A primer on mold

In last month’s blog post on home issues that cause buyers concern, we mentioned mold and given what a common household problem it is, we thought the topic warranted its own post. Mold is a natural substance that is everywhere. It grows best in warm, damp, and humid environments and reproduces by making spores. Many of us are sensitive to mold and can experience mild allergic reactions (stuffy nose, wheezing, dry or red eyes) or more intense reactions when exposed to it. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not recommend routine testing for mold, the logic being if you see it, remove it.

The places where mold tends to grow in a house are the bathrooms, kitchen, basement and attic. It’s pretty easy to keep up with cleaning the bathroom and kitchen as those are places we frequent regularly. Depending on the state of your basement (finished/unfinished, old home/new construction, jam packed with boxes/relatively uncluttered) it can be easy for mold to sneak up on you down there. Many home owners have never even been in their attics if they are not finished or easily accessible. They can be surprised when they go to sell the house and a structural inspection uncovers an attic full of mold. We recommend home owners do a regular mold inventory, sticking their heads in the attic, examining the foundation in the basement, checking out exhaust fans, etc. to ensure mold doesn’t get out of control.

Ways to decrease the presence of mold:

  • Keep the humidity of your home low - ideally 50% or lower. This can be achieved by using air conditioning or a dehumidifier.
  • Ensure there’s proper ventilation, particularly in the attic.
  • Use the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathrooms.
    • Regarding bathroom venting - make sure it’s not going directly into the attic.
  • Add mold inhibitors to paint.
  • Address condensation around pipes and appliances.
  • Remove carpeting from basement and bathrooms (yuck!).
  • If carpeting or upholstery gets wet, remove it quickly (24-48 hours).
  • If your basement tends toward being dank, look at the foundation and the grading around the exterior and address any issues.

When mold gets out of hand, it has to be professionally remediated. In 2016, New York State enacted a new mold law designed to protect the consumer. It established licensing requirements and minimum work standards for mold assessment. This legislation has had the effect of making the process longer and more expensive. When mold is noted during a home inspection, it triggers a multi-stage process. Not all home inspectors are certified mold assessors, so while they will note the presence of a “mold-like substance”, it’s likely a second, mold-specific inspection will be required. The certified mold assessor will confirm the presence of mold and provide a remediation plan. The next step is to get a certified mold remediation company to review the plan and provide an estimate for the cost of the remediation. Once the remediation is complete, a “clearance” inspection is required. As you probably already guessed, there is a charge for each step in this process so it really is in the home owner’s best interest not to ignore mold.

For more information on the topic check out the following sites:

CDC's Facts about Mold and Dampness

Probuilder.com 5 Steps to Proper Mold Remediation

NYS Department of Labor Mold Program