
3) Clean: The manual approach works best, going over the affected woodwork with wire brushes and sand paper. The rub down will release spores into the air, so it’s important to run an air purifier during this phase.
4) Treat: To kill off any remaining spore and prevent a recurrence of the mold, contractors should apply a biocide that — unlike bleach — is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency as an anti-fungal. If the wood is nice and dry, your home’s support beams should absorb the biocide like a sponge, leaving you with a minimal risk of future mold growth. An additional step is recommended — applying an encapsulate, which permanently bonds to the surface of the wood and kills mold spores on contact. Contractors typically won’t provide a warranty on the work unless the homeowner forks over the extra cash for the encapsulation process.
Mold expertise courtesy of Tony Daddona, chief operating officer of Clearstream mold remediation services; and Justin Hopkins, a contractor for US Fire and Water Restoration who has five years experience performing regulated mold remediation.Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cn