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Black mold vs. “harmless” mold.

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Wood destroying fungus on the floor joists of a recent project caused significant structural damage. Notice it is green-grey in color. (Photo by Intellivent.)

In my line of work, I hear people refer to black mold as the “bad” kind.  “Oh, that’s black mold.  It’s the most dangerous type.”

This misnomer gives the impression that black molds are all bad, but any other kind of mold is okay.  I don’t know where this came from, but it just isn’t true.

Black mold (often, but not always, Stachybotrys chartarum) has many varieties that are, indeed, toxigenic.  But there are also varieties of black mold that are not.  Some black molds, like alternaria, are only allergenic- but not all of those molds are black.  And some types can pose almost no risk to human health at all.  Aspergillus is typically a green mold, and can be very toxic to human health.  But there are varieties of aspergillus that can present as brown or black as well.  Still, aspergillus can range in toxicity, color, and varying affects on human life.

The point is, there is no hard-and-fast way of telling mold type or toxicity based on it’s color or presentation.  And just because a mold is not toxigenic or allergenic does not make it harmless, either.  Consider that there are wood destroying types of fungus (pictured above from a recent project in Charlotte, NC) that can be extremely harmful to a home but have relatively inert effects on human health.  And according to some sources, wood destroying types of fungus account for more annual property loss than fires, floods and termites COMBINED.  So, in that way, they are not exactly harmless, are they?

We should also consider that many homeowner’s insurance policies have significant limitations on their coverages of mold, while some even outright exclude it.  This means a homeowner could be completely on their own with structural repairs caused by such damage, and the damage can be significant.  Know that wood destroying fungi can accelerate wood damage by 200 times on a structure depending on the type of mold and species of lumber, so it can become a major problem very quickly.

There are simply too many variables to predict mold damage or toxicity based on color, amount of visible biofilm, or type of material (lumber) present.  We can’t do it.  The most important thing to know when dealing with any mold is that it cannot survive or proliferate on a surface without 3 basic things: organic food source, oxygen and moisture.

So if you limit or eliminate one of those three things, you can stop mold- any mold- from ever becoming a problem in the first place.

Our goal is to stop mold by creating an environment that it cannot thrive in.  Typically, we remove the moisture. We usually can’t remove the food source because lumber is needed for our building construction, and we can’t eliminate oxygen because this is still the Earth and oxygen is everywhere. But what we can do is to prevent moisture absorption into lumber by maintaining a constant wood moisture value of less than 18%.  In doing this, we will create an environment that mold cannot thrive in.  This is what we want and need for our homes.

Consider what mold can be doing to you, your family, AND your biggest investment even if (and sometimes especially if) you can’t see it.  There is so much at stake when it comes to mold and moisture in our homes.  If you see or suspect that you might have a problem, call Intellivent today.

 

 

 

 

Tighter houses offer less ventilation, which leads to mold.

People ask me why crawlspaces seem so mold-prone these days, as opposed to the homes we lived in 35 years ago.  There are a lot of little reasons why this is the case, but the simple answer is the tightness of our current construction.  Windows are one reason.

I’ve attached two pictures that depict typical window sealing in modern construction, as evidence of this fact.

You will notice the vapor-taped windows and home-wrap seams, caulk sealants, and double-pane (energy efficiency) windows, as one example.

These are all great things for energy savings.  But these technologies also serve to inhibit effective ventilation of the warm, moist air that rises from the crawlspace.  This creates an environment where the space below the home cannot shed the moisture from below.  It becomes trapped, soaking into the organic substrate beneath the home, which leads to elevating wood moisture content and, eventually, mold.

Doesn’t seem like much, but it really is the little things.

 

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Intellivent is now an Enviroguard Certified Contractor.

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Intellivent is proud to announce that we have received the Enviroguard Certified Contractor’s designation.  This unique partnership affords us new training, as well as access to products and resources to better serve our customers experiencing problems with mold, moisture intrusion issues, structural repair challenges, crawlspace and basement waterproofing, whole-house odor mitigation chemicals, and preventative coatings and sealants for structures.

We look forward to the doors that this certification will open for us!

Mold and moisture control using ventilation.

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A 145CFM low voltage, joist-mounted fan is shown.  This is one of the components of our system designed to permanently eliminate mold and control moisture in a crawlspace.

 

Whether you’re a homeowner, a builder, or a real estate professional in Charlotte, you probably have had to deal with crawlspace mold removal or moisture control at some point. We all know how expensive, disruptive, and inconvenient the process can be.

We see a lot of our competitor companies in Charlotte that will simply clean or remove mold from a crawlspace without addressing the root cause of the problem that led to mold spore proliferation in the first place. This is a terrible approach. Look friends, I’ll be very plain; if a contractor’s plan does not include permanent moisture and humidity control along with an approved mold remediation protocol, then you can believe that mold remediation is probably in your future again.

Moisture is always the enemy.

At Intellivent, we believe in fully educating our customers on our process, which includes for creating a permanent environmental change to prevent mold regrowth for the long-term.  And using a proven, engineered, fresh-air ventilation system (along with professionally verified mold removal protocols), we can not only live up to that promise, but we are able to guarantee it for 10 years.  That’s right- a homeowner can have a 10-year, fully-transferrable warranty against mold regrowth with our system, or we will clean it ourselves, absolutely for free.

And the best part is, these systems usually costs far less (on the front-end, and over the life of the system) than a full encapsulation liner.  And they use up to 1000 fewer watts of energy than crawlspace-rated dehumidifiers. That’s almost $200 in monthly savings on energy alone. If you’ve read my articles, I’ve made my position clear that encapsulation systems can have their own sets of long-term problems. Natural ventilation is easier and more effective than you might think.

Give Intellivent a call to learn more about it, and how homeowners can get piece of mind that their crawlspace will stay mold-free.

New home construction and mold?

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This is something we have seen more and more in recent years in the Charlotte area- mold formation in the crawlspaces of brand new homes. We are literally seeing it before the rough plumbing and electrical are completed in some cases. But why?

The main contributor in today’s residential construction relates to our current building techniques. Our homes are built air tight (or close to it). Tongue and groove subfloors, home wraps, foam sealants, dual-pane windows, insulated doors and vapor-taped exterior seals on openings are creating environments that do not allow free-moisture exchange via, what is known as, the “stack effect”.  If the vapor cannot ventilate vertically through the home, it becomes trapped in lower areas like the crawlspace or basement; raising wood moisture and humidity levels.  This can rapidly lead to fungal growth on the organic substrate.

While this “tightening” of the construction of our homes serves to benefit us in energy savings and comfort down the road, these methods do us few favors in terms of providing for fresh air exchange with the outside in the short-term, which can be vital in drying out a crawlspace to prevent mold spore proliferation in the first place.

If you’ve had the unpleasant privilege of dealing with a mold remediation bill on a brand-new home, you will know what a frustrating and profit-consuming thing this can be. We have prevention services that can eliminate mold growth as a possibility, while providing a fully-transferrable warranty against mold growth in the property so that your buyers are getting piece-of-mind with their purchase.

And all of this can cost far less than you might think (certainly less than a mold remediation bill.)

We have seen many construction projects where this has occurred.  But, be assured, there are preventative measures that can be taken. We are in the business of providing these solutions to our customers, which include builders, renovators, investors, and real estate professionals alike.  We have a range of vapor retarding solutions, ventilation systems, dehumidification appliances and even sealants or coatings that can provide a complete mold-proofing barrier over the wood material, insuring that fungal proliferation will not occur.

Reach out to us at Intellivent to learn more about mold removal in Charlotte.  We are happy to help you make sure the first thing living in the new home you’re building is the person buying it and not mold.

 

Crawlspace humidity: Not just a summer problem.

 

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Here in Charlotte, there exists a notion that elevated moisture and humidity problems aren’t prevalent in the winter.  This is a myth.

Even well-maintained homes can have mold moisture issues in the crawlspace area. In the winter wet season, humidity in air still exists and cool air particles hold less moisture content before condensation occurs.  This means that a crawlspace can still have significant moisture problems regardless of the season.

Also, heavy precipitation that flows back into a crawlspace due to grading can add moisture to a crawlspace environment that does not have the ability to evaporate or shed it.  This may lead to standing moisture which can communicate, via evaporation, to the wood structure above, raising moisture content of structural members over time. This will eventually lead to mold, rot, termites, etc..

It is important to know the condition of your home’s crawlspace year-round by either visual inspection or a site visit from a professional.  Regardless, one should not assume that they are safe from the effects of crawlspace mold, moisture, and damage because it’s not hot and humid outside.

The winter season definitely has it’s own set of crawlspace mold and moisture challenges, Charlotte.  It pays to stay on top of what’s down below.