Basements tend to have humidity and moisture issues. There are many reasons why moisture in the basement can occur. This list includes flooding, cracks in the foundation, improper grading around the property (ground sloping towards the property rather than away from it), and the failure of gutters and downspouts to direct water away from the foundation.
Mold can begin to grow in any environment where there is moisture, an organic food source and oxygen. To reduce the potential for mold growth you need to eliminate at least one of these things. Taking care of any moisture issues in the basement is the first step to fixing your basement mold problem otherwise your efforts will most likely be wasted and the mold will return.
Common Places for Mold Growth in the Basement
Some of the most common places we find mold growing in the basement are:
- Floor joists and floor sheathing
- Drywall walls and ceilings
- Wood wall framing
- Sill plates
- Block walls
- Around the sump-pump crock
- Around hot water heaters
- Around washers and driers
- Furniture and fabrics
- Cardboard boxes being stored etc…
Reducing the Potential for Mold in the Basement
We recommend using an adequately sized dehumidifier in the basement at all times with a humidistat set to around 55% RH (Relative Humidity). The dehumidifier should have a dedicated drain hose so that it doesn’t rely on the bucket or reservoir being emptied on a regular basis to function continuously. Any cracks in the foundation should be fixed as soon as possible. Leaks around basement windows should be addressed. Items you wish to store in the basement should be kept in plastic totes and not in cardboard boxes which act as a sponge for moisture. If your washer and drier are located in the basement, make sure there are no leaky pipes and that the drier hose is properly exhausted to the outside. Ensure that the exterior grading is sloping away from the property. Check that gutters are not blocked and in good shape and ensure that they have downspouts with extenders to direct water away from the foundation. Ensure that there are not a lot of plants and shrubbery close to the property. Ideally, there should be a minimum of 3 feet of space between the exterior walls of the property and any plants or shrubs to allow sunlight to get down to the ground against the property and help it remain as dry as possible. A drain tile system may need to be installed if your basement has issues with water intrusion/seepage.
Basement Mold Removal
It is not possible to completely remove mold from porous materials such as drywall, insulation and carpet etc. Even if you think you’ve cleaned away the mold from the surface of the material, the microscopic spores and root system of the mold (the mycelium) would still remain in the pores of the material and could begin to grow again. Those materials should be properly removed and discarded if they have become mold affected. Very small areas of surface mold can be handled by the homeowner. However, anything more than that should be properly remediated by a certified professional.
Many homes have a forced-air HVAC system located in the basement. Forced-air HVAC systems are the quickest way mold spores can be spread around your home. The supply air for the HVAC system is drawn from the basement. When there is a mold issue in the basement, mold spores can be sucked into the HVAC system, contaminating the HVAC system itself and the ductwork that carries the air throughout the home. The mold spores can then be dispersed all over the home via the ductwork, creating the potential for poor indoor air quality and even more mold issues.
After a mold remediation has been completed in the basement, we highly recommend that a professional service properly cleans/sanitizes the HVAC system to improve the overall indoor air quality. The HVAC cleaning service should check drain and condensate pans to ensure they are properly draining and change the filters and humidifier pads (if applicable).
Basement Mold and Your Health
Many people complain about not feeling well with symptoms like that of the common cold or seasonal allergies. If you feel sicker when you are in your home, it is possible that your home might be producing mold. If your home is producing mold then you are being exposed to elevated levels of mold spores much higher than what would naturally be occurring in the outdoor air.
Common symptoms are:
- red or itchy eyes
- sore throat
- nasal and sinus congestion
- runny nose
- wheezing and difficulty breathing
- chest tightness
If you suspect you may have mold in your home, but there are no obvious visible signs, then an air quality test would determine if there really is a mold problem. A mold spore trap air control sample would be collected outside to determine the level of mold spores naturally occurring at that precise moment in time. Then, at least one mold spore trap air sample would be collected inside the property and compared to the outdoor control sample to determine if levels of mold spores in the home are elevated and to what degree. If the sample shows there are elevated levels of mold spores in the home, a more in-depth mold investigation/inspection would need to be done to identify the source of the mold problem.