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Flooding, Then Mold, Then What?

Property owners still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee are slowly discovering the less glamorous part of storm damage, namely the proliferation of mold in and around their homes and businesses. 

The fuzzy, greenish-black stains along their walls are bad enough, but what is worse are the mold problems that remain unseen, those growths that generate inside drywall or within basements and crawlspaces, in short those elements that you won’t find unless you know where to look.  Mold spores will be rampant in the surrounding air following a flood damage event, and all it needs to put down roots and grow is sufficient moisture and / or humidity.  It only takes a single spore to start a brand new mold colony, and with thousands of spores occupying an enclosed area, it becomes rather obvious just how rapidly the problem can get out of hand.

Mold occurs naturally in the outdoor environment, acting as nature’s recycling system, breaking down dead plant and animal tissue, reducing it to its base elements such as carbon and nitrogen.  Most homes are dry enough to prevent any significant mold growth, save for regular humid spots such as your bathroom, however flood damaged homes can accumulate more than sufficient moisture to sustain a mold colony.

This week, along Irene’s and Lee’s paths, homeowners are beginning to see the first traces of mold in their damaged homes.  If the growth is caught early enough, remediation presents no problem, but if the colony has had time to grow and spread, more intensive, professional treatment may be required.

Obviously, the first step is to get rid of the mold and thoroughly dry the area.  But this alone is not enough to guarantee that the mold will not return.  Any items exhibiting mold growth should be thrown out.  Moldy clothes can be washed and the mold killed, but even dead mold can become a serious irritant, especially to folks with severe allergies.

Equipment and tools made of metal can be bleached and saved. For objects of high value, remove the mold by freezing the object in the refrigerator and scraping or sanding off the frozen remains.

The only way to fully prevent mold from returning is to properly treat the affected area, and then make sure the environment is not one that would be conducive to mold growth.  Drying out the area is one thing, but then making sure humidity and moisture levels are significantly decreased is quite another, often requiring the aid of a dehumidifier (perhaps several).  Resist the urge to use fans as they can help spread mold spores into other areas of your home.  Humidity levels in the home environment should always be kept below 50% if you want any sort of guaranteed results at all.

Homeowners can remove mold from wood framing with sandpaper. Professionals may also use pressure treatments of dry ice or baking soda, microbicide sprays and sealants. Some hardware stores may carry microbicides and sealants.

The Center For Disease…

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