Mold and mildew (both are types of fungi) thrive in dark, damp environments where organic material is present. So it shouldn’t be surprising to find mold in a basement. Mold is especially fond of cellulose-rich materials like wood, paper and fabric; but it can also take hold on leather and even on paint that contains organic resins like linseed oil.
Don’t ignore a basement mold problem
Even if you don’t spend much time in your basement, it’s not wise to let basement mold go untreated. Contact with mold (especially inhaling airborne mold spores) can cause a wide range of health problems, including serious respiratory ailments. Mold or mildew causes damage to its host material. It can ruin paper-faced wallboard and lead to rot in wood framing members. Mold can also be a huge monkey wrench in any real estate transaction, making a house difficult or even impossible to sell.
4 steps that will help solve basement mold problems
The good news about basement mold is that there are effective ways to deal with it. But don’t rush to call a mold mitigation specialist right off the bat. Contractors who specialize in mold abatement can effectively handle some, but not all of the steps required to eliminate basement mold problems. To find out who does what and why, take a look at the 4 steps described below.
1. Remove mold-damaged materials. It’s usually better to remove and discard materials that are covered with mold than to attempt cleaning and reuse. This rule of thumb applies to mold-damaged carpet, wood paneling, drywall, paper-faced fiberglass insulation and “2by” framing used in basement walls. The reason for removal is easy to understand: Even if you succeed in killing and scouring off the mold, you’ll still have ideal mold food that can attract a new infestation. (Fortunately, there are alternative materials available that won’t support mold growth; see Step 3 below.) To accomplish this messy demolition task, it’s not necessary to hire a mold mitigation specialist. But workers should wear proper respirators and take steps to capture airborne mold spores using HEPA-rated vacuuming and air-cleaning equipment.
2. Kill mold on materials that can’t be removed. If there are significant mold colonies on materials that must stay in place –like basement ceiling joists, for example—you might consider calling in a mold mitigation contractor to kill and remove the mold. However, you’ll find helpful information about DIY mold cleaning on the EPA’s website; type “mold clean up” into the search box.
3. Replace mold-prone materials with mold-resistant materials. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of removing basement mold, the next step is to create an environment that’s hostile to mold, so that it doesn’t return. One way to do this is to use inorganic building materials that won’t support mold growth. For example, standard paper-faced drywall can be replaced with special mold-resistant drywall faced with fiberglass. Mold-resistant drywall is available at most home centers and building supply outlets, but you’ll have to look harder to find flooring, insulation and other finish materials designed to resist mold infestation. One good source for high-quality basement finishing materials that can’t be damaged by water or mold is Basement Systems, a nationwide network of contractors who specialize in keeping basements dry.
4. Control basement moisture to prevent new mold infestation. Creating a mold-hostile environment is really a two-pronged strategy: Eliminate materials that nourish mold, and keep the basement dry. To prevent major water intrusion (even in wet climates), an interior French drain system connected to a sump pump is usually the preferred approach. To keep basement humidity below the 60% level that favors mold growth, a basement dehumidifier is recommended. The SaniDry® dehumidifiers available through Basement Systems provide an additional benefit: They include a two-stage air filtration system that can trap mold spores.
I recommend checking out this article on what causes of mold and how to prevent it to expand your knowledge on basement mold!
Tim Snyder is a part-time contractor and full-time writer who specializes in remodeling and home-improvement topics.