An indoor environment that produces high humidity will grow mold. It’s that simple. Moisture + Materials + Time = Mold. Learning about how to monitor your home humidity levels should be a part of every property owner’s maintenance items. Learning what causes humidity to rise and how to prevent it is vital to a healthy indoor air environment. Humidity levels need to be monitored year-round for optimal health of your family. We also recommend doing air duct cleaning every 3-5 years for optimal indoor air quality.
Why Monitoring Indoor Humidity is Vital to Preventing Mold
Humidity is a given in the Kansas City metro area! Staying up-to-date with the weather is an important part of daily life in our part of the country. Since the weather can change suddenly and drastically. Just like we monitor the weather closely, we must also monitor our indoor humidity as well. Unfortunately, this is not something that Gary Lezak can help with.
The Ecosystem of Your Indoor Environment
Did you know that your property has its own ecosystem of humidity? Airflow, temperature, and organic materials all play a part. The restoration industry is centered around emergency responses like flooded basements, broken pipes, faulty sump pumps, etc. All of these things are emergencies and are major contributors to water and mold damage. However, for most of us, we are not in an emergency. We are thinking about other things like, “I wonder why the basement always smells musty? Why does it feel sticky in here? Why does this room feel stuffy?” The list can go on and on with all of the comments we have heard from customers over the years. It all goes back to the two things that are probably contributing to your questions: humidity and airflow.
Humidity & Moisture Activates Mold Growth
Mold needs oxygen, humidity, and an organic food source to grow. All structures are full of organic porous materials and oxygen. The missing link to these organic materials becoming problematic is the introduction of water. This also includes gradual and prolonged elevated humidity levels. In addition to humidity, stagnant air makes humidity levels worse. Safe humidity levels are between 40-60%. Even with semi-low humidity, a room may even support mold growth simply due to a lack of airflow.
Lack of Airflow Increases Humidity Problem
Because airflow helps to disperse moisture in the air, airflow and humidity are huge contributors to mold growth and one of the leading causes of hidden mold. The result is a buildup of humidity and no way to disperse the humidity outward. Rooms with inadequate airflow normally have no vents from the HVAC system or other sources of fresh air, nor any other way for air to circulate to and from that room with the door closed. The humidity gradually builds over time and fungi begins to grow.
Think of air as similar to water. Any body of water that does not have circulation or movement causes stagnation and thereby causing algae and fungi to grow. This same principle is true with air. The lack of airflow or air circulation results in stagnation, which helps the growth of fungi, referred to as a mold. Signs of lack of airflow include mustiness, odor, and visible fungal growth. Some of the areas of concern would include the following:
5 Areas Prone to Elevated Humidity & Restricted Airflow
1. Storage Areas
All of our properties have a variety of storage areas. They are normally shut up and not frequently accessed: closed storage areas like the closet under your staircase or the closet in the spare bedroom. They are spaces without frequent airflow which creates an invitation to mold. Foundation leaks that occur in storage areas create quick mold problems because the leak is often not found until the problem has become large.
We had a customer who called with a mold concern: she had a closet that had mold growing. When we arrived at her home, we noticed that there were no signs of water or a leak that would cause mold to even be a problem. While there, we discovered a pair of boots in the closet. After discussing further, we learned the boots were placed in the closet after a snow storm. The closet didn’t have any ventilation and it caused mold to grow in just a few weeks time.
2. Sump Pump Enclosures
Sump pumps are hideous must-haves for basements in Kansas City. Unfortunately, they are unsightly and many times we hide them with nice enclosures to get them out of sight and out of mind. However, if the sump pump enclosure is not vented, then mold will grow inside. Sump pumps are pulling and pumping water, thereby creating elevated humidity levels.
3. Wine Cellars
There is nothing more beautiful and mystic than a well-built wine cellar and Kansas City is full of them! We have seen some of the most beautiful wine cellars and the reasons for our visits have not been to pour a glass, but rather, to remedy mold. It all goes back to the construction and original design of the cellar. Wine preservation is the sole focus during the construction of wine cellars. Most often builders mistakenly don’t take into the consideration airflow and humidity regulation. Mold is common in wine cellars due to this oversight. It is important to not neglect this reality when considering constructing and/or modifying a room in your home for a wine cellar.
4. Crawl Space
Most crawl spaces in the Midwest are ventilated. Vents allow humidity in, but not necessarily releasing it out at a high enough rate to regulate the humidity levels. An alternative to the standard venting method is to seal off the crawl space and add airflow. This can be accomplished by using an electric air pump on a timer that will periodically move fresh air into the crawl space. This is not an easy fix, but at least an alternative to the status quo and the most effective.
Most attics are vented through the roof and soffit vents of the home. Airflow comes in through the soffit vents and moves upward escaping through the roof vents. Here are two ways that I have seen humidity build-up and support fungal growth in attics:
Plugged Soffit Vents: First and foremost, soffit vents can become plugged due to blown-in insulation covering air vents and restricting airflow into the attic. This can be remedied by simply removing the insulation and allowing airflow to come through the soffits correctly. Another thing to consider is if your attic has the sufficient number of the soffit and/or roof vents needed to properly ventilate your attic.
Exhaust Vents Dumping Humid Air into Attic vs. Outside :Another reason is due to exhaust vents leaking or coming apart and pumping humid air into the attic. This will produce a large amount of mold in a very short amount of time. Not to mention, fill your attic with toxic carbon monoxide from the HVAC unit. All exhaust vents are recommended to be vented to an exterior wall vs. being vented through the roof whenever possible. Roof leaks are also another leading cause of humidity and fungal growth in attics, especially if prolonged over a period of time.
Consider Owning a Humidistat
At Fresh Start Restoration we highly recommend owning an indoor humidistat. They allow you to more accurately monitor your indoor humidity level. The goal for every home is to reach the normal 30-50% range. You can also have a contractor, inspector or professional look at any areas that may concern you. It is better to make sure there is not a potential problem before dismissing it. Possibly making a bigger, more expensive problem for yourself!
Any repairs that need to be done should be done by a professional to ensure that the entire problem has been taken care of. Quality matters to us at Fresh Start Restoration and our services include mold removal and inspections at a fair price with award-winning customer service.
We consult directly with the property owner about the presence of mold in the house and provide counsel on how to prevent mold and reduce humidity.