Mold is a fungus that is, technically, everywhere. It grows and becomes a problem in areas that are damp and humid—like the backside of drywall in a small bathroom or under the floor above a crawlspace.

Many homeowners are finding that their home is more susceptible to the growth of mold due to the energy-efficient construction. Homes that are well sealed against drafts may prevent an HVAC system from overworking itself, but it also restricts the natural movement of air in the home, encouraging the environment desired by mold spores.

Mold only requires three simple conditions to be met: warm temperatures, organic material to grow on and feed off of, and moisture. Most homes, no matter what they keep the thermostat on, often have the right temperature to encourage mold growth. As for organic material—that could be anything from drywall and flooring to the dust settling on the baseboards. Moisture can be present without a leak or flood, something as simple as high humidity in your home (or an area of your home, like a bathroom) can help meet the trifecta of needed conditions.

Is the mold in my home dangerous? Will it make me or my family sick?

Most of the mold found indoors is non-toxic but may cause reactions similar to that of allergies: runny nose, congestion, or sinus irritation. For those who are already sensitive to environmental factors, common mold may worsen their symptoms. Common mold is typically identified by a musty smell and sometimes accompanied by visible signs such as water damage or the discovery of the mold source as well.

Stachybotrys chartarum, the scientific name for toxic mold is rarely present in homes that are occupied and is caused by an extensive, long-term moisture problem. This isn’t to say it can’t occur in an occupied home, it just that most moisture problems are identified before toxic mold sets in. It is important to note that although many refer to toxic mold as “black mold”, mold is actually colored by the organic material it consumes, not by the strain of fungus that it is. So, you cannot truly identify a mold without testing it.

Steps to Resolve Mold

For small areas (the EPA recommends home treatment for areas smaller than 10 square feet), mold can be cleaned up and the area treated to remove the mold. A solution of detergent and bleach usually does the trick to remove mold and many stores sell a pre-mixed mold solution that works just fine. The most important thing to remember is to change the environment to prevent future mold regrowth—which means controlling the moisture presence in the room or area.