What to do about mould? Part I - Q & A

What to do about mould? Part I - Q & A

You may have noticed a small dark and fuzzy spot on your ceiling, or recently moved a couch in the basement to see discolouration on the drywall or base board that doesn’t go away when you wipe it. That little spot or stained drywall is mould, and it could be a sign of a much bigger problem or become a bigger problem if not cared for properly.

All of the mould remediation projects, either commercial or residential, I handle are from water. It may have resulted from a large flood, like a sewer back up or sump pump failure that is not properly mitigated and cleaned. Or from a small roof leak that has been ignored because it only seems to be wet during the winter. Problems like these will not fix themselves and can be growing in health risks, project size and cost daily.

It is important to remember that not only water in its liquid state can cause problems if not cared for, but also water entry due to vapour intrusion or condensation problems will influence mould growth, as well as a constantly high humidity. This is becoming a more prevalent and common problem due to the way our houses are now built and the rate of which they are closed in or sealed to the outside. Once sealed if not dried to a proper standard all the ambient humidity will now start having an effect on any hygroscopic materials.

Hygroscopic materials are “water loving” materials that are used very commonly in construction. From drywall to flooring, wood used in framing, finishing trim and cabinets these materials are in every house. A hygroscopic material may posses the ability to absorb water and hold it with out altering its appearance, or it will be a minimal visual change. This is a great food source and surface for a spore to attach and grow, given the temperature is right.

The purpose of mould is to digest organic materials and cellulose. That natural function is something that we must have occurring for us to survive; it plays a significant role in our outdoor and indoor environments. A visual example is a loaf of bread in a bag, placed on the counter. As this product spoils you will see mould develop to assist in it organic break down. This also takes place on your drywall if not restored properly following a water loss. However removing the mouldy bread from your counter is a little easier then on drywall, but here are some steps to assist you in assessing and dealing with mould.

  • Limit exposure to the area if possible, if not then try to seal over with plastic and tape. Mould travels with airflow so limiting this will contain the spores and eliminate cross contamination of other areas.
  • Try to find the cause if unknown and have repaired by a professional with experience. This is the first required step to any remediation project. However, it may not always be possible to fix the area first but it should be explored previous to beginning the remediation.
  • If it is a small area, less then 10 square feet, and you are comfortable with removing it, then you can do so. You will need to vacuum the area with a HEPA filtered vacuum, then scrub it with an antibacterial dish soap and then once dry use a natural disinfectant if available, failing that a 10% bleach solution to clean. Once dry you can seal the area with a priming sealant before repainting. If easier to cut out the area, then vacuum as above, apply a piece of plastic to it surface, seal it and cut through this and remove the material to a bag. Seal the bag and begin to cleaning starting with the vacuuming and then the steps following as listed above including the application of sealing primer paint.
  • If the area is larger then 10 square feet or you are not comfortable with the preceding steps then call an experienced and very important, a Certified Restoration Contractor or Remediation Contractor to consult on further procedures.
  • If the area has a very strong odour, or is extremely dark; immediately seal the area and call a professional as stated above. Especially if this has been an ongoing problem that has been ignored or not attended to properly by a certified professional.

If you do not have losses consulted on or handled by a Certified Professional dealing with disaster restoration and loss mitigation or a Certified Remedial contractor then your problem that was a very small, can grow to affect your entire house. Mould has the potential to harm everyone, but there are a few people that will react very seriously. It is not to be ignored thinking it will go away or being far worse painted over routinely to remove the eyesore. You may not be allergic or affected by it now but you will have some future negative health affects, and someone can get very sick, or have an anaphylactic response just by walking into an affected area. Please know that it is easy to fix and clean, and when problems are caught early every aspect is less, from health affects to cost.