It’s vacation time, and when you put the key in the door of your beach house or mountain cabin, the last thing you want to smell is the musty odor of mold and mildew, but it happens to owners and renters alike. So what can you do if you walk into a moldy mess?
“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air flowing,” Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group says. Weitz said that this is a common problem because many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, as air conditioning or heat has been turned off for the season. “Mold is not picky – it only needs moisture and a food source, such as wood, ceiling tiles, carpet or sheet rock, to begin growing.”
Whether you hire a mold inspector or put up with it will probably depend on whether you are the owner or renter, how long you will be there, and whether you or your vacationers have allergy or breathing issues.
– Keep the windows open as much as possible if it’s dry out;
– A dehumidifier can also help lessen the moisture in the air;
– If you decide to turn on the A/C, change the filter first;
– Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;
– Allergy medication may help lessen symptoms;
– Let the owner know that they have a mold problem;
The Best Solution:
– Get an independent mold inspection to identify the source;
– Pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;
– Have the mold properly remediated.
Remember, if you are the owner or plan to be there for an extended stay, mold could affect your health causing wheezing, asthma, and allergy symptoms. The home should be tested by a certified microbial investigator, who can then advise you as to the next steps depending on the outcome of the mold testing. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!
Hurricane Irene is a distant memory, but her wrath still haunts many homeowners. Nine months since the storm raged (at a cost of $15.6 billion in damages), long-term effects are rearing their ugly heads. Concerns about toxic mold and contaminated water are creating a busy season for environmental inspectors.
“We are being called into homes this spring that look perfectly clean, yet when we test for mold we are getting mold spore counts that are off the charts,” says Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator. “When the flooding initially occurred, victims were quick to clean up the water, dry out their basements, and power wash and bleach the walls. But they didn’t realize that their walls were soaked through, and now mold is growing behind their wallboards, ceilings, and other hidden places.”
Irene also creates outside problems. Water contamination is a major environmental issue in the aftermath of any hurricane. The high water from flooded rivers, ocean swells and broken water mains creates a runoff that can pick up contaminants from buildings and homes. Water mixes with pollutants from dry cleaners, gas stations, dumps, factories, flooded basements, and cars creating a toxic mess that can then make its way into homes, playgrounds, and drinking wells—places that put people at a risk of serious health problems.
“Homeowners often think that since they acted fast and clean everything up, they are safe,” explains Weitz. But don’t worry — it’s not too late to act. If you suspect Hurricane Irene may have caused residual damage, notify your insurance company and have a professional inspector come in to test your home or business. It’s the only way you’ll know if you have a serious mold or water contamination problem. Put Irene in her place once and for all – the past!
How RTK Environmental Helped NBC’s TODAY SHOW Film This Segment on Mold Contractors:
This morning, NBC’s TODAY SHOW featured an important hidden camera investigation to determine if mold contractors (an industry mostly unregulated) were attempting to rip off unsuspecting homeowners. In March, NBC contacted RTK to help them with their hidden camera investigation.
As an independent testing company with a pristine record, RTK was hired by NBC News (after a thorough vetting) to verify that the test homes used in the segment were mold-free. Although the segment only aired for a few minutes, several hours of thorough testing were performed by RTK to assure (and to document for) producers that the homes in use were free of mold. Filming actually occurred over a period of several days with multiple trips to each location.
The moral of the story is: If your contractor tells you that you have mold without an insisting on performing an independent test, you may be getting ripped off. (Here’s our contact information if you need an independent mold test.)
Buyer beware: It is a conflict of interest for your mold contractor to test your home for mold. You’ll likely save in the long run by hiring an independent testing company to verify a mold condition and to provide your contractor a “blueprint” for the mold remediation process.
Be sure to look for RTK Environmental Group’s Robert Weitz in the video (he’s the tall blonde-haired guy identified as one of the “reputable” testing companies hired by NBC). We’re thrilled to have worked with NBC News on this important piece.
The Northeast is about to switch from fire warnings to a flood watch. Our parched yards are going to meet some wet weather, and that can actually cause flooding, then mold to grow in your home if you are not prepared. Here’s why…
When a large amount of rain falls in a short amount of time on very dry soil, water cannot be absorbed at the same rate that the rain is falling. So it travels, as it needs to go somewhere. That ‘somewhere’ might be your basement. And if your basement floods, mold is not far behind.
Here are some tips to prepare your home for spring storms:
Tip 1: Be sure your gutters and downspouts are free from leaves and debris.
You probably haven’t thought about your gutters since last fall. But throughout the winter, leaves and organic debris collect there. When that happens, water (from rain) cannot be channeled away from your house. A flooded basement can result. So, make sure your gutters, downspouts, and outside drains are clear of debris.
Tip 2: Prepare your basement.
If you think you’re vulnerable to flooding, check your basement floor drains to be sure they are not blocked. Remove anything from the floor or next to windows that you do not want to get wet. If there are boxes or any other cellulose materials on the floor, place them on tables or crates to alleviate direct contact with water. Once wet, they can rot or turn moldy.
Tip 3: Anticipate leaks in advance, if you can.
Some of us already know where there are trouble spots in our homes. Place towels and buckets on the floor in the affected areas. If you know a window leaks, secure towels in that area before the rain begins. In heavy rains, you may need to change the towels and empty the buckets several times. Most importantly, once the rain and leaks have stopped, remove the wet towels and buckets from the area immediately, or you risk mold growth, which can start in as little as 24 hours.
If you have concerns about mold growth in your home, have a certified mold inspector in to test and assess the damage and give you options as to how to fix it. Mold can cause serious health problems, including asthma, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. When there’s a dry spell, we desperately need rain – just keep it outside of your home!
But the all-important first step that is often overlooked is to hire a professional mold testing service to examine your property. Although it’s true that some mold can be seen – black marks on walls, white blotchy marks on upholstered furniture – many of the hundreds of thousands of mold species are invisible, hiding behind walls, under floors and in your ceilings.
Experts always recommend testing for mold whenever your home suffers from water damage, from an event as catastrophic as a flood to a leaking pipe in your kitchen sink. But it’s also wise to have your home tested for mold, even if you have never had any water damage. Just a week of humid days can start mold growing. Smart property owners consider a professional mold test a baseline exam to determine if your home has mold, and if so, to pinpoint where.
Toxic mold can take hold within 24 hours after any unwanted moisture enters a home. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma.
“Getting your home tested for mold now can save you big headaches later,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator. “Most people wait months, long after a mold infestation has taken root, before they deal with the problem. Once this happens, repairs are often extensive and very expensive. I’ve seen people who had to leave their homes for extended periods while these problems were being remedied.”
Click here or call 800.392.6468 to schedule a professional mold inspection by RTK’s certified microbial mold inspectors.
Even before Hurricane Irene hit, the Northeast experienced a record rainfall this August. Irene just added more problems to our already damp or flooded basements and high water tables. Now what? First off, let’s not forget about mold, which can get a jumpstart anywhere water has seeped into your home. Within 24 hours, toxic mold can become a problem. You might not see it immediately, but within a few weeks, mold’s smell will tell you it has taken hold. And that’s when the real problems begin, since mold can trigger allergies that cause headaches and coughing, as well as irritate the nose, skin, and eyes. For people with asthma, mold can make breathing particularly difficult.
There are immediate steps homeowners should take as soon as water enters their houses:
- Take pictures of the damage, and remove the water immediately. Don’t wait for your insurance company to call you back. Waiting — even for a few hours — could accentuate the problem.
- Mop, vacuum, or pump water out of the affected area as soon as possible. Remove wet items and materials.
- Dry out residual moisture that is left in concrete, wood, and other materials. You can use a dehumidifier or ventilation. If basement or attic windows open, mount fans in the openings. Unplug electrical devices and turn off the circuit breakers in the wet area, if possible.
- Anything that is not wet, bring to higher ground.
- Some items, once wet, should be thrown away immediately, including cosmetics, medical supplies, stuffed animals, and baby toys.
- Toss out materials that can’t be dried within 24 hours, such as mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, and items containing paper, including wallboard.
- Put aluminum foil under the legs of furniture to avoid staining damp floors. Wooden clothespins can keep upholstered furniture skirting off damp floors.
- Once the area is dry, bring in dehumidifiers and large fans to remove any excess moisture.
- Have your home tested for mold by an accredited inspection company.
The black mold in your basement or attic may look frightening, but it may just be unsightly, and not necessarily toxic mold. All black mold is not toxic mold.
That’s why it is so important to have mold testing done. It will determine what type you actually have so that you can take the proper course of action to remove it through mold remediation.
There are over 100,000 different types of mold. Most cause upper respiratory tract symptoms, coughing, and wheezing in otherwise healthy people. Those with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections caused by mold. However, if you have been exposed to toxic mold, however, such as Stachybotrys, Acremonium, Memnoniella or Chaetomium, you could suffer from a myriad of serious symptoms and illnesses such as:
- chronic bronchitis
- learning disabilities
- mental deficiencies
- heart problems
- multiple sclerosis
- chronic fatigue
- rheumatoid arthritis
- multiple chemical sensitivity
- bleeding lungs
In order to grow, toxic mold, like other molds, starts out when water soaks wood, paper, and cotton products or other products, usually as a result of water damage, excessive humidity, water leaks, condensation, water infiltration, or flooding. Constant moisture is required for its growth. When wet, toxic mold may appear slimy with white edges.
While toxic mold can bring on the most serious health problems, all mold can cause health issues in healthy people – especially those who suffer allergies. So the best course of action is to have it checked out by a professional to determine the severity of your problem through mold testing, then devise a mold remediation plan that suits your needs.