Addressing Mold In Historic Homes

24 August 2017
 Categories: , Blog

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Mold is one of the few things that can strike fear into any homeowner just upon its mention! Mold is difficult to treat and is one of those issues that can derail a future home sale just because a home once had it. There are very effective treatments to get rid of mold, but some of them can be quite intrusive. For modern homes, intrusive mold treatment may not be an issue. But, what if you have a historical home?

Mold Prevention

Old homes can be more susceptible to mold than homes built with modern materials. Insulation is often poor, and there may already be wood rot, improper ventilation, or even direct exposure to outer elements due to the ravages of time. Proper prevention and maintenance can help you to avoid a mold problem. These preventative techniques include:

  • Prompt attention to leaky or broken pipes. Water that is allowed to accumulate can seep through materials and lead to mold.
  • Replace poorly insulated windows. Modern windows come with sealant, double glass panes, and gas barriers between the panes to drastically reduce condensation and moisture within a home. Replacing old windows with modern equivalents that still have the historic "look-and-feel" can reduce moisture in the home and help to prevent mold. Also, since window replacement is reversible, it is possible to return to a more historic state of the home if desired.
  • Correct exposed and rotting wood.  All bare wood surfaces should be properly sealed. This can be paint or stain with a sealant. Replace rotting boards immediately to prevent mold from gaining a foothold.
  • Replace rusting or corroding metal.  Once a metal surface starts to corrode, it can become a vehicle for allowing water to enter the house. Rusted or protruding nails, for instance, can indicate a poor seal through which water can now enter the house.

Mold Removal

Sometimes, even the best diligence can't prevent mold from growing. Circumstances beyond your control, such as burst pipes in the wall or under the house, can lead to standing water that is not detected in time to prevent mold. When mold does grow in a historic home, you should engage an expert who knows how to preserve the historic nature of your home while still removing the mold. Common ways to address mold that is now present include:

  • Ensuring maximum ventilation. This is the most important means of clearing moisture. The historic home must be opened up to allow clean airflow to go throughout the house to aid in drying all water-damaged parts of the house. Avoid using industrial heaters because it could elevate the moisture level; that coupled with the higher heat could actually promote the growth of mold.
  • Opening walls and removing insulation.  Walls and insulation retain moisture and have no direct air flow. Based on the severity of the water damage, flooding, and mold, you may need to open up walls to allow air to dry affected areas.
  • Washing, rinsing, and drying moldy surfaces.  You don't want to use harsh chemicals on moldy surfaces for fear of damaging a historic structure. Some of the most common cleaning agents used are ammonia, dishwasher detergent, and trisodium phosphate (TSP). Don't repaint or cover cleaned surfaces until they have been fully air-dried and an anti-fungal has been applied!
  • Removing carpet or fabric where mold is growing.  Carpet and fabric should never be placed in an area with poor ventilation in an old house, especially if it is in an area where moisture can accumulate (such as a wash room or bathroom). Remove all moldy carpet and fabric, thoroughly clean the surface underneath, and put a historically acceptable flooring down that can handle the moisture to replace what was removed. This can also mean just removing any area rugs that you had over the area.
  • Fix the root cause of the moisture.  Moisture can come from a variety of sources, such as broken pipes, condensation, or poor basement integrity, just to name a few.  Cleaning up the mold without fixing the source just leads to a recurring problem.

Contact a company like Authorized Services for more information and assistance.