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Mold Blog

How to Test Your Home for Mold

Is there mold in your home?

This is a very important question that every homeowner should ask themselves at least once a year. Mold is a fungus that likes to eat porous, moist materials. It’s supposed to break down things like fallen trees, but it can’t tell the difference between your house and an old tree trunk. While most of the time, you wouldn’t fret about a little wildlife in your home, it is bad news for both the structural integrity of your house and the long-term health of your family. Today, we’re exploring what mold is, how to identify its growth, and how to test for mold in your home.

Where Does Mold Come From?

Some areas have a bigger mold problem than others, but mold spores exist in nature absolutely everywhere. Any time something fibrous gets soaked, mold spores can start to grow. Drywall, clothing, insulation, particle board, the beams of your home, upholstered furniture – even your mattress: are all at risk of growing mold if ever damp enough to hold moisture.

This is why a home flood or plumbing leak, even in the driest climates, can result in new mold growth. However, you don’t have to see the water or even have owned the house for there to be hidden mold in your home.

Why Is It Bad for Your House

For many, a little discoloration on the back side of the drywall wouldn’t be a big deal. Live and let live, you might say. However, mold has three very important downsides that make it more dangerous than a little grass near the foundation or a bird’s nest on the roof.

  1. Unwanted Musty Smells

    • Mold does not smell good, and the more it is in your home, the stronger that musty sour-laundry smell becomes. It may blow through your air vents, emanate from the walls, puff up with each step of the carpet, or even exude from the furniture. The smell alone is bad, but the headaches it can cause are worse.
  2. Structural Integrity of Your House

    • Mold eats away at the boards, walls, and beams of your house like it would eat an old tree. You can often tell a spot is moldy because it’s soft to the touch. This has caused roofs to sag and even homes to be condemned.
  3. Health Problems With the Family

    • Worst of all, excessive mold spores in the air can harm your family. This starts with allergy symptoms and headaches that are worst at home, or in the morning after sleeping in the house. However, it can become long-term and even cognitive damage depending on the type and concentration of mold spores breathed daily.

How to Spot Mold in Your House

Most of the time, families can identify mold in the house without needing a lab test. It can be identified as speckles and splotches in the range of natural colors from green, black, and brown to yellow, white, and beige. It is most often found in places where there is water and could be a leak, like near plumbing, below roof flashing, or in the basement.

However, anywhere that has been moist can now be home to mold. It doesn’t need constant dampness, just enough to get started. If you don’t see mold, it might still be there – on the backside or in hidden spaces less exposed to light and airflow. However, softened materials and the smell may guide you. Here’s a quick summary of how to find mold in your house:

  • Signs of Mold

    1. Speckles and Splotches that Do Not Wipe Away
      • It often looks like a bunch of little dots instead of obvious fuzzy mounts. Look for spreading “dark dirt” near places like corners, vents, and plumbing.
    2. Green, Brown, Yellow, Black, White, and Beige
      • It can be a lot of different colors. Some types of mold are multi-colored or change colors with the seasons.
    3. Soft or Porous to the Touch, Musty to the Nose
      • It can make your walls or wood soft and crumbly if you tap it with a screwdriver or butter knife
  • Where to Find Mold

    1. Near Plumbing and Under Sinks
      • Check under sinks, shower heads, and near plumbing junctures. Especially if it looks like the last plumbing job was DIY or the seal is starting to crumble.
    2. In the Attic Below the Roof
      • If there’s a small leak in your roof, the attic beams may get wet which can A) grow mold and B) cause your roof structure to soften and sag.
    3. In the Air Ducts, Vents, and Filter
      • This one, you can usually smell. Look for spots near the vents and a musty smell when the AC fan comes on – or in the air filter when changed.
    4. In the Basement Along Walls and Floors
      • Basements with a damp problem can grow mold anywhere that drywall or wood impacts the cold foundation – or near leaky basement plumbing.
    5. Behind Drywall and In the Insulation
      • If you can’t see it but there are signs, it might be behind your drywall, on the backside which dries more slowly.
    6. Anywhere that Has Been Wet or Moist
      • If there is a big spill or plumbing leak, anything soaked might be at risk, even if it dries in a few days.
    7. Anywhere That Has Flooded and Dried
      • If the home floods while you live there – or ever flooded with previous owners – there could be hidden mold in the carpet, walls, beams, or wood features.

How to Test Your Home for Mold

If you suspect mold – but aren’t sure – you can confirm your suspicions with a kit. Especially if your family has combined mold exposure symptoms (it can be different for each person) but you have not yet located a large mold colony with visual checks alone. Here’s how to test for it using mold test kits you can order or pick up at the store.

  • Surface Mold Testing Kits

    • Surface mold test kits ask you to scrape samples of the mold into small vials or onto a slide. The kit will suggest that you test surfaces from various areas where it is most likely to be. See the list above if you’re not sure where to start.
  • Air Quality Testing Kits

    • Air quality kits test for air contaminants and, in your case, specifically for mold spores. You will take air samples in vials from various rooms in your house to find out if there are high concentrations of mold spores. This can reveal large, dangerous mold colonies that are hidden from view.
  • Send It to the Lab

    • With either type of kit, you will send your results to a local lab (for an additional processing fee). They will test your samples and send back a report of the results. Likely, there will always be some mold, but concentration matters. Its type matters only if it is one of the more dangerous types like the deadly Black Mold.
  • Hire a Professional Mold Testing Team

    • If you’re not sure about DIY testing or want a second opinion, you can also bring in a pro team to hunt for it, test surfaces, and/or take air samples to confirm that your home is or is not at risk. They will also offer a more insightful and contextual report on what you should do next.

What to Do if There Is Mold in Your House

If a significant amount of mold is found in your house – or compromising an important structural element – you should seek immediate mold remediation. This process involves cleaning away mold, fixing its stains, and possibly rebuilding parts of your home that have been damaged by it. Fortunately, when mold remediation is done, you will have a beautiful, clean home and can say goodbye to the myriad symptoms your family had experienced.

Here at Lightning Restoration, we know how dangerous mold can be to your home and your family. Contact us today if you suspect or have found mold in your home to consult on your mold remediation needs and options.

Categories
Mold Blog

Mold Remediation: What to Do When You Find Mold in Your Home

Mold contamination can have serious implications for your health and your family members. A health report shows mold can cause red eyes, allergic reactions, skin rash, and a runny nose. Those with weak immune systems, children, seniors, and those with chronic illnesses are at a high risk of mold complications. Throughout the nation and here in Tampa, mold remediation is essential. If you find mold in your home, you should remove it and prevent further growth. Here is a guide to mold remediation and measures to ensure mold does not return to your home.

How Does Mold Look Like?

Knowing what mold looks like is the first step toward discovering what to do when you find mold in your home. Mold can appear in spots with different colors and be smelly and musty. It mostly appears in places with a lot of moisture and may sometimes be challenging to know when there is mold in your home.

How to Remove Mold From Your Home

Locate the Mold in Your Home

The first step to mold remediation is identifying all areas with mold in your home. Look for discoloration spots, especially in high moisture areas. The easiest way to identify mold is by using mold-testing kits. However, it is worth noting that these kits are not always accurate, and you may get incorrect and misleading results. You can get accurate results if you let a professional test the mold for you because they have the right tools and expertise.

Identify the Cause of the Mold

Knowing what causes mold growth in your house will help you take measures after cleaning and avoid having similar experiences in the future. For instance, if there are leaky roofs and pipes, ensure they get fixed after removing the mold. This can reduce the humidity levels and discourage the growth of mold in the home in the future. You do not want mold to return after barely a few days or weeks of cleaning.

Remove Moldy Materials

Many items in your home, such as carpets, cardboards, drywall, wallpaper, and insulation materials, commonly support mold growth and accumulation. It is important to remove these materials and place them outside before you do anything else. Removing the materials will make your work easier.

Clean the Affected Areas

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bleach and other cleaning products can remove mold from surfaces. Without the right tools and cleaning supplies, you may get frustrated at the end of your cleaning if you do not apply the appropriate measures. Here is a guide to cleaning the mold.

  • Get a bleaching agent and soap
  • Open windows and doors before you start cleaning
  • Wear protective goggles, boots, and rubber gloves
  • Clean the affected areas using soap, water, and bleach
  • Clean all the affected materials before bringing them back into the house
  • Seal all leaking areas to prevent mold from growing again
  • Keep humidity levels lower in your home

Avoid mixing bleach with other cleaning products because it will produce poisonous gas that may cause health complications. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on using bleach and other cleaning supplies. You should be careful to avoid spreading mold in other parts of the mold when removing it because it can quickly spread and grow in other areas.

Hire a Professional for Mold Remediation

Knowing what to do when you find mold in your home can help keep your home free from mold. Don’t try to handle the mold situation in your home. If you are looking for mold remediation in Tampa, Lighting Restoration is here for you. Contact us, and let s help clean the mold in your home.

Categories
Mold Blog

How Do I Prevent Mold Growth?

If you have a water leak, it’s important to clean and dry the area immediately to prevent mold growth. Porous materials, such as drywall and wood wall cavity wood framing can appear dry, but still hold a significant amount of moisture that will cause mold damage. Under the right conditions, mold can begin to grow in as little as 24-48 hours. 

As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Some Quick Ways to Help Prevent Mold Growth

Keep your eyes open.  Identify and controlling water problems is the first step in discouraging mold growth.  Here are a few quick tips.

  • Every month, when you change your AC filters, also look at all of your ceilings and under cabinets.  Look for signs of moisture. 
  • Monitor the humidity in your home.  Keep humidity in the low 50’s or less. 
  • Regularly maintain your HVAC system.  A poorly running HVAC system will not sufficiently process the humidity in your home, which could lead to a Mold Bloom. 
  • Properly ventilate your clothes dryer and clean the lint exhaust regularly
  • Use tile, not carpet or wood, in moisture-prone areas.  In Florida, it is common to find older homes that have elevated moisture in the concrete slab due to the high-water table. 
  • Employ dehumidifiers in the home if humidity is regularly elevated.
  • Insulate cold surfaces like walls, floors and windows.
  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens and let them run long enough that you don’t see condensation on mirrors or walls.
  • Improve circulation in the home by using ceiling fans.
  • Above all else, mitigate water damage immediately.  Mold cannot grow without moisture. 

If you suspect water or mold damage in your home, call Lightning Restoration for a free evaluation & estimate.  Stay safe and healthy Tampa Bay.

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Property Damage

Will My Property Damage Claim Be Covered by Insurance?

This is the most common question that we get at Lightning Restoration. The truth of the matter is that we wish that we had the Magic 8-Ball that would give us that answer every time, but we don’t.  There are a lot of factors that come into play when a carrier is deciding whether to cover your property damage claim. 

What Factors into My Property Damage Claim?

What is stated in your policy?

This is the most important factor: what coverage did you purchase with your policy?  Insurance policies are more difficult to read than stereo instructions.  If you don’t fully understand your coverages, call your Insurance Agent and request a review.  Know what you are buying and don’t try to save a few bucks by limiting essential coverages, like water damage.

What is the source of the damage? 

You may have $10k in mold coverage, but if that policy doesn’t cover the source of the mold, then it won’t cover the mold.  An example would be ground water intrusion from pooling water on the side of the house.  Standard Homeowners Policies do not cover ground water at all, and Flood Policies will not cover ground water intrusion unless there is storm flooding.  This is defined as when two or more adjacent properties are flooded.  If it is flood water, mold remediation may still not be covered since flood policies typically only pay for the water remediation & repair.

Did you mitigate the damages? 

Every insurance policy requires the policy holder to mitigate the damages. In essence, this means that you have to act to stop the damages from getting worse.  The policy also requires that the loss be “sudden & accidental”. We have found property owners who were aware of water damage to the home for months but failed to act.  Now there is a mold problem and there is an urgency to remediate and file a claim.  However, since they failed to mitigate the water damages, the carrier can deny the claim.  There is an unwritten 14-day rule that is quite common in the state of Florida.  This refers to the situation where the carrier feels like the loss has been going on for more than 2 weeks.  It is not “sudden and accidental” and they will deny the claim. 

Failure to maintain the property

If the property owner is not taking care of general maintenance, the carrier can deny the claim for that very reason.  This is commonly seen in roof leaks, where the roof is past its lifespan. 

Construction or Manufacturer Defects

An insurance carrier can deny a claim if the manufacturer of a structural material, appliance or fixture fails from defect.  This is also the case with a contractor that performs work that causes damages.  However, in most cases, we find that the carrier will go ahead and pay the claim and later subrogate back to that manufacturer or contractor.  Our recommendation is to always attempt to file a claim directly with a manufacturer or contractor before contacting your own insurance carrier.  This will save you from having a claim that will cost you a deductible and possibly increased rates upon renewal. 

  • Most appliance and fixture manufacturers have their own claims department.  Research the manufacturer’s claims department online to get the contact info. 
  • To avoid an ugly confrontation, always request a Certificate of Insurance (COI) from your contractor up front.  You can also request to be added as an Additional Insured to the policy.  When going this route, get that COI before any work begins.  Getting the COI when they want to get the job is easy.  Getting insurance information out of a contractor when damages are in dispute is always a difficult task that often gets very contentious. 

Your Claim Could be Denied for Multiple Reasons

These are a handful of reasons why a carrier could deny your property damage claim.  However, the truth is that each carrier, and each adjuster for that matter, is different and may interpret the policy differently.  By state law, if a claim is denied that you feel should be covered, you do have other recourse.  With each denial, the carrier is required to supply you with the information about how to file for mediation.  The state requires that the carrier pay for the mediation.  It is quite common for carriers to overturn denials in mediation if the policy holder can show a reasonable explanation of expected coverage. 

Lightning Restoration are experts in working with every insurance carrier in the state.  Do not hesitate to contact our office when you have Water, Mold or Fire damage.  We will walk you through the process and get the insurance carrier everything that they need to accurately assess the claim.  If a carrier has denied your claim, we offer discounted services and financing for our clients paying without insurance assistance.