Whether you’re buying or selling a home in the Pacific Northwest, mold is a fact of life. Mold spores are floating in the air all around us. They don’t “grow” until they can attach themselves to a moist surface. Attic mold tends to go undetected because the attic’s not a place a homeowner spends much time hanging around in – so when attic mold turns up on a home inspection, it’s often a surprise to both buyer and seller.
If you find mold in the attic, first, take a breath. Mold in these areas isn’t a significant factor in indoor air quality, and truthfully, most molds are relatively harmless to humans. Visible mold is ready to be remedied and doesn’t require costly testing. What you don’t want to do is leave mold untreated, because the materials the mold has attached to can cause issues with timber and framing integrity. In the attic, mold can degrade drywall, spread to the ceiling below, and even cause problems with your roof’s life expectancy.
Causes of attic mold
Attic mold occurs in the attic primarily due to the accumulation of moisture from condensation in the gap your attic fills between your warm house and the cold air outside your roof. Improper ventilation in the attic is actually worse in newer homes. In 1994, Oregon developed stricter laws for energy-efficient construction (a good thing!), increasing the required amount of insulation and exterior building sealing. Unfortunately, these efficiencies weren’t balanced with increased ventilation mandates until 2005 (a bad thing!), creating an indoor environment with much higher moisture levels, especially in the attic.
Mold can also grow in the attic when a home has been built during Oregon’s wet months. If interior wood framing and plywood had not been sufficiently dried before adding drywall and roofing material, moisture could be trapped inside.
Other factors that can contribute to attic mold are improperly vented combustion appliances like the stove or dryer; improperly venting kitchen or bathroom fans; improperly installed rain gutters; or a leaking roof.
Eradicating mold for good is a two-part process
Now that you know the mold in your dream home’s attic is caused by a moisture issue, you might want to thank the mold. Why? Because it has helped you identify the more serious problem of water intrusion. Cleaning up the mold and making sure it doesn’t have the right environment to grow will be the key to a healthy, structurally sound home.
First, clean it up
A professional mold removal company will do just that – remove the mold. According to the EPA, the purpose of mold remediation is to remove the mold to prevent human exposure and damage to building materials and furnishings. This means all visible mold staining and the root structure “hyphae” of the mold must be removed. Unfortunately, even dormant mold can act as an allergen. Encapsulation or painting over the mold is not a recognized method of mold remediation by the EPA. Protective barriers or anti-microbial paints have a limited shelf life and fail over time if the moisture source has not been appropriately addressed.
Second, fix the moisture problem
If you don’t correct the cause of the moisture-inducing environment mold will return. For attics, the key to correcting the cause is to hire a professional to design and install the proper attic ventilation plan. Continually moving the air through the attic will keep condensation – and mold growth – at bay. Didn’t have mold in your old home? It’s probably because the attic was so drafty mold spores never had a chance to settle down and get to business in the winter or were quickly evaporated in the sauna-like heat of the summer. Since 2012, the International Building Code (IBC) has required enclosed attics, and enclosed rafter spaces have cross-ventilation for each separate area. Outside air enters into the attic space from intake vents, soffits, eave vents, roof-top edge venting or gable end-vents, passing through the attic displacing warm, moisture-laden air, which exits the attic via exhaust vents at or near the peak of the roof. Other site-specific fixes include repairing a leaking roof or fixing improperly vented appliances and exhaust fans.
Bottom line, finding mold in your home inspection shouldn’t send you running away from buying the home of your dreams. Get a mold professional on your side to mitigate the mold and address the underlying cause of the problem.
The mold experts at Certified Indoor Environmental offer a quick turn-around time for mold remediation at an affordable price. Our detailed inspection report assesses the property and determines the cause of the mold – so you can arrange to cut the mold off at the source and move into your new home with peace of mind for years to come.