Protecting Your Home against Mold

Mold damage is a potential threat to any building. Whenever water enters a home, fungi commonly referred to as mold can form on a wide range of materials, including drywall, wood, and carpeting. Because mold survives by breaking down and feeding upon organic material, it can cause serious damage within a short period of time.

In addition to causing structural damage to houses, mold can be a source of health problems for homeowners. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), molds can produce allergens, irritants, and even potentially toxic substances. People who touch or breathe in certain types of mold or fungal spores may display symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose, shortness of breath, red eyes, and skin irritation. Mold exposure is particularly dangerous for people with respiratory conditions or weakened immune systems.

Prevention Tips

Given the risk mold poses to both your home and your health, it is important to take steps to fix any water or moisture problems in your home. Preventing mold growth is one of the best ways to avoid costly damage.

  • Minimize Humidity. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers can help keep the humidity level between 30% and 50%, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Make sure you keep drip pans and drain lines clean. In addition, avoid carpeting in damp areas and install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom. To increase ventilation, open windows when possible.
     
  • Use Mold Inhibitors. Regularly clean moisture-prone areas, such as basements and bathrooms. Also, consider painting damp areas with paint that has a mold inhibitor.
     
  • Maintain Your Home. Replace or repair a leaky roof, keep gutters clear, and make sure the ground slopes away from your house to avoid puddles around the foundation. In addition, regularly inspect your plumbing and appliances; consider replacing water hoses every five years.

Cleaning Up Mold

In the event you have water damage or excessive moisture in your home, it is important to act quickly. You may be able to prevent mold growth if you dry affected areas within 24–48 hours.

Once mold starts to grow, you may be able to minimize damage with a quick response: Thoroughly clean moldy items and dry water-damaged areas. Scour hard surfaces with detergent and water. Porous items, such as ceiling tiles, rugs, and papers, may have to be thrown away. When treating mold or using strong cleansers, you should wear a respirator, gloves, and goggles. Also keep your working space well ventilated with open windows and fans.

For extensive problems, consider hiring an experienced contractor, especially if there is any risk of contamination from sewage or another toxin. If your heating or air conditioning system is harboring mold, keep the system off and seek professional guidance.

Insurance Considerations

Your homeowners policy provides limited protection for mold damage, covering contamination resulting only from a covered peril. Mold damage may be subject to low policy limits, such as $10,000, unless the loss is the result of fire or lightning, when full coverage applies. For example, if a pipe bursts in your home causing water damage, your insurance would cover the cost of eliminating mold, subject to policy limits. Unless damage results from a sudden or accidental disaster covered under your policy, the cost of treating mold is considered part of the homeowner’s obligation to maintain a home. For example, the expense of treating mold that stems from excessive humidity or leaks would not be covered.

With proper maintenance and regular cleaning, you may be able to prevent serious mold damage in your home. Be aware of the places mold can hide: behind wallpaper, in ceiling tiles, under rugs, or behind furniture, where condensation may be trapped. If a room smells musty or you see a watermark, investigate to make sure that a water problem is not lurking nearby.

Three Key Steps for Mold Control

  1. Control moisture using dehumidifiers and air conditioners.
  2. Clean up mold promptly and dry out affected areas.
  3. Fix water problems.

 

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