Jon Eliason
Associate Broker


If your basement is musty, if there are black, green or purple blotches on or behind your walls and ceiling tile, or if there is any kind of growth thriving under your carpets or rugs, you are probably sharing your home with a colony of mold.


This is a potential health danger for your family and also a legal liability should you want to sell your home.


Because of fear over mold contamination there are so many lawsuits flying around today that sales of resale homes are in jeopardy in some jurisdictions and insurance companies are scrambling to avoid liability – with some U.S. insurers refusing to write any new homeowner policies.


Just how much of a health danger mold can be is currently being debated in courtrooms around the continent.  But there’s little doubt that some people are quite sensitive to it.  And there’s no doubt that there’s a lawyer poised to allege personal injury or property damage at the first whiff of a musty odor.


Even in healthy people, concentrations of mold can cause stuffy noses, irritated eyes, wheezing and skin rashes.  More severe reactions include fever and shortness of breath.  Persons with chronic illnesses or suppressed immune systems can develop mold infections in their lungs. 


Molds are fungi, occur naturally and are found everywhere that moisture is present.  As they grow they release spores that can be transported through the air, on people’s clothing or on pets.  One inside a building they will grow if they encounter moist conditions and can latch onto organic materials that they use as a source of food.


The latter is easy, since homes are full of organic materials, including carpets, leather or upholstered furniture, wood, painted surfaces, wallpaper and even dust.  The former is more common than most homeowners think: Moisture comes from leaking pipes, condensation from windows and doors, rain seeping through roofs or foundations, and clothes dryers that are not vented to the outside.


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says there are six common household molds and half of them produce toxins.  Since there’s no way simple way to distinguish one mold from another, all should be eliminated from homes as soon as possible.



Molds can be prevented and eliminated by removing the source of moisture.  Once a home is dry and has ongoing humidity control and proper ventilation, new molds will not flourish and existing mold will go dormant. 


If mold is found on non-porous elements it can be killed using a mixture of water and chlorine bleach.  But contaminated absorbent materials such as insulation or ceiling tiles should be discarded. 


It’s also wise practice not to store clothes or books (or anything packed in cardboard boxes) in rooms with poor ventilation or that are not air conditioned or at least dehumidified.  Carpeting should not be installed directly on top of concrete floors, in areas that are frequently moist, such as bathrooms, or in areas where there is frequent condensation.


If homeowners fight mold on their own, they should wear protective gloves, glasses and a mask or respirator to prevent inhaling airborne spores.  They can also eliminate some leaks and improve ventilation by installing and using exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens.


But it may take a professional such as a trained home inspector to determine the source of excessive moisture and know how to correct the problem.  Poor grading, for instance, is a common cause of wet basements, the most popular room for molds to establish colonies.


Author: Thomas Recke is an ASHI Certified Home Inspector and an EDI Certified EIFS/Stucco Inspector.

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