If you ask anyone in the Maryland or Washington, DC area, they’ll most likely tell you that their biggest complaint during the summer isn’t the heat – it’s the stick-to-your-clothes humidity that plagues our area year after year. Unfortunately, there are some things that absolutely love the humidity – mold and mildew.
Beyond just looking and smelling bad, mold and mildew can have devastating effects on both your health and your home’s structural integrity. Not only that, but mold and mildew development can indicate potentially serious moisture problems within your walls.
Mold and mildew can easily travel through the air and thrive in hot, humid environments. Both typically prefer to settle on organic material (although mold can survive on non-living materials such as tile, plastic, insulation and sheetrock), and manifest themselves in different ways – mold as a black, green or brown fuzz or film and mildew as a flat, powdery substance.
Mold and mildew need moisture to start growing and organic material to eat, and any surface in your home that has both of these things available is fair game – not only walls and ceilings, but books, clothes, paper and furniture can all be affected. Moisture can arise from anywhere – a leaky roof, flooding, bad drainage, poor ventilation, etc.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), finding mold in your home won’t be too difficult – you’ll probably be able to see it! Basically all mold or mildew infestations start out as thread-like growths or clusters of specks on moist surfaces. You may also smell a musty odor. However, the real thing you have to beware of is the mold you can’t see – the mold behind walls and ceilings, below floors or carpets, even behind furniture, appliances or pipes.
Sometimes, the first signs of mold you’ll notice will be the negative effects on your health – skin rash, runny nose, itchy eyes, cough and congestion along with fatigue, nausea, headaches or respiratory symptoms.
Unfortunately, there is no real way to get rid of all the mold and mildew in your home without first taking care of your moisture problems. There are, however, a number of things you can do to get the problem under control while you decide on a more permanent solution.
First, find and fix all moisture leaks in your home (this may require the help of a plumber). Leaking roofs and plumbing fixtures as well as aging HVAC systems should all be taken care of as quickly as possible. In addition, consider installing a sump pump or dehumidifier if you have moisture accumulation in concrete slabs or basement walls.
Next, you should try to keep your home as well ventilated as possible. Keep windows open and use ceiling as well as exhaust fans to keep fresh, warm air circulating through your home. This will make sure that any mold or mildew spores that enter your home get blown right out again.
On the other hand, make sure you seal all air leaks in your home by caulking or stripping doors, windows and walls. This will prevent mold and mildew spores from entering your home and staying there.
Make sure you clean and dry any wet clothing, upholstery or carpeting as soon as you can, and mop up any spills or leaks before they get a chance to attract mold and mildew.
Assuming your ducts are mold-free, running your air conditioner is a great way to dehumidify your house and help stop mold before it starts. Be careful though – air conditioners have to be properly sized to provide dehumidification along with cooling. A professional HVAC service contractor will be able to tell you if your air conditioner will dehumidify your home and help you prevent mold and mildew growth.
If you have a mold problem in your Maryland, Virginia or Washington, DC home, call James A. Wheat & Sons!