mold

Did you know that problems with your roof can lead to water damage in your basement?  Not only that, it can also lead to water and mold damage throughout your attic as well as the rest of your home if left untreated.

When it comes to water leaks in the basement, often times it’s the result of a damaged eaves troughs or improper/inadequate water channeling away from the home.  Poor ventilation, improper attic temperatures/insulation and damaged shingles can also lead to the development of mold and water damage in the attic.

Below is an infographic that outlines 5 common roofing problems that if left untreated, can lead to water and mold problems throughout your home.

 

roofing-problems-toronto

Have questions about water leaks or mold damage in your Toronto home?  Feel free to contact us, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have.

Ice damming on Toronto roofDo you have a giant sheet of ice on your roof waiting to wreck havoc on your home?  The last few Winters here in Toronto have been a mix of warm days and freezing days, the perfect storm for ice dam formation.  Ice dams can not only damage the outside of your house, they do a lot of damage inside as well.

When snow falls on rocks and trees it comes in contact with something perhaps even a little colder and does not melt. It builds up until a combination of gravity and weight causes it to slip loose, and fall harmlessly to the ground. If on the other hand it falls on something warmer then it melts, and either dams (freezes again before it drips off) or runs off as water depending on the gradient.

How Do Ice Dams Form?

Here in Toronto, we go to great expense to warm their homes in Winter and that’s perfectly understandable. Unfortunately heat rises and despite best efforts at ceiling insulation some heat is inevitably transferred to the attic. This can be a result of inadequate insulation, or gaps caused by pipes and trapdoors. With the best will in the world, nature will always have a way, meaning that your attic will inevitably be a little warmer than the winter air outside.

This temperature difference causes the snow to gradually melt and travel down the roof. When it reaches the eaves that are at ambient temperature it freezes again, and gradually forms into a ridge. Above, the snow keeps on melting and adding to the pile of ice. As this grows in size the melt water becomes a dam pooling on the roof. Ice dams are a roofer’s worst nightmare come true.

This is because roof coverings work on the assumption that water will run off before it has time to seek out crevices and work it’s way under the shingles. This problem is surprisingly common on most roof surfaces except corrugated sheet metal. It’s worst of all on flat roofs and shingles.

Ice dam on home in Scarborough

Referred Problems

Ice damming on roofs inevitably finds its way into the roof space below. There, it drips quietly onto insulation and accumulates on ceilings. If the leak is serious this can lead to minor flooding and damage to ceilings, carpets and upholstery. If the problem is minor then the attic becomes dank and starts smelling of mold.

The mold spores find their way past cracks through which the heat transfer happens. As they do so, they find themselves in an almost perfect habitat where they can procreate to their hearts content.

Tackling to Root Cause of Ice Dams

Ice dams exist because of differences between ambient and attic temperatures. Your wisest first point of call is to inspect your attic insulation because it’s pointless generating heat to melt the snow above and cause these problems. You may require expert advice because the problem’s probably lurking in an almost inaccessible place.

Your second line of defense is to improve ventilation through your roof so you constantly exchange the warmer air for cold. Point being, keep the attic as cold as the air outside. This can be effective in the case of steep roofs with gable ends. If you have a badly pitched roof covered with tiles or shingles you could be up for expensive alterations.

Have questions about ventilation and air quality inside your home?  We’re happy to answer and questions, you can contact us here.

mold growing on bathroom tiles in TorontoIs your bathroom getting moldy?

Mold is a microscopic fungus that grows naturally on decaying vegetation under humid conditions. It propagates itself by releasing spores (approximately the same as seeds) into the immediate atmosphere, where they drift along until they settle in a humid place.  A bathroom is the perfect environment for mold to grow.  You have humid conditions (hot showers) and a lack of ventilation (small windows and an exhaust fan you never use).

How to Tell If You’ve got Mold

At first sight, new mold looks like a dirty stain that someone’s spilled. It could be in designer colors of pink, brown or black.  Mold comes in all forms and colors.  It will gradually spread and start leaving a musty sour odor on your clothes and furniture, and in your cupboards too.

Discouraging Mold

The general trick is to prevent your bathroom from seeming like a tropical forest full of things that mold just loves. Here’s how to go about it:

Get Rid of Clutter – The first victims are going to be your precious pot plants because having them in your bathroom is as good as hanging out a welcome sign for mold. Your next step is to get rid of all your unnecessary bric-a-brac unless you really have to have some. Finally put out the towels to dry somewhere else, before they start smelling musty too.

Create Less Humidity – Hot baths and showers are debilitating and unhealthy. What’s the point of washing yourself when you’re already sweating before you’ve finished. Try taking cooler baths and showers. You’ll be amazed at how cleaner and more refreshed you feel afterwards.  If you can’t live without a hot shower, be sure to properly ventilate the bathroom after so that the humid air doesn’t sit there.

Improve Air Circulation – Mold loathes fresh air. Install a suitably-sized extraction fan to ventilate the shower, and make sure the windows are open when you bathe. If you don’t, then the humidity’s going to settle everywhere, including in inaccessible areas where you can’t see it developing.  If you have a bathroom without windows, then you most likely have an exhaust fan.  People hate to use these for some reason, it uses very little electricity and can save you the headache of a moldy bathroom if you use it regularly.

Dry Off Wet Surfaces Afterwards – Mold only grows in grout because we let damp linger there. You’ll soon spot where you’re not drying properly, because that’s where the mold will start. Your bathroom will look bright again, and you’ll have less cleaning to do.

Turn on The Lights – Now you have your sparkling bathroom back, you’ll want to leave the lights on so you can admire it regularly. The good news is that you’ll be inhibiting mold as you do so, because the fungus detests bright illumination.

Mold growing behind bathroom wall in Toronto home

Getting Rid of Mold

It’s pointless trying to wipe mold away because the individual fungi are so small that you can’t see them. Besides, you’re helping spores to propagate. To get rid of mold you have to kill it. You could use a proprietary mold cleaner. However you’ll get similar results with a 50:50 chlorine bleach solution and an atomizer. If you follow up with a weekly dose of sprayed neat vinegar, it most likely won’t come back again.  If you suspect mold starting to grow in inaccessible areas, such as behind the walls, then you may want to consider calling in a mold removal specialist as mold tends to grow if left untreated.

damp and mould mites in Toronto homeDo you have a wet basement in your Toronto home?  If you do, you most likely have mould growing somewhere down there.

To prevent mould from taking over in your basement and potentially affecting your family’s respiratory health, you need to do two sets of things. The first five of these involve keeping dampness out of the basement in the first place. The second are about maintaining the right environment down there.

Five Ways to Keep Damp Out

  • Make sure the rain water can’t filter through the ground by managing run-off comprehensively. Slope the ground away, lead downpipe discharges through culverts, put down paving. These inexpensive steps will yield impressive results after the earth dries out.
  •  Inspect the basement walls and floor for cracks, and check that the joints between them are well caulked. The same applies to any point where pipes penetrate.
  •  Make sure the water supply to appliances and bathroom fittings is absolutely leak-proof. The slightest drip can permeate walls and floors and become a perfect breeding-ground for mould. If in doubt, ask a leak specialist to do some tests.
  •  The same logic applies to drains, although here you’ll probably need a licensed plumber to put a remote camera down and check. Leaking drains and sewers may constitute an added hazard, especially when there’s mould around as well.
  •  Check the outside doors and windows for any water-stains indicative of a leak. Window wells, window sills and door thresholds are likely places. If you encounter rot, replace the item immediately.

Mold in finished basement Toronto

Five Ways to Keep Mould Away

  • Maintain the humidity level between 45% and 60% using humidifiers and dehumidifiers according to the season. Vent the clothes drier, install a bathroom extraction fan, think of how you could contribute to the problem.
  • Ensure air movement using ceiling and wall-mount fans. Mould grows naturally on rotten trees in damp forests where the air is still. Don’t store old bits of wood down there. Consider installing plastic furniture and fittings.
  • Resist the urge to soften the environment by growing pot plants and keeping tropical fish in a heated tank. All you’re doing is inviting mould to move in, and it’s a pain to get rid of afterwards.
  • Reconsider your panelling and carpets. Anything that originally comes from plants may be good for mould but bad news for you. Mould could also be lurking behind them from where it sends out spores. If in doubt, rip it out and replace it with something that’s more suitable.
  • Once a month wipe the surfaces down with a damp cloth moistened with a small amount of bleach. If it comes away blackened then you’ve stopped mould in its tracks. If not then you’ve likely got it licked.

These are simple things the average homeowner may care to try. However one idea on its own will usually not do the job. Taken together they form a system that has a good chance of success. Should they fail, then you have a more deep-seated problem. You need advice from a basement water-proofing expert.

 

 

 

Ideal Humidity in Toronto basementDoes your basement feel like a jungle in Central America during the Winter?  Maybe it’s time to check the humidity levels in your basement.

Humidity refers to the amount of moisture in the air. When air has absorbed all the moisture that it can, we say that humidity is at 100%. When the humidity level is at say half of that, it is defined as being at 50%. In other words, measures of humidity are relative, which is why we speak of RH, or relative humidity.

The Effect of Seasons

Everything expands as it gets warmer, and that applies to the air itself. As a consequence, it absorbs more moisture when the ambient temperature’s warmer. This is why us homeowners in Toronto are plagued by humidity when the heating’s turned up in their basements – especially in winter when the windows and doors are tightly closed.

You can track humidity by purchasing a mechanical or electronic hygrometer that records the RH, although you do need to allow the instrument to settle for twelve hours first. Note that the same absolute moisture-level will produce a different relative reading at different ambient temperatures.

The Human Factor

What we described so far is theoretical. Humans have a habit of changing their environment everywhere we go (and that includes our homes). Air pollution and global warming are extreme examples. It may come as a shock to know that even breathing affects the relative humidity in your home.

Most everything we do in our home involves the use of energy. Energy that is released warms the air. Warm air absorbs more moisture. Up goes the humidity level. It’s as simple as that. But we don’t stop there, do we? We release moisture into the air every time we bath or shower, wash dishes or do the laundry.

The Right Humidity

Our bodies require a level of humidity for health. When it’s too high we may develop respiratory problems because of mould spores drifting through the air. By contrast, if the RH is too low we get scratchy throats and noses, and chapped skin and lips. These are Mother Nature’s natural hygrometers we need to listen too.

After you’ve purchased a mechanical or electronic hygrometer, you can assess humidity more accurately, although do remember that hygrometer readings are relative to ambient temperatures. When your home is nice and snug in winter, it should range between 30 and 50 percent. However when the outside temperature drops to -10c / 14F, you should aim for 30.

When Humidity’s Too High

You can use humidifiers and dehumidifiers to control relative humidity selectively. However you can also influence things by venting clothes-driers, opening doors and windows daily, and taking cooler showers and baths. As you bring your humidity levels down you’ll also have less mould. And that should make your family healthier, happier and more relaxed.

 

photo credit: Flckr