Charles Furlough, of Pillar to Post Home Inspections, wrote a very thorough article for RISMedia titled "Breathe Easier: 10 Tips to Banish Mold from the Home." You may think you only have a spot between the shower curtain and tub, and instead could have a more problematic "infestation" hiding behind walls and in floorboards.
Here are some highlights of his post, but read the entire article for a good look at a common scourge of living in the tropics, mold.
"What causes mold? Surprisingly, advanced building materials are one of the main culprits. In the last few decades, buildings have increasingly been made to prevent the infiltration and exfiltration of air, leading to higher humidity levels. The insulation materials used in this type of construction contain cellulose and other materials that lock in moisture. Adding to the problem, many wall cavities are wrapped in plastic, allowing for even more moisture. An aging home is at even greater risk, as normal occurrences like window and roof leaks bring in even more moisture—and moisture is a direct cause of mold. Limited ventilation or sunlight only makes the problem worse, and things can get bad fast—one square foot of moldy drywall can harbor more than 300 million mold spores.
"How do you find the mold in your home? Sometimes it’s easy—it may be right in front of you, or you’ll find it by its distinctly musty smell. Though it’s harder to find hidden mold, you can do so by looking behind and beneath fixed materials and appliances: refrigerators, dishwashers, sink cabinets, washer/dryers, carpets, vinyl flooring—anywhere near where water flows or where air doesn’t penetrate readily. Also, look for signs of discoloration on walls and ceilings; this can denote a moisture buildup behind which mold may lurk.
"Once you find the mold, remove it with a store-bought anti-fungal solution, or get rid of it with a weak bleach solution—1 cup bleach in 1 gallon of water. (If mold exists in an area over 2 square feet, call a professional to have it removed). But even more important than removing it is eliminating as many of its causes and sources as possible.
"Follow these 10 tips to drastically reduce the mold in your home:
1. Call in a home inspection professional to assess water-damaged areas.
2. Keep humidity low. Humidity levels should be under 40% in order for mold to stop its forward march.
3. Replace any carpets and furniture that have ever been significantly damaged (i.e., saturated in water), even if they look OK on the outside.
4. Carpet in the bathroom? Don’t even think about it. And if you have it, get rid of it.
5. Use an air-conditioner during the summer. We know it’s not cheap to run the A/C, but if it’s in the budget, even setting it to 80 degrees when it’s 90-plus outside, will help. Use fans to circulate A/C most effectively. (Or, if you don't have A/C which many Hawaii Kai homes don't, use your fans to circulate air away from moist areas, like the bath.)
6. Dust and clean furniture regularly, and vacuum carpets at least once a week (make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter).
7. Provide adequate ventilation in hot areas. The kitchen and bath are two of the highest-risk rooms for mold. Install exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom.
8. When you’re shopping for house paint for big or small painting projects, ask the sales rep about mold inhibitors you can add before painting.
9. Does your central air system have a fan from the Ford Pinto era? If so, replace it with a high-performance electrostatic air filter. Your local HVAC technician can help withy this.
10. Don’t neglect areas underneath the house—have a professional drain and ventilate all sub-basement areas, especially crawl spaces."
There are 2 kinds of mold. Allergenic mold is found in most homes in some amount, and can cause unpleasant - but not serious - symptoms. Toxic - or black - mold causes many of the same symptoms, but can produce serious symptoms in people with preexisting conditions or compromised immune systems.
So buy some bleach, keep watch for new spores, and follow Furlough's ideas for prevention. If you are trying to sell your Hawaii Kai home, it is even more critical that you remove mold before the buyer's inspection. This will save you money and a possible loss of the sale, when they investigate the extent of mold in your home.
Call or email me with your questions on finding a qualified mold inspector.
Barbara Abe, Realtor