Sometimes finding something unexpected in your home, like a forgotten bit of money, can be a joyful experience. If the unexpected thing that you find in your home is mold growth, it can be quite the opposite. No one wants to find mold living within the same walls that they are living in, and luckily we can take steps to prevent it from happening. Keep reading to learn some helpful tips and recommendations for preventing mold growth from some mold prevention experts.
Charles Leduc, Chief Operations Officer at Mold Busters.
Catch Moisture Problems Early
There are several things that homeowners can do to prevent mold, even in a very humid climate. Having great insulation is the foundation for controlling your home’s indoor environment and air quality. You may choose to install mold-resistant materials in your home. Choose tile or laminate over the carpet, and install moisture-resistant drywall.
If anything is gathering condensation, such as windows, pipes, or concrete walls, you have to get to the root of where that moisture is coming from. It could just be that you need to use a dehumidifier, but it could be a leak in a pipe. In addition to using a dehumidifier, keep the air circulating in your home. Stale, moist air is where mold thrives.
The most important tasks for preventing mold are keeping things clean (which will be easier with tile rather than carpet) and inspecting your home regularly for sources of moisture. If you check the pipes and air conditioning condensation drain once per month, you’re going to catch a moisture problem before it turns into a mold problem.
Comprehensive Guide on Preventing Mold Growth
The key to preventing mold growth, regardless of where you live, but particularly if you live in a moist area, is to keep the water out of the home. Mold needs moisture to grow, so if you control the moisture, you control the mold. Because there are so many different ways that water can enter your home, we are going to be covering a wide variety of tips that every homeowner should know to keep your home mold-free.
If you live in a humid or moist area, water can come into the home through many different areas. These include doors, windows, gaps, cracks, or any other opening large enough to allow water from the exterior to the wall cavities or living spaces on the interior of the home. Consistent, preventative maintenance can keep these issues in check and prevent hidden mold growth.
Gutters & Downspouts
Gutters and downspouts are key elements in managing rainwater and keeping it from entering your home. They are vital because, without gutters and downspouts, water will pool along your foundation and eventually begin to work its way inside. Once the water gets in, it’s only a matter of time before you have a mold issue.
The best way to see if your gutters and downspouts are working correctly is to grab an umbrella and head outside during a hard rain. This will allow you to see what happens when the gutters and downspouts are put to the test.
When functioning properly, rain should travel down the slopes of your roof, and into the gutters. The gutters should be pitched to allow water to flow smoothly through the gutter towards the directed downspout. Once there, the water should run down the inside of the downspouts, and when it reaches the ground you should either see it enter an underground pipe or an above-ground diverter. In either case, the water from the downspout should be exiting the pipe at least six feet away from the foundation and be directed in a way that will not allow it to run back towards the home.
Here are some things to look out for when doing your inspection:
- Water overflowing from the gutters. If water is flowing over the side of the gutter it’s a good indication that either the gutter is not connected to the home properly, or the gutter is clogged.
- Missing downspouts. This one seems obvious but it is more common than you’d think. If the downspout is missing, you’ll see a consistent flow of water down a hole in the bottom of the gutter running down the side of the house and pooling right along the foundation.
- Water coming down the side of the downspout. The joint where the downspout meets the gutter is prone to corrosion, and can sometimes become damaged or disconnected. Generally, when this happens, you’ll see water running down the outside of the downspout and pooling near the foundation.
- Missing or disconnected diverter at the bottom of the downspout. We see this constantly. The gutters and downspouts are working fine but at the bottom of the downspout, the diverter is broken off or missing altogether. This is even more problematic as it directs a ton of water to pool right alongside the foundation.
Going hand-in-hand with gutters and downspouts is grading of the soil around the home. Grading is how the earth is sloped where it meets your foundation. Ideally, we want to see that the earth slopes consistently away from the home. This way, whenever rain falls and runs down the side of the house, it will reach the soil and wash away from the home.
Many times, without proper maintenance, the ground around the home will slowly sink and it can begin to slope in towards the home, diverting water in the direction of the home and pool at the foundation, allowing water to infiltrate the foundation at that point.
Paint & Caulk
Another set of exterior maintenance items that are key to mold prevention is painting and caulking. Paint provides a sealant on the wood that prevents the wood from becoming saturated by moisture. If the paint is cracked or peeling it will soon become water damaged and provide a clear channel for moisture to enter the home. When you see damaged exterior paint, it’s important to have it properly removed and repainted to provide a seal that prevents moisture from entering the home.
Caulking also helps prevent moisture from entering the structure. Where you have two different surfaces meet those joints must be properly caulked. Caulk provides a good waterproof seal but it must be maintained. Over time, with light exposure (UV rays) and temperature changes, the caulk will crack and break down and will need to be replaced. Periodically inspect the caulking around your home, and when necessary, remove and replace any caulking that is not in good condition.
Fix holes in the siding or foundation walls, specifically where wires, pipes, or anything else come into and out of the home. These areas must be properly sealed with either caulking or plumber’s putty. Regularly inspecting the condition of the existing waterproofing compounds on a home is necessary and those that are not in good condition need to be replaced.
Managing Water Inside the Home
Now, if water has managed to infiltrate your home, there are some things that we can do to prevent mold from growing.
Get a Dehumidifier
If you live in a moist area, or if you have a basement, you need a dehumidifier.
Dehumidifiers come in all shapes and sizes. Portable dehumidifiers get the job done in many cases, but a whole-house dehumidifier that works with your HVAC system is even better. These devices take moisture and humidity out of your indoor air and deposit it into a floor drain or sump pump. Not only will they help to regulate your humidity, but if you do have water intruding in your home, they will help it to dry out faster.
These are vital, especially in moist areas. If you have a subterranean basement, moisture is going to slowly move from the ground into your foundation walls. As moisture works through your walls and into the home, you need to make sure there’s a system in place for handling that moisture; that system is your dehumidifier.
Make Sure Air Can Move Through Your Home
Another important factor, particularly with subterranean basements, is considering how air can move through your basement. If moisture comes in, does it have the ability to dry?
Basements are commonly used for storage. Picture cardboard boxes densely packed, stacked several high and sitting along the exterior of the walls of a basement. When moisture comes in through those exterior walls it hits those boxes, and because there’s no gap to allow air movement, the moisture inside these densely packed cardboard boxes has no way to dry out.
The moisture then accumulates, especially on the contents and the cardboard (which is a fantastic food source for mold), and now you have a ton of damaged items and a significant mold issue. Unfortunately, this is a situation that we encounter constantly. The mold issue remains hidden until spring cleaning when the problem is discovered.
Be sure you have good air gaps when storing your items and you don’t have things densely packed around your exterior walls. This way, if there is light water intrusion, your items can dry effectively with circulating air.
Similarly, you want to avoid putting things directly onto the concrete slab of your basement. Again, if they get wet, they are not going to be able to dry out effectively and will continue to cause mold growth and other issues. Plastic or metal shelves are a great option to get your possessions organized and up off the floor, aiding in the prevention of a mold problem.
Keep it Clean!
Finally, the best thing you can do on the inside of your home to prevent or resolve hidden mold issues is to keep a clean and tidy home. Avoid clutter, debris, or other random items stored in your home, especially in closets, near exterior walls, and areas where there isn’t a lot of air movement. Dirt and clutter can provide both a hiding place for mold, as well as a food source. It may sound simple, but basic housekeeping is key in both mold prevention, and the early detection of a mold problem.
Tim Swackahmmer is the Founder and CEO of Mold Medics.
Walter Bennett is a Dallas TX based Handyman who specializes in Home heating & cooling, HVAC installation, repairing, air duct cleaning.
Preventing Mold Growth FAQ
How do I prevent mold growth in hidden parts of my home?
Maintaining a clean, dry environment is your best defense against any type of mold growth. Be sure to routinely clean and disinfect surfaces that are prone to dampness or have water contact. Keep the basement, garage, bathroom, laundry room, kitchen, or any other area where you keep household items or food dry and free of clutter. Cleaning up spills immediately also helps to prevent mold growth.
How does mold grow?
Mold grows best in moist, humid areas. It’s a fungus that needs food, such as decaying plant matter or organic material with moisture. It needs warmth to grow, so it’s often found in low-level areas like basements, garages, and basements.
What are the health risks of mold exposure?
The toxins in the mold may irritate your lungs, nose, throat, or eyes as you inhale them. You may also develop respiratory, skin, or even internal organ problems. It can also cause allergic-type reactions in people with severe allergies.
How can my home be protected from mold?
Keep the mold away from your home. Consider using a dehumidifier to dry the air in your home. You may also consider installing a fan-assisted dehumidifier if your home is prone to mold.
How can my home be cleaned and disinfected?
Use a professional cleaning solution to clean mold from a surface. Try a solution of one part chlorine bleach to two parts water. This solution will kill mold, bacteria, and viruses.
How can my home be kept clean?
Mold can grow anywhere, so be sure to regularly clean up anything that should be kept clean, such as bathroom drains, sinks, and toilets.
Solutions for the prevention of mold growth:
Mold growth is common in any home, but there are ways to prevent it. One way is to use a dehumidifier to reduce the moisture level in the home. The best locations for these devices include bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens. Additionally, an ozone generator can be used to keep mold out of basements by destroying all spores in the air. Get professional help if you cannot remove mold yourself.
- Keep a dry basement.
- Fix dripping faucets and leaks.
- Clean appliances in the kitchen and bathroom.
- Get rid of clutter.
- Keep the outside of your home dry and free of debris.
- Use a dehumidifier or fan-assisted dehumidifier.
- Avoid condensation.
Keep Humidity and Moisture Down
The growth of mold inside is usually not a concern unless mold spores land in wet areas. Getting sick from mold can be quite common. Some molds are toxic and produce allergens, irritants, and toxins. Individuals who are allergic to mold or mold spores may experience allergic reactions after inhaling or touching them. These symptoms can include sneezing, runny noses, red eyes, and skin rashes.
It is crucial to keep the humidity levels low since mold usually thrives in a humid environment. Be sure that you ventilate areas that are susceptible to excessive moisture. You should always use the vent fans in the kitchen, bathroom, and basement. If the rooms lack vent fans, an electrician can repair or install them. Also, install plug-in dehumidifiers and whole-home humidifiers.
You should dry wet areas in your home immediately because mold cannot grow without moisture. Whether it’s a leaky pipe, a damp basement, or a spill on your carpet, all of these situations should be completely dried out as quickly as possible. You should also hang wet clothing and bath towels up to dry immediately. Cleaning materials that have been contaminated by mold is extremely difficult.
You can keep your bathroom clean and mold-free if you take the time to do regular cleaning and drying of the surfaces in your bathroom and other moist areas.
Zac Houghton, CEO at Loftera.
Ted Mosby, Founder of CamperAdvise.
Three Ways to Prevent Hidden Mold Growth
- Stop water infiltration. Make certain that the water is directed away from the house. Repair plumbing leaks as soon as possible, and cover the soil in the crawl space with plastic.
- Maintain healthy humidity levels at all times. Make sure to ventilate areas that are prone to excess moisture. Turn on the vent fans when using the kitchen, bathroom, or basement. If there are no vent fans in these rooms, have them repaired or installed by an electrician. Consider installing whole-house humidifiers or plug-in dehumidifiers.
- Always apply disinfectants. Inspect for mold regularly and disinfect with a commercial disinfectant and fungicide.
Inspect your Rain Gutters for Clogs and Damage
If you live in a rainy/musty area, then you should pay special attention to your gutters because they will not be able to effectively do their job if you let foliage and detritus keep gathering in them over time. This can often lead to spillover during downpours, so instead of the water going through the downspout, it will end up running down your home’s siding. This leads to hidden mold that compounds in the attic or behind the walls over time, thereby leading to significant housing damage. However, you can easily prevent this by making it a habit to have them regularly cleaned and inspected often for damage.
Fix Faulty Water Sources, Manage Humidity Levels, and Have A Proper Ventilation
Moisture build-up, especially in hidden places around the house, can be a nuisance. It will be a cause for mold growth, and here are some ways to prevent that from happening.
● Fix any faulty water sources. A leaky faucet or wall can be a bigger problem than you think. If you let this go on for too long, you’ll be dealing with mold growth in no time. So once you encounter these problems, get to them right away.
● Manage humidity levels. Homes that are too humid can cause moisture build-up, which can then spur on mold growth. To get a more accurate reading of humidity levels, invest in a hygrometer or humidity gauge.
● Ensure you have proper ventilation. In most cases, we don’t notice the build-up of hot air in our homes. It happens during cooking or hot showers, and moisture build-up from it can cause mold growth. Make sure your home is well-ventilated at all times.
Keep Your Home Dry
Molds are troublesome, especially if you are in a moist area. You need to control them as much as possible. They grow because of the damp spaces and materials in your home. If the spores in the air land on them, molds will grow. What you can do is to make sure that your humidity levels at home are low. Dehumidifiers can help you with this problem. Exhaust fans are also important.
Also, make sure that there are no leaks in your roof or walls, because mold will most likely grow there. Your bathrooms may always be wet but there are products that you can buy that are specifically for molds. If you have any furniture that was soaked, dry it immediately, especially if they are wooden because it might also rot.
Lorna Franklin from MyHome.ie.
Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO of Lawn Love.
Ventilation and Insulation
Ventilation and insulation are going to be your best friends. Ventilation allows air to flow more freely throughout your home, and airflow is not ideal for mold growth. When the weather allows it, try having your windows or doors open when you can. Otherwise, use fans to create airflow. Insulation should be used to cover cold surfaces, like cold water pipes, and that will also help prevent mold. You can also try using a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity in your home by pulling water out of the air.
Keep A/C and Dehumidifier Running
Mold needs two things to grow: it needs the temperature to be higher than 60-degrees and 60% humidity. If you prevent one of these then the mold won’t grow. To keep the temperatures under control you need to keep the A/C running all the time (365 days per year). To keep the humidity under control you need to run the dehumidifier all the time (365 days per year).
You can also install a thermostat that turns the A/C and dehumidifier automatically when the temperature and humidity reach a certain point. To prevent mold growth in hidden parts you just have to keep the A/C and dehumidifier on all the time. Just make sure the air reaches the hidden parts; keep the doors open during the day for that.
Tony Adams is the founder and editor of DIYGeeks.com.
Cathy Abraham is a cleaning expert at Everything Better.
Control the Factors you Can
Mold needs more than just moisture to thrive. It needs darkness, warmth, and food. So even if the moisture level is high, you can avoid mold by controlling other factors.
Keep the home clean without letting food particles accumulate under the couch, drain, or sink. Also consider using mold-resistant paint, especially in the kitchen where the chances of mold growth are higher.
Whenever possible, open the windows and let the sunlight in. The UV rays in the sunlight deter mold. You can also reduce the humidity levels by allowing sufficient ventilation.
It would be a good idea to invest in a dehumidifier if the humidity level at your home exceeds 60%. A dehumidifier draws in the moist air and brings it in contact with a cold coil to condense the moisture. The water is collected in a drip tray or a tank depending on the model. Using a dehumidifier, you can reduce the humidity level to 30-50%. Also, ensure that you fix any leaks promptly.
This is a crowdsourced article. Contributors’ statements do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this website, other people, businesses, or other contributors.