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Mold in your house isn't just unpleasant to look at. Left untreated, it can pose serious negative health effects for the people living under your roof, like breathing problems and exacerbated asthma symptoms. Here, we'll talk about why mold happens, what it looks like, and how to prevent and treat it.
What is mold?
Mold is a fungus. There are different types of it, and it can show up inside your home as well as outside. Mold produces spores -- tiny particles that can reproduce. And when people breathe it in over an extended period of time, health problems can ensue due to poor air quality, especially among people with weakened immune systems.
What causes mold?
Mold growth is fueled by water and high humidity levels. If your home stays humid for too long, it can result in a mold problem. And poor ventilation in your home can lead to high humidity, especially in places like bathrooms and kitchens, where there's likely to be moisture from bathing or cooking.
Water leaks are especially problematic. If you have a leaky roof, you may find that mold grows on your ceiling. If you have a leaky pipe, the same might happen on walls or in cabinets below water fixtures -- for example, your kitchen and bathroom sinks.
What are the signs of mold in your house?
If you've ever had a loaf of bread go bad sitting out on your countertop, then you're no doubt familiar with that greenish-blue tint that sends an important signal to your brain to not put that bread in your mouth. Unfortunately, mold in the house isn't always so obvious, but there are a few signs you can look out for.
First, if your health takes a turn for the worse, it could be due to mold exposure, so if you're suddenly coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose a lot more, and you haven't been exposed to a cold virus or don't get seasonal allergies, there's a good reason to suspect mold. The same holds true if you have asthma and start experiencing an uptick in flare-ups while at home for no good reason.
Secondly, though mold isn't always visible, it can smell. Think about the last time you put an old sponge or sweaty pair of socks up to your nose. If an area of your home smells like that, suspect mold. Some people say that mold in the house gives off a "stale air" smell. Trust your nose if it tells you something is off.
Of course, there are visual signs of toxic mold you should be on the lookout for as well. Black mold is often visible on light, unobstructed surfaces, like walls and ceilings, so if you see scattered small black spots, assume it's a mold problem. But mold can take on other colors, too, so you also want to look for discoloration -- the presence of a color that doesn't match the color the surface in question is supposed to be. Furthermore, moisture problems and mold tend to go hand in hand, so if you don't see black or colored spots on your walls and ceiling, but you do see water marks, assume a mold problem is brewing.
How to treat mold
Once you discover a mold problem, your next step should be to treat it immediately. If that mold is contained to a small area, you may be able to manage it yourself. In some cases, soap and water will do the trick for scrubbing off mold spots. Otherwise, a diluted bleach solution may be in order. If you're going to tackle a mold cleanup solo, wear a mask so you don't breathe it in (or don't breathe in your bleach solution), and wear gloves and goggles for protection.
If your mold problem is more widespread, you'll probably need to call in a professional. HomeAdvisor reports that mold remediation generally costs between $1,114 and $3,342, with the average price being $2,228. But the expense you'll incur will depend on how extensive the problem is. Remember, in some cases, a professional might need to break up walls to rid your home of mold, which is apt to cost a lot more money than simply scrubbing at hard-to-reach areas.
How to prevent mold
Once you've experienced mold, you'll never want to do it again. That's why it's crucial to prevent mold, and you can do so by reducing humidity and preventing leaks in your home. Specifically:
- Use a dehumidifier in areas of your home that tend to see extra moisture (such as your basement and attic).
- Install proper ventilation throughout your home, but especially in bathrooms and your kitchen.
- Open windows frequently to allow for better air circulation.
- Seal cracks in your roof and rain gutters to avoid leaks.
- Examine water fixtures and pipes for leaks, and repair them as necessary.
Furthermore, it could pay to invest in a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum cleaner and air filters, which can help eliminate mold spores from your home.
Don’t let a mold problem fester
It's imperative that you deal with mold in your house the moment you suspect it. Wait too long, and you'll put your family's health at risk. And if you're a landlord and learn of a mold problem in a rental property of yours, you'll need to act immediately then as well. Otherwise, you'll risk a lawsuit from your tenants if the presence of mold negatively impacts their health.
A mold problem may not damage your home’s structure like a sinking foundation or termites, but it can cause serious long-term problems you don’t want to risk. For that reason alone, it pays to make every effort to prevent mold in your house.
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