While some remodeling projects update a home for function, attractiveness, and comfort, other remodels in the Milwaukee area are necessary to remove and prevent mold, according to members of the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council Inc., the area’s leading home improvement and remodeling industry resource for 51 years. During September, known as Mold Awareness Month, association members were asked to describe the causes and dangers of mold in Wisconsin’s climate, and how to effectively remove it.
Although mold is technically everywhere, the amount and location of the mold is what can harm a person’s home and health. “Molds are a part of our natural environment and may begin growing indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet,” said John Jacobs of PuroClean First Responders in Waukesha.
Milwaukee/NARI members agreed that moisture from humidity as well as leaks from pipes, the foundation, or around windows are leading causes of mold. In addition to moisture, what else encourages it to grow? A food source such as drywall, little air movement, time, and warm temperatures, said Kevin P. Nelson of Waukesha’s Nelson Clean Care, Inc. However, winter isn’t a safeguard. Dave Schultz of Badger Remediation Services, Inc. in Wauwatosa said, “Particularly in the cold months, lack of properly functioning bathroom fans and all-home humidifiers can play havoc in a home.”
Bathrooms are a problem area because risk of growing mold increases in rooms that are more exposed to moisture. For instance, insulation inside a shower wall area is a ripe environment for mold if no plastic vapor barrier protects the insulation from openings where moisture seeps in. A bathroom that isn’t properly insulated or ventilated will have a great risk of mold issues, regardless of the home’s age.
Just as bad as bathrooms are basements, which Jacobs said have higher humidity levels and water intrusion problems from foundation issues. “Finished basements hide foundation leakage,” said Nelson. “Every basement in Wisconsin should have a good dehumidifier that keeps relative humidity at 50 percent or below year round.”
Don’t forget the attic. Not having an exhaust fan in the bathroom is a big issue, but having one that’s improperly set up can cause problems above. Nelson said, “The fan should not exhaust into the attic, but to the outside of the home. We frequently see mold in attics because of exhaust fans that put the humid air into the attic or because the exhaust ducting has dislodged. We recommend an exhaust fan on a timer. It should stay on at least 20 minutes past a shower.” Jacobs added, “Improperly vented attics are also a common cause for excessive mold growth.”
Why worry about mold? “To the average person, it may be an allergen,” Schultz said. “To people with severe health matters, it may pose a larger concern.” Nelson pointed out those most at risk are young children, the elderly, and people who have respiratory problems or compromised health or immune systems. “It should not be in our homes or work places where we are exposed to it all the time,” he said.
According to Jacobs, structural problems in the home are another problem if mold is left untreated for years. If given enough time, it may actually eat through the wood. You can detect the problem early on if you watch for signs such as staining on the wall, an odor, peeled or blistering paint, or warped walls.
Completely removing the mold and the source of the moisture that caused it are essential to correcting the problem.
Removing mold without spreading spores can be tricky. Nelson emphasized that the EPA no longer recommends bleach and water for mold removal. Jacobs said, “The EPA recommends that if there has been a lot of water damage, and/or mold growth covers more than 10 square feet, you should consult a professional.”
How do you remove all of the mold spores? Jacobs warned, “Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy. Also, mold can cause staining and cosmetic damage; it may not be possible to clean an item so that its original appearance is restored.”
Schultz said mold is removed at the source using specific engineering controls that inhibit the spread of particles (spores) during the process. Nelson added that preventing spores from getting to other parts of the home during removal is a first priority and may involve a temporary containment area under negative air pressure. “We wear proper personal protection equipment, use HEPA air scrubbers during removal, and HEPA vacuums for clean up inside our containment area,” Nelson said.
Finally, they find and fix the cause of the problem. “The key component to keeping mold from growing is to impede the moisture source,” Schultz said. “No moisture means no mold.”
The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 800 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.
For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI’s Remodeling Guide,” call 414-771-4071 or visit the Council’s website at www.milwaukeenari.org.