Mold Growth Doesn’t Stop When the Weather’s Cool & What You Need to Know

Published on: March 19, 2014

You may at first only feel embarrassed to discover mold in your beautiful Southeast home. A moment’s thought, however, should make you realize the real risks you’re putting before your family. Mold is a dangerous problem that must be addressed to protect your family’s health and the structural integrity of your home.

What Is Mold?

Mold and mildew are fungi, from the same group of organisms as those delicious mushrooms on your pizza. Fungi are their own kingdom (animals and plants are two more familiar ones). Mold spores are in just about every cubic inch of air you breathe, doing little or no harm to anyone. With the right conditions, however, mold spores can overtake the local environment. If you’re unlucky enough to live with them in that environment, your house has a indoor mold growth problem. Mold may never affect you; on the other hand, mold produces allergens that can lead to severe health problems. Indoor mold growth can cause asthma attacks, cold and flu-like symptoms, and lung irritation.

How Does Mold Develop?

Mold needs four conditions for growth:

  • mold spores
  • a food source
  • sufficient warmth
  • moisture

Molds eat anything that’s derived from carbon. Every living thing has carbon, and leaves it behind in dander, fur, oily fingerprints, paw prints, skin flakes and various products in your home (cardboard boxes, cotton clothing, etc.). Mold food is everywhere. If molds were millions of time bigger, they could be our pets, since they love hanging out with humans in the same temperatures we enjoy. Don’t be fooled by thinking cold winter temperatures thwart indoor mold growth, either. Consider the last time you found an unpleasant surprise among the refrigerator leftovers – molds can grow in cold weather. The last requirement is moisture, at around 70 percent humidity. But keep in mind this is a local condition, on a very small scale: just a few drops of water under a sink, in a duct, or behind drywall will be enough to encourage indoor mold growth.

Why Is Mold in Your Home?

Attack indoor mold growth by thinking on its terms: where are minuscule amounts of water located in my Southeast U.S. home?

  • Bathrooms – Ceramic tile is not toxic to mold; mold can grow to near-toxic levels on tile if left untreated
  • Air conditioners – Filters, drain pans and coils are all great environments for indoor mold growth
  • Rainwater infiltration – Poor flashing around windows can allow seepage into walls, behind drywall
  • Flooding residue – If your basement or crawl space has flooded, even after you think you’ve dried everything out and cleaned up, mold is likely to appear
  • Condensation – Especially in winter when you are struggling to humidify your house properly, repeated condensation on interior windows can pool in the corners of window mullions and give mold a head start
  • Fans – Bathroom, kitchen, clothes dryer and whole-house ventilation fans can pull moisture into the airstream, where it harbors on fan blades, housings and ventilation ductwork
  • House plants – In moderation, they help clean the air, but if overdone they may add moisture into your home’s interior
  • Pet food areas – Unless you train your pets to wipe their chins, their eating and drinking areas are likely spots for mold growth
  • Ductwork – Moisture can allow indoor mold growth in the dark interiors of your home’s ductwork; turning on the furnace sends delightfully warm air wafting over the spores

Where Should You Look for Mold?

Look for indoor mold growth in dark areas where air circulates poorly (closets, crawl spaces, under sink cabinets, attics, the underside of drawers, beneath the refrigerator, clothes washer and dishwasher) or where moisture accumulates (bathrooms, kitchens, ductwork and  basements).

How Do You Solve Your Mold Problem?

Some indoor mold growth myths have been greatly overblown. You probably do not need a complete hazmat suit to clean out under a sink, for example. Wear a dust mask and use latex or rubber gloves. Throw away any sponge and paper towels you use to clean up mold. Mold removal takes persistent hard work: clean thoroughly, dry thoroughly, and keep air moving through the mold-friendly area. Since water is the problem, solve plumbing and leak issues before trying to solve the mold problem, because mold will just crop up again after you’ve cleaned.

For true peace of mind, or if you have any health concerns about indoor mold growth, have your home’s ducts cleaned professionally, hire an HVAC contractor to check your home’s indoor air quality, and consider whole-house ventilation solutions that balance humidity and filtration. For assistance abating your Southeast U.S. home’s indoor mold growth, contact us to find a contractor near you.