On Your Side: Dealing with mold; act before it's too late
BATON ROUGE - Homes are susceptible to mold following the flood.
The LSU AgCenter on how you can remove mold from your flood damaged home. You need to be meticulous, it can pay off in the end.
AgCenter Housing Specialist Claudette Reichel warns mold colonies can start within two days so getting things clean and dry as fast as possible is critical. Most people know to pull wet carpeting, pads, upholstery, wet draperies as well as remove wallboard and insulation that’s wet or damp. But Reichel says there are other steps you need to take.
· Wet insulation will stay wet for far too long. If not dried it will lead to the growth of hidden unhealthy mold and decay fungi inside the walls.
· If your home was built prior to 1978, it could contain lead-based paint and asbestos materials. Disturbing those materials can create dangerous health hazards. You will need protective gear and the AgCenter recommends you go to www.epa.gov/lead and www.epa.gov/asbestos to learn more before you get started.
· To kill the mold use nonphosphate detergents. Phosphate residue is mold food.
· While everything is exposed, consider using borate to treat the wood. A borate solution can provide safe protection from termites and decay. The coating may also help deter mold growth.
· If you disinfect, follow the directions carefully! Never mix bleach with ammonia, vinegar, lemon juice or any other type of acid. Disinfectants can kill molds but it does not prevent new growth on damp materials.
· It is really important to dry the subflooring, slabs and wall framing before you replace the insulation, wallboard and flooring. Use air conditioning, heaters and fans. Better yet a dehumidifier if you have one. Many water damage restoration contractors have special equipment (dehumidifying blowers) which provide the fastest drying.
· Test the moisture content of the studs and sheathing using a reliable moisture meter before replacing insulation. Before you close the walls, wood should drop at least 20 percent moisture content to prevent decay and preferably below 16 percent to prevent the growth of mold.
· Don’t use vinyl wallpaper. It prevents further drying to the inside.
· Continue to look for signs of new mold growth. If mold returns, repeat cleaning and consider using speed drying equipment and moisture meters. Regrowth may be a signal the material was not dried enough and needs to be removed and replaced.
The EPA website (www.epa.gov/mold) offers more detailed information on cleaning up mold. Here are ways for you to stay safe while you are trying to clean up.
· You need to minimize your exposure. Wear a respirator that filters mold spores (N-95 or better) is recommended and wear gloves.
· Isolate the work area and make sure there is ventilation to outdoors. Disturbing mold colonies can cause a massive release of spores. So you will need to seal off the containment area from the rest of the house. If you have electrical power, use a fan to exhaust the air outdoors.
· Remove and discard the moldy materials. Bag what every you can.
The LSU AgCenter is a great place to learn more about hazard resistant housing. Just go to the website at www.LUSAgCenter.com/LaHouse or stop by the LaHouse Home and Landscape Removal Center in Baton Rouge. The AgCenter also has its own recommendations on mold removal. You can find that by going to www.LSUAgCenter.com.