The Consequences of Basement Mold: Expensive Cleanup and Increased Health Risks

While homeownership requires a certain amount of maintenance and responsibility, unfortunately, basement and crawl space water problems are sometimes written off as too low of a priority or, perhaps, unimportant. There are plenty of potential consequences resulting from a wet basement, be it water seepage, flooding or excess humidity. One of the most common basement and crawl space problems is mold.

A basement and crawl space prone to water is likely to experience mold growth. Mold can also be a problem in basements where flooding and seepage are not regular problems. Excess moisture, which may not always be an obvious occurrence, or a flood or leaking wall crack that happened just once a long time ago, may still be enough to cause mold growth.

Mold is not simply a cosmetic problem. Exposure to mold, especially after long periods of time, will likely lead to health problems. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mold exposure may increase allergic reactions, asthma and respiratory problems. Once it has been determined that mold is indeed present, it is especially important to administer the proper clean-up to any affected area. Homeowners who take special precautions and have the right tools and equipment may tend to mold cleanup themselves – though it is recommended that any affected area greater than 10 square feet be left to a professional.

Mold cleanup in a finished basement is far more complicated and expensive than an unfinished basement. Drywall often poses a significant problem – mold can grow on either side of the wall, pending the amount of water or moisture. Any portion of drywall exposed to mold spores will need to be removed. Carpeting in finished basements is another hazardous situation. As an absorbent, carpet is slow to dry and quickly becomes a breeding spot for mold. Throw out moldy carpet or use a natural cleaning product that will kill mold while preventing re-growth.

Other mold contaminated objects should be thrown away, or cleaned if salvageable. The common perception is that bleach is a mold killer. This is half-true. Bleach is suitable for non-porous surfaces including glass, tiles, tubs, counter-tops; or objects such as clothing. Bleach is not recommended for porous areas such as drywall or wood. While porous surfaces will absorb the excess water content from bleach, chlorine can’t. The absorbed water simply feeds the existing mold.

Asides from mold cleanup, another important component is repairing the initial problem that caused water in the first place. Cracks in poured foundation walls should be repaired via crack injection, seepage from either the cove (where the wall meets the floor) or floor cracks usually suggest hydrostatic pressure. The threat of basement flooding can be prevented or minimized with a reliable primary sump pump and battery back-up system. The application of Emecole Metro Penetrating Concrete Sealer protects against further moisture and soil gases from infiltrating through the foundation. A dehumidifier will also help remove excess moisture.

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