Molds are strange organisms that are neither plant or animal. They’re a fungus, a group or colony of cells living in dark, damp, cool places safely away from the sun. Fungi are like Dracula, the sun’s ultraviolet light actually inhibits their growth.
Also like Dracula, molds are bad for you. There are at least 16 different strains of mold that are toxic to people. Some of them are actually quite deadly.
Don’t give mold a spore-“t”-ing chance to take root and grow in your house. You need to learn what it is, where it grows, and how to combat it. Forewarned is forearmed and preventing mold is a lot easier (and cheaper!) than getting rid of it after its already invaded and established a presence in your house.
What Causes Mold
Mold is caused by spores floating through the air until they encounter suitable environmental conditions. Modern houses are more airtight than in previous years, which helps keep spores from invading. That same airtight characteristic also keeps toxic molds trapped inside houses after they germinate, causing a buildup that can cause disease and death.
Mold needs food, usually in the form of carbon provided by drywall, wood, cotton, etc. It also needs darkness because ultraviolet light kills it. The temperature needs to be above freezing, although some molds can flourish at 40ºF. They also need oxygen and water. If all these conditions are right, they can start growing within as little as 24-48 hours after entering your home.
Basements are obviously one of the biggest areas of concern for mold growth, so it stands to reason that one of the five biggest home improvement projects you can take on to get rid of mold, while simultaneously raising the value of your home, is to finish the basement.
Part of that process is getting rid of the humidity in the basement with a dehumidifier and using a pedestal sump pump to eliminate any standing water down there. The combination will render the basement uninhabitable by spores and mold. If you don’t have a sump pump you should get one immediately.
How Sump Pumps Work
The way a sump pump works is simple. It stands in a pit in the basement. The pit, located in the lowest part of the basement, is normally about two feet wide by one-and-a-half feet deep. The bottom of the pit is typically gravel. As groundwater seeps up into the pit, a float on the pump, similar to the one in a toilet, triggers the pump to suck water out of the pit and discharge it out of the house through a pipe. The end of the pipe should be at least 20 feet away from the house, otherwise, the discharged water will soak back into the ground around your house and find its way back into the basement again.
Without the sump pump, groundwater would force its way into the basement through any crack or crevice it can find – and there are always cracks and crevices. It’s inevitable. A basement without a sump pump is an underground swimming pool waiting to happen, and a breeding ground for mold.
If your house doesn’t have a basement you can still have mold. Any area that is dark and damp will do. Mold growing under the sink or around plumbing intrusions is one of the signs it’s time to replace your plumbing.
If you’ve got discolored water, consistently slow drains, or visible sagging around the foundations or walls, those are other signs of plumbing problems. Unfortunately, if you’ve got one plumbing problem it usually leads to others.
Discolored water indicates rusty pipes, which probably leak, which creates the conditions for mold.
Cracks in the walls or foundations, along with sagging, indicates a long-term leak that has gradually washed away the ground under the slab. If your house has a pier-and-beam foundation, the ground could have washed away from under one of the piers hold up the main beams. In either case, slab or pier-and-beam, you’ve got serious foundation issues in addition to mold problems.
The good news is, addressing the foundation difficulties will be a big first step to tacking the mold too.
Wrapping It Up
Dehumidifiers and sump pumps are two of your biggest and most important tools for addressing mold problems in your home. Getting rid of the dampness and humidity is 90 percent of the battle right there. After that, the rest of it will be easy to handle.