The Condominum Owners' Guide to Mold
What are molds?
Molds are microscopic fungi, a group of organisms which also includes mushrooms and yeasts. Fungi are highly adapted to grow and reproduce rapidly, producing spores and mycelia in the process.
You encounter mold every day. Foods spoil because of mold. Leaves decay and pieces of wood lying on the ground rot due to mold. That fuzzy black growth on wet window sills is mold. Paper or fabrics stored in a damp place get a musty smell that is due to the action of molds.
Molds can be useful to people. The drug Penicillin is obtained from a specific type of mold. Some foods and beverages are made by the actions of molds. The good kinds of molds are selected and grown in a controlled fashion.
Molds are undesirable when they grow where we dont want them, such as in homes. Over 270 species of mold have been identified as living in Canadian homes. Molds that grow inside may be different from the ones found outdoors.
What makes molds grow?
Molds will grow if we provide them with moisture and nutrients. If we keep things dry, molds do not grow.
High moisture levels can be the result of water coming in from the outside, through the floor, walls or roof; or from plumbing leaks; or moisture produced by the people living in the condo, through daily activities like bathing, washing clothes or cooking. Water enters the building when there is a weakness or failure in the structure. Moisture accumulates within a condo when there is not enough ventilation to expel that moisture.
Different kinds of molds grow on different materials. Certain kinds of molds like an extremely wet environment. Other kinds of molds may be growing even if no water can be seen. Dampness inside the material can be enough to allow them to grow.
Why are molds a concern?
Damage to materials is one concern. Materials get stained or discoloured, and over time they are ruined. Moldy paper and cardboard disintegrate over time. Fabrics are damaged. Continued mold growth can be indicative of moisture conditions favorable for growth of fungi that cause wood rot and structural damage.
When molds are growing inside the home, there may be health concerns. Molds release chemicals and spores.
Health experts indicate that, depending on the type of mold present in a home, the amount and degree of exposure, and the health condition of the occupant, the health effects of mold can range from being insignificant to causing allergic reactions and illness.
Pregnant women, infants, the elderly and those with health problems, such as respiratory disease or a weakened immune system, are more at risk when exposed to mold. Consult your family physician if you believe there is someone who may be at risk.
How can you tell if it is mold?
Discolouration is a sign of mold. However, all discolouration is not due to mold. Carpeting near baseboards, for example, can be stained by outdoor pollution entering the home. Stains or soot may also be caused by the smoke from burning candles or cigarette. Mold may be any colour : black, white, red, orange, yellow, blue or violet. Dab a drop of household bleach onto a suspected spot. If the stain loses its colour or disappears, it may be mold. If there is no change, it probably isnt mold.
Sometimes molds are hidden and cannot be seen. A musty or earthy smell often indicates the presence of molds. But a smell may not be present for all molds. Even when you dont notice a smell, wet spots, dampness or evidence of a water leak are indications of moisture problems and mold may follow.
When is mold a problem?
Is there a mold problem?
Molds are always found in the air outside and in all buildings. They come into the home in many ways -through open windows or doors, on clothing, pets, food or furniture. The problem starts when mold grows inside the unit.
Some mold growing, for example on the window sill but not elsewhere, is not a cause of concern. You can clean the mold yourself. The presence of mold is a sign that there is too much moisture in your condo - a situation which must be corrected.
Mold that is isolated inside walls and which cannot easily come in contact with the occupants is less of an immediate concern but should be dealt with by the Condominium Board.*
Inspect the condo to find the extent of the mold. Advise your Condominium Board if you suspect a serious mold problem.
How much mold is growing?
One way is to estimate the area of the mold.
Mold is considered to cover a small area if it is no larger than the size of a standard garbage bag folded in half (crosswise or lengthwise). If there is another mold patch beyond two garbage bag lengths away it is considered a separate patch (otherwise it all counts as a larger patch). Clean up small areas yourself using a detergent solution, household rubber gloves and a dust mask for protection.
Small moldy areas may become larger over time if ignored, so its important to clean up and remove even small patches of mold.
If the patch of mold or all nearby patches (less than two garbage bag lengths apart) combined are larger than a garbage bag folded in half but smaller than a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood or drywall, the mold area is considered moderate. You can clean up moderate amounts of mold but you must follow the proper procedures and use the proper protective equipment.
A mold area is considered extensive if a single patch of mold is larger in area than a sheet of plywood. Being exposed to this much mold is not a good idea. Do not attempt to clean up large areas of mold yourself. You need professional help to determine why the mold is there in the first place and how to clean it up.
When should you seek professional help?
You may need professional help when:
How do you get professional help?
Advise your Condominium Board of mold problems you may be experiencing. Your Condominium Board will determine if envelope specialists should be consulted to resolve moisture ingress through the envelope.
You may wish to seek advice on how you can improve your own unit. Contact your local CMHC office for a list of individuals who have completed the CMHC Residential Indoor Air Quality Investigator program. A trained IAQ investigator, who operates a private business and sells his/her services, examines the inside indoor air quality conditions of your condo and documents your concerns. He/she identifies the problems, finds their sources and suggests solutions in a written report. Recommendations are provided to you in an action plan that consists of various options to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
Ask your Condominium Board for names of mold clean-up contractors -individuals who have been trained to clean up mold.
How to clean up small mold problems
Small area clean-up
You can clean up small areas of mold (less than the area covered by a garbage bag folded in half) yourself. The minimum protective wear needed is:
Occupants with asthma, allergies or other health problems should be out of the unit during the cleaning.
Steps to follow in cleaning up small mold areas
Mold that comes back after cleaning is usually an indication that a source of moisture has not been removed. Seek professional help from a trained IAQ investigator.
How to clean up moderate mold problems
If you follow the proper procedures and use the proper protective equipment, you can clean up moderate areas of mold. Moderate means the patch of mold or all nearby patches (less than two garbage bag lengths apart) combined is larger than a garbage bag folded in half but smaller than a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood.
a) Safety precautions
b) General cleaning
c) Cleaning wood surfaces
d) Cleaning concrete surfaces
e) Moldy drywall
Any areas that show new patches of mold should be cleaned promptly.
Notify your Condominium Board of the extent of mold in your unit.
Repair to the building envelope is required if moisture is entering the unit from the outside. Your Condominium Board may already be undertaking the work or is in the process of preparing to carry out the remediation. Condominium owners, meanwhile, can take steps to reduce their exposure to mold in their own units.
1. Discard moldy or damaged materials.Wear a dust mask and gloves. Furnishings, such as mattresses, carpets, or sofas that got wet or have been stored in damp conditions should be discarded. Discard items that are no longer needed. Clothes and other items that have been cleaned should be stored in sealed plastic bags to prevent re-contamination.
2. Proper vacuuming reduces the amount of mold spores. All surfaces in the condo (floors, walls, ceilings, shelves) and non-washable furnishings (such as sofas, chairs, etc.) must be vacuumed thoroughly.
3. Keep moisture generated within the unit to a minimum by conscientiously following the prevention steps.
4. Pull carpets and furnishings away from walls that get wet. Carpets and underpads that are moldy should be cut out and discarded.
5. Take steps to dry up areas that get wet. Monitor the relative humidity of the air. Use a portable dehumidifier, if necessary. Ensure that the condensate drain pan of the dehumidifier is emptied regularly.
6. If the mold is limited to one area, isolate the area if possible. Cover the affected surfaces with plastic sheeting secured at the edges with duct tape. Note that this is only a temporary measure to minimize your exposure.
7. Healthy individuals can regularly clean small and moderate areas of mold, thus preventing these from getting out of hand, by following the safety precautions and cleaning guidelines.
8. Consider seeking professional help from trained IAQ investigators to identify appropriate remediation steps inside the unit. Removing large amounts of mold will require the services of mold clean-up contractors.
Dealing with an ongoing problem
Basic steps to prevent and reduce mold growth
Mold-proofing your condominium, room by room
Basement or crawl space
To clean a drain:
Closets and bedrooms
Other parts of the condo
Frequently asked questions about mold
The air feels dry - can I humidify?
What advantages do HEPA vacuums provide?
Is vacuuming with a HEPA or externally
exhausted vacuum cleaner recommended for serious mold problems only?
Where do you find a HEPA vacuum cleaner? Vacuum cleaner dealers carry HEPA vacuums. Consider purchasing one as an upgrade to what you may be using. A HEPA vacuum is a good investment in the long term whether you have mold or not. A generic canister HEPA vacuum cleaner costs approximately $300. Brand name products of the same type may cost more.You may inquire if the dealer has a HEPA vacuum cleaner to rent. Contractors who clean up or renovate houses for mold should also have this equipment.
Does painting over a moldy surface take care of the mold? Painting over mold only masks the problem. Paint does not kill the mold nor stop it from growing. Surfaces that are washable should be cleaned with a detergent solution, following the procedure suggested on page 4, then allowed to dry. If you are going to paint, remove any mold first.
Does cleaning stop the mold growth? Mold will reappear until its source of moisture is removed. High moisture levels that are not corrected can make the molds grow back quickly. Cleaning is only a temporary but essential measure. You can help by making a conscious effort to keep the condo dry. For obvious reasons water must be prevented from entering the condominium. But you can help by controlling moisture that is produced inside the condo.
How does one clean clothes that are moldy? Non-washable clothing can be dry cleaned. Wash clothes with a detergent solution to which a cup of bleach is added. Make sure the detergent you use does not contain ammonia. Repeat as necessary until the moldy odour is gone. Clothes and other items that have been cleaned should be stored in sealed plastic bags to prevent re-contamination.
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