Mold is becoming more of a problem in homes and businesses these days. But, have you ever wondered why? Mold spores need three things to thrive. Those three things are moisture/dampness, nutrients and temperature. But, your world hasn’t really gotten wetter. In fact many places are faced with drought. And, mold can grow at most household temperatures, and that hasn’t changed either. So, what’s the deal with mold growth?
One thing that has changed is how buildings are constructed. Years ago, homes were built from brick, concrete, and solid timber. But, over the years construction materials have changed. And, for various reasons such as economy and environment, the materials have changed dramatically.
Modern Wood Products
Have you ever looked at building materials at your local home improvement store or during a project? The most expensive lumber is the best grade, made from whole sheets or planks of wood. The less expensive pieces are what you might refer to as “particle board” or “oriented strand board”. These types of wood are constructed from wood chips or sawdust glued back together to form sheets of wood product.
The more the wood is ground down, the most fillers that are added to the product. The broken down wood, plus these fillers, are a great place for moisture to take hold. This provides the perfect nutrients for mold to grow.
While trees are a renewable resource, it takes years to replace a tree that has been cut down. And, cutting down too many trees is harmful to the environment.
Drywall and Insulation Products
Drywall is another place that is easy for mold to take hold and spread. Drywall is a panel made of gypsum plaster sandwiched between two sheets of paper. This product is most often used to construct the interior walls of the building. Even showers are often constructed using drywall with tile placed on top.
What do you think happens when moisture comes in contact with the plaster or the paper? It gives the perfect source of nutrients for mold growth. Even when the drywall is covered and painted, mold can still grow on and under the paint.
Carpeting that has been exposed to excess water is particularly problematic. Carpet fibers, layers of padding, and subsurface can all retain moisture down deep under the surface. Mold spores can begin to grow where they cannot even be seen.
Unfortunately, shampooing the carpet will not kill the mold. In many cases the best choice for flooded carpets is removal and replacement. However, if you choose to try to save the carpeting, professional cleaning is advised.
Making Better Building Choices to Avoid Mold Growth
There are building materials choices that are less likely to promote mold growth. When building or replacing, keep these options in mind when making your selections:
- Use completely natural wood materials when possible. Avoid products that have been ground down and reassembled using glues, nitrogen, and waxes.
- Avoid paper faced gypsum for rooms with high moisture and humidity. Look for drywall with other more mold-resistant coverings such as concrete.
- When using paper faced gypsum boards, look for those that are treated and mold-resistant. When using these make sure to use mold-resistant tape compound and paint.
- Consider other flooring options that carpet. Wall-to-wall carpet can have higher humidity ratings that the rest of the room even under normal conditions. When wetness is a problem, it’s almost certain the carpet will have to be removed.
- Glass, tile, concrete, and marble are all good building choices to avoid penetrating mold growth.
- Look for paint with mold/mildew resistant additives.
The use of mold-resistant building products must be balanced with cost and the impact on the environment. If mold-resistant products are not available or practical, engineering and design practices to construct the building with the least likelihood of moisture build-up is critical. Proper ventilation is important to ensure that tight insulation doesn’t lead to increased humidity and condensation.