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All About Mold in Your Chicagoland Home

Mold spores may be found in a dormant state on practically any surface inside a Chicago area home during any season, including the winter when indoor air can feel very dry. If left unchecked, these biological contaminants can trigger and exacerbate health and respiratory issues of household members, and can cause significant damage to home structure, furnishings and possessions. Read on to learn how to best protect your home.

Mold Is Everywhere

Mold spores are literally everywhere inside and outside a home, and go largely unseen unless three conditions are present for germination and growth.

  • Food source – Germination requires organic material, which could include wood, paper, leather, clothing and even an oily fingerprint.
  • Moisture – Liquid or water vapor is required for germination.
  • Temperature – Spores thrive in temperatures favorable to humans, but they can also grow in temperatures near the freezing point.

Since it's virtually impossible to eradicate mold spores, the best protection is controlling the conditions that spores need to grow. Homes are constructed and contain wood, paper, and other organic materials and compounds, so food sources cannot be controlled. Temperature is another unavoidable condition favorable to germination, which only leaves moisture control.

Moisture Control Top-To-Bottom

Gutters are an important component of the roofing system that need to be maintained to allow unobstructed water drainage. Overflowing gutters may force water into the attic via timber or perhaps damage caused by ice dams. This excess moisture creates issues for maintaining a healthy attic (and water damage to the home).

Attic

The attic should maintain ambient temperature close to the temperatures outside the home. However, heat energy from the living spaces leaks or transfers to the attic. This can cause condensation on the underside of the roof, which creates conditions favorable to mold.

Moreover, the condensation may drip on insulation. Wet insulation loses R-value (heat resistance), which allows more heat energy into the attic (exacerbating the issues), and wet insulation can harbor mold growth. These are the basic steps to maintain a healthy mold-free attic:

  • Seal – The barrier between the living spaces and outside temperatures should be at the attic floor -- not at the underside of the roof. The attic should be sealed to prevent air leaks (which contain moisture) at the access door with weatherstripping, and around any piping or other apertures into the attic with expandable spray foam and caulk.
  • Ventilate Ventilation is key for a healthy attic. Temperatures inside the attic should closely match those outside the home no matter the season. Fan-assisted ventilation is helpful, and many homeowners are trying solar-powered fans to save energy. Natural ventilation works just fine, too, as long as vents are not obstructed by insulation or storage items.
  • Insulate – While air sealing prevents heat exchange with the living spaces by convection, attic insulation hinders heat exchange by conduction. Once your attic is properly sealed and ventilated, you can replace any damaged or moldy insulation, and boost insulation to R-60, as recommended by the federal Energy Star program.

Living Spaces

Controlling mold and moisture in the living spaces requires ventilation, humidity management and cleanliness. Consider these procedures and tips for your home:

  • Spot ventilation in the kitchen, bathroom and from the clothes dryer should exhaust outside the home (not into the attic or crawl space).
  • If certain areas in the home are susceptible to moisture accumulation, including the bathroom and condensation on windows, keep these areas clean and as dry as possible.
  • Condensation on windows can seep into drywall and wallpaper, both of which are excellent food sources for mold spores.

Air Ducts

The ductwork, air conditioner and furnace components can harbor mold growth, too. Make sure you are scheduling preventive maintenance at least once a year for your HVAC systems and air ducts. Consider a duct inspection to see if your ductwork could use a good cleaning.

Basement and Crawl Space

Basements and crawl spaces need attention and mold-growth prevention, too. If your home has ventilated crawl space, cover the vents during the summer to help prevent excess moisture accumulation. During the winter season, leave the vents uncovered to allow ambient temperatures. (Make sure the underside of the floor is properly sealed and insulated, like the attic floor.)

Basements are often musty and damp and contain food sources for mold, such as building structure and stored personal possessions. If this is the case in your basement, consider using a portable dehumidifier to keep the area dry.

For more information about mold prevention in your Chicagoland home, please visit or call us at Comfort24-7.com.

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