Have you ever been house-hunting and found a property that you absolutely fell in love with? You just knew you had to have it before you’d even stepped foot inside?
But what if there was something more sinister lurking in the background? Because often, as with a lot of things, initial appearances aren’t always quite as they seem…
Today, we’re looking at mould. That horrible patchy black-grey-pink-orange-green-sometimes-fluffy nightmare that just seems to multiply and multiply no matter how hard you try to get rid of it.
That horrible visual reminder that something inside the home isn’t quite right. Especially when it brings with it that musty, damp odour. It becomes a constant worry. You can smell something’s wrong, you can see the mould, but you cannot for the life of you figure out what’s causing it.
It’s even harder in a new home. You don’t know the property’s history. How well it’s ventilated. And if you didn’t go for the bells-and-whistles survey, you also won’t know if there are any damp problems either.
Where do you even begin to fight the battle?
Don’t worry. Not all hope is lost.
The full picture
Having bought a new home, only to find out there’s a mould problem once the furniture’s been taken out isn’t a great position to find yourself in. As mentioned above, there are now numerous questions that need to be asked to find out what’s causing the mould and how to stop it.
But mould isn’t the problem; it’s a symptom.
Mould can only grow when there’s excess moisture. So mould itself (while it eats organic material and can cause health issues) isn’t the problem you need to concentrate on. While the mould will need addressing eventually, there’s little point until the cause is found and addressed. Otherwise, the mould will just come back time and time again (hence the feeling that you cannot get rid of it).
But what if it’s just a small patch in the corner of the room?
At first glance, it may seem an insignificant amount. The problem however, lies with the fact that there could be substantial growth on the side of the surface that you cannot see; inside cavity walls, underneath floorboards, the other side of a ceiling. A visual evaluation isn’t enough to determine the true extent of mould growth.
Not convinced? Take a read of this case study where there was some concern about mould growth. But what we found when we lifted the floorboards will shock you. Even we didn’t anticipate just how much fungal growth there would be.
As mentioned above, mould is the symptom of excess moisture. And before you can attempt to remedy it, you need to first find out the cause of it.
Mould can only grow when there’s excess moisture in the air. This means there could be a damp problem, or a leak.
Condensation is the biggest damp problem that contributes to mould growth. It occurs when water collects as droplets on a cold surface when humid air is in contact with it. You’ll commonly find it on windows, especially during the winter. This is why you’ll often find patches of mould around and/or on window frames.
Mould also regularly grows within the corners of a room and on north facing walls. It can even be found behind large objects such as beds and wardrobes—ie. areas that do not get much ventilation— especially when up against an external wall.
Plumbing leaks, leaking guttering, and compromised damp proof membranes are also common causes of mould growth.
But what if you cannot see any obvious signs of leak or condensation? How do you possibly identify the source of excess moisture then?
This is where a comprehensive moisture survey can help. Designed to identify areas and locations where there are high levels of moisture, it will provide you with the necessary information to identify causes so that you know what needs fixing before tackling the issue of mould. Remember, mould remediation will be ineffective until the excess moisture is dealt with, otherwise, there’s a high risk of it returning.
How to clean mould
When looking at ways to deal with mould, it’s important to remember that mould can be growing on the side of organic materials that you cannot necessarily see. This can include under floorboards or even within wall cavities.
If you do attempt to clean it yourself, avoid the use of chlorine bleach when the mould is on porous materials. This is because mould penetrates into porous materials (such as plasterboard) and ‘roots’ itself into the surface. Chlorine bleach is unable to penetrate so will kill the mould on the surface, but will leave behind the roots of the spore, giving the illusion that the mould has gone.
It’s also worth noting that if chlorine bleach is used on a porous surface for mould remediation, it could actually exacerbate the problem and your cleanup attempt could inadvertently make the issue worse.
Chlorine bleach contains a significant amount of water and evaporates within a short period of time. Therefore, if chlorine bleach is applied to a porous surface, the bleach cannot penetrate, but the water does. Once the bleach has evaporated, just the water is left—the one thing that mould thrives on.
Risks of ignoring mould
While we stated earlier that mould is a symptom of damp and shouldn’t be the first thing addressed, it should also never be ignored. Once the source of the moisture has been identified and addressed, then should the mould.
Not only does mould eat away at organic material (which could ultimately jeopardise the material’s integrity), it poses a variety of health risks, especially to the elderly, children, and those with compromised immune systems.
Not all mould is toxic, but some strains can release mycotoxins which have the potential to make you seriously ill. This is often erroneously referred to as “toxic black mould” but in fact, mould strains that produce mycotoxins can be any colour. It is impossible to know if the mould in your home is toxic without laboratory testing, you cannot go by colour alone.
There are contradictory views over the severity of illness that mould can cause. However, both the WHO and the NHS agree that exposure to mould can cause an increased risk of experiencing respiratory symptoms, infections, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.
Inhaling or touching mould spores can also cause allergic reactions such as sneezing, a runny nose, red eyes and skin rashes. Mould is also cited as a cause of asthma attacks.
Other common symptoms of mould include:
- Constant tiredness
- Eye and throat irritation
- Skin irritation and rashes
- Chest tightness / difficulty breathing
Professional mould remediation
If your new home is suffering from damp and mould and you’re feeling overwhelmed, contact us today to speak to one of our experts. Find out how a moisture survey can help, and how our four-stage mould remediation process will bring mould spores to a safe and acceptable level in your home.