Mold in Homes and Real Estate Sales

Mold in homes is not surprising, but it’s also not desirable, particular if there’s a lot of it.

A few years back, my husband and I went to the Monterey Peninsula for a couple of days to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  We had a wonderful time there, but would not return to the hotel where we stayed this time.  The worst issue was the mold in the bedroom along the wall and baseboard.  I brought it to the hotel’s attention and it was “cleaned”, but I think the issue is far from solved.

Mold and Mildew

Mold is often called mildew, and is seen perhaps most often in bathrooms around the shower, tub, or window.  Below is an image of of this substance (tested, verified) in a garage on an outside wall.

 

Mold sample on garage wall

First, I should state that mold is naturally occurring and it is not possible to completely eliminate the spores from your home.  The question is whether or not what is inside the house is the same kind and density as the mold outdoors, or whether something unusual is harbored indoors.

Mildew needs moisture and the right, mild temperatures to thrive – eliminate the source of water and it will go dormant.  Please note that it will not die when the moisture is eliminated – it just goes into a sleepy state.  If water is later reintroduced, the spores will spring back to life.

In my experience, the most common place to find mold in the San Jose area tends to be in bathrooms, particularly around older aluminum windows (which tend to be very cold and collect condensation). Mold on these window frames is easily cleaned by using a solution of water and bleach, and it can be prevented by better ventilation and heat, which allows the window frames to dry out. Likewise it’s very easy for it to grow in showers and tub areas due to the high amount of water present.  That water needs to be able to evaporate, otherwise you’re inviting it to take hold.

Step 1: find the source of the mold

Find growths on sheetrock, wood or carpeting?  First you must discover the source of the moisture.  Most likely, there’s a leak somewhere, either a plumbing leak or around a door, window, roof or flashing.
(more…)

The Healthy House

Air quality monitor - one way to know if you have a healthy houseIt’s the end of the year and many people are making New Years Resolutions or New Years Goals.  Instead of directly focusing on your own health, how about looking into making a more healthy house? Indoor air quality contributes to the health of residents just as much as that extra serving of vegetables or extra thousand steps per day.

When the summer and autumn fires are raging in California, we are all keenly aware of pollutants. We check PurpleAir.com and replace our filthy air filters faster than usual. Some of us even found ourselves buying air quality monitors for the first time, all in hopes of having a healthy house.  When the fires get put out, we may not think much about having a healthy home until another “Spare the Air” day is called.

Healthy House Challenges

This last summer, we were one of many families purchasing an air quality monitor (seen in photo, it was around $120 online).  We were surprised at the amount of indoor air pollution caused by frying foods.  That was info we tripped into – the monitor was on because of the smoky skies, but it was the friend chicken that sent the PM2.5 score soaring into the 400s. And it took hours for it to come back down to normal (in large part certainly because we could not open our doors and windows to air it out). That was a lesson!

One of the least known but perhaps one of the biggest risks involves gas cooking, as well as the use of other gas appliances, in the home. What many cooking aficionados do not realize is that every single time you cook with gas, you also should be using the vent to clear the gas fumes lest you contribute to a buildup of carbon monoxide (and other pollutants) indoors.  (Venting is also crucial with other gas appliances such as the furnace and water heater.)

Carbon monoxide detectors are now mandatory in California homes if there are gas appliances, not just at the point of resale but in all houses, condos, town homes etc. – but even the best devices can fail or have the batteries die, so best to avoid relying on them alone and make sure to use care in venting all gas devices whenever in use.  There are some studies indicating that gas cooking and the use of other gas appliances indoors may aggravate respiratory conditions such as asthma and increase pulmonary (lung) risk, too. Carbon monoxide is the best known, but not only pollutant, that may come with gas appliances.

Along the same lines, home inspectors suggest that fireplaces with gas logs or jets never fully close, but instead have a small block to keep the damper from sealing completely. This is also so that the carbon monoxide can vent out.

Radon is thought to be a non-issue in California, but Silicon Valley is generally a moderate radon area. Care should be taken particularly in properties with basements and in homes where occupants smoke indoors.

Other issues include mold and dust, which are especially hard on people with allergies or lung disease, but can also irritate eyes. For structures built prior to about 1978, lead may be present too.

When buying or selling residential property in California, the Residential Environmental Hazards booklet is provided.  It can be found online via a variety of sources, including the State of California’s website.  If you haven’t seen or read this booklet recently, I would like to suggest that you have a look and consider incorporating some of the suggestions and tips in the coming year to make your own home a healthier one:

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/CLPPB/Documents/ResEnviroHaz2005.pdf

A last point about this fabulous booklet: do not read right before going to bed!! 

Additional information from the World Health Organization can be found here:

WHO Guidelines for Indoor Air Quality: Selected Pollutants (book, 2010)

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021!