Good Morning Team,
Erin in our corporate office suggested that with all the rain that we have recently had, I should focus on water intrusion and mold. Several of our properties have had moisture intrusions in one form or another and unfortunately some of our associates have suffered leaks and flooded basements from this excess rain as well. Any water standing, dripping or flowing where it isn’t wanted is always bad, but beyond the immediate danger and damage that this leaking water causes there are longer term concerns that we have to be aware of, namely mold growth. Now mold itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, according to the WebMD website, without it we would be up to our necks in dead leaves, plants, and trees among other things.
Mold is a naturally occurring type of fungus that consists of small organisms that are found almost everywhere. They can be black, white, orange, green, or even purple. Molds require water to thrive and reproduce and they send out tiny, lightweight spores that travel on currents of air. We are exposed to these mold spores every day and in small amounts they are generally harmless. Some people who are sensitive to molds may experience nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing, eye irritation, or even skin irritation. People with mold allergies may have more severe reactions and for those folks who are immune-compromised or have chronic lung illnesses, they may get lung or other infections that can be very serious.
While mold does require moisture, it also needs food. Besides the aforementioned dead leaves, plants and trees found outdoors, it also grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood products, dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabrics and upholstery. In other words, anything organic and those are the very things that most indoor dwelling spaces have an abundance of. Since we are unlikely to ever be rid of mold’s food source, we have to eliminate all sources of moisture from unwanted areas. Keep in mind that mold can grow without an actual leak or flood event as well. High indoor humidity can also lead to the growth of mold.
We need to promptly repair leaky roofs, windows or pipes. Basements that leak can be tough to solve, but a possible solution is preventing water from gathering around the foundation. Diverting downspouts and sloping all landscaping away from the structure is often the best first step. Always run exhaust/ventilation fans when showering, doing laundry or cooking. Installing a whole house dehumidifier might also be considered. Thoroughly clean-up and dry everything that did get wetted by a leak or flood. Mold begins growing in as little as 24 – 48 hours. The type of items wetted will determine the method best used for drying it, but pulling all excess moisture out with a wet vac. or extractor, setting up fans or blowers to circulate air, opening windows and doors to the outside when humidity is lower out than in, and using a dehumidifier can all be used to help speed up the drying process.
If you do find mold growing in your home or workplace you will need to clean it up after fixing its water source. It is not important to know what type of mold is growing, mold is mold. If you have it, the best practice is to remove it. Mold growing on non-porous surfaces can be cleaned using commercial products, soap and water, or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. Make sure that you follow all safety precautions while using these cleaning products and never mix different products together. Porous items like unpainted drywall with mold will need to be cut-out and replaced. Painted drywall can often be cleaned as the mold is unlikely to have penetrated the paint. Wood trim can have its surface cleaned, but spores will likely remain in the grain. As long as moisture levels are kept in check regrowth should not be an issue. While there are options when cleaning other porous items that have mold growth, it may be best to seek professional help or simply discard and replace the item.
Please note that most of the advice given here is only dealing with “clean” water. If your flood or leak was from something other, you should seek professional assistance as soon as possible. In fact, in the event of a large leak or flood of any kind, or finding large amounts of mold already growing, seeking professional assistance might be the very best way to go from the start. These folks can work closely with your insurance company and they have the special training and equipment needed to help ensure that your home or workplace will not continue to be damaged by mold. It can’t be overstated that if water intrusion sources are not found and eliminated then there is little hope of preventing mold growth in the first place.
I hope that all of you that are dealing with leaks and floods are beginning to see things dry out and return to normal.
Have a safe and dry week.
Director of Facilities Services