Have you ever walked into your basement after a heavy rain to discover soggy carpets and a terrible smell? What a nightmare. Photos that were stored in cardboard boxes are ruined. Furniture is soaked and gross. Even the walls seem damp. Without a doubt, you know it’s going to be an expensive fix to get the place dry and back in shape.
In fact, the average water damage claim is $5,531. Replacing a full basement with new carpet and padding alone can be thousands, not including any drywall or ceiling repairs that need to be done.
But it is worth forking over the money to do it right. With water damage, you don’t want to do a cheap, band-aide fix. You want to ensure you get it cleaned up right to prevent mold– even if it is expensive. And don’t wait too long! The EPA suggests removing all moisture and water damage within 48 hours to prevent water damage mold growth.
Why Worry About Mold?
Mold grows on everything, and spores are probably just about everywhere. So what is the big deal about finding it in your home?
1. It Can be Harmful to Your Health
According to the CDC, “In 2004 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) found there was sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract symptoms, cough, and wheeze in otherwise healthy people; with asthma symptoms in people with asthma; and with hypersensitivity pneumonitis in individuals susceptible to that immune-mediated condition.”
The World Health Organization has also conducted a study suggesting that early mold exposure in children can lead to higher risks of asthma in children by age 7.
Some scientists believe that mold can become toxic, releasing mycotoxins. This can cause more severe health concerns like behavior changes, headaches, nose bleeds, chronic fatigue, rashes, and more.
2. It Can Ruin the Structure of Your Home
Mold spores feed on and break down organic material. As they do so, they damage the structural integrity of the material. Once the spores have started growing, it can be nearly impossible to remove them, so the drywall, insulation, or flooring must be destroyed.
Where Can Mold be Found?
Mold can grow on any surface that has moisture and oxygen. They especially thrive in warmer temperatures and materials that don’t have good airflow, locking in water. This could mean carpets, paint, insulation, bathtubs, windows, cardboard, furniture, and pretty much anything else in your home.
Many building materials create the perfect environment for molds to thrive. Wood and variants of paper (like ceiling tiles and drywall) have nutrients that feed molds and help them grow.
Molds can even be tracked in from outdoors on shoes or clothing and left behind on the carpet or furniture.
How Can You Tell if You Have a Mold Problem?
One of the best ways to first identify a mold problem is to use some of your five senses.
Do You Smell a Musty Odor?
The EPA says that “Some compounds produced by molds have strong smells and are volatile and quickly released into the air. These compounds are known as microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs). Because mVOCs often have strong or unpleasant odors, they can be the source of the ‘moldy odor’ or musty smell frequently associated with mold growth. A moldy odor suggests that mold is growing in the building and should be investigated.”
Do You See Discoloration on Internally or Externally Facing Walls?
The most common place to first notice discoloration from mold is on the ceiling or near the floor of the wall. If there is a brown or yellow spot, you most likely have a water-damaged ceiling or drywall. Water damage means mold is growing.
Do You Feel Damp?
Does the carpet feel damp or soggy? Does the air seem thick or humid? If there is moisture in the air, there is moisture on the materials in the room. This likely means there is already mold spores in the air or on surfaces.
Do You See Standing Water?
If there is a puddle on the floor or in the windowsill, there is a good chance mold spores are nearby too. Standing water can quickly lead to rot and other issues besides molds, so this one is a huge red flag.
Do You See Mold?
This may be a bit obvious, but if you see mold in any color–green, white, yellow, or black, you want to get to work right away. Mold that you can see maybe only a sample of what mold actually exists beyond your eye’s view. The internal portion of the wall behind the small mold patch you see may be completely covered in spores.
What Should You Do If You Discover Water Damage Mold?
If you discover water damage mold anywhere in your home, you will want to act fast. Mold can grow and reproduce quickly.
1. Start Drying
Get a good dehumidifier (or several) and get rid of as much air moisture as possible. Medical News Today suggests that the humidity level of your home should never be above 50 percent. When mold exists, you may want to try and get it even lower than that.
It may be helpful to call in a professional to come in and ensure the moisture disappears. You can call 1-800 Water Damage for expertise in getting rid of your water and mold problem.
Bringing in fans to get air circulating may also help.
2. Rip Out Water-Damaged Material
Once mold has started digesting your drywall, carpets, insulation, or celling, the best remedy is to get rid of it and replace it as soon as you can rip out your soggy carpet and padding, the better because it will allow less time for mold to reproduce and infiltrate the air. You may need to hire a contractor to come and rebuild your walls or ceiling.
Remove wet furniture, soggy boxes, and anything else that got wet. The faster you get the moist surfaces out of the home, the better!
3. Find the Source
You won’t want to replay this scenario again the next time it rains. It is important to find out where and why the water got in. Do you have a leaky roof or windows? Did your sump pump break? Did a pipe get backed up and burst? Is your landscaping causing rainwater to flow downhill towards your home?
Investigate until you find the answer to the problem. The fix might be as simple as cleaning out your gutters so that they drain properly and don’t cause leaking towards the foundation of your home.
It may cost several thousand dollars to put on a new roof, re-do your landscaping or buy a new sump pump, but it will save you money in the long run if you don’t have more water damage in the future.
4. Ensure Proper Ventilation
Did you know that mold can actually enter your home or stay in your home through your ventilation systems? If you have water damage that creates mold, those mold spores may be circulated throughout your entire home via your ventilation system. They may even start growing and reproducing there.
Your air conditioner may be adding to the problem as well. AC units can also bring mold into your home if the condenser coil, which takes moisture out of the air, gets clogged. AC units that are too big for the home can also create a mold because they cool the small space quickly and then turn off before dehumidifying it. Or, when an AC unit is set at too low of a temperature, it can create mold when the cool air hits the warm air and condenses around the vents. Look for mold around AC vents and in drip pans.
You also will want to make sure you have fans in your bathrooms and that your dryer is ventilating outside. It is also important to get your air ducts cleaned periodically.
How Can You Prevent Water Damage Mold in the First Place?
If you live in a cold climate, one way you can prevent water damage mold is by ensuring your pipes don’t freeze and burst. Keep the house warm and consider insulating the pipes.
Keep moisture levels low in the home with dehumidifiers and fans.
Replace windows after 15 years, so they don’t start leaking.
Periodically check your roof for leaks or rotten shingles.
Ensure proper drainage of your landscaping.
Water Damage Restoration is Possible!
If you find yourself standing in water in your basement or kitchen, don’t panic. You are not alone! Each year 24 percent of homeowners report a water damage claim on their insurance, making it the most common home insurance claim each year.
Walls, floors, ceilings, and even support beams can all be replaced. After drying out and replacing wet materials, ventilating, and cleaning, your home can be good as new. Your insurance may even cover some or all of the damage.
Installing new flooring during water damage repair can be a great time to update your interior design. You may consider trying something new, like hardwood or tile instead of carpet. For more on the pros and cons of choosing tile over the carpet, read here.