There is much more to home ownership then signing papers and moving in. There’s some hands-on, elbow grease kind of work that is required to preserve the physical structure that is your investment- your home. That’s why urbaneer is writing another installment in our “Healthy Home” series, where we address issues surrounding home ownership and home maintenance - as well as some of these issues as they are interconnected to your health. It’s all about keeping home (and homeowner) in tip top shape.
Check out our other posts in this series, “Is Kitec Plumbing Draining your Pocketbook”, " Guide To Radon Exposure" and one about Sick Building Syndrome in our post called “The Search for a Healthy Home”. We even explore the daily commute in “What are the Real Financial, Emotional and Health Costs of Commuting?.”
This time around we’re going to look at household mold. The very mention of it can make a homeowner weak in the knees, because of the potential financial and health related consequences. The good news is that there are a number of preventative maintenance actions you can take to keep mold at bay in your house. Here is a good post from Real Estate Weekly News (REW.ca) called “Household Mold: Five Key Problems and their Solutions.”
Mold requires moisture to grow, which is the reality in our climate. It can grow upon a wide variety of substances that contain organic matter, like food, paper, wood, carpeting, leather, cardboard, wallpaper, ceiling tile, insulation, etc. etc. Although mold and mildew are undeniably gross, they do serve a function in the great outdoors, by helping organic matter break down and enrich the soil. However, when you encounter this environmental phenomenon within the walls of your own home, where it shouldn’t be, then you run into health and structural risk.
As far as health problems go, if you are living in a moldy house, you could be faced with respiratory problems that include sinus, eye and nose congestion. If you already have a respiratory condition, like asthma or COPD, the presence of mold exacerbates it. Children, the elderly and pregnant women are more vulnerable. People also report having headaches commonly with mold contamination too.
General Cleaning and Preventative Mold Maintenance
If you’ve discovered mold and are planning on cleaning it out yourself, make sure that you arm yourself appropriately, with rubber gloves, mops, sponges, buckets, bleach, anti-mildew cleaners and a vacuum. Using a spray of equal parts vinegar with equal parts water will be helpful in helping to remove the mold.
Different rooms with have different environments and require more specific preventative measures, but here are a few general tips. Ventilate wherever you can with open windows and fans. Don’t neglect plumbing leaks, where water can quickly accumulate. Store items in well ventilated areas where they won’t come in contact with moisture. Clean your upholstery and fabrics regularly. A good dehumidifier in your home is a good investment as well.
If mold needs moisture, than it is no surprise that it proliferates so easily in the bathroom. You often see mold creeping along the grout lines in the shower and tub. As moisture builds up, the mold grows and can cause damage to the drywall or lifting tiles. There is much that you can do to stop mold before it starts.
Firstly, make sure that your humidity-rich bathroom is well ventilated; an exhaust fan will do much to disperse and remove humid air after a shower or running the hot water. Always spread out towels to dry, so that moisture won’t accumulate. In your shower, keep containers to a minimum, and clean on a regular basis with an anti-mildew cleaner. Make sure your grout is in good repair, and re caulk as needed.
Sweating toilets can be mold culprits as well, especially along the floor, because of the extra moisture, so take care to make sure that your toilets are in good repair too. You may not even realize this is happening until you see discolouration in the ceiling below the toilet. Keep an eye on your toilet. If it’s more than 15 years old, or if the tank is giving you problems, you should consider replacing it.
Detect a foul odour? It could be coming from the drain. One great, easy fix is to dump equal parts baking soda and white vinegar (baking soda first, followed by vinegar). Together, they will bubble up and freshen your drains. Flush generously with hot water.
An extra step is to paint your bathroom with special microbial paint that will deter mold from growing on the walls.
Again, as moisture is mold’s bestie, the area around the sink and the dishwasher are generally mold hotspots, often because of undetected leaks. Behind the fridge and on area ceiling and walls are also common breeding grounds.
To cut down on the likelihood of kitchen mold, it’s a pretty easy fix. Make it a habit to check in those areas that you don’t see on a regular basis (i.e. under the sink, behind the fridge, inside cabinets) to look for leaks- or to detect mold before it gets out of hand.
Around the sink, reduce the likelihood of mold by making sure the caulking is in good repair. When it’s cracked, moisture seeps in- and mold follows soon after.
Fans are a great way to clear the air when you’re cooking- but can also help divert humidity out of the room. Just make sure that they vent the moisture outside.
Avoid having rugs or carpet in the kitchen, as they will trap moisture. Similarly, those areas are likely to be spilled upon, making it hard to keep them moisture free.
Every once in a while, make sure that you give the kitchen walls a good scrub down, just to be on the safe side. Grease and grime will form a film over time, also a good mold breeding ground.
Given that the basement is frequently one of the dampest places in a home and is often “the” spot in your home for storage, the stage is set for mold if you’re not vigilant. If you’ve got a basement that isn’t as dry as it should be (i.e. is poorly sloped, isn’t properly protected by waterproof membranes, etc. etc.), the moisture is substantial. Take steps to make sure that water flows away from your home’s foundation.
Avoid the mold by making sure that keep boxes and other storage items away from direct contact with walls, where the moisture will get trapped. Get rid of junk you don’t need. It’s just taking up space and creating an unnecessary vulnerability to mold.
Make sure that the basement is well heated and as dry as possible (a dehumidifier will come in handy here). You’ll want to cut down on organic materials in the basement too - like storing wood or growing plants.
Upholstery, Carpet and Fabric
If you detect mold on any of these, clean as much of it as you can outdoors (these things are mobile) to avoid sending mold spores through your home. Clean with chlorine bleach. For carpet and upholstery that you can’t take outside, engage in a very vigorous vacuum. On mildewy carpet, mix 1 tablespoon of liquid laundry soap to 2 cups water and scrub it out.
Other Mold Hot Spots
When you let dirt and dust accumulate around windows and combine with condensation, you’ve got the formula for mold. You can avoid this by keeping your windows as dry as possible. You should clean them frequently too (vinegar solution again is useful) to avoid the buildup of grime.
Attics are notoriously poorly ventilated, which means that they are very effective at producing condensation. Condensation of course, opens the door to mold growth, especially when you think of that condensation coming in contact with all of that insulation and wood that typically line the attic. Make sure that your attic is properly sealed. Warm air circulating into that cold attic will not only promote mold growth, it is hampering your home’s energy efficiency as well.
Once you’ve secured your dream property, you must embrace the business of finding the best way to live your life within those walls in order to keep that dream going. We help you anticipate some of the issues you may face and help to determine ways to proactively make your tenure as the homeowner smooth and successful. Be sure to follow our Healthy Home series which provides useful home care tips and addresses common health concerns that homeowners should be aware of and how to remedy them!
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