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Mold Prevention Frequently Asked Questions

Q. I live in a valley, about 200 yards from a large creek.  My house is 2 years old.  The builder took out only a few trees.  There are a mix about 50/50 of pines and hardwoods in my front yard (North).  We have lots of ferns that grow on the West side of the house.  I have lots of mildew and mold - on the house, porch, trees and black stuff on my dogwood trees.   

My question is - do you think it would help if we raked the front yard down a few inches to clear the years and years of old leaves that have broken down?   

A. Getting rid of decaying vegetation such as accumulated leaves and pine needles is a smart move on your part to reduce airborne mold spores in the area of your home---spores that will travel in air current movements to enter your home's open windows and doors and fresh air intake of your heating/cooling system. You should also consider cutting back or down any trees or big landscaping that block sunlight from hitting your home. The ultraviolet light rays in sunlight are natural mold killers. Living in a wooded environment means that your home is going to be bombarded on a regular basis by elevated levels of airborne mold spores, with resulting mold contamination of your home. Consider installing what is called a "mass media", very thick hepa filter in the return portion of your heating/cooling ducts to continually remove airborne mold spores from the breathing air of your home. You also would be wise to mold test your entire home to determine how severely it might already be mold-infested.

Q. I live in South Florida where power washing the roof is become a seeming integral part of the annual 'house cleaning rituals' Is there any product which can be used to treat a roof so that mould will not grow on it, thus eliminating the need for the roof to be power washed at intervals?

A. To prevent mold growth on your roof, there is not substitute for periodic [every few months, not once a year] high pressure washing of the roof surface to remove deposited/landed mold spores and organic dust/dirt, upon which the mold feeds to grow into mold colonies. Use borax laundry detergent, a natural mold cleaner, as the cleanser to mix with the spray water. The borax residue will help inhibit future mold growth.  To further help reduce the mold growth, at least once per year, after you have done an initial cleaning with borax, let the roof dry and then spray [with a regular sprayer, not a high pressure sprayer] with one or two wet coatings of  boric acid powder, mixed with hydrogen peroxide and water. Read the effective mix formula at Mold Mart. After the boric acid powder has dried naturally [killing any remaining mold spores and mold colony growths], then spray one more time to leave a boric powder crystal residue as a mold inhibitor. 

Q. We have built a new bathroom. What would be the proper steps to seal the drywalled walls and ceiling? I have already painted a coat of PVA primer on them. Should we be putting a fungicidal coating on next, before paint? Are high gloss paints more effective in preventing molds from happening? 

A. You are very wise to worry about mold prevention. Your next step should be to spray at least one or two wet coatings of your choice of Mold Home Remedy Recipes, available at http://www.moldmart.net, on the painted walls to kill any invisible mold spores which may have landed on the surface. Then, spray boric acid mix. Paint the bathroom walls with an oil-based, high gloss painting to seal the wall against exterior moisture penetration [e.g., from high humidity of showering, tub baths]. Have an exhaust fan that exhausts bathroom air directly to the outdoors wired in the bathroom so that the fan turns on whenever you turn on the bathroom light. The exhaust fan will exhaust humid bathroom air. Both Mold Home Remedy Recipes and boric acid powder are available online at Mold Mart.

Subject: Which material is less susceptible to mold growth?

Q. Can you tell me which materials (i.e. used for bathroom floors and walls, under sinks, and so on) are less likely to produce or encourage the growth of mold, and other toxic pollutants? And which ones are more likely to collect these things?

A. The very best is to use marble, or ceramic tile, set in concrete with adequate amounts of waterproofing compounded mixed into the setting concrete beneath the marble or ceramic tiles, and into the cement grout between the tiles. Mold cannot eat cement, marble, or ceramic tile.  

Both marble and ceramic tile can be washed easily and frequently to remove deposited mold spores and organic durt or dirt [mold food]. By using enough waterproofing compound in the setting cement and in the grout, the tile or mable is an effective moisture barrier to keep moisture from rising up [wicking up] from the concrete or wood or earth beneath the marble or tiles. Similarly, surface water [cleaning, spills, flooding] on top of the marble or tiles will not penetrate the marble or tiles to get to any wood surfaces beneath the marble or tiles. Marble and ceramic tile can be installed on either a concrete floor, or a properly built wood floor. 

 

Subject: Mold prevention in window repair

Q. I was just cleaning my house and found mold on the window ledge. They all have to be replaced. I did not wash the area with bleach I wiped them all down with PineSol.  Let the area air dry. I live in the North West near Canada.  If I make new window ledges what kind of wood should I use to help prevent this and the caulking what kind?  

A. Pre-treat the wood on all surfaces and edges with at least two wet sprayings of boric acid mix. Then paint with a semi-gloss or gloss enamel paint [oil-based paint is best]. You would be wise to check the humidity of your home and do mold testing to see if your home is mold infested. 

Q. Are house plants dangerous for people allergic to mold and house dust? 

A. Yes, because indoor plants thrive well indoors with regular watering. Mold loves to grow on plants, dead plant material, soil and fertilizers. The mold growth throws into the air large number of airborne mold spores which can mold cross contaminate the house and cause mold health problems for occupants. Having no LIVE or DEAD indoor plants makes for good mold prevention. Only plastic and silk plants are safe because of no mold spore generation. 

Q. I plan to build a new home in Yellow Springs, Ohio. We want to take all the reasonable steps to provide good air quality. We have key concerns regarding the ductwork. What specific recommendations do you have to reduce the possibility of mold growth in a new home in the duct system and basement?

 A. To prevent mold growth in the duct work and heating/cooling equipment, consider such steps as using sheet metal ducts (with NO INTERNAL insulation to trap dirt and mold spores and to foster mold growth). The insulation of the ducts should be on the outside of the ducts, isolated from the air flow of the ducts themselves. Sheet metal ducts can be cleaned of mold growth if necessary, whereas internally-insulated ducts and ducts made of other materials become throw-away during mold remediation efforts. Install several high output ultraviolet lights inside the system to kill airborne bacteria, viruses and mold spores. In the return air duct, it would be extremely useful to have a mass media hepa filter, changeable hepa filter to capture incoming mold spores. Mass media means about 6 inches thick or thicker hepa filter, and it requires special ductwork housing of course. You order the mass media filter to be installed with the system from the beginning. Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for the cleaning and replacement cycles for the hepa filter itself (which goes inside a housing unit in the return air duct). 

Q. I do not have a mold or mildew problem but I want to employ some preventative control in the attic of my one level home in Boynton Beach, Florida. What can I do? 

A. Spray all attic wood surfaces (including beneath insulation) and all roof timber surfaces and the attic side of the roof decking with at least two wet coatings of boric acid mix. Living in Florida means high humidity. Check your year-round humidity in the attic and through your entire home. If the humidity is 60% or greater, you are inviting mold to be permanent your house guest. You may have to use programmable dehumidifiers to reduce the level as close as you can to a mold discouraging 30-40%. 

Q. We are about to carpet (a portion of) our dry basement. Our son has mild asthma tendencies. So long as we keep the humidity 30-40% to discourage any type of mold (that shouldn't even develop anyways) and keep it vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum cleaner like we do the rest of the house AND use an Air Filtration system in the basement recreation room, we should be safe, right? Also, we will be using carpet tacks, NOT glue, to affix the carpet (in the rare instance we ever would have to pull it up). My questions are, (1) what type of preparation might we want to do BEFORE laying the carpet and or pad ? There currently is tile down now and it will be staying there with the carpet and pad going over the top of it. (2) Is one particular type of pad cleaner, better, than another? 

A. Your mold prevention precautions are very well thought out. I would add 2 more preventive steps. First, find out if your home has a mold problem [anywhere which can cross contaminate your entire house] by using our do it yourself mold test kits to mold test the basement, all rooms above, attic, and the outward air flow from each heating/cooling duct register for the possible presence of elevated levels of airborne mold spores, in comparison to your outdoor mold control test. Assuming there is no mold infestation problem found in your mold testing, your second preventive precaution would be spray at least one or two wet coatings of boric acid mix onto the basement ceiling, walls and floors prior to carpeting. Buy a synthetic rubber-based padding for additional mold protection. Then spray at least one or two wet coatings of boric acid mix. Keep your humidity in the mold-discouraging 30 to 40% range with a programmable dehumidifier in the basement. 

Subject: sealing the outside of concrete blocks to stop moisture/water intrusion in new home construction 

Q. We are currently building a home with US Homes Inc.  I have heard conflicting advice about sealing concrete block prior to applying stucco.  Some have said that you should do it to prevent water intrusion and US Homes says not to do it because it will not allow the concrete block to "breath" thus trapping moisture between it and the drywall.  What is your advice? 

A. Use an effective waterproofing sealant on the outside of the concrete block is very advisable to help keep water out of your home. You should also only install drywall in the finished home when you have done mold pre-treatment of interior block surface, wood timbers used, and drywall [both sides]. Use a hidden moisture meter to determine if the masonry wall is dry enough to do interior finishing. Then spray all such materials at least twice with boric acid mix. Make sure there is adequate ventilation in the basement and that the indoor basement humidity stays less than 60% including prior to your move in. You may need to use a programmable dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity to a mold-discouraging level [the best is 30 to 40%]. Learn about new home mold at Mold Removal.

 

Q. The use of carpet in schools has become somewhat of a controversial issue. Could you offer comments on the benefits/risks of carpet in schools? 

A. For the sake of occupant health, carpeting and padding should not be used in schools, commercial buildings, and homes to deny mold food to eat and a place to hide (hidden mold growth is a huge problem). The best floors for mold prevention are concrete (with adequate amounts of compound in the concrete mix), marble (set in cement with waterproofing compound), ceramic tile floors (set in cement with waterproofing compound, and as the tile grout), and vinyl tiled floors. If new concrete floors are being poured,  in addition to waterproofing inside the concrete mix, there should be a thick, highest quality water moisture prevention membrane (not just plastic sheeting) installed beneath the concrete to prevent ground moisture from wicking up through the concrete. 

Subject: Mold prevention tip for bathroom closet construction

Q.  I am redesigning a master bedroom. I would like to put two closets for clothing in the bathroom. There will be a vent in the bathroom ceiling but I am concerned about mildew or mold growing on my clothing. Is this something I should be concerned about? I live in Southern California so the climate is pretty dry, if that is an issue. 

A.  That would be okay if you install a powerful exhaust that takes humid bathroom air directly to the outdoors. You would need to run it during and after all showers and tub baths. You might also consider utilizing in the bathroom (away from tub and shower) a programmable dehumidifier which keeps bathroom humidity to a mold discouraging 30 to 40º. You should need plenty of ventilation in the attic area if you want to avoid mold growth on your clothing. I would recommend that you install a full louver doors to allow plenty of air movements. Inside the closet, be sure to treat all the wood studs, dry wall, and other building materials with at least 2 wet sprayings of boric acid powder mix. Both are available online. The floors and walls, including the floor of the closet should be ceramic tile set in cement which has adequate amounts of waterproofing compound. The tile should have cement as the grout (in any color you desire) with waterproofing compound. Closet walls and the louver doors need to be treated with not only boric acid powder mix in preliminary mold prevention, but also with a glossy or semi glossy enamel paint and/or with a clear plastic coating painted on as barriers to water penetration of the building materials. 

Subject: New home mold prevention steps

Q. I am constructing a house in Tennessee and would like to have it treated for
mold while it is being built. Can you recommend a company in TN that can do this for me? 

A. Inspect all timbers for black or dark blue mold stains and mold growth which need to be removed by power planing, power grinding [with wire brush attachment], power sanding, and/or timber replacement. Then spray all construction timbers, drywall, plywood, on all surfaces and edges with at least two wet sprayings of boric acid mix on all surfaces. It would be much more effective and affordable if you did it yourself, or supervised a handyman to do the spraying. To find a Certified Mold Inspector in Tennessee, please visit the Certified Mold Inspector Directory online at: http://www.certifiedmoldinspectors.com. 

Subject: Closet mold prevention tip

Q. I just found black mold in our bedroom closet and would like to know how to get rid of it.  Our bedroom is always cooler and never has enough circulation. Is this a common problem? 

A. To help prevent closet mold, leave the closet door open, or replace it with a louvered door so that there can always be air movement into and out of the closet. Check the indoor humidity in the bedroom closet, the bedroom and the rest of the house with a digital hygrometer, $30 from a large hardware or home improvement store. Keep your indoor humidity to 30-40% to discourage mold growth. You may need to run programmable dehumidifiers to control your indoor humidity.

Email your mold questions to phil@moldinspector.com
to get a direct answer from Mold Expert Phillip Fry.

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