Where Does Mold Hide?

Mold exposure and mold poisoning can cause many different health issues, and it impacts everyone differently. Some symptoms of mold exposure may be simply a nuisance, and others may be more serious. If you have black mold in the shower, mold in the crawlspace, or you suspect mold is hiding behind your walls… chances are you have an issue that needs to be addressed. Mold is very common to find in homes and it is able to grow anywhere there is moisture.

What Is Black Mold?

Black mold is a variety of mold known as Stachybotrys. While it is typically dark black, it can also present as green or gray. It typically has a distinctive, musty odor. This variety of mold produces a toxin called Mycotoxin, and can lead to a number of symptoms. If you are exposed to mold in your home, you may experience:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Eye Irritation
  • Sneezing
  • Rashes
  • Coughing

When It Comes To Finding Black Mold In Your Home, Here Are The Places To Look:

1) Crawlspace

Crawlspaces are one of the most common areas we find mold, especially here in Georgia. Dirt floors act as a wick and draw ground moisture into the crawlspace. Your house then draws this moist crawlspace air into your living spaces through HVAC systems and unsealed gaps. Most vapor barriers we see are torn and have large holes, rendering them ineffective in keeping out the ground moisture. You can tell if you have mold in your crawlspace by pulling back the insulation in several spots and looking at the floor joists.

While you can clean a molded crawlspace, the problem will return if the humidity level is not corrected. While expensive, the #1 solution is to fully encapsulate and condition the crawlspace. If you need a more economical solution, you can repair your vapor barrier and add a few circulation fans that operate a few hours a day on timers. Anything that will keep the stale air moving will help.

Last, check to be sure water is draining away from your house when it rains, and you do not have any plumbing leaks that are sending water to the crawlspace.

2) Bathrooms

The moisture levels in a bathroom make it an ideal place for black mold to grow. Check your shower heads and curtains. Look inside the cabinets and behind the toilet. If you see mold here, you know that the room is staying a little too moist. The good news about bathrooms is that most issues can be addressed with a good cleaning. Stay away from bleach, and use a dish detergent solution or hydrogen peroxide to clean and kill any visible mold.

Once the mold is clean, figure out how to control moisture in the room. Running the exhaust fan each time you take a show is a simple step that can make a big difference.

3) Air Conditioner

Your air conditioner has two jobs: to control the temperature, and to dry the air. We find time and time again that HVAC systems are not properly drying the air and produce moisture levels high enough to allow mold growth. Start by identifying where your air ducts are located. If they are in the floor, you have a crawlspace system and you should pay extra attention to it.

Start by removing a vent cover and looking inside with a flashlight. Do you see dust and debris? If so, there is a good chance mold is growing here as well. Inspect the vent cover closely and try to identify any mold spores growing on it.

Last, if possible, head down to your crawlspace and look for any ducts that have fallen or come loose. We often find old HVAC ducts with gaps in the crawlspace, allowing that musty air directly into the home.

If you do suspect mold is in your HVAC system, it’s a good idea to call out the pros. Our Indoor Air Quality Assessments include a thorough evaluation of HVAC systems and ductwork to determine if they are drying air properly and if the ducts are in good shape. You can vacuum out the dust and clean vent covers yourself, but a professional duct cleaning will be necessary to clean the entire system.

4) Doors & Windows

Doors and windows are prone to leaks and could be allowing water into your home. These leaks are generally small and slowly let water in over time. If mold is growing inside the wall or under the floor around a door or window, it can be hard to identify without removing material. Look for anything out of the ordinary that may indicate a water leak is going on.

5) Inside Walls & Under Floors

Slow water leaks can go undetected for long periods of time and lead to damage far from the original source. If you have ever had a roof or plumbing leak, there is a possibility mold is growing somewhere inside your home. Finding it takes a thorough investigation and comprehensive evaluation of your home. An experienced mold inspector can put together the clues and often arrive at a conclusion without tearing into the walls.

If you have ever had a water leak, or if you have any reason to suspect mold is hiding in your home, an Indoor Air Quality Inspection is the best way to find it.

Black Mold Prevention

The best way to prevent black mold is by controlling the moisture in your home. If you have a water leak or flooding, correcting the source of the water is essential prior to investing in mold remediation. If your mold issues are in bathrooms or basements, exhaust fans can be effective ways to control humidity.

Keeping the humidity level inside your home down will help you stay on top of any mold issues, especially here in the south. While they are not corrective solutions, dehumidifiers can do a great job of getting control of mold. Running your air conditioner during the warm seasons will help keep the air dry and humidity down as well.

Last, regular cleaning, especially in areas like the bathroom and basement, will help keep mold spores from ever being able to grow in your home.

Do I Need Air Samples?

Mold Symptoms

Do you think you may have mold in your home but don’t really know where to look. Is your family feeling sick? Are you experiencing headaches or allergy like symptoms? These are all mold symptoms and you have reason to be concerned.

This is one of the most common calls we get, and people ask us for the same thing most every time. They want us to test the air for mold.

That sounds like a great idea. Most any home inspector can come by and take air samples for you. Unfortunately, an air sample is not the best way to get to the root of your problem.

How it typically goes

A local home inspector will come by and set out petri dishes in several locations. They will come back and send the samples off to be tested. The samples will come back positive and you will be left with a healthy invoice.

What is the problem with that?

There are a few problems with the above scenario:

  1. Mold naturally occurs in the air and in our environment. Unless you live in an isolation chamber, mold spores are present in the air. The tests will return positive. No need to pay for that answer.
  2. You really don’t want to know if there is mold in your air, that is just what you know to ask about. What you really care about is discovering why you are sick and have mold exposure symptoms.

In addition, the tests that are going to come back positive do not give us nearly enough information. All the air tests tell us is that mold spores are present.

Are they dead? Are they dormant? We don’t know.

So what should I do instead

What you really need is an environmental assessment of what is causing your mold symptoms. That takes someone with the training and experience to identify 1) where mold may be actually growing in your home and 2) if there may in fact be other issues present.

A good environmental inspector should show up to your home with a flashlight in hand and be ready to get their hands dirty. Visual inspection of the surface in your home is the most effective way to identify mold issues.

Moisture is required for mold growth, so your inspector should test the humidity levels and look for signs of water. There may be an unnoticed leak in the walls, or there may simply be areas that have high humidity levels.

Last, your inspector should be looking beyond mold and evaluating other environmental issues. Have there been any recent changes to the environment that may be causing you mold symptoms. Has any work been done to the home recently. Are there new pets in the house.

We found the true source of mold, now what?

If you determine that your mold symptoms are being caused by actual mold growth in your home, you should consult with a professional on the best course of mold remediation. A simple cleaning may be all you need. If mold is in the walls, however, you are probably facing a more extensive project.

You also need to determine what steps are necessary to prevent the mold from coming back. That often boils down to controlling moisture. If your mold issues are in a crawlspace, sealing floor vents is a simple project that will make a big difference.

Wrapping it all up

Mold exposure symptoms caused you to call a home inspector, who said you should take air sample to determine if mold is in you home. You did some research and ran across this article… good for you! Now you know an environmental inspector may be a better route to take.

Skip the air sample, it is inconclusive and will just tell us to do what we should be doing in the first place. Break out the flashlights, get our hands dirty and visually inspect for the environmental elements that have you feeling sick. It may be mold, it may be something else.

Identify the problem, clean it up, and fix the underlying cause. It is a simple process and picking the right professional partner can save you big in the long run.

How to Seal Floor Vents

If you live in a house with a crawl space, there is a good chance the floor vents are not sealed. This is one of those things that can go unnoticed but have a big impact on your indoor environment over time. The good news is that we have an easy fix you can tackle in a weekend!

We are going to lay out exactly what you need to know how to seal floor vents. First, let’s look at why it is important.

If you have spent any amount of time in your crawl space, you know that it is not a pleasant environment. It is musty, the air is humid and unconditioned, and… well, it is dirty. That is the best case scenario. There is also a chance insects, critters and even snakes are finding their way down there.

Thank goodness there is a solid floor between your living room and the crawl space! But wait… that is the problem we are here to talk about. If unsealed, the air vents in your floor can leave open spaces, up to an inch wide, right into the crawl space.

The EPA estimates 40%-60% of your indoor air could be coming from your crawlspace. And let’s not even think about those critters down there!

Convinced? Let’s get started.

Step 1: Inspect your floor vents.

Check to make sure you have a crawl space, and that you have air vents coming up through the floor. If you do, unscrew one of the floor vent covers and set it aside. Look into the vent, right where the ductwork meets the floor. Is there a gap between the metal duct and the floor? Bingo! You have an unsealed vent.

Step 2: Gather your supplies.

You’ll probably need a quick trip to the hardware store, or if you are planning ahead use the Amazon links below:

Step 3: Tape the vents

If the vent cover is not removed, unscrew it and set to the side. Wipe off the inside of the metal duct with a damp rag to remove any dust.

Tear the aluminum tape into pieces long enough to cover each of the 4 sides. You should have 2 short pieces and 2 long pieces.

Carefully remove the back of the tape. Make sure you put it where you want it because you only get one shot.

Place the tape so that it adheres to the top few inches of the metal duct, then wraps over onto your floor by about 1/4 inch. Press into place firmly. Repeat for each side, making sure there are no small gaps left in the corners where the pieces of tape meet.

Step 4: Seal the tape

The tape does a great job sealing, but as the metal expands and contracts with seasons it can begin to come loose. That is where the duct sealer comes in.

Use your putty knife to generously coat the aluminum tape with duct sealer. Make sure the sealer extends below the bottom of the tape, but do not put any on your floor. Come up as high as you can without making the turn onto the section of tape directly on the floor.

You need to wait for the sealer to dry, so go ahead and clean up any mess you made and be sure no globs are on your floor. Move on and repeat the process at each of your floor vents.

Step 5: Seal for bugs

The previous step sealed any crawl space air from entering your living space. This step will keep out the bugs.

Make sure the duct sealant is fully dry.

Unroll the aluminum window screen and set over the open vent hole. Be sure you are using an aluminum screen and not fiberglass. That will ensure critters can not chew through.

Cut the screen to be about 1 1/2 inches wider than the opening on each side.

Push the screen into the vent, and make a crease along each of the four sides. The crease will cause about an inch of screen to turn back up along the vent wall. Work the corners to be square. The final product should fit snugly into the vent hole and look a little like a serving tray.

Tear 4 more pieces of aluminum tape, and tape the screen into the vent. Be sure that the screen is a few inches down into the vent so that your vent cover will still fit.

Replace the vent cover and you are done!

Mold on your Bathroom Ceiling?

bathroom mold

Prevention is Key to Indoor Mold Issues

Because mold needs a source of water to sustain growth, preventing water is key in the fight against potential indoor mold issues.

Your Home’s Bathroom Fans are there for a reason

Naturally, we love to take hot showers. A hot shower produces steam in your house, and that steam consists of thousands of visible microscopic water droplets suspended in the air. Lingering moisture causes mold in bathrooms, typically seen on the ceiling above your shower. Ventilation is required to remove steam, otherwise it will condensate on hard surfaces and can linger causing dampness in surrounding areas of the bathroom.

Read more

What Does Mold Need to Grow


What Is Mold

Molds are microscopic fungi that are found all around us. The fungi reproduce by releasing spores into the air. Mold is naturally occurring and usually is found in large quantities. Airborne spores look for a place to settle and grow.

What Conditions are Needed

The ideal temperature for mold growth is 77 to 86 degrees. Mold also requires moisture to grow. Generally, that moisture will come from water leaks, high humidity, or condensation. If the conditions are not right, the mold will go dormant and not grow.

In addition to the environment described above, mold can be accelerated by surfaces with organic matter. Natural materials like cotton or wood and surfaces with grease or food provide an ideal environment for growth.

When you are looking for spots that mold may be growing in your home, look for damp warm spots. Basement with wet concrete wall or crawlspaces that may have experienced a water leak are prime spots. Crawlspaces with uncovered earth can allow ample moisture to promote mold growth.

Inside your home, mold can take hold inside walls, behind cabinets, or under the carpet. Damp shower curtains and laundry piles can also provide the moisture and temperature required for growth.

How Do I Get Rid Of Mold

That depends on the extent of your problem. If the mold is on a surface that can be cleaned, simply wash it away with a soapy solution. You must be very thorough because any remaining spores will be able to regenerate. If the mold has made it into your walls or carpet, there is a good chance those materials will need to be removed.

After the materials have been removed and the mold has been completely cleaned, all surfaces must be dried.

Will Mold Return

If your mold was caused by a leaking appliance or pipe, there is a good chance you will not deal with any more mold. If there was another reason, the mold will likely return if not corrected. Since mold requires moisture to grow, the easiest way to eliminate the threat is to lower the humidity level. This may take some work on your A/C unit, or you may be able to strategically use dehumidifiers. The bottom line is that you must eliminate the moisture to prevent mold regrowth.

Do I Need Professional Help

Depending on the scope of your problem, a professional mold inspection could save you a lot of headaches. The pros have the tools and experience needed to determine the true extent of mold damage. Getting the mold cleanup done right the first time can save you big in the long run. On your own, you will have a difficult time determining just how far mold has gone without tearing out walls and making a huge mess.


How Efflorescence Can Be Mistaken For Mold

is it mold

This past week we received a phone call from a client needing a mold inspection. She was preparing to put her house on the market in Athens and was concerned there was mold growing on her basement walls. After asking the right questions and determining the walls were concrete block, it sounded more like efflorescence than mold. Furthermore, after explaining the differences she decided to do some more research before she had us come out.


                                    What is efflorescence?


Concrete is like a wick. When dry and porous concrete comes in contact with wet soil it begins to absorb the water. Remember capillary action from biology class?  If concrete block stays in contact with wet soil long enough, it will begin to absorb the water and seep through the block. When water seeps through the block it picks up the naturally occurring minerals found in the concrete. These salts and minerals are deposited to the surfaces of the concrete block and become visible after it dries. This is what we call efflorescence. It is often times white to light grey, crystalline in appearance, and feels powdery to the touch.



To the untrained eye, efflorescence is easily mistaken for mold.


A few days later we spoke again with this client and after doing some more investigating she realized it was efflorescence. This saved her from having a mold inspector come out and stalling to put her house on the market.

If you suspect that mold is growing in your home, take a closer look and perform your own inspection. If you still have questions or concerns, let us clarify the issues for you and get down to the bottom line.  We perform mold inspections and remediations as part of our whole-home indoor air quality approach, and we’re happy to answer any questions that you may have. You can contact us at Branch Environmental, or give us a call (706) 310-0097. There’s no dumb question when it comes to your investment and your family.

Prevention Is Key To Indoor Mold Issues



If you’re reacting to a problem because somebody is sick, you’ve waited too long to address indoor air quality. Because mold needs a source of water to sustain growth, preventing water is key.

Your Home’s Bathroom Fans Are There For a Reason

It’s winter, and we love a hot shower when it’s cold outside. A shower produces steam in your house, and that steam consists of thousands of visible microscopic water droplets suspended in the air. Lingering moisture causes mold in bathrooms, typically seen on the ceiling above your shower. Ventilation is required to remove steam, otherwise it will condensate on hard surfaces and can linger causing dampness in surrounding areas of the bathroom.

A Simple Action

If you have multiple people showering every day, your shower can be a culprit to increased humidity levels inside your home or dampness in your bathrooms vicinity. Vent fans are important. Their purpose is to remove excess moisture in the air produced when taking showers. When showering and bathing, use your bathroom’s exhaust fans. Don’t stop there, leave them running until the mirror is cleared.

Exhaust Fan Specs and Recommendations

A fan’s ability to move air is measured in Cubic Feet per Minute (CFM). The larger the CFM the more quickly humidity is removed. Most bathroom vent fans are rated from 50 CFM to 110 CFM. Check to see if it’s the appropriate size.

RULE OF THUMB: For a bathroom W10’ x L6’ x H8’ the recommended vent fan rating is 63 CFM or higher

Is it clogged with debris? Is it ducted to exhaust outside of the home? It doesn’t hurt to inspect the exhaust fan and duct to determine if repairs are needed. Click on the link below to use as a guide.


If you are experiencing mold in your home, our team can clear up your concerns. We perform mold inspections and remediations as part of our whole-home indoor air quality approach, and we’re happy to answer any questions that you have. If you suspect that mold is growing in your home, email Branch Environmental or call us at (706) 310-0097.

HVAC Ductwork; Are You Saving Energy or Losing?


In this blog, we’re being specific about the energy benefits of cleaning ducts.

There are plenty of claims out there from air duct cleaning companies, and here at Branch, we wanted to dig a little deeper and find some published data backing those claims. While there haven’t been many studies with reputable research organizations in this subject, we’ve found a few to glean from.


3 Energy Loss Facts

  • In a recent study, the University of Colorado at Boulder teamed up with the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaners Association) to conduct an in-depth study on the association between HVAC performance and duct cleaning. Their study offers, “Cleaning a lightly-fouled system provides, on average, an 11 percent savings off of the energy used for heating and cooling.”
  • Research from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Air Pollution Prevention and Control Division (APPCD) shows in an 8-house study in North Carolina that after mechanical duct cleaning was performed, supply air flows increased between 4-32 percent based on measurements taken at the floor registers and diffusers.
  • Another source from the EPA states that .042 inches of dust on the HVAC coil can reduce performance 21 percent.

Many HVAC systems, typically found in older homes, act as a reservoir for dust, bacteria, mold, trash, and build up of unknown particulates. Any of these contaminants can be harmful and pose negative impacts on the indoor air quality of your home and your health. While no two homes or families are alike, build up of particulates in the HVAC ducts is common and can result in a decrease in system performance.  Duct cleaning can be helpful, but isn’t necessary every time.


Have you taken a closer look at your ducts?

At Branch Environmental, we strive to be on the forefront of the industry. We are not satisfied with yesterday’s knowledge and methods. Instead, we continually research, ask questions, and seek superior methods to improve the quality of air you breathe.  To talk about how to improve your home health, just give us a call! (706) 310-0097 We’re happy to explore all of your options.

How to Keep Mold Out of Your HVAC System

Prevent mold in your HVAC

Having mold in your HVAC system is more common than you may think. In fact, when we check an HVAC system during a mold or indoor air quality inspection, we find mold more often than not.

Most of the time the mold is located inside the air handler on the coil. There are two simple reasons for this:

  1. Water is present on the coil when the air conditioner is running, deposited as moisture is removed from the air during cooling.
  2. Air filters inadequately prevent dust (mold candy) from being deposited on the coil, usually because they are of poor quality, do not fit properly, or are missing altogether.

Once mold has begun growing inside the air handler, mold spores are blown into the home’s living space every time the heat or air conditioner runs. This compromises indoor air quality and can cause additional mold growth inside the ductwork and the home.

To Prevent Mold, Keep Dust Out

So how do you prevent mold inside the air handler if you cannot remove all mold spores from the air or keep the coil dry during the summer?

To prevent dust from coming into contact with the coil inside the HVAC air handler, ensure that you have a high quality, appropriately sized air filter that is changed on a regular basis.

What to Do When You Find Mold in the HVAC

If you have mold inside your HVAC air handler, it’s best to have a professional clean the coil, fan, and possibly the ductwork. This is a service that most HVAC and mechanical contractors offer. Just be sure to look at the coil yourself before they close the unit up, or ask for pictures to verify that the contractor has done a thorough job.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

Please contact us if you have questions regarding the potential for mold in your HVAC system or if you would like to schedule a mold or indoor air quality inspection.

Check out our additional resources on mold and indoor air quality, and stay tuned for an explanation of how to check and change your air filter.

How to Reduce Indoor Air Pollution

How to reduce indoor air pollution

Indoor air quality is becoming increasingly important as people spend more and more time indoors. Studies have shown that the average American spends 90% or more of his or her time indoors, and that indoor air may be 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air.

The single most effective way to reduce indoor air pollution is to eliminate the source. This involves a two step process of identifying and then eliminating the sources of indoor air pollution. Other less effective ways to reduce indoor air pollution include improving ventilation and cleaning the air by filtering or purifying.

Identifying the Source of Pollution

The first step to reducing indoor air pollution is determining the source of the pollutants. The investigation may take on different forms depending on the specific situation and the problems involved.

Frequently, a thorough visual inspection is most effective for identifying mold, asbestos, lead, dust, and other pollutants. Other times, air sampling is the appropriate choice. Air sampling may be the best method when the indoor pollutants of concern are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) or other chemicals, especially those that do not have an odor, such as carbon monoxide.

Eliminating the Source of Pollution

Once the sources of indoor air pollution have been identified, the final step is to develop and implement a plan to eliminate them. This may be as simple as cleaning mold off of affected furniture, replacing toxic cleaning products with non-toxic products, or limiting smoking to outdoors only.

Some projects are more involved, and may require multiple steps such as replacing carpet with a low or no VOC flooring option, cleaning mold in a crawl space, sealing and cleaning ductwork and air handlers, or radon mitigation. No matter the scope of the project, eliminating sources of indoor air pollution will have a positive impact on the health of home and building occupants.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

Visit our resource for air quality improvement to learn more about factors that affect the air you breathe inside your home. At Branch Environmental, we provide comprehensive solutions that address the air quality inside your home.

Call us today at (706) 310-0097 if you would like to schedule an indoor air quality inspection or simply have questions regarding indoor air pollution.