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Mold can cause damage to your home, health if untreated

ABT Foundation Solutions, Inc. has two big reasons for being concerned about excess moisture in your home. The first, of course, is that too much water can damage your foundation, leading to more damage in the rest of your home.

Mold on ceiling and wallsThe second is that mold can grow, multiply and spread in high-humidity situations. This also can damage your home, as well as your health.

"Molds are part of the natural environment," according to the Environmental Protection Agency's publication, A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home.  "Outdoors, molds play a part in nature by breaking down dead organic matter such as fallen leaves and dead trees, but indoors, mold growth should be avoided."

Most of us know what mold looks like:  a fuzzy patch or stain spreading across food or damp surfaces, according to the Wisconsin Department of Human Services (WDHS). Most of what we see is pink, like the mold in a bathroom, or black, like the mold that grows in dark spaces and basements.

As mold grows, it can stain the things it's growing on. If left to multiply, it can cause serious damage to furniture, clothes, walls and other objects. It can also cause health problems for people who are allergic to it, or breathe the air around large quantities of mold.

"Mold exposure from breathing indoor or outdoor air can be irritating and can aggravate allergies and asthma," WDHS says. "Health effects of mold can be a concern where exposures are very high, such as in sawmills, grain elevators, and agricultural settings. Where there are people with severely weakened immune systems, such as in hospital transplant units, mold infection can be a serious concern and exposures should be aggressively controlled."

So how do you tell if mold is growing in your house? Most of the time, you simply see it and/or smell it, Nathan Yost, MD, tells the National Association of Realtors.

"Almost all of us already have two effective mold detectors: our eyes and our noses. If black or green discoloration is noticed that is fuzzy in appearance and is in a location that is damp or had been damp, it is almost certainly mold," he said. "If a building smells musty, there probably is mold somewhere; the mold may be on boxes stored in a basement or in walls or in the crawl space."

Mold behind wallpaperSometimes, though, we may smell mold but still can't see it. Air quality testing may help pinpoint the problem.  For example, a high reading in a basement where water was dried up may lead a homeowner to discover mold behind wallpaper or in drywall.

If you find mold, the first step to clean it up is to determine how it started. "Molds need a source of moisture, a source of organic matter, and proper temperature. Areas inside your home that have poor air movement and a source of moisture are likely areas for mold growth," according to WDHS.

"If there is mold growth in your home, you must clean up the mold and fix the water problem," the EPA says. "If you clean up the mold, but don’t fix the water problem, then, most likely, the mold problem will come back."

How you handle mold cleanup depends on how much mold you find. If the moldy area is smaller than 10 square feet, you can probably clean it up yourself with bleach or another cleaner that will kill mold. WDHS has published guidelines for self-cleaning larger areas.

If you're not comfortable cleaning up a large area of mold, WDHS recommends hiring a mold remediation contractor to do the work.

Homeowners who suspect they may have mold in their homes can call ABT Foundation Solutions, Inc. at 920-733-4ABT (4228) or contact us online for a free inspection and evaluation. Our experts can determine if a substance is mold, and help you find the source of moisture. We can recommend dehumidifiers and other basement waterproofing solutions to keep the moisture − and the mold − out of your home