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Case Study: Mold Growth in Jane’s Home

A home improvement project can sometimes take an unexpected turn. In our client’s case, it was the catalyst for the detection and eventual elimination of a hazardous mold problem in her home.

Jane contacted us after a general contractor opened a wall inside her home and discovered what appeared to be a large patch of mold growing inside. Her house was less than 10 years old.

Often, people don’t see or smell anything to make them suspect massive patches of mold are growing just on the other side of where they hang family portraits.

Jane’s family, including her three young children, could have experienced health issues from the excessive mold growth flourishing behind her wall. If any of them had allergies or asthma, they could suffer even more.

Jane reached out to her neighborhood experts for help.

Health Hazards of Excessive Mold Growth Inside a Home

Mold is a natural part of the environment. It is present everywhere and usually doesn’t cause any problems.

Mold inside a home, however, can grow into a serious issue. When mold is nourished and provided with moisture, it can thrive in dark places like the inside of Jane’s wall.

Left untreated, mold growth in the home can flourish and cause people who live there to develop troublesome health issues. Mold exposure can cause minor health issues such as:

  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Throat, eye and skin irritation
  • Coughing and wheezing

But it can get much worse for people who are sensitive to mold. People with mold allergies may experience these unpleasant symptoms to such an extent that they detrimentally affect their quality of life. Mold can also trigger complications in sensitive people with asthma. Immunocompromised people with lung issues can develop serious lung infections if they inhale mold spores.

Young children like Jane’s are more susceptible than adults to developing health problems from mold exposure.

Healthy Home Performs a Comprehensive Mold Inspection

Healthy Home technicians arrived at Jane’s home and immediately constructed a containment system inside to separate the affected room from other areas of the home. This effort protected family members from further potential mold exposure during the testing process.

Our professionals then performed a visual assessment of the affected wall and surrounding building materials. As was true in this case, mold can sometimes be detected visually during an inspection.

We also looked for indicators of moisture problems during our assessment. Mold growth thrives in damp places. Visual indicators of moisture problems inside a home include metal corrosion, peeling paint, and insect infestations.

A visual examination was only the beginning of the comprehensive mold inspection necessary to determine the extent of Jane’s mold problem. We needed to find out whether mold was growing in other areas of her home.

Often, mold is present but can’t be seen. Microbiological analyses are required to detect the presence of excessive amounts of mold spores in the air throughout the home, which indicates hidden mold growth.

We performed thorough microbial air sampling in several areas of Jane’s home. We compared the results from samples taken in the following three areas:

  • the containment area of the affected room
  • the home’s other occupied spaces where the family lives
  • outdoor control samples

By analyzing the numbers from these test results, our technicians were able to determine whether the mold growth had spread throughout Jane’s home and how far it had spread.

Causes and Contributing Factors

One thing was certain:  Jane had a mold problem, so we knew she also had a moisture problem. Because mold is such a moisture-loving organism, mold growth is usually an indication of a moisture control problem inside a home.

Potential problems that cause mold to grow or exacerbate mold growth inside homes include:

  • Leaks due to problems with rain and groundwater controls
  • Insufficient dehumidification by HVAC systems
  • Condensation on dirty surfaces inside HVAC systems
  • Wet materials enclosed inside building assemblies

Many materials used to construct walls such as untreated gypsum board, medium density fiberboard, and oriented strand board can easily absorb and retain water. They also contain nutrients that feed molds, making them an ideal environment for unwanted mold growth.

It was important not only to determine the extent of Jane’s mold problem but also to establish what caused the mold growth inside Jane’s wall to begin with. Doing so would allow professionals to fix the cause of the problem so mold would not grow inside her walls again.

Jane’s Mold Problem is Discovered and Corrected

Our inspection and testing revealed 30 square feet of mold growth inside the wall cavity of the affected room. Air sampling determined elevated mold presence inside the containment area, but no elevated mold presence in the other occupied areas of the home.

This meant Jane could tell a qualified contractor to focus mold remediation efforts in one area of the home following industry best practices.

Our assessment also revealed that stormwater intruded into Jane’s home through the flashing installed alongside the house’s stone exterior. Properly installed, well-designed flashing systems are as important as high-quality roofs and gutters to prevent rainwater from entering homes and diverting it when it leaks in. Flashing helps water drain from areas such as door openings, windows and foundations. When flashing fails to function properly, moisture can build up inside walls as it did in Jane’s home.

You may be fairly certain you have a mold problem, as in Jane’s case, or you may only suspect you do because of continuing health symptoms experienced by family members. Whatever your situation, Healthy Home professionals can determine if excessive mold growth is a problem in your home, how far it has spread, and help pinpoint the problem’s causes.

Healthy Home’s team of professionals includes certified mold inspectors to evaluate a home for past and current water intrusion issues and to determine factors contributing to mold growth in your home. Contact us today to schedule your inspection.

 

Sources:

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2014-08/documents/moisture-control.pdf

https://www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm

Dan Rouse

Dan Rouse

Principal at Healthy Home
Dan is a Principal at Healthy Home and is a Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant and a Certified Mold Consultant.
Dan Rouse