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Bryan Baeumler clears your home of mould

The word ‘mould’ strikes fear in the hearts of homeowners everywhere. And fair enough; finding mould in your basement is no laughing matter. But the funny thing is, mould spores are everywhere! They’re a natural, normal part of our world and they have a pretty important job to do: helping natural materials, like leaves and compost, bio-degrade. In your home, mould is a different story. Those natural mould spores in the air become a problem when they meet something wet (a leaky foundation), colonize on natural fibres (drywall) and multiply. An elevated level of mould in the air can cause serious respiratory problems, it might mean you’ve got a real water problem in the house, and it looks awful. So, how do you know if you’ve got a mould problem? If you’ve got a musty smell that won’t go away, and you see blue-green fuzz or black spots on drywall, baseboards or around windows, you’ve got moisture – and mould.


FINDING MOULD

If you want to conduct a deeper inspection, be sure to wear a mask and gloves. You’re looking for signs of mould – or signs of the excessive moisture that’s causing it. You might see stains or discolouration on your floor or walls. Check window panes and the edges of your ceiling, too.

Nev Budhwa is a mould expert from Accu-Star Inc., the mould removal specialists. He’s the guy we call for tough mould situations. He recommends this quick check if you believe you’ve got mould: “If you’ve found moisture and you suspect mould, you can very carefully peel back a baseboard from the wall,” says Budhwa. “If there’s mould, you’ll usually find it there.”

I asked Budhwa to share some more details about the causes of mould – and what to do about it.

“The most common cause is a leaky foundation wall. If there are leaks in that foundation wall, or if there’s poor drainage, or a problem with weeping tiles, you will end up in a situation where you have water,” Budhwa says. “Because it’s porous, that foundation wall will take on that moisture; it bleeds through and if it condenses, drips down to base of the floor and starts to pool, you’ve got an environment for mould spores to grow.”

That’s not the only way moisture can accumulate in your house. Leaky eaves troughs or poorly sealed exterior window sills can let water leak and pool. So can poorly installed plumbing fixtures or inadequately sealed bath and shower areas. Anywhere there’s water pooling and a source of food for the mould spores (drywall, cloth, carpet or wood), you’re going to get mould.

CLEANING UP MOULD

If you do have mould, getting rid of it is a two-step process. You’ve got clean up the mould, of course.But to keep it from returning, you have to stop water from getting into your house.

First up… cleaning up the mould. If you’ve got a small area (less than 10 square feet), Health Canada guidelines say it is okay to try and clean it yourself.

Budhwa says it’s important to do your research first. Read as much as you can before you start, and wear protective clothing, including a P100 filter mask and a Tyvek or painter’s suit and gloves, to protect yourself from breathing in air with high concentration of mould spores.

There are a number of cleaners and treatments you can use, and Health Canada suggests soap and water for washing up the area. Concrobium Mould Control from Home Depot is a good product to try, according to Budhwa. If the drywall is badly damaged, he recommends removing the section entirely, drying the area out and replacing it with clean drywall.

Don’t be afraid to call a qualified mould abatement company for guidance. A good one will offer advice and recommend products and techniques for small problems. But for larger growths of mould, you’ll need to call in the professionals. Here’s what Budhwa’s team does when they head out to help a client:

“We’ll dispatch an inspector. He’ll go equipped with a thermal camera and an air sampling case,” he says. “We do a survey of the entire house to isolate where we think the problem is and what may be causing it. Basements are our first priority, then we’ll go up floors from there.”

The treatment depends on the extent of the damage: removing drywall and baseboards as needed, cleaning and treating the affected areas.

KEEPING IT AWAY

“We can get rid of mould,” says Budhwa. “But if you don’t get rid of the source of the mould you’re going to have an ongoing problem.”

Ah yes. Step two. The only way to prevent mould from growing is to prevent moisture from accumulating. You’ve got to keep things dry.

For starters, your home’s foundation has to be solid and crack-free. Plumbing and bathroom tiles and fixtures must be properly installed, grouted and sealed. Your eaves troughs need to be clean and functional, and any exterior leaks should be sealed. Running a dehumidifier can help in a basement.

Mould’s nothing to laugh about. But if you find a problem and tackle it head on, at least you can smile at a job well done.