wallpaper may lead to mold

Wallpaper on exterior walls, especially in older homes, is a bad idea!

As we discussed in earlier posts (Mold FAQs and Why Do I Have Mold In My Basement?), a mold problem is really a moisture problem. Trapping moisture inside walls can lead to a big mold problem.

So how exactly can wallpaper lead to mold? Keep reading to find out.

Are all homes at risk?

Normally, moisture from outside moves through the walls in the form of water vapor, and evaporates into drier indoor air. This moisture would then be removed from the air and expelled out of the house as a byproduct of the HVAC system heating or cooling the air.

Most older homes were constructed without an adequate vapor barrier in the walls. Homes without vapor barriers absorb more moisture from the outside air than newer, more energy efficient homes.

How does wallpaper lead to mold?

When wallpaper is applied to exterior walls, this water vapor becomes trapped. During the summer, the problem is compounded by the temperature differential of warm outdoor air and cool indoor air. Condensation begins to form on the backside of the wallpaper, leading to mold growth and even degradation of the drywall.

If you choose to install wallpaper in your home or commercial building, limit the application to interior walls, especially when using vinyl wallpaper.

Can I just kill the mold with bleach and paint over it?

No! Normally, by the time a homeowner realizes that he has a problem, the solution involves removing the wallpaper and affected drywall and cleaning mold off of wall studs and other framing components. Read more to learn why cleaning mold is more important than killing it.

If the problem has gone undetected for quite a while, the wooden framing components may have rotted. The moisture inside the walls may also attract termites.

Wallpaper leads to mold in a 1960s brick home

Last week we did a mold inspection to determine the cause of mold in the master bedroom of a local home. The homeowner thought the mold may have been the result of a roof or plumbing leak. During the inspection, we checked the dryer vent, roof, plumbing, window and gutter downspout in the adjacent area to determine the moisture source that caused the mold problem. We systematically eliminated each possibility until the true cause, the wallpaper, was identified.

The brick home was built in 1968 without a vapor barrier in the walls. The wallpaper that was on the exterior wall was acting as a vapor barrier and trapping moisture. The problem was made worse due to an HVAC system supply vent in the floor at the base of the wall that was obstructed by a dresser, causing the supply air to be directed at the wall.

During the summer, the combination of warm moist air moving through the wall from the outside, wallpaper that was trapping this air inside the wall, and the vent blowing cold air directly on the wall lead to excessive moisture inside the wall and mold growth.

How Branch Environmental can help

Branch Environmental is a full-service mold inspection, assessment, and remediation company. Contact us today if you see, smell or think you have mold.

We’re here to help whether you’d like to schedule a mold inspection, request a remediation estimate, or simply have questions regarding mold or indoor air quality.

mold inspection

There are many reasons to hire a mold inspector, but if you find yourself in any of these three situations, you should have a mold inspection right away.

Reason #1: Protecting Your Health

Are you getting sick in your home? Do you smell a moldy/musty odor? Do you see something that looks like mold? No one wants to get sick in their own home. Your home should be a place of rest and security.

If you seem to be chronically sick, notice that your asthma is worse at home, or realize that you feel better when you are away from your home, you may have a mold problem.

A mold inspection can determine if there is a mold problem, identify the appropriate solution, and get you on your way to feeling better in your home.

Reason #2: Water Damage Restoration

If you have a water damage event, you may want to verify that mold did not grow as a result. If your toilet, tub, or washing machine overflows, you may think you can simply mop up all the water. But what about the water that soaks into the subfloor or wicks up into the baseboards, drywall and wall studs?

If wet building materials are not dried quickly enough or discarded, then mold may begin to grow. Mold can grow undetected below flooring, inside wall cavities, or above ceilings. A mold inspection can determine if there is a mold problem that needs to be addressed due to a water damage event.

Reason #3: Buying a Home

Are you about to buy a house or investment property? Are you sure you are not about to acquire a mold problem from the previous owner? Although required by law, sellers do not always disclose previous mold or water damage issues during a real estate transaction.

Be especially wary of homes with a crawlspace or basement and homes that have been foreclosed on or sat vacant for a period of time. Stagnant, humid air can build up inside a vacant home, leading to a mold problem in an otherwise perfectly good house.

Don’t get stuck with an unforeseen mold remediation after the closing. Instead, consider a mold inspection prior to closing to identify potential mold problems. This will allow you to factor the cost of remediation into the purchase price.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

If any of these situations apply to you, 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 may have.

If you suspect that mold is growing in your home, contact Branch Environmental, or call (706) 310-0097 anytime, 7 days a week.

EPA remodeling indoor air quality tool

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed a multitude of resources when it comes to indoor air quality, mold, asbestos, lead, radon, and more. One resource I would particularly like to highlight is an interactive tool for identifying specific concerns that should be addressed when remodeling your home.

Why to Use the EPA Remodeling Tool

The EPA provides information on everything from dust control to moisture management to mold prevention both during the remodeling project and after it is complete.

If you are considering a remodeling project, first take a few minutes to review the information provided on the EPA website. Use the planning phase of your remodel to familiarize yourself with the potential problems and hazards of your project. Researching how your indoor air quality might be affected — and learning how to improve it — will pay dividends after the project is completed.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

Check out the additional resources we have provided to help educate you on asbestos, mold, lead, moisture and indoor air quality.

We perform asbestos and mold inspections, abatements, and remediations to secure your safety during and after remodeling. Call us today before you begin your next remodeling project to schedule an asbestos, mold, and/or indoor air quality inspection, or for consultation on project planning to ensure that the project does not negatively impact your indoor air quality.

Indoor air quality crawl space

Indoor air quality is the result of many different factors and components of your home. It is easy to think that indoor air quality is only affected by things inside the living space of a home — the things you can see — but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

What does your crawl space have to do with indoor air quality?

Let’s start at the foundation, or in this case, the crawl space. To be frank, a vented dirt floor crawl space is a bad idea. The design is flawed, resulting in decreased indoor air quality in the home above. A house over a crawl space acts like a giant wick, drawing in moisture from the ground.

Generally, the dirt in a crawl space is drier than the dirt around the foundation. This results in moisture wicking into the crawl space from the dirt outside. Once inside the crawl space, the moisture evaporates into the air and the water vapor moves up and settles on ductwork, floor joists, subfloor, and/or floor insulation.

During the summer, the air and surfaces inside a crawl space are generally cooler than the outdoor air. As warm, humid air moves into a crawl space through the foundation vents, it begins to cool, resulting in an increase in relative humidity since warm air can hold more water vapor than cool air. Condensation gathers on the ductwork, floor joists, subfloor, and/or floor insulation, leading to mold growth.

Most crawl spaces are inadequately ventilated

Although most crawl spaces are vented, they are still passive systems, meaning that ventilation only occurs due to pressure changes and wind that happens to blow through the vents. Few crawl spaces have powered ventilation systems, which can create their own problems. Limited ventilation results in an accumulation of stagnant air. In this environment, mold, radon, and moisture (which attracts termites and rodents) can build to dangerous levels.

Warm air inside a home rises and escapes through the attic, drawing in cooler air from lower levels, including outdoor air and air from the crawl space. Running exhaust fans in the kitchen and bath rooms creates a negative pressure inside the home. This negative pressure also draws in air from outside the home and from the crawl space.

Your HVAC system may be circulating dirty air

HVAC systems are frequently located in the crawl space, which is generally a bad idea. Most HVAC systems, even many new systems, have some leaks around the air filter, between individual sections of ductwork and at the duct boots. These leaks reduce system efficiency and allow dirty crawl space air into the system and your home.

Although your crawl space is not part of the living space of your home, you should think of it as an extension of the breathing space of your home when it comes to indoor air quality. Like it or not, you are breathing air from your crawl space.

How Branch Environmental can help

Visit our resource for improving air quality to learn more about factors that affect the air you breathe inside your home. Call us today at (706) 310-0097 if you would like to schedule a crawl space inspection, basement assessment, or indoor air quality inspection.

At Branch Environmental, we provide comprehensive solutions that address the air quality inside your home, crawl space, and basement.

indoor air quality outdoor source

Earlier this year, we had a customer call to request a mold and indoor air quality inspection for one of her rental properties. The tenants had complained of an unpleasant odor inside the home, initially describing the smell as moldy and musty.

We began with a visual inspection of the home and identified several potential sources of odors. But the tenants said none of these were what they were smelling.

Upon further questioning, they described the odor as a chemical odor, like paint thinner, rather than a moldy or musty odor. They also said they really only smelled the odor when they first walked into the home. After a thorough inspection, we couldn’t identify a source inside the home that would account for a chemical odor.

Finding the Source

We stepped outside to get some fresh air when all of the sudden, we caught a whiff of a chemical odor like paint thinner. We immediately looked around to see where the odor might be coming from and spotted a restaurant just up the block. We walked up the street to find a fenced in area behind the restaurant that appeared to be a storage and/or processing area for used cooking oil. Strangely enough, the odor coming from inside the fence smelled just like paint thinner. The restaurant had only been open for about a month or two, which correlated with the first time the tenants noticed the odor.

When the wind blew just right, the odor was carried down the hill and settled under the covered porch at the front door. Every time the tenants would come home and open the front door, the smelly air was being sucked into the home, causing them to think the odor was coming from inside.

In this case, what the tenants and property owner thought was an indoor air quality problem was really from an outdoor source. The tenants and property owner were relieved that the odor was not a result of a problem inside the home that could be negatively impacting their health. While there is nothing they can do about the outdoor odor, we were able to give them peace of mind about its source.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

What you may perceive as an indoor air quality problem may be coming from elsewhere, which is an important distinction to make! Do you smell or see something inside or outside your home that you think may be negatively impacting your indoor air quality and health? If so, call us today to set up an indoor air quality inspection. We have the knowledge and experience needed to get to the bottom of your indoor air quality problems.

EPA on IAQ

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released new guidelines for energy efficiency upgrades and indoor air quality (IAQ) improvements in schools.

The document, Energy Savings Plus Health: Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for School Building Upgrades, “covers 23 specific priority issues and addresses com­mon contaminants associated with building upgrades and critical building systems that affect IAQ.”

These guidelines can be applied to all indoor environments, not just schools.

What Does This Really Mean?

While most people agree that improving energy efficiency is important, care must be taken not to use products or practices that negatively impact IAQ during or after energy efficiency upgrades. Often, IAQ is reduced as a result of construction, even energy efficient upgrades.

Some building materials contain harmful chemicals and off-gassing, and breakdown over time can release these chemicals into the air we breathe. Construction dust can reduce IAQ, as well.

Why Indoor Air Quality Matters

Studies have shown that poor indoor air quality results in increased illness, decreased attention span, focus, learning, and productivity. These results hold true regardless of the type of indoor environment: home, school, office, etc.

Just like clean water, nutritious food, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep are essential to a healthy lifestyle, so is clean air. The population as a whole is spending an increasing amount of time indoors: as much as 90% or more time for many people. In many cases, indoor air has become more polluted as homes and buildings become more energy efficient and airtight.

For more information, check out our posts on How to Improve Indoor Air Quality and How Poor Air Quality Affects Your Health, or refer to our complete IAQ resources.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

Don’t wait until you have an IAQ problem to do something about it. You too can help prevent IAQ problems! Contact Branch Environmental today to schedule an IAQ inspection, for assistance in developing a strategy to maintain high IAQ during your next remodeling project or simply to discuss any questions or concerns you may have regarding IAQ.

winter house cleaning for indoor air quality

We are all familiar with spring cleaning. It just seems like a good thing to do: after all, your house has been shut up all winter, and dust has been accumulating all season.

Spring cleaning is certainly not a bad thing, but fall and winter house cleaning may actually be more important from an indoor air quality (IAQ) perspective. The reasons are simple. As outdoor temperatures drop, people generally close their houses up tighter and tighter to eliminate drafts and conserve heat. But insulating your home limits fresh air exchanges, which allows the level of indoor air pollutants to increase.

Seasonal Causes of Poor Indoor Air Quality

Some common activities that can have a negative impact on IAQ include burning fires, using air fresheners and scented candles, and cleaning with toxic cleaning products.

The air inside your home gets recirculated over and over through the HVAC system. Even the best air filters don’t remove all contaminants from the air. Dust begins to accumulate in the house, and burning fires may add soot and smoke to the air. Air fresheners, scented candles and cleaning products may release harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the air you breathe.

How Moisture Affects Indoor Air Quality

Breathing, showering, doing laundry, and cooking all add excess moisture to the air. This excess moisture increases the relative humidity inside your home, which can negatively impact IAQ. Relative humidity above approximately 60% can lead to a mold problem.

High relative humidity combined with accumulated dust is a mold problem waiting to happen. Read our recent post to learn how to prevent a mold problem in the fall. These conditions will often lead to mold growing on furniture, clothing and other contents, especially in areas with restricted air flow such as closets, under beds, and behind furniture.

Ensure Healthy Indoor Air Quality this Winter

To keep the air in your home safe for your family to breathe, follow these simple fall and winter house cleaning steps:

  • Thoroughly clean your house to remove accumulated dust and dirt.
  • Have your ductwork professionally cleaned.
  • Replace your air filter with a high quality pleated filter.
  • Use ceiling fans to circulate air.
  • Switch the HVAC system fan to “on” to cycle the fan during periods when the heat is not running.
  • Limit the use of air fresheners and scented candles, or switch to all natural alternatives.
  • Replace toxic cleaning products with all natural alternatives.
  • Ensure that your fireplace and chimney are clean and functioning properly.
  • Run exhaust fans when showering and cooking.

Clean air, especially indoor air, is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. Contact us today if you would like to schedule indoor air quality testing or inspection. We’ll identify specific issues within your home that should be addressed during your fall and winter house cleaning.

 

Mold remediation in Winterville, GA

After dealing with a roof leak, our neighbors in Winterville discovered mold in their home, and their pulmonologist actually recommended that they call us to have the mold safely remediated.

Inspecting for Mold and Asbestos

The leak occurred around the exhaust vent for a built-in fireplace insert. Water ran down the exhaust duct and wet the ceiling and wall drywall. The fireplace was installed in a corner of the living room after the house was built. A new wall was framed up that ran diagonally across the corner of the room. Therefore, drywall on the new wall as well as on the original walls behind it was affected by the leak.

Mold was also found on the ceiling drywall, ceiling joists, wall studs and subfloor. The house had a basement, so we were able to inspect the underside of the subfloor and determine that mold was not present on the bottom of the subfloor.

We sampled the drywall, drywall joint compound and ceiling texture for asbestos. The lab results were negative for the presence of asbestos, so we were able to proceed with mold remediation, rather than asbestos abatement and mold remediation. Asbestos in drywall, drywall joint compound and ceiling texture is more common than you might think.

The Mold Remediation Process

The affected area was confined to the living room, so we built a containment to prevent the spread of mold spores and dust to other areas of the house. We utilized a ZipWall barrier system, 6 mil polyethylene sheeting, spray adhesive, painter’s tape and duct tape to build our containment.

Due to the small size of the contained area, we placed our HEPA-filtered negative air machine outside the containment and connected it to the containment using additional polyethylene sheeting. We ducted the exhaust out a window using poly tubing, and constructed the containment with a flap door to provide makeup air.

Our mold remediation staff wore personal protective equipment consisting of disposable suits with built-in boots, gloves, half-face HEPA-filtered respirators and safety goggles. Drywall was removed inside the containment and sealed in 6 mil trash bags to be carried out of the house.

Once all water and mold damaged drywall was removed, we cleaned the ceiling joists, wall studs and subfloor with a mild detergent solution. Then we HEPA-vacuumed all surfaces inside the containment and treated the affected building materials with Concrobium Mold Control before removing the containment.

The Remediation Outcome: Safe, Contained, and Clean

Mold spores and dust were contained to the work area and were not spread to unaffected areas of the home. Our customers were left with a clean area, free of mold, and ready for reconstruction!

If you’ve had a roof leak that has caused water damage and mold growth, contact Branch Environmental. We take every precaution to contain and eliminate your mold problem, keeping your family and your property safe. To learn the basics of mold remediation, check out our most recent post, and for more on how we perform mold remediation, refer to our complete resources on mold.

What is Mold Remediation?

In the environmental world, we frequently refer to our mold remediation service, but what does the term “mold remediation” actually mean? We’d like to explain what a mold remediation comprises, and what you should expect from a remediation in your home or business.

According to Merriam-Webster, “remediation” means “the act or process of remedying.”

In the case of mold, remediation is a two step process that both removes mold using safe work practices and corrects what caused the mold in the first place.

What Does a Typical Mold Remediation Look Like?

Some of the details depend on the property type (residential vs. commercial), the type of material affected (drywall vs. wall studs) and the extent of mold growth (light vs. heavy).

A typical mold remediation consists of:

  • Competent, insured contractor
  • Trained workers
  • Personal protective equipment (disposable clothing, respirator, gloves, etc.)
  • Containment of the work area to prevent the spread of mold spores to unaffected areas
  • HEPA filtered negative air machines or air scrubbers
  • Cleaning or removal and disposal of the affected building materials and contents
  • Cleaning of the remaining surfaces/building materials to remove any mold spores

How Our Team Can Help

Check out our resources to learn more about mold, the causes behind a mold problem, and the health concerns related to indoor mold.

Contact Branch Environmental today for a mold inspection or remediation to ensure that the air inside your home or building is healthy and stays healthy.

Beware mold problem this fall

Fall is here, and with it comes football, colorful fall foliage, cooler temperatures, and mold.

That’s right, mold!

Here’s the reason: as the temperature begins to cool down outside, your air conditioner is not going to run as frequently, but it is not really cold enough yet to need heat.

Although the temperature inside your home may be within an acceptable range, the humidity can build to an unacceptable level since the air conditioner is not drying the air. This humid air may be enough to cause a mold problem. In addition, many people open their windows and doors to take full advantage of these wonderfully cool temperatures. All that “fresh” air coming in through open windows and doors is bringing a multitude of mold spores with it.

But don’t fear. We have a few simple tips to help prevent a mold problem in your home during the autumn months.

5 Ways to Prevent Indoor Mold this Fall

  1. Adjust the temperature on your thermostat to ensure that the air conditioner cycles at least a few times every day.
  2. Run ceiling and/or room fans to circulate air inside your home.
  3. Cycle your HVAC system fan at least a few times every day by switching the fan to “on” rather than “auto” on your thermostat to circulate air throughout the house. This also helps to clean the air because it is being pulled through the air filter(s).
  4. Limit opening windows and doors to times when the humidity is low outside.
  5. If you do open your windows, place an air filter (preferably a high efficiency pleated filter) over an open window on one end of your house and a box fan facing out an open window on the other end of your house to to draw in fresh “filtered” air.

Enjoy the cooler weather this fall, but don’t make the mistake of turning off your air conditioner to save money, just to end up with an expensive mold problem inside your home.

How Branch Environmental Can help

Branch Environmental is a full-service mold inspection, assessment, and remediation company.

Contact us today if you would like to schedule a mold inspection, request a remediation estimate, or simply have questions regarding how to prevent a mold problem.