Experts estimate that mold causes billions of dollars in damage to our health and homes each and every year. Even a small mold remediation can cost homeowners up to $3,000.
This is especially problematic in Southwest Florida where the humidity levels during the grueling summer months can average 90% during peak hours, well above the 55% level mold needs to germinate.
Therefore, it is vital to prevent the growth of mold by controlling moisture, actively examining high risk areas for signs of growth, and acting quickly to remediate mold before costs become exorbitant.
Molds are small particles of fungi that break down fallen leaves, dead trees and other organic materials. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
By producing microscopic cells called spores, these spores act like seeds spreading by way of insects and water. Able to colonize rapidly when conditions are right it is common to find mold in damp areas or near water sources in the home.
While there are over 300,000 different species of mold the three most common in Southwest Florida are Aspergillus which is found on rotten produce, Cladosporium a mold that can vary in colors from black to green found in damp areas, and Stachybotrys chartarum, aka Black Mold, a slimy mold common in homes with moisture problems. This is one of the more dangerous forms of mold.
Mold has many deleterious health effects ranging from allergic reactions to lung infections in immune-compromised people. People with asthma should avoid contact with or exposure to molds as much as possible as it can lead to asthmatic episodes and severe reaction.
Exposure to Stachybotry’s or black mold has been reported to cause trouble breathing, disorientation and neurological problems in some people.
Mold will not just impact your physical health but your financial health as well.
Mold remediation can vary dramatically depending on how early you catch it. It can cost practically nothing (hot water and soap) to thousands of dollars. The bigger the infestation is the more it can start to cost. Further, if mold permeates the attic or ducts the costs can climb upwards to $6,000 and if mold spreads throughout a home or pollutes the air quality making the space uninhabitable the costs skyrocket to tens of thousands of dollars!
Molds can gradually break down the things they grow on. You can prevent damage to your home and furnishings, save money, and avoid potential health problems by controlling moisture.
Moisture control is the key to preventing mold growth and the two biggest components are reducing humidity and drying wet surfaces due to leaks and spills.
Controlling humidity levels below 55% prevents the growth of mold. This is especially important in Southwest Florida (Bonita Springs, Estero, Marco Island, Naples) where the average humidity is over 70% all year round!
When water leaks or spills occur you have to act quickly, if wet or damp areas are dried within 24-48 hours in most cases mold will not grow.
As mentioned earlier, almost 66% of the residents in Marco Island and Naples are seasonal. Our snowbirds head back north every summer, some leaving for more than 6 months at a time, but before they do they will start preparing their home for that inevitable trip, whether its bringing in patio furniture and cushions or preparing their vehicle for storage while they are away. However, unbeknownst to them their good intentions may be bringing the enemy into their home!
The mold will not grow indoors if the humidity level stays below 55%; however, the mold will lay dormant and if an issue were to arise the mold will grow rapidly. The same being said for storing your vehicle. Properly storing your vehicle will help prevent mold that can eat away at organic material like your steering wheel or leather seating.
If you are a seasonal homeowner and are unable to prepare your home before your departure make sure that your home watch company understands the above and takes the necessary precautions to protect your home. Otherwise your home watch professional’s courtesy could be creating a ticking timebomb waiting to happen!
Catching mold early is important because not all homeowner’s insurance policies will cover mold related issues and those that do have stipulations regarding timeliness. This is especially true in tropical climates (i.e. Bonita Springs, Estero, Marco Island, Naples) where humidity is more prevalent as most policies have clauses that are climate specific. Also, being a seasonal homeowner is not considered an excuse, preventable water leaks are rarely covered under homeowner’s insurance. This makes monitoring for mold vital.
A best practice is to routinely inspect AC units, drain pans and drain lines as these are a common place for mold. Homeowners should also monitor other high-risk areas like roofs, basements, and water sources (i.e., bathrooms, sinks, laundry rooms) that are susceptible to water leaks. The EPAs interactive mold house tour is a great roadmap to a robust monitoring plan.
If you know you will be gone for prolonged periods of time it is important to turn your water off. This will greatly reduce your risk of mold due to water related leaks. Further, if gone for more than 10 days, make sure you have a home watch professional checking your home. A home watch company should be inspecting HVAC units, and other high risks areas for conditions that may cause mold growth.
When mold is present in the home it is often easy to detect. Mold can look like spots and can be many different colors. It can smell musty. Mold takes the appearance of staining or fuzzy growth, most often located on furniture, wood material, or around areas of water damage and high moisture. If you see or smell mold, you should remove it.
Sometimes no matter how diligent you are, mold will happen. But, do not panic if mold is growing in your home. Identify and fix the moisture problem and then the fun part, cleaning up the mold!
Mold can be removed from hard surfaces with simple household products like soapy hot water or a bleach solution. Be cautious by wearing protective goggles and gloves to avoid touching or getting mold in the eyes. Remember do not mix chemicals like bleach and ammonia it can form poisonous gas that can harm you.
If you are a seasonal resident it may not be easy to do the above when thousands of miles away, but rest assured most home watch professional should be able to help with minor mold.
However, if once cleaned and the mold reappears or the mold infestation is larger than 10 square feet it is best to contact a specialist. Do not dawdle, the situation can deteriorate quickly. As we previously mentioned involving your homeowner’s insurance early is critical to minimize cost as some policies will not cover mold issues if not dealt with immediately, if they cover it at all.
It is important to have a trusted mold remediator on file who you can call in case of an emergency. If you do not know who to call, your home watch professional should have a list of trustworthy specialists in the area.
If time permits, since mold issues can be costly soliciting quotes from multiple specialists in always encouraged. Further, if you cannot be present during the remediation process, make sure to have someone you trust present to monitor and record the remediation process to create vendor accountability and transparency.
While having a home in paradise may be a dream come true it is not without its complications, one of them being mold. Mold can affect our health, home, and wallet; therefore, taking actions to prevent, monitor, and remediate mold issues is an important part of homeownership in Marco Island and Naples.
The most important way to prevent mold growth is to control moisture, this can be done by reducing humidity and keeping surfaces dry. When monitoring for mold examine high risk areas for signs of potential growth. Mold remediation if caught early can be cheap and easy to address but if left unchecked can cost you the homeowner greatly.
Whether a full time resident or snowbird it is imperative to take steps to care for your home whether here or away. If you have any questions for the Halo Home Watch Team please email us or leave a comment below!
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