Visible mold on the surface of wood isn't always a death sentence, but it is never a good sign. Mold and mildew are hardly the most attractive things on the planet, and can be indicators of lowered structural integrity and larger moisture issues. Identifying the cause of visible mold is crucial if you want to make sure the problem doesn't get any worse. In many cases, the issue can be resolved relatively quickly, and the chances of continuing damage can be significantly reduced.
Different people have different reactions to mold exposure. According to the EPA, people who are sensitive to molds are likely to have reactions like "nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation." The EPA also notes that people with extreme mold sensitivities can exhibit more severe symptoms. Most of us are, thankfully, not sensitive enough to common wood mold to experience anything life-threatening upon exposure, but two important facts remain: Mold in the home reduces indoor air quality and may be a sign of moisture issues that require immediate attention.
1.What Wood Mold Is Hiding
A significant number of mold growth instances are caused by poor ventilation and not related to a single, identifiable problem (such as a leaking pipe).
There are many areas of the home where the appearance of wood mold is truly only surface deep. Areas that naturally see a significant amount of moisture (like entry doors exposed to the elements or bathroom cabinetry) are prime examples of places where the appearance of mold probably isn't cause for concern. Mold in these areas is still unsightly and worth dealing with for appearance's sake alone, but is far less likely to hide a more serious issue than mold spotted in other spots.
When mold appears on walls, ceilings, floors, and structural elements of the home, it should be taken seriously. Mold needs moisture to grow, and because these areas can be very vulnerable when exposed to moisture, the appearance of mold may be a telltale sign of a much more serious issue. Often leaky pipes and poor ventilation are the primary culprits. By fixing such problems, you'll not only stop new mold growth, but you'll also protect the other elements like drywall (which turns to mush when exposed to moderate amounts of moisture) that are present in the area.
2.Repair or Replace?
Wood that has surface mold but no signs of rot can be sanded down and, where appropriate, sealed. This is true of both structural and nonstructural wood components. Wood that does show signs of rot may be repaired if it has no bearing on the larger structure of the home, but any structural or load-bearing elements that show signs of rot should be inspected by a professional in order to determine if it needs to be replaced. Materials like carpet, ceiling tiles, and drywall are often too adversely affected by mold to be repaired; failure to replace such materials will simply contribute to the number of mold spores in your home and make future appearances of mold more likely.
3.Ventilating Your Home to Prevent Mold Growth
A significant number of mold growth instances are caused by poor ventilation and not related to a single, identifiable problem (such as a leaking pipe). Areas that are visited infrequently like crawlspaces and attics are often built without the proper ventilation; areas such as bathrooms and kitchens that have been upgraded to include new appliances (like a dishwasher) or more elaborate components (like a stand-alone shower or oversized tub) may not have had corresponding upgrades to their ventilation. In most cases, fixed vents or a small exhaust fan can work wonders in these situations, fixing the problem and reducing the likelihood of new mold growth at an affordable price.
4.Mold after a Flood
One of the most serious circumstances involving mold growth occurs after interior materials have been exposed to severe flooding. The interior components of your home are simply not meant to be exposed to large amounts of moisture and, in many cases, can harbor mold and all sorts of dangerous microbes after flooding occurs. This situation is especially dangerous after natural flooding, as water from sewage, which holds many types of contaminants, mixes in with other water sources and leaves deposits in the house. Few, if any, homeowners have the knowledge, experience, or equipment to properly handle a post-flood situation; this is one to leave for the pros.