Prevent mold with basement ventilation

In previous posts we’ve discussed the causes and solutions for mold in basements. Today we will provide more detail on how to prevent basement mold with ventilation and air conditioning, the main methods for reducing moisture content in the air.

Ventilation

Ventilation includes air exchanges and air circulation. Limited ventilation in most basements leads to damp, stagnant, smelly air, and will eventually lead to mold growth. Exchanging stagnant basement air for fresh outdoor air is one good way to ventilate a basement. This can be accomplished using a basement fan, but the space may also require dehumidification due to the introduction of humid outdoor air.

Air circulation within the basement can be improved by installing ceiling or room fans. The main objectives of ventilation are air movement and exchanging stagnant air for fresh air. The point of ventilation is not to filter or condition the air, but rather to replace, dilute, or move it around.

Conditioning

Air conditioning involves the process of modifying the temperature and humidity of the air to make it more acceptable. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or HVAC, systems are used to control the temperature, and to some degree the humidity, of indoor air. Running an air conditioner in the summer not only cools the air, it also dries the air.

If you have an HVAC system that services the basement, you can help to prevent basement mold just by running it. There is a common misconception that basement HVAC systems are unnecessary because the temperature inside most basements stays relatively constant throughout the year. Remember, though, that temperature is only one of the two functions of air conditioning. If a basement stays closed up, unventilated and unconditioned, the temperature might be within the desired range, but the humidity may be significantly elevated. Mold can grow and odors can develop in a basement or living space of a home simply because the HVAC system has been turned off.

If the HVAC system is not running, then the air is not being conditioned or filtered. Without filtration, the air will accumulate dust, dirt, and mold spores that will create a bigger problem. We have conducted basement and entire home mold remediations where the only cause of mold growth was stagnant, humid air due to the fact that the HVAC system had been turned off.

HVAC Systems

The most effective, but most expensive, type of basement HVAC system is a centrally-located, ducted unit. This is the best system if you have a large basement and/or a basement consisting of multiple rooms with doors and walls that restrict airflow.

A cheaper but less effective alternative is a window mounted air conditioner/heater unit. Window units are better suited to smaller basements that do not have multiple rooms.

Dehumidification

So how do you get the already cool humid air in a basement dry without cooling it further? The answer in most cases is a dehumidifier.

Dehumidifiers range from simple freestanding, single room units that plug into an existing receptacle, to whole-house (or whole-basement) built-in units that work in conjunction with the HVAC system. We will cover this in much more detail in subsequent posts.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

At Branch Environmental we provide comprehensive packages that address the air quality inside your home and basement. We have you covered from inspection to mold remediation to dehumidifier selection and installation. Call us today if you would like to schedule a basement assessment, indoor air quality inspection, or simply want more advice on how to prevent basement mold.

basement mold and mildew

If you have a basement, chances are you’ve seen white, tan, green, brown, black, powdery, or fuzzy-looking growth on some of the contents of your basement or its building materials. That growth is mold, or mildew, as many people call it.

Where Does Mold Come From?

Mold is everywhere in the environment, including the outdoors as well as inside your home. Mold spores float in the air like pollen in the spring. All that is required for mold to grow is a food source and sufficient moisture. Food sources abound in a basement and include building materials, furniture, and cardboard boxes. The moisture source may be a plumbing leak, water intrusion from outside, or stagnant, humid air.

Most basements are a mold problem waiting to happen. If you have a basement, you either have mold or you will have mold, so it is important to implement preventative measures.

How Do I Prevent Mold?

Since you can’t eliminate all of the mold spores from the air and you can’t remove all of the building materials and contents from your basement, the only practical way to stop mold from growing is to eliminate or control the moisture source.

Plumbing leaks can be repaired and water intrusion can be stopped by waterproofing the foundation walls, installing French drains, and diverting water away from the foundation. Stagnant humid air should be conditioned and filtered to prevent mold growth and eliminate odors. Basement air can be conditioned using an HVAC system and/or dehumidifier, and air circulation can be improved with ceiling fans. We will cover this in much more detail in subsequent posts.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

If you have seen or suspect that you have mold growing in your basement, Branch Environmental can inspect your basement to determine the extent of the problem, identify the moisture source, develop and implement a solution, or walk you through the process if you choose to tackle it yourself. Get in touch at (706) 310-0097 to learn more about how we can help!

Bats are highly beneficial in the wild. They consume large quantities of insects, including pesky mosquitoes. In fact, bats can consume half their own body weight in insects each night! In certain areas, such as the southwestern US, African savanna, and tropical regions of the world, bats are vital for the pollination of flowers and dispersal of seeds. Bat feces, called guano, are valued as an important fertilizer throughout much of the world.

Although bats do great things for the ecosystem, they can become a real nuisance if they decide to take up residence in your home. Below we review what to do if you have bats, and why carrying out each step is important.

Get Rid of Bats with a Wildlife Control Service

The first thing to do if you discover bats in your home is to call a wildlife removal company. A quick internet search or flip through the phonebook will yield several companies that specialize in these services.

Bats must be removed from the home and prevented from returning before cleanup can begin. Bats are protected by state and federal law, making it unlawful to kill them. Wildlife control companies have methods of removing bats from your home that will safely and humanely keep them from returning.

Once the bats are gone, you must ensure that they will not be able to gain access to your home in the future. Bats have a strong urge to return to the same roosting spot year after year, so exclusion is a necessity, especially when that spot is in your attic!

Clean Up the Mess with Bat Remediation

Don’t make the mistake of thinking the bats are gone, problem solved. Removing the bats is only the first half of the process. Now that the bats are gone, the cleanup can begin. Unlike many animals, bats urinate and defecate where they sleep, which could mean your attic or your walls. Bat guano can be very dangerous to your health. Exposure to a fungus associated with bat guano can lead to a lung disease called Histoplasmosis.

A typical bat infestation remediation involves the removal of guano, attic insulation and often ceiling and/or wall drywall that has come into contact with bat feces and urine. A bat remediation should follow a similar protocol to a mold remediation or an asbestos abatement. Steps should be taken during cleanup to prevent the spread of guano and contaminated building materials to unaffected areas of the home.

These steps include building containment around the affected area, maintaining negative pressure inside the containment, HEPA filtered air scrubbers vented outside, bagging affected building materials as they are removed, HEPA vacuuming all surfaces within the affected area, cleaning all remaining building materials with an appropriate detergent/disinfectant and deodorizing the area. As an added precaution, the remaining building materials can be encapsulated before reconstruction begins.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

We have performed numerous bat remediations over the years. We have the skills and experience to safely and thoroughly remediate a bat infestation. If you know or suspect that you have bats, call a wildlife removal company today.

Once the bats are gone, contact Branch Environmental to safely and effectively clean up the damage.

Environmental Assessment for Asthma Awareness

In honor of National Asthma Awareness Month this May, we’d like to explain the links between mold, air quality, the indoor environment, and asthma.

These facts and tips will help the asthma sufferers in your life. Since almost everyone knows someone suffering from asthma, please share with your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Did you know?

  • Over 300 million people are living with asthma worldwide; 26 million of these people are in the US; and over 900,000 asthma sufferers live in Georgia
  • 1 in every 11 children and 1 in every 12 adults lives with asthma
  • In the US, there are approximately 9 million asthma-related doctor visits, 500,000 asthma-related hospitalizations and 3,300 asthma-related deaths every year
  • Asthma events are triggered by irritants and allergens
  • Irritants include smoke, pollution and strong odors, such as perfumes and cleaning products
  • Allergens include dust mites, pets, dander, mold, pollen, and cockroach feces
  • New research has linked indoor dampness with the development of asthma
  • Asthma can be controlled but not cured
  • The majority of people with asthma do not have an asthma action plan and have never taken a course to learn how to manage asthma
  • One of the components of an asthma action plan is to identify and control environmental exposures

Controlling Environmental Exposures

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) recommends six key action steps to control asthma. One of these six steps, controlling environmental exposures, is where we can help. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) says that when it comes to controlling environmental exposure, the first step is to perform an environmental assessment:

Conducting an initial environmental assessment for patients who have asthma at any level of severity should provide information that the clinician can use to educate patients on actions to take toward reducing exposure to those allergens and irritants that worsen a patient’s asthma. Conducting a more detailed environmental assessment in the patient’s home (or other settings where a patient spends considerable time, such as school or work) may also be useful for certain patients (for example, those patients whose asthma is not well-controlled or whose asthma is work-related). —NHLBI

At Branch Environmental, Inc., the purpose of our environmental assessments is to identify potential sources of indoor air contamination and provide a protocol for removing and correcting the problems. As a full service inspection, assessment, and remediation company, we not only identify the problem, we fix it, too.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

As part of our comprehensive indoor air quality inspections and home environmental assessments, we inspect the entire home, including the attic, living space, and crawl space/basement for mold and other indoor air quality concerns. We identify the environmental triggers of asthma events inside your home.

Along with medical evaluation and treatment from your doctor, a home environmental assessment from Branch Environmental is an integral component of any asthma treatment strategy.

Call us today to identify potential asthma triggers and learn how to improve indoor air quality and minimize the effects of asthma!

Attic mold

An attic is an ideal environment for mold. The typical attic is unairconditioned, inadequately ventilated, uninspected, past or presently leaky, and home to unwelcome critters. Unless your HVAC unit is in the attic or you store Christmas decorations up there, chances are that you may have never even been inside your attic.

We at Branch Environmental want you to know how to prevent attic mold, and to discover a few reasons you should inspect your attic or have it inspected by a professional.

Ventilation is Key

Mold needs moisture to grow. An inadequately ventilated attic will allow a buildup of warm, stagnant, moist air, especially in summer. The number one way to prevent attic mold is to ensure proper ventilation. Not only will proper ventilation help prevent attic mold, it will also extend the life of your roof. An inadequately ventilated attic will cause excess heat buildup in the summer and reduce the lifespan of your roof.

To properly ventilate your attic using passive ventilation, you need a way for the hot air to escape and a way for cooler makeup air to enter. Ridge vents, turbine vents, and/or gable end vents allow hot air to escape as it rises in the attic. The rising hot air will draw cooler air in through soffit vents by convection.

Powered attic ventilation fans are available, but should only be used with caution. Powered fans may overheat when they run for extended periods of time, which could lead to an attic fire.

Early Detection of Roof Leaks

A roof leak may go undetected for days, weeks, months, or even years before it shows up inside the home as a water stain on the ceiling or mold growing on a wall. A quick attic inspection after high wind or heavy rain may prevent costly repairs in the future. The longer a roof leak goes undetected, the greater the risk of further damage and mold growth.

Is Your Attic Home to Unwelcome Critters?

Mice, squirrels, birds, bats, and other rodents may be living in your attic. An attic stays dry in the summer, relatively warm in the winter, and the ceiling insulation makes for nice soft living quarters for rodents. Many rodents carry diseases and the urine and feces they excrete pose a health hazard. Exposure to a fungus associated with bird and bat guano can lead to a lung disease called Histoplasmosis.

To prevent unwelcome critters in your attic, ensure that all unnecessary exterior openings into the attic are sealed and that necessary openings, such as gable end vents, are covered with wire mesh or screen.

How Branch Environmental Can Help

As part of our comprehensive mold inspections, indoor air quality inspections, and home environmental assessments, we inspect the entire home, including the attic, living space, and crawl space/basement for mold and other indoor air quality concerns.

Do you know what’s in your attic? If not, contact us today to set up an inspection.

Indoor Air Quality Risks

Every day as we go about our lives there are certain risk factors that we are all exposed to. These factors pose risks to every aspect of our lives. Eating unhealthy food poses a risk to your physical health. Spending more money than you make poses a risk to your finances. Risk factors exist that threaten our physical, mental and emotional health, our finances, our families, our possessions, even our way of life.

Most people take steps to minimize risk in their lives. Risk management is defined by Wikipedia as “the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks…followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities.” We purchase insurance policies to minimize the financial risks associated with automobile accidents, medical emergencies and liability associated with accidents that occur on our property.

Some risks are unavoidable. You have no control over other drivers on the road when you get behind the wheel of your car. You cannot change your family’s medical history or your predisposal to genetic diseases. Nothing can be done to reduce the risk of a thunderstorm during an outdoor wedding in the summer.

But what about health risks that we can do something about?

You Can Improve the Majority of Air You Breathe

According to the EPA, 90% or more of the air you breathe is indoor air, and concentrations of some pollutants may be 2 to 5 times higher indoors compared to outdoors . As discussed in a previous post, you may not be able to improve all the air you breathe, but you can improve a significant amount. The good news is that you can minimize, or even eliminate, health risks due to indoor air pollution!

Steps to Take Toward Improving Indoor Air Quality

  • Thoroughly clean your home. Move the refrigerator, the furniture, and clean the areas that routinely get skipped. Clean baseboards, windows, and under rugs.
  • Replace the air filter(s) on your HVAC system. Spend a little more money to buy a filter that removes small particles like dust, dander, mold spores, and pollen. For most homes, you should select a filter with a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Rating Value) of 8 to 11.
  • Have your ductwork cleaned by a reputable company.
  • Avoid storing toxic pesticides, cleaners, or paints inside your home.
  • Don’t smoke or allow others to smoke inside your home.
  • Install a complete vapor barrier in your crawl space to reduce excess moisture and inhibit mold growth.
  • Ensure that your attic is properly ventilated to prevent mold growth.
  • Consider having an environmental assessment performed in your home to identify potential indoor air contaminants.

If you want one-on-one help improving indoor air quality, give us a call at (706) 310-0097! We’re here to ensure the good health of your home.

Get an environmental inspection!

So, you’re buying a new home, an exciting time! You’ve dreamed about this for a while now. The excitement is high and you picture happy times: family gatherings, Christmas morning, and watching the kids grow up.

Along with your excitement, however, comes a bit of anxiety and apprehension. Not only is this a huge financial commitment, but it is also the place you have chosen to shelter and protect you. You are investing in the place where you will grow and nurture your family.

With so much at stake, you agree that a home inspection is the best next step.

The Typical Home Inspection Process

When you don’t know a home inspector and you’re not sure how to choose one, you do the sensible thing and ask the realtor. The realtor gives you the name of an inspector s/he knows and works with often, and it’s an easy choice to hire someone that comes recommended for the job. When you get the report back, you find out which problems most need to be addressed.

In the inspection report, you might find information about rotted window and door trims, a faulty GFCI outlet, stopped up gutters, or a leaky faucet. Then you get the hard news that the HVAC unit has some rust on the coil and the roof shows some wear, both normal, but items that you should budget for in the next 3-5 years. The realtor explains that these things are to be expected from an older home, and you agree that these are not deal breakers, so you sign the contract and move in. Life is wonderful!

Costs that Affect Your Family

A year passes and you look back and realize that your child has been sick a lot lately. You blame it on school or daycare, but you realize that you too have felt sluggish and seem to get more colds than you used to. You put the timeline together, and it seems that the symptoms began shortly after you moved in. You dismiss the idea that it could be the house and hold to the thought that it’s just one of those years.

Another couple of months pass before you go on vacation and realize that you feel better. But once you return home, sick again!

Air Quality Assessments Find the Hidden Dangers

You contact Branch Environmental for an air quality assessment and we discover extensive mold in an area of the crawl space, years of accumulated gunk in the ducts, and mold on the wall behind the dishwasher.

Your home inspection didn’t say anything about these things, so how could this be? Sound familiar? Unfortunately, a home inspection doesn’t cover the steps in an environmental inspection, so this happens all too often.

Before You Sign, Know the Facts

Make sure that you know as much as possible about the home you are buying before you sign the dotted line. Undiscovered environmental issues can result not only in financial costs, but in health costs and a diminished quality of life.

Don’t Skip the Pre-Purchase Environmental Inspection

Which inspection is most valuable? That depends on what you value most, but you don’t really have to choose. Both are necessary to get a clear and accurate picture of the investment you are making.

When you choose Branch Environmental to perform your pre-purchase inspection, you’ll receive a thorough investigation of the entire structure to give you a comprehensive assessment of the current and potential environmental hazards.

The health and well-being of you and your family is worth the investment. Finding out about environmental hazards before the purchase may save you thousands of dollars in remediation charges later. Before you decide, learn more about us. We hope to hear from you!

Air Sampling as a Last Resort

A thorough air quality inspection is often better than air sampling.

Air sampling is certainly not harmful, but it can be expensive, and it’s important to first understand why you’re asking for it. What is it that you’re trying to find out? Before conducting air sampling, a hypothesis must be formulated and a plan developed to ensure the sampling protocol will answer the hypothesis. Otherwise, you could just be wasting money on something that you don’t need or won’t fix the problem.

Air Sampling Done Right

For an air sampling project to be successful, it needs to have the following components:

  • Hypothesis — what is being sampled and why.
  • Replication — an adequate number of samples to test the hypothesis.
  • Control(s) — samples from unaffected areas and outdoor samples for comparison.

Air Sampling is a Hot Topic, but for the Wrong Reasons

We noticed that air sampling was a hot topic while recently attending the IAQA conference. It seemed that everyone was talking about air sampling, but for the wrong reasons. Much discussion centered on the topics of when, where and especially how to sample.

No one seemed to ask the obvious question of WHY to sample the air in the first place. If mold is visible in a structure, then air sampling is almost always unnecessary. When mold is visible it needs to be remediated. It doesn’t necessarily matter what the species or spore count is.

Air Sampling As a Last Resort

You can waste a lot of money if air sampling is not conducted properly. Basically, air sampling generally fails to create the bigger picture of your indoor environment that is easier and more cost effective to achieve through a thorough inspection.

We advocate that air sampling should only come after an inconclusive inspection or in rare cases to confirm that a suspected source of contamination identified during an inspection is the actual source of the problem.

Start With A Walk-Through

Air sampling can get expensive fast, so if you suspect poor air quality in your home, start with a much lower-cost inspection. Our inspections usually identify the culprit without having to consult the lab folks in white coats to confirm the obvious.

If you think you’re breathing in mold or another contaminant, air sampling is likely not the best first move. What you really need is a more comprehensive inspection that considers the bigger picture of your home, its contents and even the surrounding outdoor environment to identify the source and correct the problem. We’re happy to schedule an appointment for an air quality inspection, just give us a call!

Indoor Air Quality Association IAQA

Last month we went up to Nashville to participate in the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA) 2014 Indoor Environment & Energy Exposition. We attended three days of seminars led by industry experts, including certified industrial hygienists, inspection and remediation professionals, university researchers, government officials, and environmental lawyers.

The event included 46 seminars and a joint tradeshow between IAQA and the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).

Seminar topics included how to improve air quality, tips for performing better mold inspections, industry standards, new technology for assessing and improving air quality, volatile organic compound (VOC) sampling, legal challenges, air sampling techniques, radon testing, business growth and development, marketing, dampness assessment and control, case studies of indoor air quality projects and much more.

What We Took Away from IAQA

We are always searching for ways to improve our inspections, assessments, remediations/abatements, customer service and business practices. This time we came home with quite a few ideas and practices that we plan to implement.

One of the most interesting talks was about indoor dampness, its link to asthma development, and how to control it. New evidence indicates that dampness alone, not just the associated mold growth that can develop due to dampness, has been linked to asthma development! We will discuss this in more detail in a future post.

How Our Ongoing Education Helps You

At Branch Environmental, we strive to be on the forefront of the industry. We are eager to increase our knowledge and improve our training, all in an effort to better serve our customers.

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! We’re happy to explore all of your options.

Soda Blast to Fix Fire Damage

Have you had the misfortune of a fire in your home? We can help.

Even after you’ve repaired the structural issues caused by a house fire, your house may continue to smell like smoke. Because painting encapsulant over smoke-damaged and charred building materials only glosses over the problem, you need a solution that will remove the smoke, char, and odor while prepping the surface for encapsulant at the same time. The last thing anyone wants is to walk into a house after fire damage reconstruction is complete and still smell smoke.

Benefits of Soda Blasting

In order to remove the source of the odor and not just cover it up, we can soda blast the structure before reconstruction begins. Soda blasting can be followed with encapsulation for an added layer of protection.

Soda blasting uses non-toxic baking soda as the blast media. The baking soda helps to absorb odors at the same time it is removing the smoke residue, ash and char. Soda blasting is recommended by the Restoration Industry Association for fire and smoke damage repair.

Soda Blasting Is Also Useful for Mold Remediation

Soda blasting can also be used in unfinished basements and crawl spaces, where excess moisture has led to mold growth. Fixing the moisture source and soda blasting to remove mold is an effective and environmentally friendly method of mold remediation in basements and crawl spaces.

If you’ve had a fire in your home or mold in your basement or crawl space, get in touch so that we can help return your property to its former glory.