There are many ways water can enter your home. Several main sources of water problems are through leaking pipes, or by seepage through basement floors (also known as hydrostatic pressure). Cooking and hot showers also add moisture to the air in your home too. The amount of moisture air can hold depends on the air temperature itself—when the temperature drops, air isn’t able to hold as much moisture. In colder months, moisture presence often occurs as condensation on cold surfaces such as pipes or window panes, which can facilitate mold growth and growth of other biological pollutants as well.
You may want to consider installing a vapor barrier in your basement or crawlspace to prevent ground moisture from rising and entering your home. Also, ensure your crawlspaces are well-ventilated.
If water is entering your home from the outside, you have several options for fixing leaks and seepage. These include waterproofing, minor landscaping, or even excavation. Basement water often results from improper exterior grading (water is not flowing away from your home in the event of rain) or occurs from a faulty gutter system. Leaking tubs, sinks, and plumbing can also create problematic conditions that encourage the growth of mold and other biological pollutants.
Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove excess moisture—vent these areas as well, particularly the clothes dryer to the outside.
Turn off portable heaters and humidifiers if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
Use air conditioners and dehumidifiers, especially in hot, humid climates to reduce moisture in the air. However, these items can become sources of pollutants if not properly maintained and cleaned.
Properly insulate storm windows, and if possible, install storm windows on the inside instead of the outside. Try to keep as many interior doors open as possible to increase air circulation in and between rooms. Circulation helps carry heat to colder areas which can help to keep spaces drier. You may also want to move furniture away from wall corners to promote heat and air circulation. Make sure that your house has a source of fresh air to keep excess moisture in the home to a minimum.
Carpet easily absorbs moisture and can serve as a place for many biological pollutants to grow— in fact, carpet on concrete floors is typically a major source of mold growth. Consider using area rugs that can be removed and cleaned frequently—a good alternative to permanent carpeting. In certain climates, when carpeting is installed over a concrete floor, it may be necessary to install a vapor barrier over the concrete first. Then consider covering the floor with other sub-flooring to combat moisture problems.
Moisture issues and solutions vary from one climate to another—the Northeastern United States is cold and wet compared to the Southwest which is often hot and dry. The South also tends to be hot and wet, and the Western Mountain states are generally cold and dry. All regions do have moisture problems however. For example, the use of evaporative coolers in the Southwest often encourages mold growth. In more temperate regions of the United States, air conditioners may cool air too quickly and not run long enough which ultimately does not remove excess moisture from the air.
We often hear statements like “When I was a kid no one ever cared about mold and we didn’t die from it” or “Why all of a sudden do people care about mold when we used to just clean it off with some bleach or vinegar”? There are many homeowners that believe this is another fad or over-hyped media creation and that mold has always been in our homes and we shouldn’t make a big deal when we find it.
The truth of the matter is that mold is MUCH more a part of our lives today for some very specific reasons.
The change in the way we construct our homes over the past 30 years has led to many indoor air quality issues. With the cost of energy bills rising every year and the increasing focus on environmental issues, homes are now being built whereby air cannot freely move from the outside to the inside and vice versa. This is great for keeping heating and cooling costs down, but it is bad in that it allows indoor biological pollutants to accumulate and pose possible health risks as well as damage to the structural integrity of the home. Homes that were built prior to the 1970’s were very poorly insulated and so the build-up of pollutants was not as common back then- hence the myth that mold is not a big deal.
The other more significant change is the dominance of using sheetrock in place of plaster and lathe on walls. Sheetrock is composed of gypsum with paper on both sides. Both of these ingredients provide an excellent source of food for mold. So once moisture is present in any form in a home, the potential for mold growth exists far greater than it did 10, 20 or 30 years ago. A little education and research can quickly dispel those ideas or thinking that mold is a fad.