Ah, the scent of a piney Christmas tree, filling your home with love, light, good cheer – and mold spores! Yes, trees decay and release mold spores into the air. And right about now, when the tree has been in your home at least a week, is when the sneezing and wheezing begins.
So, you’re heading to the beach as summer season begins. The thought is delicious! But don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a musty odor after you walk into what you had hoped would be your home away from home. Mildew! Mold! Whether you are at the Jersey Shore or the Hamptons, there’s an excellent chance that the home you’re renting or own has been flooded during a hurricane, been exposed to excess moisture and humidity, or has had a leak. Now, your nose is getting a strong whiff of the result. So what can you do?
“The first thing to do is open the windows and get air to circulate,” advises Robert Weitz, Certified Microbial Investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group. Weitz says this is a common problem, as many vacation homes sit empty and closed up over the winter months, collecting moisture, especially since 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. The house next door may be fine, and yours may be a serious health hazard.” The important thing is to have your home tested right away so the problem can be fixed, your health is not compromised, and your summer is not ruined.
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.
Short-Term Solutions to Summer House Mold:
– Keep the windows open as much as possible if the weather is dry;
– Use a dehumidifier to reduce moisture;
– Change the filter in the air conditioner before you turn it on;
– Wipe off any visible mold on walls, floors and tiles with a bleach/water mixture;
– Ask that the inspector pinpoint if the mold is toxic or not;
– Have the mold properly remediated.
Remember, if you own the house 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. In New York, it is illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same job. Whatever the case, mold can become a big issue quickly, so don’t ignore it!
With the onset of the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rise of professionals working from home. But if you set up offices in your basement, you could be soon wheezing and coughing. And the problem never seems to go away.
That’s because these barons of the basement are probably subjected to long-term mold exposure, since basements are often moist, and moisture and mold go hand-in-hand.
“Mold is not just ugly looking, it’s increasingly recognized as a serious health hazard,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal of RTK Environmental Group, the leading environmental testing firm in the Northeast. Mold has been known to 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.
Mold can get a jump start anywhere you’ve got leaky pipes, drippy appliances, or water creeping into the house via the roof, gutters, siding or foundation. To survive, mold simply requires two elements: a source of moisture and a source of food. Mold spores will adhere themselves to porous materials like paper, carpeting, and sheetrock, all things commonly found in home offices.
If you think you can simply throw away paper files contaminated with mold, think again. Some mold spores have been known to sporulate or “throw themselves” toward moisture sources. Once airborne, the microscopic mold spores can easily float and be carried by the gentlest air currents. Additionally, there may be mold hidden behind walls, in air ducts, under floorboards, and places you’d never think of. It can be detected only through proper testing.
That’s why it is prudent for people who work at home to call in experts to detect mold problems and pinpoint the infestation’s possible causes.
For more information or to schedule a mold test, call RTK Environmental at 800.392.6468.
Mold Testing: Do-It-Yourself Kits vs. Professional Testing
Is it ok to use a do-it-yourself mold testing kit? Are home testing kits for mold reliable? Will a home testing kit ensure the health of my family? We get questions like these all the time. The answer is simple – no.
There are offers for home mold testing kits everywhere, from your hardware store to the internet. Each guarantees you will be able to determine if there is mold in your home. But before you invest in one of these kits, there are some important facts to keep in mind.
Mold is everywhere, and actually plays an important part in our ecological system. For example, if it weren’t for mold, fallen leaves would not break down, with the result being mountainous piles of leaves everywhere.
Home mold kits are basically science experiments that tell you if your home has mold. All homes have some level of mold. What you need to know is:
– The type of mold present in your home;
– Where the mold is located;
– The source of the moisture in your home; and
– What can be done to rid your home of mold.
DIY-mold testing kits do not reveal this information. You need a professional mold test, conducted by a certified microbial investigator (CMI), to accurately report these important facts.
How DIY Mold Testing Kits Work
Home mold testing kits use “settle plate applications.” You set the provided dish out for a specific period of time, usually 24 to 48 hours, and the spores are supposed to fall into the dish. Unfortunately, false negatives and false positives are common with home mold tests. Additionally, even if the test discovers you have mold, it does not identify the type of mold, and whether it is toxic or not. To find out this important information, you have to send the dish of collected samples back to the company who distributes the testing kit, of course at an additional cost.
The results come back, and in most cases, they are unreadable. Instead of saying you have black mold or that you need black mold remediation, it will, for example, give the scientific term, “stachybotrys.” It’s up to you to find out what type of mold this is, and whether you need mold removal or remediation.
Where is the Mold?
Sometimes you can see mold growing. In most cases, you cannot. It’s hiding behind your walls, in your ceiling, or under your carpets. Home test kits will not tell you where it is, so without your knowledge, mold is still spreading out of sight.
CMI’s Tool Kit
A CMI’s report is accurate and precise. The investigators test for mold with sophisticated tools, including infra-red equipment, borescopes (to view inaccessible areas), moisture meters and hygrometers (to measure moisture content).
Professional Mold Testing
It’s important to hire a professional environmental testing company that only conducts testing, not mold remediation or mold removal, so you are assured of an accurate and unbiased assessment. A CMI’s inspection will:
Discover where and why excess moisture is entering your property;
Conduct air monitoring, air sampling and bulk sampling to compare the results with normal background mold levels;
Send all samples to independent laboratories accredited by the American Industrial Hygiene Association;
Identify the affected areas and measure the amount and types of mold present;
Determine if the health of your family is at risk and if professional mold remediation is necessary;
If mold removal or mold remediation is required, once it is completed, the CMI will return to your home to conduct a final mold testing. This is the only way to make certain all your mold is gone.
Click here or call 800.392.6468 to contact RTK Environmental Group and set up a mold inspection.
Infants who live in homes with mold are three times more likely to develop asthma by age 7. Horrid news, especially since most homes in the Northeast contain some type of mold.
The alarming statistic about infants comes from a study conducted at the University of Cincinnati published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Researchers analyzed seven years of data gathered on 176 children enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS).
Eighteen percent of children in CCAAPS were asthmatic by age 7, a staggering statistic since current estimates say only 9 percent of school-age children in the United States will develop asthma.
In light of the study, if expectant or new parents suspect there is mold in their homes, it would be prudent to have their home tested immediately. In addition, there are some actions we can all take to make our homes healthier places.
First and most important: Fix all leaks immediately.
Check all washing machine hoses and fittings for leaks and kinks.
Insulate basement and bathroom pipes that “sweat.”
Keep basement drains clean and unclogged.
Be sure window air conditioners have proper exterior drainage; keep filters clean.
Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathrooms.
Keep humidity low in your home by running dehumidifiers in damp spaces.
If basement walls are finished with Sheetrock, install vents near floors and ceilings to allow air to flow.
In places where moisture is a problem, use easily washable area rugs rather than wall-to-wall carpeting.
Test your home for mold by calling in a certified mold inspector. Do-it-yourself mold kits are often inaccurate.
Grade soil around the house to direct water away from the foundation.
Keep gutters and downspouts free of debris and ice.
Keep bushes and shrubs at least 12 inches from home siding.
Check roof shingles, vents and flashing for proper seal.
Check siding also – and point the lawn sprinkler away from the house.
It’s mold weather. Hmm? Yes, mold weather. The combination of heat, high humidity, and thunderstorms will invite mold to rear its ugly head. It may seem innocent, but it can cause major damage to your health and home. Here’s why you need to pay attention to mold:
Mold causes health problems.
All mold—whether it is toxic or not — causes health issues, including allergic reactions, sneezing, runny, itchy eyes, red nose, and skin rashes. Mold can also cause asthma attacks and can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat, and lungs.
Mold damages homes.
Mold can destroy the things it grows on – including your home’s walls, floors, carpeting, and furnishings. Often times, mold grows behind drywall, under carpets, and under floorboards. This is dangerous because by the time you find out it’s there; you usually have a major problem. In extreme cases, mold can grow to the extent that the home cannot be remediated, and needs to be knocked down. The key is to control moisture in your home and eliminate mold growth before it takes over.
TIP: Keep your humidifier set at 50% or below during humid summer months.
Don’t wait – take immediate steps to prevent mold, especially after heavy rain.
The most important thing you can do is to control moisture levels in your home. If water enters your home, take immediate steps to get rid of it. Remove anything that gets wet. Use vacuums and fans to rid surfaces of any residual moisture.
TIP: Take action within 24 hours, as mold can invade your home in less than a day.
Another preventative measure is managing the water runoff from your house. If the water pouring off your roof has nowhere to drain, it can and will find its way into your home. Keep your gutters and downspouts debris-free. Also, make sure that your downspouts are adequately angled away from the house. Otherwise, water will collect at the edge of the house and leak into the foundation and basement.
Make sure the company you hire to test does not also do remediation. An independent, certified testing-only service has no incentive to magnify the problem and increase profits through remediation services. They won’t bait you with “free testing”, and have nothing to gain financially by inventing problems in your home or business, therefore can potentially save you thousands on unnecessary repairs. Click here for more information.
The Environmental Protection Agency offers a free download, Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home. Check it out HERE.
In the wake of recent frozen pipe breaks, ice dams, hurricanes, and storms, there has been a lot of information disseminated about mold. Unfortunately, much of it is incorrect, and could end up costing homeowners a lot of money. We’ve created a list of the top mold questions, from black mold to mold certification, as well as common misconceptions. Take this quiz and see whether you’ve been getting good advice or not on these frequently asked mold questions.
Once mold is remediated, it’s gone and won’t come back.
Answer: Wrong. Mold can return to water damaged sites that were remediated too quickly, before the area was completely dry. In these cases, remediators sealed up the walls only to trap moisture inside a dark, warm area, where mold thrives. Don’t get caught in a trap. If you had water damage and had it repaired immediately or incorrectly, you may still find mold reappears, either because the home didn’t fully dry, treatment did not work, or unscrupulous contractors didn’t actually kill it. Trust only an independent, Certified Microbial Investigator to tell you where the mold is and when your home is dry enough to fix.
I only need to test before I remodel and not after, correct?
Answer: Incorrect. Testing after the remediation and renovation is done is just as important as testing before. You need to make sure the mold is gone and that the remediation was done properly to avoid a future problem.
Can you take care of a mold problem by yourself rather than hiring a professional?
Answer: Possibly. If the mold is visible and the area is small enough (less than a 3-ft.-x- 3-ft. square patch), you can probably clean the mold yourself. The EPA provides information on how to clean mold on your own. If the area is larger than that, you should have an independent testing company assess the area and provide a removal blueprint for a remediation company.
It’s cheaper and easier to hire a company that does both remediation and testing, right?
Answer: Wrong. Homeowners should hire two separate vendors for testing and remediation, according to an article from Angie’s List, which states “Hire one company to do the testing and another to remediate to eliminate any conflict of interest.” Companies that offer to test and then remediate may offer mold testing on the cheap, but they could plan to make up the difference through remediation services. They’ll tell you all the mold is gone, but you can never be sure if the problem was properly remediated – or if it existed at all. Many consumers end up paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. In New York State, a consumer protection law was passed in 2016 making it illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same mold job.
Do mold companies and inspectors need to be certified?
Answer: Yes, although many are not. Be sure that your environmental testing company holds the Certified Microbial Investigator accreditation from the American Council for Accredited Certification. In New York, mold inspectors must also be trained, certified, and licensed by the state. Choose carefully. To find out if the individual or company you want to hire is certified, click here to search for them on the ACAC site.
You failed to mention whether your basement walls are cement or Sheetrock. If the mold is on Sheetrock, it is impossible to remove it. The moldy areas must be cut out, removed, and the walls must be replaced.
What you will need to assess and clean mold:
First, schedule a professional mold test to assess the situation. This will give you a blueprint of where the mold is, and whether you will be able to clean it yourself;
A mask or respirator to filter out the mold spores you’ll be disturbing;
Rags and a scrub brush;
Non-ammonia soap or detergent;
Fan and/or dehumidifier;
Work clothes, either old or white, since you will be using bleach;
Plastic garbage bag;
Before removing black mold from a cement wall, dampen the moldy area well with a rag and plain water. This will keep the mold spores from disbursing through the air. Then scrub the area thoroughly with a scrub brush and non-ammonia soap or detergent to remove as much of the mold as possible.
Next comes the all-important bleach wash, which will remove any leftover mold, in addition to stopping future mold growth. In a pail, add 1½ cups bleach to 1 gallon of water. Wet the surface well with this mixture, letting it soak in for about 15 minutes. Scrub the area with the scrub brush. Then rinse well with clean, clear water. Repeat these two steps until all visible mold is gone. Next, use a fan and/or dehumidifier to dry the area well. If you leave any moisture behind, you are leaving your wall open to mold growth.
And finally, remove your work clothes in the basement, place them in a plastic bag, and head to your washing machine. The clothes will be coated with mold spores, and the last thing you want to do is track those spores throughout your house. Add ¾ cup white vinegar to your wash water to kill the mold on your clothes.
If you suspect you have mold in your home, call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6468 for information about mold testing or to schedule a test of your home.