If your basement is frequently damp and humid or has standing water of any volume, it can quickly turn into a perfect spot for mold, mildew, and pest infestations. You see, moisture issues are no joke; if they are left untreated, they can cause huge amounts of damage to your home and even the health of your family. Your basement is particularly susceptible to dampness and mold because it sits below ground level. The soil around your home is, of course, packed with water, and the hydrostatic pressure that this causes can crack your walls and foundation, allowing moisture into your home.
How Mold Gets into Your Home
Mold is notoriously tenacious, but it does require certain conditions to spread. Unfortunately for us, the average basement provides the perfect conditions for mold growth. The required conditions for mold are:
- Darkness (mold cannot grow in UV light)
- Organic material (e.g., wood, drywall, fabric)
- Mold spores
Most basements are dark and filled with organic material in the form of wooden joists and supporting beams. So, all it takes for mold to take root is one leak. Despite our best efforts, dampness has a way of getting into basements. Whether it’s a plumbing flood, a small leak, a broken water heater, a failed sump pump, or more insidious issues such as seepage and a cracked foundation, water always finds a way. Here are the most common causes of moisture in a basement:
A Humid Climate
The weather and climate can work against you when it comes to keeping your basement dry. If the air outside is humid and warm, your basement will begin to harbor moisture, too; unless, of course, you have a good dehumidifier to keep the climate in your basement stable. That can make all the difference.
Leaking Pipes or Appliances
An internal leak or failed appliance can push a huge amount of water into your basement. Even if you remove all standing water, it will take a little while for the dampness to leave the air. That’s the time in which mold can form.
Sump Pump Failure
If your sump pump stops working during a storm, you’re going to have bigger problems than mold to contend with, but mold is nonetheless a likely result of serious sump pump issues.
Cracks in Your Foundation
Cracks in your foundation and basement floor let water seep up from below. This is an incredibly difficult thing to fix, but a good dehumidifier or vapor barrier can make all the difference when it comes to preventing mold formation as a result of these cracks.
Damaged Window Wells
Many homeowners install windows in their basement to let in a little light or an egress window system to meet code requirements. While this can dramatically improve the atmosphere and safety, it also leaves a weak spot for dampness to get through. Window wells were designed to allow for windows slightly below ground level, but they can also hold water. If they have poor drainage, this can lead to leaks.
All these issues let dampness into your home, and by extension, allow mold to form.
What Damage Can Mold Do?
Mold is often overlooked as a danger in the home because it seems relatively benign compared to cracks, leaks, failing appliances, and structural instabilities. Certainly, mold can’t do too much to the structure of your home (it’s more of a symptom of damage than a cause), but it can be damaging to your health.
First and foremost, mold spreads like wildfire once it has taken root. This means that mold in your basement can quickly become mold in your walls and attic. Once it has spread, mold can ruin your belongings by taking root in organic materials like sofas, carpets, curtains, and clothing. Anything that doesn’t see continual use is at risk. Once it has spread throughout your house, it can also make your home smell terrible—but that’s not the worst of it. Mold will begin to affect you and your family. The severity of these side effects depends on the types of mold in your home and whether or not you have any allergies.
Types of Mold That Can Spread in Your Home
Multiple types of mold can grow in the same area, and you won’t always be able to tell the benign from the dangerous without testing. The most common indoor mold species are:
- Cladosporium: Brown, green, or black, this form of mold can grow in warm or cool environments and is often found on wood, carpets, fabrics, or in HVAC ducts.
- Penicillium: Fuzzy and generally either blue, green, or black, penicillium is most often found under carpets and in insulation.
- Aspergillus: A white, gray, or green mold with dark spots and a powdery look, aspergillus thrives in basements, fabrics, walls, attics, and even on food.
Those forms of mold are more common and less dangerous than the following, which are generally found outdoors but can make their way indoors:
- Alternaria: Fuzzy in texture and white with black spots, this mold tends to be found in fabric and wallpaper, especially near windows and air conditioners.
- Aureobasidium: Pink with black spots, this mold is most commonly found on caulking, grout, and wood.
- Stachybotrys chartarum: Otherwise called black mold, is greenish-black in color and grows on anything with a high cellulose content. It’s particularly likely to take root in drywall.
- Trichoderma: Creamy or white, this mold turns green when it releases spores. Usually found in bathrooms and kitchens and in wood.
If you notice a slightly sweet, earthy, or musty smell in your basement following a leak or dampness problem, you likely have mold. Mold is caused by the intersection of these main components:
Dampness is a key factor in mold formation; without humidity, most forms of mold will either not be able to grow or their spread will be severely limited. As such, the areas which are most prone to mold formation in the average home are the kitchen, bathroom, and basement or crawl space. Theoretically, however, any room that has a high humidity level is susceptible.
The dampness itself can be caused by many issues, but the most common are appliance breakdown, leaking or burst pipes, and structural damage allowing water to enter from the outside of the property. It’s important to call a professional to determine which of these causes is at play and repair the issue if you want to prevent the recurrence of your mold problem.
- Mold Spores
Even if you have a damp environment, mold still needs a few more things to truly flourish. First and foremost, mold spores must be present. Mold doesn’t pop out of nowhere, after all, and it is not present in the water. It only grows in the right conditions. This is why certain types of mold are predominant in some areas; there are more spores in the area.
Mold spores also need organic matter to grow on. Rotting wood, for example, or cloth can provide the perfect fodder for most mold species to grow and thrive. However, there are some species of mold that grow best inside HVAC ventilation systems, so there are many different kinds of mold to be aware of when it comes to your home’s health.
Mold can be dangerous, but the severity of the potential issues it can cause depends on the species in question. Mold can cause:
- Skin Irritation
One of the most common, but least severe, side effects of coming into contact with mold is skin irritation. Many species of mold will cause rashes and sores that are quite painful, but fairly easy to treat with topical creams and lotions. In some cases, of course, there can be more severe reactions but this tends to be where there is an allergy or pre-existing condition.
Mold spores can exacerbate existing skin conditions like eczema and dermatitis and will irritate any open wounds that they come into contact with. This can be quite severe in some cases, so if you notice a sudden flare-up of an existing skin condition after you come into contact with mold, please seek medical advice as soon as possible.
- Respiratory Problems
Certain species of mold can interfere with your respiratory system by irritating the throat and lungs. Those at most risk are individuals with pre-existing respiratory conditions like asthma, but mold is not good for your lungs in general. Prolonged exposure can lead to incredibly serious issues as well as general shortness of breath.
If you have an underlying health concern such as asthma, pulmonary hypertension, or COPD and you find out that your home has mold, we recommend removing yourself from the property if possible. If not, you should monitor your condition closely until a mold remediation professional can come to address the mold in your property.
There are many ways to get rid of mold; some experts suggest using bleach and hot water, but the most effective and safe way to do this is to hire a mold removal professional.
- Professional Removal Is Safer
There are plenty of products and home remedies for removing mold from a property, but they vary in effectiveness and can be dangerous if applied incorrectly. Removing mold can be dangerous because of the chemicals used, but also because of the mold itself. After all, there is no way to know just what kind of mold you have until after it is professionally tested.
When you call in a mold removal professional, they will not only be able to use the chemicals effectively, they will also have the right protective equipment to ensure that they are safe during the removal process. So, while a mix of bleach and water could do the trick, we urge you to be safe and let a professional assess and remove your mold.
- Professional Removal Guarantees Success
Mold removal professionals guarantee total mold removal as a part of their service, and because of their knowledge and specialist equipment, you are more likely to be mold-free after the first treatment. This makes it cost-effective and better for your health. If you need more than one round of treatment to see your property become mold-free, however, you can be sure that professional removal is the best choice.
After all, professionals use the very best mold removal products to ensure a speedy and efficient process. Mold that is entrenched enough to withstand these chemicals is strong indeed! By letting a professional handle this tricky process you will protect your health and your property. Of course, you will also get a convenient and high-quality result! As you can see, it’s best to let the experts handle mold in your home.
How Mold Can Damage Your Health
The problem with mold is that you can’t tell which kind is benign and which is particularly dangerous. Mold can cause:
- Irritation to your eyes
- Sore throats
- Lung irritation
- Infections (if it gets into an open wound)
These are just the side effects experienced by healthy people. If you have conditions like asthma, cystic fibrosis, or COPD, the consequences could be dire. As such, it pays to take no chances where mold is concerned. Once you spot it, you should make sure it is treated and removed as quickly as possible.
How to Treat, Remove, and Prevent Mold
The easiest way to prevent mold from forming in the first place is to invest in quality basement waterproofing measures. Interior drainage, sump pumps, dehumidifiers, and vapor barriers can make all the difference. Foundation Recovery Systems offers a range of high-quality, patented waterproofing systems and products that come with a transferable warranty and guarantee. This means you can always rely on us to deal with any issues quickly and effectively.
When it comes to removing mold, however, there are many supposedly effective DIY fixes. From bleach to borax to vinegar and everything in between (including baking soda), there are plenty of options out there. We do recommend a professional removal as mold can be quite dangerous and it’s hard to know what kind you are dealing with without experience and the right tools. Foundation Recovery Systems offers free inspection appointments with no obligation to book a service with us. We do this to ensure our customers are informed and empowered when it comes to their home. If you do choose to work with us, we guarantee a quick, safe, and efficient solution to your mold issue as well as transparent pricing and flexible payment plan options, should you require them.