Got Attic Mold? Warning: Never Encapsulate/ Paint Dry Ice Blast Or Soda Blast!
When facing an attic mold problem, many homeowners are confronted with the daunting task of solving a problem far afield of the typical home improvement job. Getting rid of attic mold is not like remodeling a bathroom or kitchen or painting a house. Mold is both dangerous and alive. And when it comes to getting rid of it there is a ton of conflicting information out there.
Many homeowners never even knew there was a toxic evil dwelling right above their heads in their homes gradually consuming the very decking boards that form the roof. In fact over half of the attic mold problem we routinely encounter were only discovered when the homeowner decided it was time to sell their house mold remediation.
We have seen many, many, home sales fall completely through just because a home inspector discovered mold hiding in the attic area, feeding on the roofing boards. One of the biggest reasons for this is the color of the most common mold that grows in attics north of the Mason-Dixon line is the dreaded color black. Many potential home buyers are scared away by this black mold pigment, thinking that it is “the toxic black mold” the dreaded stachybotrys chartarum. But in fact this is almost never the case. What makes a black mold black is simply the pigment melanin, a harmless pigment found in our skin to protect us from the harmful UV rays produced by the sun. It serves the same purpose in mold. Attic mold is almost never the more deadly black mold as attic mold almost always grows during the winter time as a result of simple heat loss, coupled with inadequate or improperly designed or installed roofing ventilation.
Ventilation Problems: How The Mold Grows
When it gets freezing cold in the winter we turn on our homes heating system. Naturally heat rises, and when we don’t have adequate insulation or when it is too cold to keep up with heat loss, this hot air makes its way into the attic itself. When a roof is ventilated properly, this hot air is channeled out of the attic through what are called out take air vents. These are in the form of box vents, power vents, gable end vents, or ridge vents. In order for the out take air vents to work properly the roof needs an intake air vent system. These vents allow colder air to move through the attic while the hot air is forced out through the outake air vents.
When this does not happen the hot air becomes trapped in the attic and coalesces against the freezing cold boards of the roof. This creates a hot air mass meets cold surface form of condensation called dewpoint, and usually results in droplets of water or frost. This moisture begins the cycle of mold growth that leads to attic mold infestations.
Attic mold typically only grows in the winter time unless it is caused by the rare roof leak or wet basement or crawlspace sending water vapor upwards. The reason it only grows during the 5-6 months of winter is during the rest of the year the temperature reached in the attic are far too hot, for aggressive mold growth.
When trying to decide what to do to solve the attic crawspace mold problem, the average homeowner is baffled. Why? Well in getting several estimates for the clean up he or she is often faced with completely different suggestions from local contractors who each insist that their method is “best” or “right”. We have met mold victims who have had 5-6 different estimates with 5-6 differing “solutions” that left the homeowners heads spinning as to what to do, if them if the goal is permanent eradication. The reason why there are so many differing approaches to mold clean up is the direct result of the mold training authorities or certifying bodies or schools who never actually specify which products to use when. Also the average contractor has a limited to poor understanding of the true life processes of the mold and its actual microbiological processes.
Fix The Ventilation/Leaks:
In solving every mold issue it is a must to eliminate the source of the moisture, and this means fixing the ventilation issues. While the prevailing theory is to install a ridge vent we find that these often do not breathe as advertised. We recommend box vents placed as close to the peak as possible, they almost never clog or leak and work exceptionally well even though their use has fallen out of vogue. Next make sure there is adequate intake air in the form of soffit ventilation. There is no such thing as too much soffit ventilation.
Killing The Mold Means Killing The Roots:
One of the most over looked and misunderstood components to permanent mold eradication and removal is killing the roots of the mold. When the average person thinks about mold they usually conjure up some memory of moldy bread or cheese. The human brain love to store memories by association, and we think of the fuzzy stuff we can see on the surface of a mold problem as the mold itself. WRONG! What we can see the fuzzy stuff is actually the fruit-body or the reproductive part of the mold organism, it is the seed. It is the apple not the tree! If we want to eliminate mold permanently we need to kill the roots which ARE the BODY of the mold organism itself. And they are invisible to the naked eye because they are growing under the surface, just like the tap-root of a dandelion grows beneath the surface of the Earth. And just like with a dandelion we need to kill the roots to kill the organism.
Popular mold removal techniques almost universally fail to address this and most mold removal companies actually do horrible work because they fail to understand this very basic premise. To kill the mold you must kill the roots. What do these companies do? There are several approaches that are usually employed and they are all inadequate. Most companies will start by applying a biocide. It is common to see this written on almost every mold protocol. Rarely does the contractor mention that 95% of these biocides do not kill the spores and they also do not kill the roots. Most also contain some form of carcinogen which can cause cancer in lab animals! Next they will apply an encapsulant which really means to paint the wood. This is a booby trap waiting to go off as the paint will form a vapor barrier and eventually peel off. Since the paint has poisons in it, it can become a future hazard just as happened with lead paint. It is also a dead give away during a home inspection that there was a problem cause attics only get painted when there is mold or a house fire. This method also leave the mold roots alive and well and waiting for moisture. Next there are a variety of sanding methods from hand sanding to soda or dry ice blasting. The companies that offer these approaches will tell you that they are sanding away the mold roots. However this is simply not true! The roots of mold grow deep into the wood at least 3/16’s of an inch. If you actually tried to sand the wood that deeply you would end up doing structural damage to the roof. Well why do they do this you ask? They remove the pigment layer with these techniques and make the mold visually appear to disappear all the while leaving the roots intact and waiting for a drink. The companies who sand usually charge an arm and a leg for this as it is very labor intensive. It is an OK strategy for stain removal but it is NOT a permanent approach to mold removal.