mold

mould-removal-torontoAs a mold removal company in Toronto, we’re often asked by homeowners when they should take on the task of cleaning up their own mold and when should they have a professional mold removal company come in.  We usually recommend that the homeowner hires an independent mold inspection service to help them make that determination.

Mold is a fungus found growing naturally wherever there are moist natural fibers and warm still air.  Sounds like most basements, especially in older homes. It propagates itself by releasing microscopic seeds called spores into the air. When these find their way into our homes two things happen. They colonize our living space, and they irritate our airways.

The Mold Enigma

An enigma is a complicated mystery or puzzle that it’s theoretically easy to solve when you know how. In principle it’s also a simple matter to control for mold. You just need to wipe down the ceilings, walls and floors regularly with an anti-fungal agent, wash out the cupboards, vacuum the drapes, and ventilate your home regularly.  That’s fine if you know the source, such as a leaky pipe or faucet.  If you haven’t found the source of your mold issues, it usually just returns.

But we seldom have the time or inclination to do this properly. Before we realize it, we have mold flourishing in nooks and crannies we didn’t previously worry about. When we try to get rid of it we find it’s smelly and really dirty. What’s more, the harder we try, the faster it comes bouncing back for more

The biggest problem is that we’re actually replanting it as we go along. That’s because as we wipe it away we release mold spores that repopulate the area in a few short weeks. A mold removal specialist will tell you that exposure to mold is often highest in the removal process as you are disturbing it and making it airborne.  Even if we use chemicals to kill it they don’t work remotely – we have to treat the mold everywhere, no matter how inaccessible it may be.

When Mold’s Out of Hand

If the mold in your home extends over more than one square meter, then you have a self-sustaining eco-system that’s definitely not going to move out voluntarily. In no time at all you’ll start finding it under carpets, in cupboards and on top of ceilings. Unless you have nothing better to do, you’ve reached the point where you need to call a mold inspector.

Services You Receive

An experienced mold inspector with training and registration papers knows that it’s pointless putting out so-called mold traps, and pointing out the fungus where you already know it is. Instead, they use their knowledge of buildings and building materials to identify where mold is lurking even before they look for it.

As they go along they’ll identify the root causes of what they find. These can be anything from water seeping in from outside, to cupboards not fitted with cross ventilation. Sometimes, turning down the thermostat a notch and opening windows in the middle of the day will help prevent mold recurrence.

At other times you may need to call in a waterproofing specialist. However you have to eliminate what’s already growing first.

The Big Clean

It’s not a good idea to tackle a large-scale mold elimination project yourself, especially if you’re unsure of the cause of the mold. Besides breathing in potentially harmful spores, mold usually grows in dark and sometimes hard to reach areas such as attic crawl spaces.  Consider calling in a professional mold inspector, they can help determine the source of your mold and recommend a certified mold removal company if it’s needed.

 

A water soaked carpet can be a real mess. Especially when it’s in your basement and it’s soaked from possibly contaminated sewer water.  Yuk! Every moment you delay, your carpet’s survival is under threat. At the same time, there’s little purpose in trying to do anything while the water’s still coming in. This is definitely no time to be rash. You need a cool head here.  Here in Toronto, between the weather and the age of many of our homes, basement flooding is quite common.  If you do experience a basement flood, and your have carpet down there, here are a few tips for you to follow.

flooded carpet with mold

Turn off the Water Supply – If a basement suddenly develops a leak, it’s quite possible an appliance down there has developed one too. Turn off the water at the entry point. Just don’t go below because it might not be safe to do so yet.

Switch off the Electricity – Don’t mess with this one. Your life could be at stake. Turning off the main switch is only good enough if the basement’s correctly wired. Rather ask an electrician to make your basement electrically safe for you.

Inspect the Area – Now you can take a good look around the basement, and hopefully find the root cause of the problem. Check the ceiling and the walls for obvious signs of running water. Look at every plumbed-in appliance carefully. Then examine the carpet for water-intrusion from beneath. The darkest, wettest spot is likely where your problem lies.

Salvage the Carpet

If the carpet is cheap, or clearly ruined, don’t waste your time with it. Put in an insurance claim and have a new one fitted. A carpet that isn’t cleaned and dried properly is a great candidate for mold.  However if you have a high insurance excess and consider it worth salvaging, here are two alternative solutions.

  • If the carpet is recoverable but really water-sodden (or you need to uplift it anyway to attend to an underground leak) clear the basement and use a commercial wet-vac to mop up as much water as possible. Then remove the carpet (watch out for rusty nails on edging strips) and take it someplace where it can dry out in the sun.

 

After that, you can find a carpet fitter to relay it for you. Don’t waste time trying to salvage the underlay though. It’s relatively cheap, and will stretch and tear as you take it up in any case.

 

  • If the water spill is localized and clearly not welling up from below, all you may need to do is mop it with the commercial wet-vac (don’t press down hard) and then turn on several large fans plus a powerful dehumidifier. Don’t rush things. When it’s finally dry, you can shampoo it clean.

Move Quickly

Ignore a damp carpet in a basement, and you’re inviting mold to settle down there, from where it could gradually migrate upstairs and affect your family’s bronchial health. Should you be unable to take any of the steps we recommend immediately, then it’s time to call in a commercial carpet cleaning service urgently.

Longer-Term Concerns

Clearly, there’s little point in reinstating a carpet until the root cause of the flooding has been solved. Depending on your skills you may be able to sort out a plumbing problem yourself. However, if you’re faced with water intrusion you’re going to need advice from a basement water-proofing specialist, because that’s probably a more serious concern that will require a professional inspection.

 

 

indoor air quality TorontoAs Fall sets in here in Toronto, we begin to shut our windows and fire up the furnaces for another long Winter.  We no longer have fresh air to filter through our home and seal our homes shut for the next several months.  Indoor air quality can become a problem in a home when certain maintenance steps aren’t maintained.  Here are a few tips to help improve the indoor air quality of your home.

Easy-Going Air Cleaning Tips

Here are a few things you should be thinking of, to keep your family safe and sound on cold winter days when you’re inside with the windows closed (and keep the value of your property healthy too).

  • When you move in for the first time, or before the start of a new season, give the place a thorough clean, including ceilings, light fittings, walls and floors. A mild solution of a cup of ammonia in five liters of warm water will help sterilize them for mould and germs.

 

  • Get into a habit of cleaning regularly after that, and keeping an eye on the dirt you import yourself, often inadvertently. Make it a rule for everybody to leave outdoor shoes and damp overcoats in the porch, and ban smoking indoors completely.

 

  • Perhaps the most important thing of all is to keep green and black mould at bay. That’s not only because it’s unsightly and an indication of bad hygiene habits. It’s also a sign of creeping dampness that can lead to chronic bronchial problems too.

 

  • Before you buy new furniture or change the coverings on your floors, demand access to health warnings on the internet. If they’re cheap imported goods, don’t bet your health on them being good for you!

 

  • Constantly purify your home with good quality high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. When you change them regularly as you should, you’ll be amazed at what you otherwise could be breathing in.  Be sure to check the filter in your furnace as outlined in the manual, this alone will greatly reduce the particles floating in the air inside your home.

 

  • Exchange your household vacuum cleaner for one that’s HEPA filter equipped too. If you don’t, well, then you’re just recycling dust mites and mould spores while you’re standing close nearby.

 

  • Invest in indoor plants. These not only look good, they also recycle carbon gases into pure, safe oxygen that you can freely breathe  – and tell you at the same time if your air is becoming too moist or dry.

Sleep peacefully at night on pillows and mattresses encased with anti-dust mite coverings, knowing you’ve done everything you possibly can to keep the air quality safer for your healthy, loving family. Such things are easy as you cross over to a healthier way of life, and it’s worth it, isn’t it?

What to Do with a Really Filthy House

Sometimes stuff happens to our homes. We rent our home out spotlessly clean, and get it back full of mould and filth. If you’re faced with that right now, don’t risk your precious health and time. Call in a mould-removal specialist and commercial cleaning team to do the job seamlessly for you instead.

 

mould growth in Richmond Hill atticMould is a natural fungus that takes root in any humid or damp environment.  Here in Toronto, mould growth in the attic is common due to the change in seasons and temperature throughout the year.  If a roof leaks however slightly, the attic is rainwater’s first port of call. Moreover heat generated in a home rises upwards to combine with damp. In reality, the question really should be “why aren’t all attics mouldy”. Let’s take a look at the factors in the equation, and discover the reasons why.

Roof Seepage

Rainwater often seeps through roofing joints and hips especially when driven by accompanying rain. After the storm passes, sunlight bakes the roof and creates a haven for mould below. There really are only two solutions to avoiding this. Waterproof the roof and introduce cross ventilation.

Access Points between Home and Attic

Access panels and staircases provide essential access to roof-space for maintenance and inspection purpose. These also admit heat, and allow mould spores to enter. Access panels are easily insulated. However stairs usually require a pull-down box to address the problem properly.

Forced Ventilation from Below

Those innocent-looking bathroom, laundry and kitchen ventilation fans are actually your worst enemy, although you may look on them as your friends.  That’s because they not only incubate mould in cracks and crannies, they also literally blast the fungus into the attic in a cocoon of warm moist air.

Your first step is to track them down where they often lurk hidden under loft insulation (run them while you’re up there to locate them). You only have two options – either disable them, or duct them through to fresh air. Doing nothing is not a valid choice.

Gaps in Ceiling Insulation

Insulation gaps are another favourite friend of mould, because, just like water-proofing and security, insulation is only as good as its weakest point. Investigate all the tricky places where an installer might have been tempted to take short cuts. Skylights and dormer windows are a good start, as are pipes and cables that penetrate through walls and ceilings.

Furnaces and Water Heaters

Homes without basements often have heating systems installed in attics in separate rooms. Failure to insulate these properly can undo all the good intentions mentioned above. Pay special attention to seals around pipes and ducting where these pass through to living space, as these could admit mould spores in either direction.

Essential Maintenance

Nothing lasts forever (at least unless you keep a hand to it) and that includes all the mould defenses mentioned. Lint from ceiling fans and bird and ant nests are just a few of the things that can break down your mould barriers. If you suspect mould growth in your attic, the best thing to do is to call a qualified mould inspector to come in and conduct the proper testing.

 

Should I use a mold testing kit?Mould is definitely something you don’t want around your home. Although it’s not poisonous, it is unsightly, puts other people off, and over a period of exposure, could cause chronic, upper respiratory illness too. It’s also the outward sign of water problems, especially in the basement. We’ve been doing mould removal and  mitigation for a long time now in and around Toronto, and there is one thing that we know.  The source of the water problem needs to be removed before your mould problem can successfully be eliminated.

Mould Testing Kits

Although some stores still sell these kits, they’re almost useless. Putting out a “settling plate” is about as sensible as leaving a ripe banana out on the kitchen counter. OF COURSE mould will develop naturally on the fruit. That’s what mould does. And it will settle on the settling plate because that’s what it’s designed for too. But this DOES NOT necessarily mean that the mould came from somewhere in your house – or for that matter tell you where it came from either.

Moreover, the decreasing popularity of mould kits also means that they may sit on shelves for ages, even though the testing chemicals have shorter sell-by-dates. Some scientists investigating them have also recorded conflicting findings. This means that mould test kits are `at best, unreliable.

A Total Lack of Logic

Knowing you have mould in your home is a problem statement, and not a solution. And the mould you are concerned about is obviously concealed, or else why would you need to test for it? The far bigger risk you run by using a mould testing kit is that you might get a clear result, while all the time intruding water is causing permanent damage to the structure of your home.

Manufacturers of the test kits know this. That’s why they use scare tactics like “mould could potentially kill you”, when it’s patently not true. Mould, inhaled over a period of time, or if you have respitory problems, can be dangerous, but it’s still not poison.We’ll say it one more time so there’s no possibility of misunderstanding. Mould is not the problem. It’s the dampness and leaking water behind the mould you should be worrying about.

Damp Inspections versus Mould Tests

Every basement should be inspected annually for dampness and other wet basement problems. That’s because basements attract moisture the same way overripe bananas attract mould. A mould test kit is a blind test for fungi that tells you virtually nothing. You’re just wasting time and money.

A damp inspection, on the other hand, is a detailed survey of your entire home by specialists who know just where to look for problems. If there’s mould there too, they’ll be sure to spot it. This information is secondary in nature though, and it effectively comes free.

Choosing the Right Basement Specialist

Although the internet is cluttered with information about damp and mould, this is no more useful than background static, because there’s no substitute for training and experience. Sourcing and addressing damp problems – especially in basements – is no job for casual handymen with mould test kits. If you have signs of water problems and mould in your home, the best bet is to have a certified professional come in and do a full inspection in your home.