Got mold? Last month, severe storms and flash flooding affected several areas of Central Texas. Many of those affected are now dealing with a common result of water damage: mold. Mold is a factor consumers may not immediately consider, but one that can cause serious structure damage and health problems if it is not taken care of.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mold reproduces by releasing tiny spores that float through the air, invisible to the naked eye. It is able to grow anywhere a food source, oxygen and moisture are present, and is especially prevalent after extensive rain or flooding. Excess moisture in homes and businesses due to flooding is a cause for concern because it provides breeding conditions for mold.
It is important to act quickly when cleaning and repairing a home or business after flooding because the longer it grows, the more damage it can cause. Also, remember that if you clean up the mold but don’t fix the water problem, the mold will most likely come back.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin offers the following advice if you think you may have mold:
- Inspect for moisture problems and document results. According to the EPA, consumers should inspect the interior and exterior of the building, whether it is a business or home. Look for evidence of moisture and mold problems like water damage or stains on the walls or ceilings, foundation cracks that leak water and peeling paint. Also, check for visible mold growth, wet or damp spots and a musty odor.
- Discard items with visible signs of mold growth. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to salvage items with mold growth (sofas, mattresses, carpeting, towels, etc.), especially if they have been wet for more than 48 hours and not properly dried. Solid wood furniture can be saved if surface cleaning removes any signs of mold. When in doubt, throw it out!
- Know your risks and possible side effects. There are several health risks associated with mold and mold growth. Many people may experience allergic reactions and other respiratory issues when mold is present. Exposure to mold can cause symptoms such as eye irritation, wheezing and skin irritation. Extreme reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. Mold can also trigger asthma episodes.
- Know what types of molds exist. While there are many classifications of mold, aspergillus mold is the most common household mold, found in almost any home or office, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They are the most studied molds in medical research, and are associated with numerous respiratory disorders. Stachybotrys molds grow on material such as wood, paper and cardboard. Commonly called “black mold,” this mold requires very wet or high, humid conditions for days or weeks in order to grow.
- Be Proactive. To control mold growth, control moisture. If you notice a leak in your shower faucet or sink, repair it immediately to avoid the ideal habitat for mold. Clean and dry any wet or damp surfaces within 24 to 48 hours. Vent bathrooms, kitchens and other moisture-generating sources to reduce indoor humidity and prevent mold growth.
If you do have mold, BBB advises:
- Do your research before hiring a mold remediation business or contractor. In 2014, BBB received several consumer complaints nationwide against Mold and Mildew Inspection/Removal/Remediation. Most complaints reported problems with service, repair and billing. Ask for referrals from friends and family and make sure the contractor has experience cleaning up mold.
- Compare prices and services. Get at least three estimates for any service you would like provided. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used. Make sure the contract includes any verbal promises the contractor made and details on any guarantees.
- Plan the remediation before starting work. Asses the size of the mold and/or moisture problem and the type of damaged materials before planning the remediation work. The remediation plan should include steps to fix the water or moisture problem and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Mold remediation may include temporary relocation of some or all of the building occupants, especially when dealing with aspergillus mold at a business location. If you have health concerns, consult a health professional before starting cleanup.