Table of Contents
March 14, 2021
Taking simple steps to help prevent mold issues within your property is both time and money saving. When you understand the three essentials for mold growth you can begin to implement changes in the way you think about your home or small business. This will enable you to protect your investment and your health by staying ahead of possible infestation and damages.
Three things that are necessary for mold to stay active and propogate are: Appropriate temperatures, a food source, and moisture. Knowing this, we can begin to put into action plans to monitor and control these factors in ways that will make your living space a hostile environment for mold and mold spores.
Temperature is usually controlled in most living spaces by a heating/cooling system. While some basements may share this system, many crawlspaces and most attics do not. Limiting the amount of temperature change in those areas can be acheived through other methods like proper ventilation, proper insulation, and using ductwork to create a "conditioned space".
When people think of mold and temperature they tend to automatically assume a swealtering heat is necessary for mold growth. This in untrue. Many molds live quite comfortably in colder temperatures. Just imagine the many items you've had to throw out of your refrigerator because of mold. However, the majority of molds do prefer the same temperatures that humans typically enjoy. The higher temperatures do tend to promote growth of molds but that is because of humidity or condensation that occurs with such temperatures. Therefore, of the three factors necessary for mold growth, temperature is commonly accepted as being the easiest to limit and control. If you are mindful at the onset of purchasing your home or small business, then you should only have to make annual or twice a year inspections of those areas (crawlspace/attic/unfinished basements or cellars) to ensure that temperature has not become an issue.
Mold uses a plethora of objects as food sources. Most of the materials used in the construction of homes and businesses can be used by one type of mold or another as a source of nourishment. Common ones ranging from less to more porous are wood, drywall, carpet, insulation, etc. Contaminants can even be found within ductwork needing cleaning, feeding off of lint and other porous materials trapped within them. Then there are all the possibilities of the contents within the structure such as clothing, furniture, paper, food, etc. This may sound like an impossible task to monitor food sources since practically everything seems like a food source to mold! It isn't. Just a visual inspection and common sense preventative measures like disposing of spoiled food items will help prevent mold from spreading throughout your dwelling.
What those food sources need associated with them to make them particularly irresistible is moisture. That's why when I visually inspect for mold I look at areas that are prone to condensation or leaks first. This includes roof leaks especially around vent pipes, chimneys, air vents, etc. It includes bathrooms as they are a prime candidate for leaks and condensation. It includes basements/crawlspaces because they can have flooding, ground water, busted or leaking pipes, or missing/malfunctioning pump systems that allow water full access to them. Anywhere it is common for water to infiltrate a home or small business, those are the prime areas for doing inspections so you can remedy any situation before it becomes a huge financial and time burden.
Water is the main reason for mold growth. The more contaminants within the water that invade your property, the higher chance for potentially toxic molds and other health hazards (microbials, bacteria, etc.). Using simple testing equipment you can find from your local hardware store, you can quickly visually inspect and get moisture readings using a moisture meter for wood, concrete and other building materials while getting air moisture levels using a hygrometer.
Some tools that can help when it comes to moisture being controlled are dehumidifiers, fans, cooling/heating systems, fixing or replacing leaking/busted pipes, encapsulation for crawlspaces, new or replaced sump pump systems, and so on and so forth.
With all of this in mind, unless something out of the ordinary happens (flood, tornado, deep freeze, etc.) a good overall inspection of your property every 3 months should keep you aware of how well your property is doing. This way, you can notice any changes from season to season and make the necessary corrections. Of course, this is a suggested minimum. If you wish to inspect every month as part of your preventative maintenance, then all the better.
If you are unable to complete these inspections yourself, there are those in the inspection, construction, remediation, and insurance industries that can and will perform these types of visual inspections for you. A little time and effort today can potentially save many hours of labor and thousands of dollars in damage tomorrow.
February 1, 2021
The most common problem with crawlspaces is the intrusion of ground water. The ground outside your home typically sits higher than the level of the soil of the crawlspace. As rainwater seeps into the soil (which is then called groundwater) next to your home, it can enter the crawlspace via three typical points. First is through the building materials used to create your foundation (block, mortar), secondly being through the joint of your footer and foundation wall, and thirdly is water that travels completely beneath the foundation wall and footer to be wicked upward by the dirt of your crawlspace.
This video from Youtube channel Practical Engineering demonstrates how water can go from the outside and make its way inside even under a solid obstruction. In this example the abundance of water from rain would be on the left side, and the crawlspace on the right with a sump pump installed to remove the water that's present. The main purpose of the video is to demonstrate erosion, but can be used to show that water can and will wick up into less saturated areas.
To combat this groundwater and rainwater intrusion, many homes have been built with vents that allow air to pass through underneath the flooring in hopes that the water would simply evaporate. The reality tells a different story.
Groundwater tends to pool in the lower sitting areas of the crawlspace and as evaporation and wicking of water by building materials occurs the insulation, walls, subflooring and any other surfaces in contact with it become saturated. In less than 48 hours mold can begin to form on these surfaces. If left unchecked, then rot, pests, and a host of microbials can begin infesting and destroying these surfaces while affecting your health.
A better solution is encapsulation of the crawlspace. This may involve installing a sump pump system with or without an interior french drain first. These will transport the water to the pump which then pumps the water out of your crawlspace into a suitable drain. All saturated materials are also dried using industrial air movers or removed at this time.
The next step is removal of all debris to prevent the encapsulation material from being torn or damaged. Electrical wiring will be securely fastened to the joists. This prevents low hanging, or in some cases wiring being covered by the encapsulation. Any plumbing or electrical issues that demand attention before encapsulation are also addressed at this time by professionals in their respective fields.
Now a perfectly dry and hazard free environment is ready for encapsulation. Plastic sheeting at a minimum of 6 mm thick is rolled out, measured, and cut to fit all of the piers that support your home's beams and joists. A 1 foot overlap at the base of each pier is left to ensure good coverage and water impedence. The floor of the crawlspace is covered next with the plastic sheeting. Tape designed specifically for encapsulation purposes is used to seal the edge of the overlap and anchors are used to secure the plastic from sliding around when contractors access your crawlspace.
The walls of the crawlspace are covered leaving an approximately 6 inch gap from the sill plate for termite inspections. The wall coverings are attached using both anchors and a bead of adhesive to insure a proper seal and strength for longevity.
If you live in an area with extremely humid conditions, then a dehumidifier and/or vents can be installed by a contractor to allow air flow between the crawlspace and your living space. Another option is creating a conditioned crawlspace in which the ductwork for your existing air/heating system is left uninsulated and a vent installed in the ductwork itself. Insulation options are also available. The now fully encapsulated crawlspace will help block moisture, many insects and rodents, and provide you with a drier, healthier, and money saving space at the very foundation of your home.
Pandemic Sanitization Services
December 7, 2020
Covid-19 has brought with it a whole new set of challenges for us all. Many of these challenges have been approached from a `let's do everything within our power to minimize and eliminate this threat` approach, which is a very commendable sentiment. Anyone would want to do everything within their power to keep people from possible danger.
In the mold remediation industry, our business focus has always been to eliminate as many possible pathogens as possible to insure the optimal and safest indoor air quality. To this end, we seek out new and improved technologies to enhance our efficacy. However, we strive to not spread misinformation or oversell products and their abilities.
The pandemic has people rushing to try unproven methods for erradicating covid-19 from businesses and homes in the safest and least invasive methods. This is also a commendable sentiment but it is not always the most effective and should not be sold as such.
Ozone generators are proven very effective as a method of removing odors, according to Ozone Technologies Group Inc. Unfortunately, the residence or business must be evacuated during treatment in order for this to be possibly effective against covid-19 because the required levels aren't safe for humans, pets, etc. Both the EPA and the CDC have specifically recommended against their usage in an occupied dwelling.
Hydroxyl generators, similar to ozone generators, are proven to affect a higher number of pathogens but with the added benefit of being safe to use while a building is occupied. However, what would normally take an ozone generator hours to complete, a hydroxyl generator takes around 3-5 days to accomplish. They also require humidity to function effectively and since mold and bacteria tend to thrive in humid conditions most remediation practices try to minimize humidity within the dwelling. More information may be found at Ozone Technologies Group Inc's website.
As a general sanitization piece of equipment and for odor removal, the hydroxyl generators seem to be the cutting edge of safe and effective treatment of indoor air. If you're specifically buying it for its covid-19 killing abilities, then you may want to hold onto that investment capital for proven methods before sinking thousands of dollars on equipment that may or may not prove to be effective.
Another cause for concern is the perception of these devices by the general public. There have been no studies proving the efficacy of hydroxyl generators on covid-19 in businesses or homes. Every new opening of doors, people walking in from the outside environment, and other unknown factors are introduced into the system that could potentially reinfect a covid-19 free area. Meanwhile the residences, workers, customers, and general public may get a false sense of security when these devices are installed. People may then let their guard down in what they believe to now be a `safe zone`.
At Serenity Mold Remediation, we prefer to stick to proven technologies to provide customers with known facts in order to make the best decisions for their businesses and families. Will owning a hydroxyl generator for your business or home improve indoor air quality? With proper usage and environment, absolutely! Are they a proven method of eliminating and creating an ongoing permanent solution to covid-19? Not yet! They are simply one tool at your disposal to improve your indoor air quality.
This may change with future studies to give us all a more informed perspective on the efficacy of these generators. Only time will tell. For now, remediation by professionals and following CDC and EPA guidelines for dealing with covid-19 is our best line of defense.
We will do our best to keep watch for any new technologies or methods as well as studies to help our customers stay safe during these times.
November 3, 2020
When deciding upon the necessity for a professional mold remediation, the EPA suggests that any area the size of 10 square feet or lower can be handled by DIY. If you have a greater area or you don't want to handle it yourself, then a remediator would be the option to solving the mold problem.
If the property owner is unsure of mold or the source, then an indoor air quality expert is an excellent first step in determining mold presence, cause of moisture, type of mold infestation, and setting up a proper mold remediation protocol.
An indoor air quality (IAQ) professional should be a separate entity from the mold remediation company you hire as there is a conflict of interest in receiving remediation recommendations from the same business. Some scammers will try to sell you unnecessary services based upon their own assessment of your mold problem.
Mold remediation begins with detective work, figuring out the source of moisture that is creating the environment conducive to mold. Once the moisture source is found, whether it is an overabundance of humidity, a leaky roof or pipe, ground water seepage, etc., and corrected then property dry out can begin.
After using air movers (fans), air scrubbers (hepa filtered vacuums/hepa filtered air movers), and dehumidifiers to safely dry out and prevent further spread of mold and mold spores, the space is prepped for remediation to begin.
If the area is within the living area(s) of the property, then a containment/isolation site will be set up to prevent cross contamination of the surrounding areas. Air scrubber(s) will be set up and vented through an access to the outside (usually a window) via plastic tubing or creating a seal around a scrubber placed in the window creating an inverse air pressure. Plastic sheeting is used to seal any doors, fixtures, vents, and receptacles that could lead to other areas. This step also minimizes the spread of dust and debris from the removal of affected materials.
After a containment site is set up, the removal of porous surfaces that are affected by mold shall begin. Drywall, carpeting, insulation, rotted wood, and anything else that is too porous to be properly treated and is acting as a food source must be removed for proper mold remediation. These contents are bagged up within the containment area. The next step is to brush and vacuum (if heavy thick mold is present) the remaining affected areas that are to be treated. This is followed by removal of all air scrubbing equipment as chemical treatment of the mold will begin.
Using a chemical spray to destroy the majority of mold and remove mold staining, the remaining structures will return to as close to an "as new" look as possible, while leaving behind a toxic environment for mold/mold spores. The final treatment is delivered in a combined disinfectant, virucide, bactericide, and sanitizer distributed as a dense mist from an industrial grade ULV (ultra low volume) fogger. This penetrates the membrane of mold, mold spores, many bacterias and viruses, killing them in the hardest of places to reach.
The particular fogging agent we use has the added benefit of being on the CDC N list, a list of agents expected to kill covid-19 on surfaces.
After the fogging, a brief 45 minute to 1 hour waiting period is all that is required for safe entry into the now fully remediated space.
All plastic sheeting is removed, the contaminated materials bagged up prior to chemical treatment are now disposed of (usually in a dumpster), and the area is given a final vacuum once over to insure all dust from remediation is cleaned up.
There are differences with this process depending upon if work is being done in an attic or a crawlspace while each job presenting its unique challenges. However, the basic principles are applied for each work zone.
After the remediation protocol is completed, we at Serenity Mold Remediation, LLC highly recommend having an indoor air quality expert test the air for remediation success.