How to Prevent Mold from Growing in Your Basement

Assessing the problem

Mold thrives on moisture, so if you suspect it’s growing in your basement, check if any pipes are leaking and look for condensation that’s built up around heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units. In addition, pay attention to where the basement walls meet the floor for signs that mold has settled and started to grow. 

Discoloration of surfaces, musty odors and health symptoms such as a sore throat, nasal congestion or persistent coughing are all potential indicators of mold. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (opens in new tab) (CDC), mold should be removed as soon as it’s identified as it can be damaging to the human lungs and respiratory system.

• Related: Dehumidifiers on sale (opens in new tab)

Removing mold from your basement might feel like a daunting task, and if you are in doubt at any stage, it’s always best to consult a professional who will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Creating a mold-resistant basement

You may feel like a party breaker now, but better to be safe than sorry. The longer your home stays mold free, the less you’ll have to worry about proper cleaning and returning mold.

Dealing with outdoor causes of mold

Since there are two main causes of mold (indoor and outdoor moisture), we are going to take the same approach to mold prevention. Let’s dig deeper into outdoor moisture causes and what you can do to prevent moisture inside your basement.

First of all, you should be aware of rains and floods as they are a direct source of water. Following the flow path of rainwater or the access part of flood will give you enough information to start with.

Pay attention to where the rainwater flows after it falls on your roof. If the ground surrounding your home is on the same level as your home or higher, it is very likely that rainwater is going to get into your basement. Talk to your contractor to have the outside ground slope away from your home or heap soil onto the ground against your home.

Rain can cause a problem without even touching the ground. The windows on your home may be a problem too. Inspect your windows and check window wells for signs of insulation problems or potential build-up issues.

Additionally, do not forget to clean the gutter to ensure proper water flow. Ensure that all downspouts extend far away from the home, especially if the grading is not optimal. That way you will ensure that rainwater flows away from your home, not into it.

Another outdoor cause of excess moisture, although not a frequent one, is flooding. It’s almost impossible to prevent floodwater from coming into the basement but it is crucial to act the minute it happens, in order to prevent mold from growing.

If your basement was flooded, take out everything (including furniture, appliances, carpets, etc) to dry in fresh air. Leave it out as long as needed. Open all basement windows (if you have them) to ensure that fresh air is coming into your basement, which is important for drying the walls. To speed up the drying process you can set up special machines which are designed to suck the moisture from the walls.

If mold forms, usually when moisture dries, it will dry out too. But in case that mold remains, do not attempt to clean it with bleach or any other solution. Grab your phone and call professionals to inspect it the proper way to ensure you are mold free. They will also instruct you on how to prevent mold from growing back.

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The Dangers of Mold

While not everyone is allergic to mold itself, mold triggers allergic symptoms in a large percentage of individuals. You may notice that during damp and rainy seasons, you are more susceptible to sneezing, coughing, watery and itchy eyes, and a runny nose. This is because excessive moisture can increase the amount of mold in your home, and mold produces mycotoxins that can negatively affect your health. Mold is harmful for the following reasons.

1. It colonizes.

Mold reproduces by developing and spreading mold spores. The mold spores then travel through the air and begin growing in new spots nearby.

2. It reduces indoor air quality.

Since mold spores can essentially fly, they lower your home’s indoor air quality. In turn, poor indoor air quality poses a threat to your health.

3. It poses a long-term health risk.

Not only does mold cause mild to severe allergic symptoms, but it can also cause long-term lung conditions in some people. Respiratory infections, asthma triggers, and COPD are all possibilities in homes with excessive mold.

4. It never really goes away until dealt with.

Mold is tough. Until you locate the source of the problem, you probably won’t eliminate it entirely. Usually, it is best to contact a professional in the mold industry.

5. It destroys buildings.

Mold is bad for your health, but it is also bad for your home. Excess moisture softens the walls and ceilings until they can collapse, compromising a building’s structural integrity.

Better basement insulation techniques:

The materials and design you choose are very important to prevent mold and should be appropriate for the environment they are destined to inhabit. Be very careful how and where you install wood and fiberglass insulation in basements (If you must), and be sure they won’t see prolonged exposure to moisture or contact with humid surfaces if you don’t want them to go moldy.

3 steps to get rid of mold in your basement

According to the CDC, you cannot completely get rid of mold spores in your basement, but you can remove the source of moisture and remove the mold that has grown from it. The following steps suggested by the CDC and EPA will help you get rid of mold in your basement:

Step 1: Quickly stop the source of moisture (if you can) to prevent mold from growing further

Depending on the problem, you may have to perform significant repairs to stop the moisture. If it’s a leaky pipe, condensation in your HVAC system, or a crack in a doorway or window, make sure to either repair or have a professional repair it ASAP. If there is a moisture problem from your basement walls, run a dehumidifier to dry excess humidity.

Step 2: Remove moldy material if possible

If the mold has damaged a small area of soft or fibrous material like carpet, ceiling tiles, or wall material that’s not load-bearing (such as wood studs or cement), you can remove the material yourself and replace it. Just be sure to wear protective eyewear and disposable dust masks, gloves, and possibly protective clothing so you can ensure you’re not bringing the mold into your living spaces.

Step 3: Clean moldy material that can’t be replaced

For walls, floors, and other hard surfaces, use a bleach solution (1 cup of bleach per gallon of water) and/or commercial cleaners to wash and kill the mold while wearing the same protective gear mentioned in step two. Use disposable sponges and other cleaning materials so you can throw them away and keep them from spreading spores to other places in the house.

Use a Dehumidifier

Shaun Ortiz, a mold remediation specialist from MadisonWaterExperts, recommends running a dehumidifier in your basement to help reduce humidity levels and prevent mold growth. Make sure that the dehumidifier you choose has enough capacity to work effectively, considering your basement’s square footage and moisture level. You may need more than one. “Since dehumidifiers help keep moisture concentrations low, mold growth is stunted since it has less moisture to feed on,” Ortiz says.

Health Dangers of Mold and Serious Risks

Did you know that about 10 to 20 percent of people

Did you know that about 10 to 20 percent of people across the world are allergic to mold? That’s a pretty big number, so obviously it’s pretty common. As I mentioned, there are approximately 100,000 different types of mold and many of them are beneficial like penicillin, the fungus that goes into blue cheese and the yeasts that are in bread and beer.

Common mold you’ll find growing inside your home are cladosporium, alternaria, asopergillus and penecillium. While these are relatively harmless, they may be a sign of moisture trouble and you’ll still want to remove them. Black mold, or stachybotrys chartarum, is the culprit that has received so much negative publicity for its toxicity and potential for causing serious health problems.

The Health Canada has determined that people experiencing sensitivity to mold spores will develop symptoms such as congestion, wheezing, eye irritation, asthma or skin rashes. Continued exposure can increase the severity and may cause a fever, dizziness, shortness of breath or flu-like symptoms.

If you discover black mold growing in your basement, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible. The spores and toxins produced from this type of mold can cause lung disease, recurrent sinusitis, permanent central nervous system damage and in extreme cases with prolonged exposure, death.

While it’s obvious mold can be harmful for many people (and animals), it’s important not to panic if you find it in your basement or other rooms in your home. Mold can be found in any number of damp, dark or humid spaces such as your bathroom, kitchen, basement, plumbing spaces and areas with poor ventilation. Mold is even found in dust, so it’s important to understand when to start worrying and what you can do to prevent it from growing.

Step 2: Detect correct moisture problems

Keeping a basement dry will discourage mold growth

Keeping a basement dry will discourage mold growth. An effective way to accomplish this goal is to install a high-quality TripleSafe sump pump system and a heavy-duty SaniDry™ dehumidifier and air cleaner. Both Basement Systems products are shown above.

Mold hates dry environments as much as it loves moist ones, so it’s critical to keep likely mold habitats dry. Make sure your basement has an effective waterproofing system. If your crawl space has a high moisture level because it’s vented to the outside, or because of a dirt floor, arrange to have the crawl space encapsulated to separate the house from these moisture sources. If building materials in your basement or crawl space are damp due to long-term exposure to moisture, it may be necessary to run a dehumidifier in the space so that these materials can dry out. Don’t use a light-duty “upstairs” dehumidifier, which isn’t designed to handle basement and crawl space conditions.

Instead, specify a SaniDry® dehumidifier, which has an advanced air-cleaning filter that can capture mold spores while drying out the space. These advanced dehumidifiers enable you to maintain a low humidity level that makes it very difficult for new mold colonies to take hold.

Make sure all bathrooms are equipped with ventilation fans that effectively move moist air to the outside. Check carefully for plumbing leaks and make repairs if necessary.

If you are experiencing symptoms that could be caused by mold, like irritated eyes, nose, throat, or lungs, it’s important to test for mold to find out if this is what is causing your health issues.

The bottom line on getting rid of mold in your basement

Mold can be scary, especially if you or a loved one have allergies or sensitivities. However, you can get rid of mold in your basement by fixing the moisture issue, removing unsalvageable material, and putting a little elbow grease into cleaning the affected area. Just remember to be safe, watch for cross-contamination, and never hesitate to call a professional if the problem becomes more than you can handle.

Dealing With Mold

If you've had basement flooding resulting in mold

If you’ve had basement flooding resulting in mold growth, the first step in removing the mold is to allow the room to dry out completely. This means throwing out anything that has become wet. Wear protective goggles, mask and gloves to tear out soggy wallboard, carpeting and padding, baseboards and anything else that has been affected. Use a wet vacuum to remove any standing water. DO – run a dehumidifier to remove excess moisture from the air. DO NOT – run a fan to help dry the air. If mold has already formed, you’ll be spreading mold spores throughout your home. While it may be tempting to try to salvage some of these items to save money, it’s important to remove all saturated items or mold will re-grow.

Once the room has dried out, you’ll be able to move onto the next step – mold removal.

You may have heard that bleach is the best product to kill mold – it’s not true. To be an effective sanitizer, bleach must be used on clean surfaces. It loses strength quickly and will not prevent mold from growing back. It’s fumes can be toxic and the chemical reaction with other cleaning products can be lethal. Do NOT use bleach to clean up mold.

Instead, you’ll want to use all natural products like sodium carbonate based products such as Concrobium Mold Control – available at Home Depot in gallon bottles for about $40, Concrobium Mold Stain Eraser – available at Home Depot in 22.9 oz. bottles for $17, or use hydrogen peroxide for a safe, effective and inexpensive method of mold removal.

Put on a cleaning mask, goggles and gloves again and spray surface mold with 3% hydrogen peroxide or Concrobium Mold Stain Eraser, wait for 15 minutes and wipe dry. The Concrobium product will remove stains without bleaching, scrubbing or rinsing. The hydrogen peroxide is a bleaching agent, so it will remove unsightly dark stains from the concrete walls but may lighten the concrete in those areas. It’s also an antiviral, antibacterial, non-toxic and leaves no residue or fumes. It releases oxygen quickly, oxidizes the mold and decomposes it. Spraying on a product like Concrobium Mold Control will leave an invisible layer of protection and prevent mold from growing back.

For severe mold infestation, it’s best if you hire a professional mold removal company. They’ll be able to properly test the mold and provide the best solutions for protecting your property and health.

Remember, don’t panic if you find mold in your basement. By following the steps I’ve provided, you’ll be able to enjoy your fungus-free home for years to come.

Author: Debbie Dey

How to Prevent Mold in Your Basement:

When it comes to mold, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. And that’s why prevention is necessary. Here are a few things you can do to mold-proof your basement:

1. Lower and monitor the room’s humidity

Moisture provides an ideal growing environment for mold. Therefore, reducing your basement’s humidity is a great way to preempt its formation.

The best way to achieve this is by using a dehumidifier. This device helps to keep a room’s humidity within acceptable levels. To measure humidity levels, all you need is a hygrometer.

2. Declutter your basement

2. Declutter your basement

When the room is messy and full of clutter, airflow becomes limited. This, in turn, affects your basement’s ventilation, providing a conducive environment for mold formation.

That’s why you need to ensure that items such as books, clothes, firewood, or anything fibrous is stored away neatly in your basement.

Fewer items are always preferable, and it provides more space for air to move freely. Also, try to keep items off the floor and not in direct contact with the wall.

3. Fix any plumbing leaks

Leaks often lead to the formation of wet spots or stagnant pools of water that are neglected for long periods of time. Since most basements are often below ground level, it becomes hard for the excess moisture to escape.

This, in turn, raises the room’s moisture levels, leading to the growth of fungi.

If there are any plumbing faults, make sure you fix them as soon as you discover them. Wipe any water pools you find and dry the basement using a heater.

4. Refrain from growing plants in the basement

Plants offer mold and mildew, everything that the fungi need to grow and spread. Which is why we recommend keeping them out of your basement.

If you need to have plants in your basement, make sure that there is no sign of mold growth in the plant. Remove any leaves that have fallen and treat your plant with anti-fungal pesticides. Avoid watering the plants too frequently, just enough for their growth

5. Drain any stagnant pools of water around the house close to basement windows

Ensure that water from rain and snow is directed away from the house and doesn’t have the opportunity to pool into stagnant pockets around your home. Doing so helps to keep moisture levels around and inside the basement at an acceptable level.

6. Install an exhaust fan

Exhaust fans work great in expelling stale and humid air from your basement, creating more space for fresh air to flow in. This will greatly help with keeping mold at bay.

It’s easy to see that it only takes a few small changes to keeping your basement mold-free. Following this guide will help you to prevent mold from infecting your basement and spreading to other parts of your home, keeping it happy and healthy for years to come.

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