Mold in Crawlspaces and Basements

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Good news, everyone: spring is almost here! Soon, we’ll be able to say “goodbye” to cold, dreary outdoor conditions and say “hello” to warmth and sunshine!

For a lot of people, the arrival of spring also means Spring Cleaning. And at RealTime Laboratories, we’d like to remind folks to add ‘Check the basements and crawl spaces for mold’ to their to-do tidying lists. Granted, you should always be on the lookout for mold anywhere in your home. But today, we’d like to shine a spotlight on these two rooms, specifically

Why Mold Grows in the Home

Technically, mold can grow in any room of a house—bathrooms, for example, are especially prone to mold outbreaks. But crawlspaces and basements are also among the most common areas to be affected. And that’s due to two main factors:

These spaces are naturally hospitable to mold
Mold thrives in areas that are dark, warm, and damp. In many homes, this description fits basements and crawlspaces to a T, what with them being underground and/or between interior and exterior walls. If moisture manages to breach an outside barrier, then these spots naturally become mold “prime real estate.” And mold growth is nothing if not opportunistic! The best thing to do is prevent mold from growing in the first place.

These spaces typically aren’t monitored closely
Of all the rooms in a house, basements and crawl spaces typically see the least amount of foot traffic. That’s only natural; unless you have a furnished basement that doubles as a game room or young children who play hide-and-seek on a regular basis, these areas are mostly used for storage.

The average homeowner can go weeks—or even months—without stepping foot inside their basement or crawl space. But because of that, it’s not uncommon for mold to set up shop and then grow without being noticed until the stuff has reached relatively massive proportions. It’s fairly easy to spot mold in a master bathroom when you go in there several times a day. 

If you only turn on the light and descend into your basement when you need to deal with boxes of holiday decorations, though, then one trip might be the first time that you see a patch of mold the size of a decorative poster clinging to one wall.

How to Find Mold

Unfortunately, mold problems in houses can be tricky to spot—they’re not always obvious to the untrained eye (or nose). And that’s unfortunate, because the longer a mold problem goes undiagnosed, the longer it can wreak havoc on your health…as well as grow in size and severity. Here are a few clues that mold might be what’s ailing you (or your family):

You see patches of mold on your interior walls
This one’s fairly self-explanatory. Just remember that household mold isn’t always black—it can also come in blue, green, brown, gray, white, and even orange.

You smell mold when you walk into your basement or crawl space
Mold typically has a damp, musty odor, like dirt or (as some folks perceive it) sweaty socks. A mold smell is nearly always worth trying to track to its source, just to make sure that it’s not being caused by a large colony of mold that you can’t see.

People (or pets) in your household start showing signs of mold-related illnesses
Chronic mold exposure can cause a wide variety of symptoms, including joint pain, sinus issues, chronic fatigue, GI distress (IBS, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, etc.), skin rashes, and cognitive/mental health difficulties. While these symptoms definitely aren’t exclusive to mold exposure, you should be wary if they show up at the same time that you see or smell mold in your home, or that they don’t seem to get better with normal medical treatment.

What to do When You Find Mold

If you know for a fact that there’s mold in your basement or crawl pace, or you aren’t positive but you THINK that there might be, don’t ignore the problem! Mold issues almost never get better on their own; human intervention must happen for the problem to be resolved.

Test your home—and your family—for mycotoxins
Environmental test kits can detect mold in your home using just a small amount of dust or debris from your air conditioning unit or heater, and urine kits are capable of detecting traces of mycotoxins in human (or dog, or cat, or even horse) urine. A positive reading on any of these tests is invaluable when it comes to remediating the problem or getting proper medical treatment.

Clean up the mold yourself, if possible
When a mold infestation is relatively small or is not one of the more dangerous varieties of fungus (e.g., Stachybotrys chartarum, or “black mold”), it’s often possible to get rid of the problem on your own. Mold removal is difficult – if you don’t think you can get it all it might be a good idea to call a professional remediatior.

When in doubt, call for reinforcements
Professional mold remediation may be necessary when dealing with large-scale mold infestations, and it’s always necessary when dealing with black mold. It can also be a good option if you’re not confident in your ability to clean the mold properly and/or take adequate measures to prevent it from coming back. 

Finding a dependable, trustworthy environmental inspector and mold remediator can be tricky, but never fear: RealTime Laboratories is happy to provide a directory of reputable companies on our website.

Happy Spring Cleaning, everyone! Once again: please be sure to keep an eye out for mold as you’re tidying your home, especially in basements and crawl spaces. Mold spores can be insidious, and mold infestations can be tricky to contend with. But if you’re vigilant, harmful fungus doesn’t stand a chance!

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