Submission for American School and Hospital Facility
DEK: Moisture, and the mold born from it, can cause havoc and make life
miserable for facility managers. Here are some tips for getting and staying dry.
By Scott McCurdy
When it comes to structural integrity, mold is like a wet blanket. It is generally useless and always unwanted.
“Over time, mold will break down whatever medium it grows on,” says Matt Brewer, director of field operations for Coastal Reconstruction Group. “Very quickly, it will begin to rot through wood, drywall, and any number of standard building materials. Once this starts, it eventually leads to catastrophic structural failure.”
Not to mention that mold can adversely affect your health, Brewer adds. It can exacerbate many respiratory problems and other health issues such as allergies, asthma, sinus congestion, coughing and skin rashes, especially among the young and elderly.
So, how do you deal with this insidious building and lung invader? In order to fight it, you must first understand how and where it grows.
Living organisms that thrive in damp places, molds stain or discolor surfaces and smell musty. There are hundreds of thousands of different types of mold, and they can grow almost anywhere: on walls, ceilings, carpets, or furniture. Humidity or wetness — caused by water leaks, spills from bathtubs or showers, or condensation — can cause molds to grow.
By ensuring that a structure is as moisture-proof as possible, you can avoid many of the headaches associated with the damage caused by microbial growth.
Follow these tips to prevent the infestation:
● Regularly inspect building interiors and exteriors for leaks and wetness.
● Fix serious water problems immediately. Wet basements, roof leaks, and leaking pipes or faucets represent perfect breeding grounds.
● Always use ventilation fans in bathrooms and kitchens.
● Keep humidity below 40 percent by using an air conditioner or dehumidifier.
● Make sure water from sprinklers and hoses is not in direct contact with the foundation.
● Pressure-wash building exteriors at least twice annually.
● Avoid using carpeting in kitchens, bathrooms and basements.
● Dry floor mats and other absorbent objects regularly.
The most diligent of facility managers cannot prevent the growth of all molds, but successfully recognizing that you might have a moisture problem can go a long way in eliminating these culprits before they cause serious damage.
One of the tell-tale ways of detecting mold growth is by its smell, which is typically a musty, stagnant odor that is both strong and unpleasant. Another obvious sign is the appearance of black specks around plumbing fixtures, water-stained and swollen walls, and flooring.
“It’s safe to say that if you have any type of leak in your structure, whether it’s from the roof or plumbing fixtures, there is a good chance you have some mold issues,” cautions Brewer. “Anytime you introduce moisture into a building without proper ventilation, you create a breeding ground for these organisms.
Another factor to consider: There will always be more moisture below what you can see on the surface. Using the example of an iceberg, Brewer explains that you may only see the small peak on top, but a much larger base most certainly exists, hidden away below the outer boundary of the material object.
Eradicating mold can be a tricky proposition. The only way to really prevent its growth is to control the amount of moisture exposure within a structure. “Before you attempt to get rid of your problem, you must first remove the source of moisture that’s causing the mold to activate,” says Brewer. “Once you’ve stopped the incoming moisture source, you can begin the drying-out process by using a contractor certified in mold remediation.”
This procedure includes setting up dehumidifiers, filtered mass air movers and fans to start the drying process. Specific testing will determine whether or not you can clean the affected area or if you have to replace damaged materials. In most cases, says Brewer, drywall is removed and framing is cleaned.
Cleaning involves special commercial cleansing agents designed to specifically exterminate mold, after which a sealant is applied to help prevent future growth. Moisture meters and air quality testers are used to determine if a structure is dry and uncontaminated enough to continue reconstruction back to original condition.
“The risk of mold and bacteria growth increases significantly after 48 to 72 hours,” warns Brewer. “Given the persistent nature of water, getting and maintaining a handle on this requires constant diligence and should be a chief concern for builders and property managers.”
Scott McCurdy is the co-owner of Coastal Reconstruction Group. Coastal Reconstruction’s Rapid Response services provide post-disaster reconstruction to residential and commercial structures throughout the Southeastern U.S. For more information, visit www.coastalreconstruction.com.