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"Is it really Mold?" A wrong "Yes" or "No" diagnosis can have dire long term effects.

Posted on 27 August, 2013 at 15:49
By now, most of us have heard or read stories of mold's long term harmful effects. So it goes without saying that if there is the possibility of its existence within your home, diagnosing and eradicating it as quickly as possible can be crucial to your family's health.
What most people don't realize however, is just how harmful it can be to your home's long-term health if a mis-diagnosis is made, wrongly claiming the existence of mold, where it minimally or none exists.
Before I get into those specifics, let me first attempt to explain as simply as possible how mold grows, thrives and persists, primarily from a Desert Dweller's perspective.
Mold "Spores", from which mold is produced, are tiny particles naturally found in minute quantities in the air, particularly during very humid conditions. In such small quantities, they are as harmless to the human system as any other dust particles we breathe in on a daily basis. However, certain conditions- specifically periods of high temperatures combined with excessive and continuous moisture- provide a ripe landing spot for these spores to accumulate, reproduce and grow into active mold colonies. Building materials common to our homes (wood, drywall, etc.) provide mold a perfect food source for survival. High concentrations of spores are then released from these colonies which can cause us many ill effects. Coastal regions and other areas where humidity remains above 50% (http://www.fema.gov) most of the time tend to have much higher incidents of chronic mold outbreaks. For those of us living inland, especially desert regions like Southern Arizona, outbreaks are thankfully fairly rare and usually require some neglect on our part in order to thrive. Even during our summer monsoon season, our humidity still averages well below the 50% range needed for mold colonies to persist. For that reason, 99% of mold colonies found in our areas are caused by unintended water ponds or neglected plumbing or roof leaks. For our purposes here, I'll focus only on roof leaks.
Most of our monsoonal storms produce rainstorms lasting anywhere from a couple minutes to several hours in length. Even if your roof has a persistent leak, those wet areas beneath it generally tend to dry out within a day or two. As stated before, mold growth requires a continuous source of dampness, usually at least a solid period of 48 hours minimum. Those spores will die out or go dormant when dry conditions return and temperatures rise above 95 or fall below 70 degrees. Even under ideal conditions, most of the "mold" I've encountered here tends to be of the mildew variety- which is much less harmful and much easier to eradicate. It's fairly easy to tell the difference between mold and mildew with the naked eye. Mildew starts out whitish or yellowy, eventually turning brown then black- but always remains fairly flat in appearance. Mold on the other hand, can be a variety of colors or black as well but always appears cottony and fuzzy. Even so, if its concentrated in a confined area and you wish to eradicate it yourself, its fairly easily done. I recommend one of a variety of treatments found here: http://blackmold.awardspace.com/kill-remove-mold.html
When I was first certified for mold remediation in 1992 through the IICRC in Southern California, I was taken aback a bit by just how lucrative a business mold remediation can be. In most states, to perform this service, one needs annual re-certification, specified insurance and to follow specific guidelines set by the EPA (http://www.epa.gov/iedmold1/table2.html). All this can lead to a very hefty bill - upwards of $150.00 per man hour- when all is said and done. Its no wonder so many unscrupulous contractors will insist that remediation is necessary when either trace amounts or only mildew is found. Some will even sell you on the line that you'll only need to pay your deductible and your homeowner's insurance will cover the rest. This is where you get into the slippery slope of your home's long-term health that I mentioned at the outset.
Most of you are aware that when buying a used car a "Car-Fax" record can easily be obtained which details any record of the car's accident history. But what many aren't aware of is that a similar record can be easily purchased regarding your home's insurance claim record, known as "a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE" file. Every claim filed on your homeowner's insurance is listed there. Each claim filed - and even some inquiries- will cause a spike in your rates on your current AND future homes you own! It can also be a red flag to anyone wishing to purchase your home in the future, which can dramatically affect your selling price.
For this reason alone, its important to be absolutely sure of a positive mold diagnosis and a good practice to get a 2nd or 3rd opinion if one is found.
Of course, in rare cases in our desert where mold is found, it's imperative to have it eradicated as quickly as possible. Just make certain your contractor knows what he's doing and isn't trying to over-sell you unnecessarily.

Categories: Roof Repair Tips

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15 Comments

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Heya i for the first time here. I came across this board and I find It truly useful. it helped me to identify and get rid of the mildew, not mold, I found in my house. I hope to pass it on and help others like you aided me.
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