June heat and July rain may have left mold in your home

We have had nonstop rain all month, and before that, we were seeing one of the hottest Junes on record with scorching temperatures and heavy humidity. That combination has led to nonstop work for mold removal companies.

“We are going to do full extraction, tomorrow will be the full in-depth cleaning,” said Mike Rivera of Roto-Rooter, who we followed on his sixth call in the last three days. “Today we are just moving everything out.”

He said continuous rain has been flooding basements all over town.

“They can have 6-8 inches sometimes,” Rivera said.

Last month, you were likely blasting your air conditioning in the humid heat, which creates condensation and moisture.

“Your central air conditioning system will do some dehumidification, but it is not a dehumidifier,” said Steve Barrett of AdvantaClean of the North Shore.

“There’s mold in anybody’s house, it’s just whether it’s vacant or active,” Rivera said. “All it takes for the mold to grow is it needs a spot to live. You need some food, so that could be some skin particles or anything like that. You have dirt, sometimes food crumbs and a little bit of water.”

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We called around different mold removal companies and all of them said they have been swamped with calls. Some said this is the busiest season they’ve ever had. But they said there are things you can do.

5 tips to fight mold and humidity

  • Monitor the humidity monitor: An indoor digital humidity monitor can give a quick and accurate measurement of the humidity within a home. For the greatest comfort and to best reduce the bacteria and odors, humidity levels in the home should be kept between 40 and 55%. A humidity monitor can be purchased for less than $15.
  • Beware of your air! Run air conditioning systems running from May through the end of October and keep the fan setting on “Auto”. Leaving the fan setting on “On” runs the system continuously and can cause moisture condensed on the air conditioner coil to be blown back into the home.
  • Rein in rain! Add gutters to the roof of the house and downspouts at the base to redirect rainwater away from the house’s foundation.
  • Build a barrier! If your house has a crawlspace, make sure the floor has a vapor barrier, which is a plastic covering that lies on top of the dirt surface. This prevents moisture from the dirt floor from evaporating and seeping through into the air beneath the home. This also protects against problems caused by excess moisture like mold, odors, insects and wood rot.
  • Cover your crawlspace! Crawlspaces can be professionally encapsulated by sealing the walls and floor with a thick, plastic wrapping and installing a dehumidifier to set the appropriate humidity levels. The relative humidity in a house should not exceed 50%.
  • Move on mold! In many cases, you can see or smell mold. It is most often green or black in color and has a “musty” or “earthy” smell, somewhat like the forest floor deep in the woods. In that case use an antimicrobial mixture made up of household items such as hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or baking soda to kill or prevent the growth of mold. Spray the mixture onto the mold area and remove with a scrub brush or disposable rag while wearing protective covering such as face masks, gloves and shoe covers.

Mold: The frightening fast facts

  • Mold grows quickly: It only takes 24-48 hours to grow and spread in wet, warm conditions.
  • Undetectable: Excessive moisture behind walls, under floors, or in cabinets or closets are perfect breeding grounds for mold. This is mold that you often can’t see or smell but it can make you and your family very sick.
  • Bleach can’t kill it: Applying bleach can actually promote more mold growth on porous surfaces. A more effective treatment is an antimicrobial mixture made up of household items such as hydrogen peroxide, vinegar or baking soda.
  • Mold claims: Damage can cost as much as $10,000, and most insurance carriers will not cover the cost of mold removal.
  • Symptoms of mold exposure: Severe body aches, joint pain, nausea, chronic, sometimes serious respiratory issues. These symptoms can develop quickly or over time.
  • People at risk: The very young, the very old, people with compromised immune systems. Mold can be deadly among these groups of people.

“Make sure your gutters and your downspouts are clean and clear, and at the base of those gutters use splash plates and use diverters and get the water away from your house,” Barrett said. “It doesn’t have to go far. Three or four feet away from the foundation is fine.”

Experts also say don’t wait too long to call someone.

“Rain is category two,” Rivera said. “That’s groundwater. If groundwater sits for two or three days, it’s category three sewage that can cause mold if it’s sitting too long inside your house.”

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