Winter brings lots of pleasant things. Mold is not one of them. In addition to being unattractive, mold growth can be hazardous to your health, destructive to your home and may even result in higher homeowners insurance quotes or, in the worst case scenario, a canceled homeowners policy. Here’s what you need to know to prevent all of the above.
Mold is a fungus and the microscopic spore it uses to spread are everywhere. Mold isn’t a picky eater, either. All it needs to survive and thrive is moisture and a host. The host can be your bathroom tile, clothing, shoes, books, carpeting, furniture and the materials your home is built of, including drywall and substrate flooring.
It is infinitely easier and cheaper to prevent mold than it is to eliminate it, which is why insurance companies get antsy about writing policies for home with a history of mold-related claims. It’s also why you want to focus on prevention and early, aggressive elimination.
Excess moisture is mold’s best buddy and your worst enemy. Seek out and eradicate all sources of excess moisture. Checkanywhere water can enter your home such as roof leaks, breaches in paint, cracks in foundations, crumbling caulking, rotted seals and plumbing leaks. Humidifiers and inadequate venting of high moisture environments (kitchen, bathroom, laundry room) are other mold makers. You’re looking for fuzzy or cottony growth in a range of colors. But not all mold is visible – it likes to hide under rugs, tiles, behind walls and inside upholstered furniture and porous surfaces. If you smell a musty odor, you’ve got mold and a problem.
Maintain an indoor humidity level of between 20 and 40 percent during winter months. Ventilation, air circulation and drying heat can help. Place fans or dehumidifiers in at-risk areas. Use dehumidifying crystals in closets and cabinets. Just turning on a low-watt light bulb in closets can help keep your best loafers turning into mold-munch.
If you have mold or if flooding has created a mold-friendly environment, you need to immediately dry everything that’s wet. A hairdryer on low can work well on small items but for large areas you’ll probably need to hire professional equipment. Remove, bag and dispose of all porous material that has mold growth on it, including drywall chunks, insulation, carpets and pads, ceiling tiles, fiberboard products and paper. Solid, non-porous materials can be cleaned and dried, but to avoid health hazards, consult your local state department of health for the proper way to destroy mold and mold spores.
Mold never sleeps, so you need to remain vigilant. The effort is worth it because the destructive power of mold is expensive to correct and can have a real negative impact on your homeowners insurance quotes.