mold

The key to mold control is moisture control.

Having a leaky basement is bad enough.  A wet, damp basement is not a fun thing to have and leaves you with only entering the basement when you have to.  Not fun.  A more serious bi-product of a chronic water leak in your basement is the growth of mold.  Here in Toronto, between the weather and the age of many homes, we get called to many homes for serious mold problems.  The problem always has a water leak or chronic dampness as the origin.

For a healthy individual, mold isn’t very dangerous, it’s just gross.  The real health problems with mold occur when an individual already has a compromised respiratory system (elderly, infants,sick people,etc) or there is long term exposure to mold spores.

Mold grows very fast once it takes hold, especially when there is moisture present to serve as a breeding ground.  We’ve all left seemingly perfect fruit on the counter overnight to discover a “fuzz farm” growing on our strawberries the next morning.  Yes, it spreads pretty fast once it gets going.

Check out the infographic below that describes some of the hidden dangers of mold growth and airborn mold spores in the home.  If you have questions about mold removal in your home or would like a free in-home estimate, you can contact us here.

Mold dangers in the home-Toronto Mold Removal

Although not all air purifier are the same, most are capable of removing air-borne allergens including mould spores from your home. This is helpful if you have upper bronchial infections or allergies. At the same time, they are also a useful ally in the endless battle to stop mould forming in the first place.

However there is a limit to their efficiency because they can’t remove an existing fungal infestation. Hence your first step is always to call in a mould-removal cleaning firm to clear it out for you. After that, regular cleaning and an air purifier should reward you with a relatively mould-free home.

Toronto Mould removal air purifier

Even More Benefits

The air inside our homes is full of a variety of other pollutants. Some of these drift in from outside while others are a consequence of modern lifestyles. Air purifiers also help remove the grime that stains our air-conditioner filters. Chief among the culprits are animal fur, cigarette smoke, dust mite droppings, pollen spores and sundry bacteria.

Which Design is Best?

There are four main varieties of air purifiers in Canada, the main difference being the filters through which they force the air. These often appear in different combinations Replaceable high energy particulate air HEPA ones are often preferred because they use replacement filters that don’t generate potentially harmful by-products.

Carbon pre-filters help remove smells and volatile organic compounds. Filterless ionizers are energy-efficient but of little use against mould spores, while ozone generator air purifiers are only really effective at power levels that may be injurious to our health. For these reasons the most popular combinations are carbon filter-HEPA ones.

Air Purifier Buying Tips

  • Capacity – Clean air delivery rate (CADR) measures the volume of air processed per minute. A score below 100 is unsatisfactory whereas above 300 is excellent. Calculate the volume of air in the room before you start.

 

  • Energy Cost – Air purifiers run day and night off electricity. Although their draw is low compared to air conditioners and heating plants it does add up over time. You contribute indirectly to less power-generation pollution by buying energy efficiently.

 

  • Maintenance – If you buy a good quality air purifier it should reward you with a long, trouble-free life. However those with HEPA filters require owner-servicing every few months. Find out how long the filters last and how much replacements cost.

 

  • Noise Levels – Most domestic air purifiers emit an almost imperceptible hum which is a trade-off against their level of cleaning efficiency. Some can appear more pronounced when you’re trying to fall asleep at night. Ask the salesperson about decibel (dB) levels which should be in the instruction manuals.

While an air purifier cannot remove mould per se, it can be a great ally in the fight to contain it while removing irritating pollutants from the air we breathe. Like most other things in life you get the quality you pay for. Don’t buy cheap. Keep a weather eye out for special offers outside of pollen season for the best deals.

Have questions about mould and air quality in your home?  If you live in Toronto or the surrounding GTA, we can have a service specialist come out to your home for a free on-site inspection and estimate.  Contact us here.

 

White powder basment wallIn a word, it’s called efflorescence. When people see it on their basement walls, they often refer to it as the white powdery stuff, white mold, or white mildew.

The white stuff you have on your basement walls, officially called efflorescence, is actually a deposit left behind by water. You may have noticed it on the outside of your house walls too (hopefully below the damp course, that is). The stuff is normally harmless, although you’re still advised to wear hand and face protection when you brush it off, just in case.

The big question is “why is there water there in the first place?” Walls are supposed to be dry. Having damp walls is a bad idea because the moisture could eventually cause the structure to begin to break down.

To answer the question we need to take a trip underground to the dynamic, natural world. Water – the source of life they say – is constantly on the move filtering through the earth and stone. As it travels, it picks up natural minerals and salts that it transports along and finally deposits someplace else. It’s almost as if sand and stone were made for the job!

Our homes certainly are. They are built from natural materials in the form of sand, cement and stone. Water passes naturally though these too, which is why we go to the trouble of baking bricks and painting outside walls with expensive waterproofing paint. We also add damp courses, roofs, gutters, downpipes and overhangs like eaves.

efflorescence-concrete-basement-wall-toronto

We do everything “upstairs” to keep the water away from our walls. Down in the basement it’s often a different story. When it rains the earth around the foundation becomes saturated. Many basements we’ve encountered are little better than “leaky buckets” rammed into the ground.

In a sense, efflorescence on an inside basement wall is like a friendly sentry-guard. It’s telling us that moisture is penetrating through our basement walls and leaving its customary calling-card behind. It’s likely to be historic evidence left behind as the moisture evaporated, which is why it’s normally more evident in dryer summer months.

This makes it the friend of home buyers too, especially when viewing the basement of a home in summer that’s subject to intrusive damp during winter time. The seller can try their hardest to brush it off, but there’ll always be a stain when you know where to look for it.

This is the biggest single reason to track down the cause of efflorescence if you have it in your basement, and to get rid of it before it starts working down the value of your home. It’s a sign that moisture is making it’s way inside your basement, and with that dampness often comes mold.

Not sure if you have efflorescence or not on your basement wall?  Contact us here for a free in-home inspection of your basement.

 

 

Mold and mildew removal in Toronto homeNobody likes walking down into their basement and smelling that damp, mildew odour.  It makes it feel like you’re walking into a dungeon.  Your basement doesn’t have to be like that, read on.

There are two stages to effectively removing mildew odours. The first is to remove the mildew that causes the unpleasant smell.  Mildew is actually another term used to describe fungi growth.  In other words, it’s mold. The second is to remove the cause of it, which is down to getting rid of the conditions in which it thrives. But first let’s deal with the smell.

A Word of Warning

If you have a sensitive stomach, chronic bronchial infection or the mold growth is extensive, you may want to consider a mold removal company to deal with it.  If you do decide to go ahead, wear a full set of clothing and don a face mask and a set of rubber gloves before you start. Remember to read the instructions on all cleaning materials too.

Remove the Mildew

The general idea is to remove as much as possible and kill the rest.

  • Fill a bucket with tepid water and add a cup of vinegar or borax. You can experiment with combinations, but no more than one cup in total please. Soak a cloth in the mixture and wring it out just enough to prevent drips.

 

  • Work from the ceiling down (the job is messy), and remember to rinse your cloth regularly in a second bucket of tepid water. There’s no point in moving mildew around so wring it out thoroughly each time before soaking it in the mixture again.

 

  • As you go along get rid of all soft furnishings including curtains, upholstery and carpets. Forget about cleaning them. They are permanently stained and will haunt you with their smell if you try to keep them.

 

  • Hire a few commercial-grade oscillating fans and leave them running until everything is bone dry. Smell the difference. Unfortunately the job is not done yet because the next generation of mildew is waiting to take up residence.

Prevent a Recurrence

Mold and mildew occur naturally in warm climates with high humidity. Your first step is to buy a decent dehumidifier and get the ambient moisture level down. While that’s happening cast an eye around for any water intrusion. This could be from a dripping tap, or from groundwater that follows cracks in the walls and floor.

Use the grid method to make sure you don’t miss the slightest water stain. Start with the ceiling, then the upper walls, then the middle walls and so on. Be mindful of the season. Basements seldom leak in summer, but the evidence is there all year round.

Assuming there are no leaks, you can complete the job by installing bright lighting (mildew hates this) and redecorating all painted surfaces with mildew-resistant paint. Do not waste your time doing this if you suspect a groundwater leak – even if this is dry at the current moment. The chronic water leak will just cause the mildew smell (and mold) to return.

If you have questions about removing mold from your basement or repairing a basement water leak, feel free to contact us here.  If you’re located in the Greater Toronto Area, we can arraign a free, in-home inspection.

Removing odors from Toronto basementWho wants to buy a home that’s has chronic mould problems?  That’s right, not you.

For some homeowners, mould is an irritation they put up with in small doses, as long as it does not get out of hand. Others have upper respiratory problems like chronic asthma and bronchitis that mould aggravates.  They know that mould is a sign of underlying damp (and possibly water leaks) that can cause the value of their investment to deteriorate.  Nobody wants to buy a home with mould, for the mould problem itself, as well as the problems that are causing it’s growth.

We were recently called out to an aging home in the Etobicoke section of Toronto for a mould assessment.  It was for sale and the prospective buyer noticed signs of mould and wanted to get a professional assessment done before making an offer on the home.  What we found were large pockets of water pooling around the basement foundation, and leaking through the concrete foundation. It was caused by excessive water runoff, lack of proper drainage, and an absent of an exterior waterproofing barrier on the outside of the foundation.  All told, it was going to cost thousands to repair.  The prospective buyer was know able to make an informed decision, walk away or make an offer reflecting the needed repairs.

 

When you’re looking at a possible home to buy, keep the following in mind when it comes to mould:

What to Look For – Mould comes in different colours including black, green, grey and white which means it can be invisible depending on the background. Fortunately it has a characteristic musty smell that can be a giveaway. Although found in houses in the driest dusty deserts, it prefers damp materials such as ceilings, wallboards, carpets and emulsion-painted surfaces.

Where to Look – Mould and damp go together so keep a look-out for excessive moisture. This can include:

  • Spaces closed up tightly. This is typical of new buildings.

 

  • Persistent storm-water leaks in roofs, water pipes, and windows for example

 

  • High humidity levels characteristic of poorly ventilated homes

 

  • Bad housekeeping. Damp towels and flooded pot plants are good examples

 

  • Signs of regular flooding. Learn to spot tidemarks close to floors.

Be especially thorough when inspecting bathrooms including showers and under-basin cabinets, because moisture and mould go together.

 

Ask Questions

Sellers and their agents are supposed to declare defects. Ask them direct questions when inspecting the house a second time. They are more likely to be open and provide direct answers. However bear in mind that they only have a duty to disclose what they already know.

Try an oblique angle. Enquire whether there are any leaks in heavy rain, or whether there have been plumbing problems recently. Often what they don’t say is more important than what they reveal. Body language is another important indicator.

Ask Your Home Inspector

If anything particularly worries you ask your home inspector to comment. Have them pay particular attention to any signs of water or damp problems, especially in the basement. Suggest that they include their comments in their inspection report. Allow them to include a disclaimer that they may have missed some infestations.

Include a Mould Clause in Your Offer

You can include anything you like in your purchase offer (although a seller is not bound to agree to anything). This can include responsibility for removal of undeclared mould and repair of its consequences. This is often the clincher that provokes the honest and open declaration you were hoping for in the first place.

Once you know the extent of mould (and any other defects) you face the decision of whether to go ahead or not. No homes are perfect and every buyer immediately improves a few things. Now is the time for a little negotiation. The seller may well concede something off the price. This could provide the funds you need for a professional waterproofing and mould remediation solution.