Frequently Asked Mold Questions

I can’t smell or see any mold, but my spouse smells it. Could we have mold in our home?

George says: It’s common for one spouse or family member to smell mold when others don’t. Some people are more sensitive to mold, chemicals and odors than others. This is especially true if they have asthma, allergies, MCS, COPD…or just a sensitive sniffer! Keep in mind there is a difference between having mold in your home and having a mold problem in your home. Mold spores live around us, indoors and out, naturally. Mold is useful to us when it breaks down organisms into smaller ones to return to the earth and nourish it. Mold also contributes to medicine (e.g. Penicillin) and foods we enjoy (e.g. cheese) and plant life needed to sustain us (e.g. pollination). It’s only when mold gets out of control that we have a problem with it. My first suggestion is to check for water leaks. If you know you have a roof leak and haven’t repaired it, you could have a problem. If you can’t find any source of water, call us to for a thorough inspection. One of the tools we use to find hidden leaks is an infrared camera which uses detects temperature differences which often signal water or air leaks which are not visible to the naked eye.

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Can I just use bleach to clean up mold?

George says: Household cleaners with chlorine can kill mold and bacteria on non-porous surfaces such as tile floors or countertops. However, most non-porous surfaces are held in place by porous materials such as glue, grout, wood framing, glazing compounds. These porous compounds are where we usually see mold growth because they absorb water, surface mold and bacteria. Using bleach on grout, for example, will kill the surface mold but the water which carries the chlorine will force mold spores further into the grout. Mold will often resurface in about three weeks. By repeatedly forcing the mold deeper into the grout, the wood supporting the tile eventually gets wet and molds. The best way to avoid mold on grout is to seal the grout and tile according to manufacturer instructions when it’s installed. Regular maintenance will be needed to ensure a continuous seal.

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Can I just paint over the mold or water stain with Kilz?

George says: Sure, but that is just a band aid. The first thing to do with any water damage or mold issue is to find out where the moisture is coming from and fix it. Once the source of the moisture is gone, then we repair or replace the damaged building materials. While painting over a water stain is common, it’s not a good idea. First, drywall is just gypsum powder compressed between two pieces of paper, so when drywall gets wet it softens then starts to crumble as it dries. Drywall that gets wet and dry several times will literally fall apart. Paint may hold it together a bit longer, but is a temporary fix. Second, we need to make sure there is not mold on the back side of the drywall, which could continue to grow and spread to other building materials. Hiding a problem is never smart. Fix it right and you’ll sleep a whole lot better.

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Why does mold grow behind wall paper?

George says: One word: Glue. Wall paper is adhered to the wall with glue which is a favorite food source of mold. The wall paper itself is usually either paper (another organic food source for mold) or vinyl. Mold spores live around us naturally. So when mold spores find food sources then moisture is added, they settle in and spawn. Moisture can come from a water leak or humidity build-up such as a poorly ventilated bathroom or an air conditioner that fails. A word of caution to those who remove wall paper: take the time to scrape all glue off the wall. Don’t cheap out and try to paint over the glue residue. All it takes is some humidity and the glue will grow mold. It takes some elbow grease and often retexturing the wall to get a good finish, but in the end you’ll have a beautiful wall and peace of mind.

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How can I prevent mold in my home?

George says: Maintain it. First, have you’re air conditioner serviced yearly. And be sure to change the filters and thermostat batteries according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you’re not home enough or want some help with this, call us to schedule routine mold prevention services. Second, repair leaks as soon as you find them. Check your windows when you spring clean. Make sure sprinkler heads are directed away from your house. Check water lines to toilets, refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, etc. Keep gutters clear and keep trees cut back from roofs and gutters (this helps keep rodents out of the house too!). Again, if this sounds like too much, calls us to schedule semi-annual mold prevention services. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

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Will my insurance cover mold remediation?

George says: Sometimes. Since the 2004 hurricanes in Florida, most homeowner insurance policies only offer mold coverage as a separate rider on the policy. The coverage amounts vary, so check your policy to make sure it covers mold and the limits. If your policy does not clearly state that it covers mold, call your insurance broker (the person who sold you the policy) and ask.

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Why doesn’t my homeowners insurance cover mold anymore?

George says: Insurance companies paid record amounts for mold claims after the 2004 hurricane season. In response most insurance companies stopped covering mold as part of the main policy and instead offered mold coverage as a separate rider. Their thinking was that if water damage is ignored or neglected, then it turns to mold. This would be considered homeowner neglect and, therefore, would not be a covered event. Although neglect is sometimes the case, more often than not the water leak is not visible to the naked eye or it is not in a place the homeowner frequents, e.g. a roof leak into the attic. In many cases we see in Florida, homes are vacant for months at a time so leaks are not found until it’s too late and mold has had ample time to grow.

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