Updated March 7, 2023
In cold, damp weather or warm, humid conditions, excess moisture can easily kickstart the growth of mould in your home. Mould can grow in many places: walls, ceilings, carpet, books, and even toys. But worse than that, mould is a health hazard—young children, people with asthma, and seniors are particularly at risk.
This article will look at what mould is, how it forms, how to detect and prevent it, and how to get rid of it. We will also look at some of the health symptoms, and how mould is treated in home insurance.
Mould (or mildew) is a fungal growth that forms and spreads on damp or decaying organic matter. Mould needs water and nutritive material to grow. Indoors, it can form on drywall or cardboard and outdoors, it forms on fallen leaves. Mould spores are invisible to the naked eye, so it is easy for mould to enter your home via air currents, humans, and pets.
Mould can form anywhere in your house, you’ll most often encounter it in damp and poorly-ventilated areas. The tell-tale signs of mould are different-coloured spots (often green or black) on walls and ceilings, around windows and in closets. Stains or peeling paint on walls and ceilings can also be a sign of mould, along with an earthy smell in the house.
Mould can cause a number of symptoms depending on the level of exposure and the health of the individual. Here are some of the most common health symptoms of mould:
If you feel that these symptoms were caused by mould, you should contact a health-care professional.
There are several simple steps you can take to stop mould from forming in your home.
At least once a year, inspect the outside of your house to make sure there are no signs of mould. Check the roof, siding, attic, gutters, drains, and anywhere else that’s exposed to moisture or where air circulation may be poor. Inside the house, check behind furniture, in closets and storage spaces, and in the basement or crawl space for water infiltration and signs of mould.
In the event of any water damage in your home, you need to clean and dry the affected area within 24 to 48 hours, since standing water and wet materials can promote mould growth. Throw out any materials that suffer heavy water damage such as drywall, carpet, cardboard tiles, insulation, mattresses, upholstered furniture, etc.
Your home may have high levels of humidity if you see condensation on windows or walls. The humidity level in the house should be between 30% and 55% to prevent condensation. Here are some of the things you can do to avoid high humidity in your home:
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While you can clean small to medium areas affected by mould (1-3 square metres) on your own, you will need an expert assessment and cleanup for anything bigger than 3 square metres. If you are a tenant and you see mould, inform your landlord.
Vulnerable individuals such as pregnant women, infants, children, seniors, people with asthma, allergies and other health issues, and pets should not be in or around the cleanup area.
You will need the following protective gear:
You can wipe away mould spots from small areas by using a clean cloth and an all-purpose cleaner. Remember to quickly dry the surface after cleaning. Bleach is not necessary to clean up mould. Don’t forget to dispose of any water-damaged items, like drywall.
If, after cleaning, the mould returns, it is most likely the source of the moisture is still present. In this case you’ll need to seek professional assistance.
Pretty much all home insurance policies exclude coverage for mould damage.
However, an insured event that caused mould would likely be covered. For example, if the water from a burst hot water tank caused mould to form on drywall, the mould cleanup would typically be covered as long as the policy covers the loss.
On the other hand, mould that forms due to negligence (for example, from high humidity, lack of ventilation, or allowing the accumulation of standing water) would not be covered because that is something the homeowner can and should prevent.
Health Canada does not recommend testing the air for mould. Air tests do not provide health information and do not reveal the cause of mould damage. While a test will detect mould spores in the air, they are a natural part of the environment, and their presence does not necessarily mean there is a problem.
Painting over the mould will not remove the mould. The mould will continue to grow under the paint, causing the paint to peel. You have to remove the source of the mould.
While an air purifier cleans the air, it will not eliminate mould. You will still have to remove the source of mould growth. An air filter removes a percentage of the mould spores, but the remaining spores will settle on the floor and recirculate throughout your home.
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