Mold has been around since life began on earth. The first thing to understand about mold is that there is a little mold everywhere – indoors and outdoors. It’s in the air and can be found on plants, foods, dry leaves, and other organic materials. Fortunately, in Colorado, the air is so dry we typically don’t have too many problems with mold. However, any place where there is stagnant water, oxygen, and a food source, mold can start growing. The most extreme example of mold in homes I have ever seen was when I visited New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. I was on a team building Habitant for Humanity homes in a subdivision where most of the homes had to be bulldozed because of mold. These homes were encased in mold, inside and out.
It’s very common to find mold in homes and buildings. After all, mold grow naturally indoors. Mold spores enter the home through doorways, windows, and heating and air conditioning systems. Spores also enter the home on animals, clothing, shoes, bags, and people. When mold spores drop where there is excessive moisture in your home, they will grow. Common problem sites include humidifiers, leaky roofs and pipes, overflowing sinks, bath tubs and plant pots, steam from cooking, wet clothes drying indoors, dryers exhausting indoors, or where there has been flooding. We have also seen more mold issues due to high-humidity situations in marijuana grow rooms in houses.
Many of the building materials for homes provide suitable nutrients for mold, helping it to grow. Such materials include paper and paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, wood, and wood products, dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation materials, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
Exposure to mold
Everyone is exposed to some amount of mold on a daily basis, most without any apparent reaction. Generally, mold spores can cause problems when they are present in large numbers and a person inhales large quantities of them. This occurs primarily when there is active mold growth.
For some people, even a very small exposure to mold spores can trigger an asthma attack or lead to other health problems such as headaches, rashes, sinus problems, coughing, and nausea. For others, symptoms may only occur when exposure levels are much higher.
Should I be concerned about mold in my home?
Yes. If indoor mold is extensive, people in your home can be exposed to very high and persistent airborne mold spores. It is possible to become sensitized to these mold spores and develop allergies or other health concerns, even if one is not normally sensitive to mold. Left unchecked, mold growth can cause structural damage to your home as well as permanent damage to furnishings and carpet. At one of the houses I listed, in peeking into the crawl space, it was discovered that the sewer line had been leaking for a period of years, unbeknownst to the homeowner. The soil in the crawl space had to be removed, floor joists and subflooring removed, and even the furniture above the most affected area had to be replaced. Obviously, it was a very expensive fix to mitigate the situation properly.
Can my home be tested for mold?
Yes. Indoor and outdoor air samples can be taken to determine whether the number of spores inside your home is significantly higher than outside your home. If the indoor level is higher, it could mean that mold is growing inside your home. Reliable air sampling can be expensive, time consuming, and requires special equipment and a qualified technician. Since 2000, as we have become more knowledgeable about issues with mold, several reliable companies have been established in our area for testing.
If you can see or smell mold, then you should take steps to clean up the mold. Mold growth is likely to continue unless the source of moisture is removed and the contamination is cleaned up. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “It is not necessary, however, to determine what type of mold you may have. All molds should be treated the same with respect to potential health risks and removal.”
How do I remove mold from my home?
The biggest concerns about mold removal are potentially spreading the mold throughout the house as you disturb the site and the danger of exposing yourself to the spores. The mold known as Stachbotrys Chartarum or “black mold” is very toxic and can cause serious health problems. In the case of black mold, you should definitely call in the experts for mitigating the situation properly.
Even though mold is not as much of an issue in Boulder as it is in more humid locations, it is important to be aware of it to ensure your is home safe to live in -- and to keep it in mind before making a home purchase. Usually, the general home inspector you hire for a home purchase will make note of any mold issues that need further inspection.
About Duane Duggan: Duane Duggan has been a Realtor® for RE/MAX of Boulder in Colorado since 1982 and has facilitated over 2,500 transactions over his career, the vast majority from repeat and referred clients. He has been awarded two of the highest honors bestowed by RE/MAX International: the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Circle of Legends Award. Living the life of a Realtor and being immersed in real estate led to the inception of his book, REALTOR® for Life. Also see his video podcasts about real estate topics on RE/MAX of Boulder’s YouTube channel.
For questions, email Duane at DuaneDuggan@BoulderCo.com or call 303-441-5611