a common sense approach to Attic Mold
WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!! Lol now that we have that out of the way, lets look at this resolvable issue commonly found in attics. Remember, if mold was as catastrophic as the chemical salesmen on the internet would have you believe, you’d drop dead the second you stepped into the forest…
First off, let look at the health effects of mold for the average healthy person. In the living environment, when exposed to copious amounts or if long term exposure is present, the person may experience a scratchy throat or even the sensation that they have a cold that just doesn’t seem to go away. This isn’t permanent and once the mold has either been removed or remediation designed to limit and control the growth has been achieved, the person’s symptoms simply resolve themselves. There are cases where a person with a pre-existing condition may feel these symptoms ahead of others or find them to affect them more than others but again, once the mold has been removed or remediated, the person recovers very quickly.
Now that the health effects have been covered, lets look at why the probability of these symptoms really doesn’t exist in the case of attic molds. Your attic is a separate part of the building system is NOT part of your indoor air quality by HVAC or passive ventilation that could cross-contaminate your living space. Attics are sealed spaces that have a hatch and separate ventilation to the outdoor environment. The exception to this is the walk-up attic, it often has a doorway and stairs leading up to a space with a floor where items are usually stored. This type of attic would be considered part of the indoor space and be treated as such but mold in the living environment is a topic for another article and will be covered at a later date. Let stick to the traditional attic space for now as they are approached differently than molds in the living environment.
Mold does however pose a significant risk to the structural components of your roof system as they cause dry-rot or disintegration of the structural integrity of the sheeting and trusses. In every case of mold contamination, there’s a source and that source needs to be identified and rectified prior to remediation for it to be effective. Also it needs to be mentioned that there are two terms used in mold remediation, “removal” and “limiting and controlling” mold. There is only one way to “remove” mold from a porous surface like wood and that’s removal and reinstallation of the affected material. That’s all good but what about when there’s still 10+ years left on that roof guarantee and tearing it all off to remove the sheeting and redoing a whole roof isn’t a viable option? This is where the term “limiting and controlling” mold is key. The idea behind it is that it acts as a stop-gap to get you through until the roof need to be replaced and at that time the affected sheets can then be removed and replaced as part of the planned roof replacement. Limiting and controlling doesn’t eliminate the mold in it’s entirety but it knocks it back into a weakened or diminished state and puts controls in place to help prevent or slow new growth. Each have a place and an experienced remediator should be able to represent the benefits of both in a way you can confidently make a decision as to how you want to move forward.
To understand mold’s effect and how to prevent it, lets look at the mold itself. Mold is a living thing and officially need 5 things to flourish and spread but I’ve added a 6th one because in my 25 years experience, “time” is as relevant as the other 5 elements. By interrupting one or more of these elements of growth, its possible to seriously limit or control growth or spread.
Moisture or Standing Water – The water mold needs can come from several sources like worn out roofing materials letting water pass by, ice damming pushing water up under the shingle, animal damage or flashing leaks. The one that’s most commonly found though, is lack of ventilation or disconnected exhaust systems causing water vapour to build up and condensate against the cooler side of the roof.
Stagnant Air – Air that’s not being moved out of the attic space loads with moisture over time through outdoor humidity, disconnected dryer/hood vents, clogged soffit vents or simply a lack of roof vents originally installed.
Darkness – Mold develops well in low light conditions but in the attic, this is not something that can be helped much unless you plan to instal UV lighting systems to ad to already high hydro bills.
Temperature – Like us, mold loves to be warm and due to the heat transfer through the ceilings from inside of sun on the roof, attics are often warm comfortable places for molds to flourish. Once again, ventilation is key here to exhaust as much of that heat as possible.
Food Source – We all need to eat and mold is no different. Now to us, a nice thick cut of prime rib is a beautiful thing but for mold, wood is the gourmet meal its searching for and its favourite cut is anything that’s been processed like OSB or plywood. It absolutely loves the stuff because it easily penetrated and because of the processing, its easier to digest. Now due to how things are built, these materials are and most likely will continue to be the standard in the foreseeable future but who knows, technology is moving fast and new choices are being developed all the time.
Time – Like all things, the longer the problem persists, the worse its going to get. Regular visual inspections of the attic can save you extensive and expensive remediation. Make it part of your home maintenance to poke your head up there with a flashlight and take a good look for those dark spots a couple times a year. Also by interrupting one or more of the elements of mold growth, you can actually slow the time it takes for molds to grow or spread.
When we look at and identify what we believe to be mold, it’s not… What we see on the surface is nothing more than the fecal matter and spores of the mold living well hidden within the organic matter of the wood. This is why when testing for mold, a spore trap is used and the samples go off to a lab to be grown in a dish so identification can be made to type.
Now before you go and grab the bleach from the laundry room and dump out the Windex trigger sprayer so you can fill’er up and begin your assault, STOP!!! First off, bleach is ineffective at dealing with mold in wood as the bleach cannot penetrate the wood and only the water from the bleach makes it past the surface. Bleach is however suitable for hard non-porous surfaces but with the plethora of surface/contaminate specific products out there, why use a toxic and damaging chemical. LOL, your just going to end up harming your respiratory system, bleaching your clothes, ruining you carpets when you climb out of the attic with it on your shoes and you have never ever seen a bad hair bleaching like the one you’ll see in the mirror after that….
Picking that Professional to come in and remediate the issue can be confusing because everyone wants to say they’re experts in their advertising, but are they really? Don’t be afraid to ask them the questions, this is YOUR home and you should be ASSURED you have a pro on site. How long they’ve been doing it? What substance specific training do they have? Do they do a thorough inspection where they identify the source and how to resolve it? What does their process look like and will you be left with a clean work area when done? Do you feel reassured they are in command of what they do and able to clearly explain it in terms easily understood? Are they using fear tactics to get you to buy? Will they give a firm quote to the costs in writing? How do they handle potential damages (walking on ceilings is always a risk) and are the what’s not included clearly identified?
Thank you for reading this article and we at Assured Industries hope you’ll engage us in discussion by reaching out by phone, email or Facebook.