Okay, your house is damp and cold, you've got multicolored dots growing across your windowsills, and your days are rife with hacking coughs, piercing headaches, and the persistent murk of unexplained fatigue. You’ve probably got mold. Stachybotrys chartarum – black mold, the toxic variety – to be exact. San Francisco and cities like it are hotbeds for the invasive stuff, and chances are you've become yet another victim of the microscopic but potentially devastating organism.

Don't fret too much, though. Mold is a common issue; there are causes, effects, and thankfully, solutions to the problem. To get a better grasp of mold – what it is, how we prevent it, how we get rid of it – we reached out to Michael Tab, mold expert and proprietor of Allied Restoration Company, to snatch a few tips about what to do when mold comes calling.

What exactly is mold?

Mold is found everywhere in the air. It's a naturally occurring living organism and we breathe it in every day. When cellulose materials (wood, drywall, carpeting) become moist for too long they create an environment for the rapid growth and development of various types of mold. Mold spores spread as they become airborne, and they replicate and cause more growth.

If an area smells musty, if you see green or dark spots on walls, or if you’ve had water damage, you can be sure there will be mold. Allied Restoration Company can do mold testing in San Francisco by taking an air sample that measures spores per cubic meter of air. The sample is sent to a lab for a culture analysis and a written report is then returned to you. This service is offered for $299.

And why should you be worried about it?

You should be concerned because when moisture (from leaking pipes, bad roofing, overflowed toilets, etc.) is in the building materials it causes a high level of airborne mold spores and toxins, and if present for long periods of time can exacerbate asthma and cause respiratory problems.

How do you prevent mold?

You want to keep relative humidity below 55% in the ambient air. You can get a dehumidifier from Home Depot or Lowe’s to regulate humidity in pervasively humid buildings. Air ventilation fans in bathrooms are also good. Extensive water damage (from a flood or a leak) needs to be dried within 72 hours. 

When do you call in a professional?

If the mold is a result of water damage, leaks, or sudden flooding, it's best to hire a pro within 72 hours. This will prevent mold from growing in the first place. You can't fix extensive mold damage with surface cleaning. Mold remediation is a process of containing contaminated air using plastic barriers, air filters, antimicrobial agents, and removal and replacement of affected building materials – it's a specialized procedure that doesn't allow mold to spread while cleaning. The equipment is expensive, but remediation companies offer the service. 

It’s important to note that drying out water damage when it occurs is covered by homeowners insurance, but mold cleanup has very limited coverage.

Professionals follow an industry document, a bible called ANSI S500. For example, if sewage water floods a building, special HEPA filter fans are mandated for use to filter the air so as not to spread bacteria. And if a building is contaminated by mold, plastic barriers need to be erected to keep mold spores contained; then HEPA filters are used to air it out. 

How do you prevent the mold from coming back?

Mold will grow to abnormal levels in moist, humid environments. If you keep humidity down, preferably around 30%–40%, and get water-damaged building materials dry within 72 hours, mold will not continue to grow. The key is low moisture. If you have any form of water damage, you can eliminate mold growth by beginning the drying process within 72 hours.

If you need water damage repair in San Francisco, contact Michael Tab at Allied Restoration Company. He’s a great resource for property damage tips in San Francisco, and can also be contacted for fire smoke cleaning in San Francisco.

Image via Thinkstock

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