The M Word…Mold

Mold has gotten a bad rap in the media over the years and for good reason. At Summit Home inspection in Norfolk, Va. we encounter many instances where we suspect mold is present in a home. There are a variety of mold and fungus types that home owners and we as home inspectors encounter. Black mold or strachybotrys chartarum is one of the most common found in buildings. Mold in general is a fungus that thrives in moist or wet areas, including inside your home. The basement and the bathroom are two of the most common rooms for mold growth, yet it can breed anywhere that moisture is present. Not only does mold look and smell bad and cause damage to your home, but many people will develop allergies to mold that cause them to sneeze, have runny noses and red eyes, and develop breathing problems or other health problems.

Signs of Mold In Your Home

Mold is often found alongside the bathtub, on the sink, and growing along the walls in the basement. Mold can resemble dirt or grout and ranges in color from a dark black to a deep green. There is often a distinct musty odor where mold is growing. Sometimes this smell is the only sign of mold, especially when it is growing behind your walls and cannot be seen. You should hire a home inspector if you suspect mold growth, but have no visible evidence of the problem. Many home inspectors work in conjunction with termite and moisture specialist companies. Visually noted rotting wood, a mold test and a moisture meter sometimes can tell the story through findings and are normally found and tested in the attic or crawlspace by your home inspector and frequently associated with the following:

HVAC System:

When the return filter in your HVAC system is old and dirty it begins clogging up the system which begins transferring dust, dirt and mold that has accumulated all through your home’s HVAC system. If left unchanged mold can accumulate in the ducts and vents. This is an easily rectified situation so stick to the maintenance schedule recommended according to the type of HVAC system in your home. Occasionally ventilation, humidifiers and other factors can cause the system to create excess moisture, which then is blown through the system and can accumulate in the ducts and registers.

Dryer or Bathroom Fan Vents Into Attic, Soffits or Crawlspace: 

This is a common deficiency we find when we are inspecting homes. This venting either happens by accident when a vent running through the attic or crawlspace becomes disconnected or is intentionally vented that way by a handyman who is unaware of the repercussions and terminates the vent in the wrong area. Why is it wrong? The moist humid air is being deposited into a cavity that is not equipped to properly ventilate this air. The proper way to discharge the air from bathroom fans and dryers is directly to the outside of the home.

Improper Insulation and Ventilation In the Attic:

The attic must be insulated properly and ventilated properly. Sometimes these two go hand in hand. For instance always install roll/batt insulation paper side down. Make sure your attic can breath and don’t cover the soffits.  If you are installing loose fill insulation, make sure to install soffit vent extenders which allow the ventilated air to vent from the soffits up the vent extenders in the rafters and into the attic. Also make sure the ridge vents, gable vents, turbines, fans and roof vents are adequate in relation to square footage and free of obstructions.  Improper ventilation in the attic can cause mold as well. In the winter, an improperly insulated attic can produce frost build up on the rafters and sheathing which then melts. The dark humid space is the perfect climate for mold.

No Vapor Barrier Under the House:

This is another common deficiency we home inspectors find. The purpose of a vapor barrier is to trap evaporating moisture from the ground when there is a temperature change or minor seeping ground water. If there is no vapor barrier, the moisture will evaporate and collect on the floor joists and sheathing. Because the space is cool and dark, it is the perfect place for mold to grow.

These tools can provide insight into a mold infestation and help figure out the source of the growth.

Undetected Leaks:

There are a variety of ways your home can have water intrusion. The supply and vent pipes in bathrooms and kitchens, water heaters and HVAC systems are all components of the home that use or produce water and use pipes to transport the supply or waste water. When these pipes leak they can often go undetected.  Roof leaks and overfilled gutters are also potential leak contributors. When any type of leak in the home goes undetected and water gets into ceilings, walls, the attic or crawlspace, these dark areas are the perfect breeding ground for mold.

Remediate Mold and Have a Healthier Home

Take immediate action if you suspect mold growth in the home, even if you can’t visually confirm its presence. You certainly do not want mold growth to persist and further damage the home and impact your health. A home inspector can diagnose the problem and recommend the next steps. Summit Home Inspections in Norfolk, Va. is experienced with this. Professional mold remediation companies have tools to safely remove mold growth. If you’re experiencing allergies, especially when inside your home, it’s time to consider that you may have allergies to mold. Look out for the signs of mold and contact a professional home inspector.

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