Fix It: Mold 101

This time of year we get many calls concerning mold problems. People generally see mold growing on their walls and ceiling.

mold 88 (photo credit: )
mold 88
(photo credit: )
This time of year we get many calls concerning mold problems. People generally see mold growing on their walls and ceiling. The mold usually grows on walls that are adjacent to the outside. This article will try to give a basic explanation of what mold is and what we should do about it. Mold by definition is a fungus. To most people it is just an unsightly display of dots (usually black) that have appeared in their home. However, certain mold can be toxic and could cause serious heath problems, especially for people that suffer from allergies or asthma. Young children and the elderly are at a much higher risk for complications. There are even studies suggesting that SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) could be linked to babies sleeping in rooms infested with mold. Where can mold grow? Mold can grow almost anywhere moisture exists. Mold grows on anything porous. This includes drywall, cement, wood, wallpaper, ceiling tiles and clothing. How can I get rid of mold? Mold can be cleaned by wiping it away with a rag with an equal mix of a bleach and water solution. You could also purchase mold cleaners that come in spray bottles. It is best to wear gloves and work with the windows open. If you are living in conditions that are conducive for mold to grow, you may need to clean the mold on a regular basis. It is not unusual to see mold grow back after just a few days. What causes the moisture? Generally there are three possibilities: plumbing problems, leaks and condensation. Plumbing problems need to fixed and will sometime require removing floor tiles or breaking into the wall to get to the root of the problem. It may also take weeks or even months for the sand under the floor tiles to dry out before it is possible to prevent the mold from recurring. Leaks are unusually caused by a roofing problem. Often it is a minor problem like replacing a roof tile. If you have a balcony over your ceiling, it may be need to be grouted to prevent the leak. In more severe situations, the grading on a balcony is not slanted and not draining properly and may need to be redone. Condensation problems generally cause mold to grow on walls adjacent with the outside. Windows are often very poor quality and, despite having two panes of glass, do not do a good job of keeping the cold out. With the warmer temperature inside (especially with the heat on), you will end up with moisture on the windows. Replacing windows with a quality windows will most likely get rid of condensation on the window and keep moisture out of the room. Often people install an additional window to help keep the moisture out. How can I prevent mold from growing? After you do what is needed to eliminate the source of moisture, it is best to paint with an anti-mold paint. Just like a weed killer in the garden that is meant to prevent weeds from growing, anti-mold paint will prevent mold from growing on the paint. This is highly successful in bathrooms, laundry rooms and outside walls. Question: I am renting a home that has mold in the bedrooms. After complaining to my landlord he said it is my fault as I do not keep the windows open and air out the room daily. Is that the only way I can get rid of and prevent mold? Answer: When it is cold outside, we like to be inside our homes with the heat on. We do not want to have our windows open. By doing so, we are having the warm air from inside meet the cold air from outside on walls and windows. If the walls are properly insulated and you have quality windows, you will not have a situation of condensation. If you do not have adequate insulation, you will indeed see moisture (and sometimes dripping water) on the windows and walls adjacent to outside. In these cases keeping the heat off and opening windows will help keep the mold away, but it will not be the warm home you want. The only way to keep your house warm and also free of mold is to properly insulate and to paint with anti-mold paint. If you are renting, you may not be in position to insulate and paint with anti-mold paint. However, you should clean the mold as soon as you see it appearing to avoid any health risks. Readers' tips, questions and comments are always welcome. The authors can be reached at (02) 585-9559 and at