Excess water and mold growth
It’s no surprise that Pittsburgh received a record amount of rainfall in 2018. In September 2018 alone, Allegheny County accumulated over seven inches of rainwater. Since many homes in the region experience water intrusion, mold growth has spiked. With hundreds of homes affected and treated for this, it leaves many people wondering what they should do moving forward after mold remediation.
Correct any water intrusion issues at the source and within 48 hours of discovering them.
The number one priority when avoiding mold growth is to control moisture. Address any grading, gutters, and downspout issues. Hire a waterproofing company to help with drainage around the home. Utilize retaining walls, exterior and interior French drains, and sump pumps to keep moisture at bay.
Monitor relative humidity.
It is inevitable that the ground will hold moisture with the Western Pennsylvania rainfall. Block foundations absorb some of this moisture because they are porous in nature, but humidity in basements can easily get above 60% relative humidity. This can lead to microbial growth on surfaces and contents. Avoid mold growth by running an appropriate sized dehumidifier. Keep the relative humidity below 50% at all times in basement areas and below 60% in living spaces.
Avoid temperature differentials and air leaks.
‘Dew Point’ is a term that you may hear often on the morning news. This is when you have surfaces with varying temperatures meeting and causing condensation (dew). Think about a cold can of beer on a hot summer’s day. In relation to your home, this happens often in attics, basements, and areas of walls and ceilings that lack insulation. Mold growth on attic sheathing happens when hot air from your living space leaks into the attic space due to inadequate insulation. When the hot air comes in contact with the cold underside of your roof, it creates extra condensation. Extra moisture equals mold growth.
Contact a professional to ensure your home is properly insulated. Any air leaks or lack of insulation in ceilings and walls can lead to dew point. Keep attic accesses insulated. Seal any ceiling fixtures to avoid air leaks. Sagging insulation at the top of walls creates temperature differentials.
Keep spaces within the building conditioned and properly ventilated.
Many homeowners try to save money on heating and cooling by sealing off unused rooms and closing vent covers. Unfortunately, this leaves the room vulnerable to temperature changes and humidity swings. Basically, this turns the area into a petri dish for unwanted microbial growth. In unconditioned spaces like attics and garages, ventilation becomes even more important. Proper ventilation and adequate airflow help keep spaces dry.
Have your duct work cleaned.
Mold spores are very tiny and travel via the air. Whether the mold source is in the basement (often where your HVAC is located), or an area of the home where a cold air return is located, your system is bound to contain spores. Always make sure that the professional you choose to clean your duct work is recognized by the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association).
Purchase a HEPA filter air purifier.
HEPA filters arrest particulate much smaller than mold spores. A HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter is designed to remove 99.97% of airborne particles measuring 0.3 micrometer or greater in diameter that pass through it. This ensures that mold spores that pass through the filter are captured, eliminating the possibility of mold growth.
Purchase a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner.
Did you know that normal vacuum cleaners chop up particulate and send it back into the atmosphere? When you have a HEPA filter on your vacuum, it ensures that any spores collected during cleaning are captured and not released back into your indoor environment.
Purchase microfiber cloths.
Microfiber cloths contain up to 110,000 fibers per square inch of material. They are incredible for collection of dust and smaller debris. Microfiber cloths have the capability to remove particulate as small as bacteria. Because fragmented mold spores exist within dust, regular cleaning and dust removal after mold remediation keeps mold away longer.
Perform general cleaning.
Unfortunately, mold remediation does not replace the need for general cleaning of your residence or building. Dust and bio films will develop on surfaces, even if they are not prone to mold growth. Depending on the conditions, mold occurs when pores land on these surfaces and feed on the debris. Keeping your home free of dust, dirt, and debris creates a healthy indoor environment.
Clutter makes it very difficult to thoroughly clean your home because layered items trap dust and debris. Additionally, it is difficult to rigorously dust and vacuum. It is stressful to eliminate clutter, but it does help stop mold growth in it’s tracks. If you have difficulty addressing your clutter, try a simple 10-minute routine every day to help you declutter your home.
Other tips to avoid mold growth
Attics and basements are the most common area for mold growth. Airflow is restricted in these spaces, so it is difficult to keep them ventilated and dry. Using your attic as a storage space is not recommended, since the airflow is blocked by stored items. Additionally, avoid storing items against exterior walls in basements. Many homes in Western Pennsylvania develop moisture issues at the foundation. If personal items are piled up along exterior walls, there is no way for airflow to reach the moisture and dry it out. Microbial growth is inevitable because the contents will trap the moisture.