Homeowners want to protect their investment and provide a safe and healthy environment for their family to live in. However, accidents happen. Flood waters can infiltrate a basement. Hurricane or severe storms can damage a roof and cause a slow leak into insulation or even down walls. Dark, damp areas that go unseen can cause a big problem. So what is mold and where are the most common areas to find it in your home?

What is Mold?
Mold is a fungus that can grow on any organic surface that is moist and oxygenated. Carpets, drywall, ventilation systems, and ceilings are most concerning for homeowners. The dark, patchy formations can occur after a leak or flood and can start to grow in a matter of days. The spread of mold can occur rapidly, needing only continued moisture and oxygen to replicate within days. Some molds can grow in harsh conditions, even extreme cold or heat. Water damage, condensation, flooding, and excessive humidity should be repaired as quickly as possible to prevent a mold outbreak. Even after the moisture leak has been fixed, if mold has built up on a surface, the spores can continue to release into the air surrounding the damaged area.

Where is mold most commonly found in a home?
Mold belongs outside, where it plays an important part of the natural breakdown of organisms. However, because of its biological structure, it can grow inside of homes and businesses if moisture and oxygen are present. Molds can begin growing in damp areas within days. The especially harmful black mold takes seven days to colonize. Homeowners can usually find this type of mold in dark, moist places like a leaky basement and damaged rooftops and into attic spaces. Slow drips from washing machines can allow mold to grow in washrooms and spread behind equipment onto walls and onto the floor below.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning System
Usually, leaks or flood damage from natural disasters or broken pipes can be seen relatively quickly. Owners know where the majority of damage was done and can call on a professional to remove the contaminated area. But many do not think of their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system as a source of dangerous mold growth. Many people live in humid areas year round. Condensation can gather around air vents and inside of ductwork. This can allow mold to circulate in the air each time the system turns on. Homeowners may see mold on the vent slats or on the ceiling near the ventilation area. Black mold spores can spread mycotoxins through the air day and night.

This problem requires an inspection and treatment by a professional. It is not a job homeowners want to attempt themselves, as they could spread mold spores into the air while attempting to clean out the areas. Spores can relocate and begin to form elsewhere. A professional can locate the source of the problem, dehumidify the system, remove contaminated areas, and treat for future outbreaks, as per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines.