Just the idea of mold can cause panic for a homeowner. It can make you sick, create structural issues, and seriously affect your property value. But how do you even know if you have mold and how should you proceed if you do? We talked to Joe Cascone, owner of Mold Pro Chicago, a highly-rated mold prevention and removal company on Thumbtack, to get all of the answers you need.
What causes mold?
“Mold is a fungus that’s an integral part of the earth’s bio-mass,” Cascone says. It consumes and breaks down organic material, like leaves, wood, and plants. “The problem,” he says, “is when mold colonizes in our buildings, consumes our building materials, and puts spores into our indoor air.” This happens when there’s a moisture problem since mold can’t grow without water. “When there’s enough moisture or humidity for colonization, that’s when humans begin to have problems.”
Why is it important to get mold removed?
For the majority of people, exposure to very low concentrations of mold won’t be an issue. However, Cascone says, “Some spores can create allergy or respiratory-related health problems, and mold growth can also adversely affect property value. Nobody wants to purchase a Seller’s mold issue. Attic mold almost never affects the indoor air quality in the living space, but it sure threatens real estate deals.”
What are the most common causes of mold in homes?
The unfortunate reality is that problematic mold can really pop up anywhere that isn’t dry. Cascone says it sees it most often in attics due to roof leaks, poor air circulation, and bathrooms that ventilate into the attic rather than outdoors; crawl spaces because earthen or gravel flooring allows moisture and spores to rise from the soil; basements that have flooding from foundation leaks or plumbing leaks; and interior living spaces with leaks, bad windows, and high humidity.
Is there a chance I have mold and don’t even know it?
Cascone says there are four criteria that you should be aware of:
- A musty odor is caused during the colonization of some fungal species, but can come and go depending on moisture levels and air current changes.
- If you have water staining or if building materials have discoloration that’s spreading over time… that may be a sign of mold.
- Mold spores that were already present will begin to colonize just 48 hours after a water event.
- Health Effects. If your allergy or respiratory symptoms begin to worsen or if you feel worse in certain indoor environments and better when you leave that space, you may have mold.
What is the removal process like?
The remediation process (providing a remedy to a known mold issue) involves three things, Cascone says. Killing the fungi, removing the dead mold, and protecting against future mold growth/colonization. In order to do this, Cascone has a multi-step process that he uses:
- Contain work area and apply negative air pressure HEPA air purifiers to prevent cross-contamination.
- Mist EPA registered anti-microbial to suspend and kill mold spores.
- Remove affected building surfaces.
- Bag and dispose properly
- Treat cavities/underlayment and dehumidify.
- Abrasively remove dead loose mold.
- Apply EPA registered protective sealer.
- Perform clearance testing.
- Remove containment materials.
Why is it important to hire a professional?
Cascone says, “It is always a good idea to consult with an honest mold professional.” If there’s an issue you can tackle yourself, they should give you recommendations about how to do so. “Honestly though,” he says, “it may be a bit too much for a homeowner to keep safe while preventing cross contamination, killing mold, removing it and preventing new mold from growing.” That’s when a professional is necessary, so you can get things done properly.
What are the costs typically associated with mold removal?
“Remediation in attics and crawl spaces run about $2 per square foot of surfaces treated,” Cascone says. “When treating attics and crawls, it is important to treat ALL decking, joists and attic trusses. As for remediation that involves demolition of drywall, paneling, flooring, ceiling tile, cabinets, disposal containers, cleaning and sanitizing HVAC ducts, etc., it may be $4 to $6 per square foot.”