Imagine this scenario: You and your family have just moved into an older home. The home was built a little over 100 years ago, but it’s been updated several times by previous owners. You know that you’ll probably have to do some updates in the long run, but for the most part, the home is move-in ready.
Or is it? When you call in a home inspector to look over your new property, the inspector turns up something you hadn’t even considered: a mold infestation.
In old homes — and really any other home you could buy — there’s always the chance that a mold infestation may have taken over, and they’re not always easy to spot when doing a walk-through tour with your realtor. While you can sometimes spot signs of mold in bathrooms, showers and under the kitchen sink, some mold grow unobstructed in the walls or even in the crawlspace. In those cases, it can be difficult to detect mold until you call in the home inspector.
But while mold may grow more freely in a home that has been empty while the owner tries to sell it, mold can easily grow in just about any home in Houston, provided the conditions are just right. With so much humidity and moisture in the air, it doesn’t take much for conditions just right for mold to take over, so it’s up to homeowners to be diligent about signs of a mold infestation.
If you don’t have a home inspector coming over any time soon, you can still spot signs of a mold infestation and learn to see when you’re home is affected by mold. Here are our best mold-spotting tips on how to spot a mold infestation.
How mold grows in the home
Before we tackle how to spot signs of a mold infestation, it’s important to know how mold infestations start in the first place. If you suspect mold may be growing in your home, you can think back to these conditions needed for mold to grow. If you feel confident your home doesn’t meet the criteria, then your home is probably safe.
Here’s what conditions are needed in order for mold to grow in your home.
The first thing to know about mold is that it desperately needs moisture in order to thrive. If your home has no moisture in the air — a rare feat for homes in Houston — then you likely won’t have a problem with mold. Moisture can take many forms inside your home. It might be in the air, which you can feel when it gets humid, or it could be in liquid form if there is a leak somewhere.
Mold loves to grow in darkness. In fact, it can’t grow in ultraviolet light. If you take a walk through your back yard or anywhere in the woods, you can usually spot mold growing in damp, shady spots on the ground. In your home, places such as under the sink or in basements, attics and crawl spaces often make for popular spots for mold to flourish.
Oxygen is easy enough to find anywhere in your home. It doesn’t take much oxygen for mold to begin to grow.
- Food sources
Mold breaks down organic matter, and you have a lot of that in the building materials of your home. The wooden frame of your home, the insulation in your walls and the drywall covering your walls can all be sources of food for mold. You may also see mold growing on the walls of your shower and on the inside floor of your cabinets where the pipes may be dripping water.
Mold can also feed of cotton found on clothes, so if you leave wet clothes or fabrics lying around, you may see mold begin to grow if other conditions are met.
- Mold spores
Mold will not just randomly generate in damp, moist spaces in your home. Mold spores have to first find their way to these places, but that’s often not too hard for mold. Mold spores are so tiny, and they can be brought in from the outdoors on shoes and clothes as well as through open doors or windows. It’s not easy to insulate your home from mold spores, but you can do your best by not bringing shoes inside and keeping doors and windows closed. Because mold spores are microscopic, there’s only so much you can do to prevent them from getting into your home, so don’t sweat it too much.
With enough time, mold can begin to grow if all of these conditions are met. Sometimes, it takes as little as 24 hours for mold to take hold and begin growing.
Out of all these conditions, moisture is probably the most important because it is the one thing you have quite a bit of control over. After all, you’re not going to take down your home and get rid of all the wood and dark spaces. Homes with a lot of moisture will have more mold problems in the long run.
There are two things you can do to help mitigate this problem. First, you can invest in a good dehumidifier and run it in places that tend to get very humid. You may run one in your basement a few days a week to suck up the excess moisture. In your bathroom, run your exhaust fan when taking showers or, if your home is too old and cannot have one installed, open a window or install a window exhaust fan to get rid of that moisture so it does not build up and take hold.
The second thing you can do is be diligent about leaks in your home. Check under your sinks regularly and look for any signs of water damage in your walls or ceilings. If you spot water coming down a wall or pooling in the ceiling, shut the water off immediately and call a plumber. Mitigating the amount of moisture in your home is by far the best defense you can take against mold.
Look around your home
Whether you’re touring a home for the first time or walking around your home for the millionth time, you can become more accustomed to the signs of mold. When you know what to look for and what to watch out for, you’ll be able to spot infestations — or conditions in which mold may take hold — before things get too out of hand.
First thing’s first: Mold is usually black, green or sometimes white in color. When in homes, you’ll most likely see black mold than any other color.
When you’re walking around your home, start by noticing changes in humidity and temperature. Attics, basements, crawl spaces and bathrooms usually have big changes in temperature compared to the rest of your home. You probably go down to your basement and crawl space once or twice a week, but get into the habit of visiting your attic more often. While there, notice how the temperature is. If it’s humid, run the dehumidifier to get rid of some of that moisture.
You should also be checking your plumbing regularly. As previously mentioned, look for signs of water damage in your walls and ceilings. You will usually see water streaming down walls or notice pockets or water held in your ceilings. After the plumber fixes the pipes and helps you get rid of any pooling water, set up a fan to make sure everything dries completely.
While you are up in your attic, look for signs of a leak in your room. If you’re still finding moisture in your home, but you know your pipes are in good condition, then it may be that you have a leak in your rood. This can bring in a lot of moisture, especially if it’s been raining for a few days.
If you spot a hole in your roof, it may be because your gutters are clogged. When gutters hold too much water, that water often spills onto the roof of your home. Over time, mold forms and begins to eat away at the wood frame of your home. If it eats too much, a hole will open up in your frame and allow water to leak into your attic, where the mold will certainly spread.
If that’s not a good reason to schedule regular gutter cleaning services, we don’t know what is!
When touring your home, look for other notable signs of mold infestations, including:
- Peeling paint and wallpaper
- Chipped paint
- Warped walls
- Rusty pipes
These signs won’t always mean that mold is in your home, but if you see these signs, you should be keeping a close eye on your home.
Listen to your body
If you don’t see too many obvious signs of a mold infestation, then your body may be able to tell you when mold is present. Many people are allergic to mold or at least react to mold in different ways.
For those not allergic to mold, the smell is usually a dead giveaway that mold is in the home. You’ll notice a musty sort of smell in your home when there’s a mold infestation. Overtime, that smell will grow stronger, so the more you smell it, the worse the infestation may be.
Because it’s the mold spores you breathe in that affect you, mold affects your respiratory system more than anything else. When mold is present and you’re breathing it in, your nose may become runny and you may have to blow it often, as if you had a cold. You may also have watery and itchy eyes whenever you’re home. You may be sneezing a lot and have a sore throat. In short, it may feel as if you have a constant cold, but only when you’re at home.
Some people are actually allergic to mold itself, which means their symptoms may be more severe. If you have children with asthma, they may be more susceptible to mold in the air. People with compromised immune systems may also have strong reaction to the mold.
The key hee is to listen to your body and let it tell you when something is really wrong. Symptoms of mold can look very much like symptoms of the common cold, but if the symptoms last more than a week, then harmful mold spores could be the real cause of your discomfort. If you continue to breathe in mold, it could have a drastic effect on your health, so pay attention to these symptoms and how long they affect you. If you and all of your family members are struggling with the same few symptoms, then there’s a good chance it’s not a cold: it’s mold.
Call in an expert
While some mold can be dealt with easily, there’s no harm in calling in a mold specialist when you think you might have a major infestation on your hands.
Mold can be one of the toughest infestations to deal with. As previously mentioned, almost all the criteria needed for mold to form are in every home in Houston. All it takes is some moisture and a short amount of time for mold to grow and latch on to a home. If you’re cleaned up little pockets of mold here and there around your home, then it may be time to call in a mold specialist to assess the damage.
Calling in a mold specialist may be one of the best things you can do for your home. Having someone who specializes in mold infestations look over your home will give you peace of mind. He or she will be able to spot potential problems where mole could form and places where mold is currently growing. You’ll work closely with your mold specialist to get rid of the infestation and receive recommendations to stop the mold from coming back. Once you get a handle on the infestation, you’ll find it’s a very fixable problem.
Tell us: Have you ever had a serious mold infestation in your home? How did you first notice it? Share your story with us in the comments — and let us know how our gutter cleaning services can help prevent mold from growing on the frame of your home.