Mold is one of the most subtle and insidious problems a property can develop. It is an issue most people don’t even think about when they’re performing basic home maintenance. However, mold is a serious threat to the structure of the home and to the health of the occupants inside.
As an agent for a property management company, it falls to you to ensure that the buildings you are in charge of are free from preventable defects and life-threatening hazards. For those who might discount the threat posed by mold, remember that black mold spores can disintegrate the walls of a home or office, and cause the occupants to have lethal allergic reactions.
Preventing mold in a building can be a full-time job, so it may be difficult for you to completely prevent the intrusion of mold into a building, but here are a few tips that can help you prevent a catastrophic mold buildup from threatening the building.
Tip #1: Inspect the Gradient of the Property
A critical problem that contributes to the growth of mold spores is moisture. In wet or rainy areas, a property that does not have sufficient drainage can have water pool against its sides. This water can seep through miniscule gaps in between the foundation and the walls, allowing moisture, and inevitably mold, to get into the property.
To prevent this, you should inspect the gradient of the ground around the property, and, if necessary, install extra drainage channels around the building to carry off excess water so that it doesn’t pool against the building too much. This will help to protect the foundation of the structure from water and mold intrusion.
Tip #2: Clean the Gutters
This tip is especially important in the fall and winter months, when dying tree leaves and wind-blown debris can become stuck in the roof gutters so easily. When leaves and other degradable objects are stuck in the gutters, not only do they being to decay, promoting bacteria and mold growth, they also clog the gutters, preventing water from flowing away from the roof and into your prepared drainage properly. This water stands, becomes stagnant, and provides a breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and unwanted insects.
The easiest way to deal with this is to grab a ladder and brush, and clean the gutters out (assuming the gutters are low enough to reach with a ladder). Doing so can help reduce both the mold and insect population of the property.
Tip #3: Regulate the Humidity
Make a point of checking the humidity content of the home during your inspection. The EPA recommends keeping “indoor humidity below 60 percent (ideally between 30 and 50 percent) relative humidity.” Thankfully, proper humidity-measuring equipment is relatively cheap, being somewhere between 10 and 50 dollars at most stores.
If you find that the humidity in the home is abnormally high, then try to find the source of the excess humidity. For example, the bathroom is a common problem spot for moisture, so check there. If the bathroom does not have an exhaust vent, install one to carry away the excess moisture in the air and reduce the chance of mold build-up in the home.
If you do not have access to a humidity meter, check the windows, walls, and pipes in the home for evidence of condensation. If the glass is misty or there are water droplets forming on the cold water lines in the home, that is a strong indicator that there is too much moisture in the air.
Also, check any devices that produce a lot of steam or moisture during their operation, such as the dishwasher, the clothes washer and dryer, or even the oven. Are these moisture hazards being properly vented to the outside? Or, are they releasing their excess humidity directly into the home? If the building does not have ventilation for these common household devices, investigate the cost of installing vents that lead to the exterior to reduce moisture in the home.
If the home has air conditioning units, check them for evidence of mold spores. Keep the moisture drip trays clear of excess water, and make sure that any filters in the system are replaced on a regular schedule.
Tip #4: Keep the Temperature up/Check the A/C
Speaking of the air conditioning, mold spores like a cool, damp environment. When a central A/C unit goes unused for several months (such as during winter, even in Florida), dust particles get a chance to settle, air stops circulating through the ducts, moisture sits unseen, and mold gets the perfect opportunity to propagate.
To mitigate this, keeping the heating system active can help to prevent mold from forming in the ducts. Or, you can inspect the A/C regularly for signs of mold on vent surfaces and in the components of the core unit (fan, coil, and fiberglass lining). The A/C itself is one of the highest-risk items for mold in the home, as it not only can develop mold, but can then distribute it throughout the property to impact every resident therein.
Tip #5: Check the Basement, Attic, and Roof
One of the largest spaces in a home that goes without regular inspection can be either the basement or the attic. Thankfully, many buildings in Florida lack a full basement, but that does not mean that you should not worry about mold intrusion on the ground floor.
More of a concern in Florida, especially in residences, is the attic. The roofs of Florida buildings have been sorely tested in recent years, and more than one home’s roof has failed Mother Nature’s stringent stress-testing. Roofing tiles can become peeled or torn loose by high winds and torrential rains, and that opens a path for moisture to invade through the roof. This moisture can be found from the inside by checking the ceiling of the building and the attic for evidence of discoloration.
You can check the roof for damage fairly easily. However, if the roof is extensively damaged, such as there are holes in it, do not perform the inspection yourself, have a professional contractor help you at this point. Such holes indicate weaknesses in the roof’s integrity, which can give way unexpectedly and cause grievous bodily harm.
Should there be damage to the roof, try to find a way to temporarily patch it on the spot to prevent further moisture intrusion, and then either repair the damage yourself, or enlist the services of a contractor to make sure that the repairs are as permanent as possible.
Tip #6: Get the Occupants Involved
As always, when you are a property manager, you cannot always be there to prevent disasters from occurring. Because of this, it is vital that you get the tenants in the building involved in the upkeep of the residence. Make sure that they understand their responsibilities in keeping mold out of the building, and make yourself available for contact should an issue arise. Do not rely on the tenants to understand or know what the rental/lease contract requires of them as occupants, spell it out for them. This way, they’ll be more motivated to take care of the property when you’re absent, and can know what to expect:
In Case of Emergency…
If you arrive to find that there is already a catastrophic level of mold damage to the building, contact a professional right away. Clear out the occupants for their own health and safety, finding them temporary housing as appropriate to your contract while the restoration crew goes to work. Hopefully, they will be able to rehabilitate the structure quickly and get your building’s occupants back on track as soon as possible.
If you have questions about how to prevent mold in your managed properties, or have need of assistance in dealing with excessive mold, don’t hesitate to contact us right away before the damage gets worse.