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Black Mold in Your Home: 5 Ways to Prevent the Scourge

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The mention of mold — unless it’s related to certain cheeses — is met with revulsion by most. Black mold is usually greeted with even more horror. Mold, which is a type of fungus, is an important part of the environment. However, in large amounts, mold spores are toxic and can cause symptoms, usually respiratory in nature, to even the healthiest individuals. So, as soon as you become aware of black mold lurking in your home, it’s best to remove it quickly and take steps to prevent it from ever coming back.

 

Where Does Black Mold Come From?

In a word: moisture. Mold thrives in high-moisture areas, then all it needs to grow (rapidly) are warm temperatures ranging from 40 – 100 degrees F, oxygen, and a food source. Mold can grow anywhere in your home where these conditions exist but the most common places to find it are inside walls or behind or on drywall. You may also find toxic mold under carpeted areas.

So, what can be done to prevent black mold from getting even a toehold in your home? Glad you asked. Below, we unpack the five main areas prone to developing black mold and give tips on how to prevent it.

 

1. Water Leaks

Whether it’s a current or past issue, if you’ve had any sort of water leakage — from a burst pipe, leaky faucet, or heavy rainfall, you run the risk of growing mold. Mold can even develop from condensation on your windows. According to the EPA, mold can start growing anywhere within 24 to 48 hours after exposure to water. However, the mold spores won’t be visible to the naked eye until around 18 to 21 days when the spores colonize and can be seen more easily.

Prevent

To avoid leaks from pipes, toilets, or appliances, regular maintenance goes a long way. Check your laundry and dishwasher hoses regularly for wear and tear. Fix dripping faucets when you first notice the problem and inspect your toilet tank from time to time to ensure none of the parts have worn out. If you’re leaving your house empty for more than a day or two in cold weather, set the heat to low to avoid your pipes from freezing and bursting.

Of course, water leaks can happen with even the most rigorous maintenance routine. When they do occur, call in a professional immediately to repair the problem (if you’re unable to fix it yourself) and get your place cleaned and dried out as fast as possible.

 

2. Humid, Moist Rooms

Bathrooms are the perfect breeding ground for mold. Our private (and usually small) oases are damp from a steady supply of moisture from steam and water in the shower, bathtub, and even the toilet. Often, there’s a lack of good ventilation as some bathrooms don’t even have a window. Black mold spores are just waiting for their chance to get growing and spreading.

Prevent

Your built-in extractor fan is your ally in this situation. Use it every time you run water or bathe and leave it on for a good fifteen to thirty minutes after your shower. If you’re blessed with a bathroom window, open it too to let in fresh air and sunlight. Keep shower products and sponges on a rack so they don’t trap water underneath. After showering, keep the stall door or curtain open to let air circulate. Glass shower doors and tiles should be squeegeed after each use. Plastic shower curtains need to be washed regularly.

 

3. Damp Basements

Basements feature prominently in horror movies for good reason. After all, what’s scarier than a damp, dark place where mold has so many ways to colonize undetected? Basements can harbor excess moisture from multiple sources. Moisture from the inside — especially if the laundry’s housed down there — contributes to high humidity. Then you have the increased potential for hidden water leaks from broken pipes, moisture seeping through the foundation, or from other external sources.

Prevent

Inspect basement walls regularly and when you notice a crack, fix it immediately with sealants such as epoxy and hydraulic cement. Good drainage, clear gutters, and strategically planted bushes around the perimeter of the house will all serve to keep unwanted moisture away from your foundation, reducing humidity levels in the basement. Investing in a good de-humidifier — or even two, depending on the size of your basement — will go a long way to keeping the environment “hostile” to mold spores.

 

4. Condensation Areas

Condensation occurs when warm air comes in contact with a cold surface, such as a wall or window or when there’s high humidity in your home. This produces water droplets making the perfect environment for mold to get a hold. A typical household’s daily cooking, showering, and clothes drying all contribute to the buildup of water vapor, which has nowhere to go.

In modern times, water vapor buildup is exacerbated due to double glazing on our windows and insulation in our attics and lofts. The measures that make our abodes warmer and drier by efficiently sealing up our homes, leave no nooks and crannies for fresh air to get in. And…where there’s prolonged moisture…mold will follow.

Prevent

The key to reducing condensation is adequate ventilation. You need a continuous source of fresh air — especially in the kitchen and bathroom where most of the moisture is created. If your vents and fans don’t work that well or are nonexistent, try to keep a window open, even if it’s just a crack.

If that’s not possible, consider investing in a de-humidifier. Three things to keep in mind about de-humidifiers: the bigger the room, the bigger the humidifier needed, they eat up a lot of megawatts, and they need to be cleaned regularly…to prevent them from developing mold. That said, de-humidifiers do a good job of reducing moisture.

 

5. Flood Water

There are multiple ways your house could be under siege from flooding. First, internal sources, such as faulty drainage systems, clogged toilets, and burst pipes pose a risk. Then, depending on your location, your home can face external threats, such as heavy rainfall, storm surges from the sea, melting snow and ice, or dams or levees breaking.

Prevent

The internal risks of flooding can be mitigated somewhat by performing routine maintenance as described above. Check your pipes, keep your big appliances in good working order, and your drains unclogged. External sources of flood water originating from the elements are not so easy to control. This is where prevention goes a long way.

Depending on your home’s location, you may want to install foundation vents or a sump pump. To keep flooded sewage systems from backing up into your home, install gate valves. Other measures include keeping gutters and drains clear to allow water to flow freely, positioning downspouts away from the house, and grading your lawn away from the house too. If your home is below known flood levels, identify specific areas that need to be dry proofed with sandbags.

So…black mold: not quite as scary as it first appears. It is possible to eradicate this common household scourge if you discover it lurking somewhere in your home, but it’s better if you never give it a chance to get started. Be rigorous in your home maintenance, keep your moisture levels low, and take care of water leaks and related damage as soon as you’re aware of them.

 

 

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The above content is for informational purposes only and is not a direct representation of coverages offered by Wawanesa or its policies. The information does not refer to any specific contract of insurance and does not modify any definitions, provisions, exclusions or limitations expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. All references within the above content are illustrative and may not apply to your situation. The terms and conditions of the actual insurance policy or policies involved in a claim are determinative as to whether an accident or other loss is covered. To understand the coverage under your current policy, please log into the account management platform to review your policy or contact an agent directly.