So You’ve Got Mold In Your Attic? Now What? Simple Strategies For Understanding and Correcting Attic Mold
(Note- Mold can be extremely toxic to your health and you may spread it around to other parts of the home where it will stay without proper clean-up, we suggest attic mold remediation ‘ attic mold removal ‘ should only be performed by a trained professional with strong credentials)
Attic mold is extremely common in our Northern climate. Attic mold is generally directly attributable to 3 basic causes:
1. Lack of adequate ventilation or improper ventilation.
2. Existing or past roof or flashing leaks.
3. Ice damming as a result of inadequate insulation and failure to incorporate “Ice Guard” along the eves.
4. Improperly exhausted bathroom fans and or dryer vents.
We will briefly discuss each problem and the appropriate remedy as well as covering the basic abatement strategies offered by “so-called” professionals and why our ‘recommended’ process makes more sense.
By far the most common cause of all attic mold is improper ventilation. Let’s start by explaining that in most attics the mold does NOT grow in the summertime. This is because during the spring summer and early fall months the daytime temperature of the attic is far to warm for the mold to effectively grow and the humidity levels inside the attic are typically too low to allow for mold growth. Most mold will only grow between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Some molds that belong to a special class of mold (the ones usually affecting northern climate attics) called the Chrysophile molds will grow in temperatures as low as the 20’s.
HOW THE MOLD GROWS
During the winter months when we heat our homes, some of the heat is inevitably lost into the un-heated attic space. This hot air mass then moves upward where it will dissipate outside if the attic is properly vented. If however the attic is poorly vented the hot trapped air will encounter the cold surface of the underside of the roofing boards or sheathing. This hot -air- meets- cold-surface results in dew-point being achieved. This dew-point created condensation and is often more noticeable on the nails as the nails are more efficient at conducting the cold temperature from outside. The condensation then forms water droplets which can drip onto the floor of the attic or worse sometimes run down into the wall cavities below resulting in potentially “hidden ” mold which can be the source of frustrating to diagnose health problems.
Often a roof will have sufficient roof ventilation but the soffits (eves) are not vented. Even more common when a house receives new siding the siding contractor will install vented soffit panels giving the eves the appearance of being vented when in reality they are not, as no holes were ever cut into the plywood covering the bottom of the eves. Sometimes the attic is ventilated properly but an overzealous attempt to insulate has blocked the air flow from the soffits to the ridge preventing proper ventilation. An easy way to check whether or not the vents are there or are functioning properly is to go up into the attic on a sunny day, extinguish all lights and look for daylight coming in along the edges. A well ventilated attic should allow visible daylight in along the edges.
What is the best way to vent the roof?
Roof ventilation is divided into two categories: Incoming air and Outgoing air.
Incoming Air: The most effective way for air to enter the roof is through vents that are placed in the soffits along the eves. Continuous strip vents provide the most reliable ports as well as rectangular vents. Round ventilator plugs are easy to install but are usually to small to provide adequate air flow.
Outgoing air: Stale or heated air escapes through the top of the roof. There are many ways to achieve sufficient ventilation including: Ridge Vents, Turbines or Powered Vents, Box Vents and Gable End Vents. Continuous ridge vents are the preferred method for eliminating built up hot air but may not be sufficient to ventilate short ridged roofs like hip roofs.
Ventilating heated attics or cathedral ceilings properly is often neglected during initial construction. This often results in ceiling drywall growing mold on the back side when the builder fails to vent and baffle the area behind the ceiling insulation and drywall.
Roof leaks always need to be addressed by a professional roofer and special attention needs to be paid to flashings around chimneys and indeed any penetration found in the roof decking. Flashings often require maintenance between roof shingling jobs and are extremely important to maintain. Roof leak can often develop into festering mold problems both in the attic cavity or WORSE inside of hidden wall cavities in the home.
Ice Damming occurs along the eves immediately above the plate-line of the exterior walls. Leakage in this area easily penetrates into wall cavities where it can become trapped between exterior finish materials and interior vapor barriers. A surprisingly small amount of water can raise the relative humidity of a wall cavity to damaging levels. Mold growth may eventually become visible along the wall base as it penetrates from exterior to interior wall surfaces. More critically spore and VOCs (Volitile Organic Compounds) released by mold can aggravate serious health problems in the houses occupants. Especially at risk are the very young and the old as well as Allergy -sensitive or immuno-compromised adults. In some mild cases ventilation corrections are enough to cure the problem in severe cases the roof shingles must be removed and strips of “Ice – Guard” be installed along the eves to prevent damming. In severe cases the exterior wall drywall must be removed and the wall cavities treated as well.
Improperly vented bathroom fans: Bathroom fans and dryer vents can generate a lot of moisture. They should always be vented directly up and out through the roof. Often times builders or do it your selfer’s will discharge fans or dryer discharges directly into the attic, greatly increasing the overall humidity. Do-it-your selfer’s often try to connect more than one fan into a discharge and will commonly run the discharge out to the eves or soffits rather than straight up and out through the roof. The remedy is simple one fan one roof vent directly vertically up through the roof overhead. On the outside the vent has a hat and is not a risk for water leaks
HOW DO I TREAT THE MOLD?
Unfortunately there are as many “treatments” for mold as there are remediators out in the real world offering “mold remediation”. Attic mold problems are especially challenging for a homeowner to solve as the mold industry has no National Guides so the list of options is confusing and often indecipherable with the average “mold guy” promising the latest craze. Mold spores can grow at alarming rates. One mold spore can develop into 12 million in twelve hours! Also the mold is feeding on the boards, and what you can see with the naked eye are millions and millions of them clumped together. What you can’t see are the “roots” The organism itself. The roots of mold grow into the substrate at least 3/16 of an inch. What we think of as the mold the clumped spores are actually the fruit or reproductive body like an apple to an apple tree. You cannot hope to solve a mold problem leaving these roots and treating only the surface of the wood. Also the majority of the chemicals being used on the market today contain known cancer causing chemicals and worse do not work on porous surfaces (every surface in an attic). The mold certifying authorities recommend putting the attic under negative pressure. This means using expensive equipment to suck more air into the attic than escapes from it. The next recommendation is to remove the insulation into plastic bagged which are taped shut. Then to HEPA vacuum the attic boards trusses and ceiling. Next manually wash all of the same areas with a detergent solution. Finally to correct the ventilation issues.
The Problem: This is an extremely man hour intensive process that costs a ton of money. it also does nothing to address the spores (mold seeds) or to address the roots ( the organism itself). Additionally when you correct the ventilation you bring new spore into the attic every single day. The other contractors in the area use a variety of techniques that can be broken into three main groups: the fog and Encapsulators (spray and spray painters) the bleach and ozonators and the franchise users.
First group- the fog and encapsulators: by far the most common these contractors will tell you that all that is necessary is to go into the attic and fog a “magic” chemical and then to encapsulate the mold using a poisoned mold inhibiting paint. Many of these charlatans will not even admit that their encapsulant is a paint. Usually the paint has a heavy metal added to it like copper or tin or zinc. Sometimes they have a toxic chemical added to them to discourage mold growth.
The problem: These contractors almost exclusively use fungicides that are not sporicidal. This means that they do not kill spores and most of them will not penetrate a porous substrate (like wood). This means that when they apply the encapsulant they are applying it directly over the moldy roots. This is a huge no -no as the vapor barrier forming nature of latex paints can cause dew-point to be achieved between the paint and the wood itself. Have you ever seen what happens when you lay a piece of plastic sheeting or drop-cloth on the ground overnight in the summertime? Did you ever notice those beads of water or dew? That’s because the Earths temperature in the summertime is cooler than the outdoor air. Precisely what happens when you treat an mold attic with any kind of paint. The paint begins to de-laminate and I have seen mold growing directly on Mold-proof paint! We have had to re-treat over 40 of these attic mold jobs in the last year alone!
The bleach and ozonators: these contractors will go into the attic and spray bleach onto the wood. The reason is to remove the stains, many of these companies will not admit they are using bleach! Just ask them what the active ingredient is in their “stain remover” if it is sodium hypochlorite ” its bleach. These contractors usually refuse to warranty their work and they will claim that the Ozone cannons they use will turn the spores into ash.
The problem: Bleach has an ion structure that prevents it from penetrating into a porous substrate like wood, this means it leaves the roots un-harmed. It also releases a powerful environmental toxin called Dioxin. While the ozone cannons will destroy the chemicals off gassed by the bleach this technique leave the complete root structure intact and guarantees that if you ever have a new water leak the mold will go right into full production and the mold problem will immediately return.
The Franchisors: These contractors have bought into a “system” most often using toxic chemicals which can harm you and your family.
The problem: Often their warranties aren’t worth the paper they are printed on as they only agree to replace the chemicals if they fail. Usually the fine print in the warranty makes it worthless. Often these are money seekers who use low dollar labor as the owners bought into the franchise so they didn’t have to work on the job (just like subway shops) I discovered to my surprise about 6 years ago that the chemicals that were being used by my so-called competitors (and indeed by most of the industry) not only DIDN’T WORK on porous surfaces… which is about EVERY surface that mold would grow on in a house. I also figured out that most of these chemicals contain NO ingredients that KILL the spores (the most important but hardest things to kill) and also …that they leave behind RESIDUAL TOXIC CHEMICAL POISONS that in some case are WORSE than the poisons the MOLD makes!
Yikes! I found this out the hard way, cause in the beginning, believe it or not, I used the same old chemicals that everyone else in the industry STILL USES! And you know how I found out? I had three “special Ladies” that got sick from the chemicals I used in their homes. I call these ladies “special” because due to living with extremely TOXIC mold, they developed a RARE condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder. Ever heard of it ? I hadn’t. I can honestly say that I thought they were trying to get money back for a job WELL DONE. But…
Since I had three of them in a row, I decided to try and see if there might be anything to their claim of sickness. I discovered that their noses worked actually much BETTER than a “regular” persons nose (someone without multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder). HMMM! I began to theorize that maybe I was POISONING ALL OF MY CUSTOMERS, but our “regular noses” just couldn’t smell it. I quickly began to research. Just what was in those chemicals? After all, they were EPA approved and biodegradable. What I discovered truly SHOCKED THEN HORRIFIED ME…
The EPA routinely approves products that contain known carcinogens (those are CANCER CAUSING chemicals) … I was AGHAST! I quickly realized that I need to do some research and change the chemicals that I used -FAST! So I got together with some of the countries top scientists. I met many very, very smart people who had already devoted their ENTIRE LIVES to the cause. I read TONS of material about mold and the different ways to KILL MOLD. I took ALL of the good ideas that I learned from all these sources and EXPERTS and… Then I FUSED them all together into a system that is absolutely LETHAL to mold but remains SAFE for your entire family! In fact it leaves behind NO known residual poisons that can make people sick. It cost me a FORTUNE to do. Our System: The first thing we do is isolate the attic from the rest of the house. Next we SATURATE all of the moldy trusses and sheathing with a disinfectant the uses the amazing power of Hydrogen Peroxide natures miracle disinfectant. The reason we start with this is when mold is senses it is being attacked it releases its spore into the air, a phenomenon called bursting or sporulation. Hydrogen Peroxide is unique among the mold killing chemicals as it is the only liquid I know that will completely destroy a spore (mold seed). This way we kill the spores before they can spread all over. Next we apply the stain removing solution. This is absolutely a must, because while truly only cosmetic in nature, failure to apply the stain remover will result in untrained eyes (home inspectors ) believing that the mold is still active. Next and most important to the warranty and long term efficacy of the process we actually impregnate the wood with an environmentally friendly solution of borate called ENVIROTECH WP. This is made from extremely finely ground and specially designed for dissolving borax a cousin to the old fashioned 20 mule team we use in our laundry. This product is absolutely amazing. It was designed to penetrate the substrate a full inch (remember mold roots only grow 3/16’s of an inch into the wood). It not only prevents all hosts of decay and dry rot fungi but it also prevents wood boring insects carpenter ants and termites.
Imagine you get a complete two for one bonus mold proofing and bug proofing in one fell swoop! Then we even dry fog the powdered ENVIROTECH WP all over the insulation. Lastly I discovered that the scientists at Los Alamos national laboratory have extensively studied how to decontaminate a civil facility like a house that has been contaminated by a spore based pathogen like toxic mold. The scientists concluded that if you only follow the guidelines recommended for mold that you will leave the structure contaminated with spore. They conclude that in order to fully decontaminate the structure/ area it is absolutely necessary to fill it full of toxic levels of a reactive gas like ozone. While other mold guys are still using poisonous ozone gas we use a specialty gas called ARAN. Which is a gas made of isotopes of pure oxygen that go all the way up to O14 which is far more reactive and far less poisonous to people. This gas penetrate the nooks and crannies and crevices in the attic where the liquid based chemicals/products can’t penetrate guaranteeing the destruction of any spores we remediators might have missed because we can’t see them (ten thousand spore can fit on the head of a pin). Finally we fog out our staging areas and any other areas of the property we’ve utilized guaranteeing we completely eliminate all threats to occupants.
So to recap:
1. Kill the mold with a special Hydrogen Peroxide based disinfectant.
2. eliminate the stains.
3. impregnate the wood and insulation with a non-toxic borate solution that prevents mold wood borers carpenter ants and termites.
4. Gas out the rest of the attic to eliminate the spore we missed.
This process is far more effective and contains more steps than any other company in our east coast area. We are so sure of it we offer the very best warrantees in the industry to protect our customers liabilities.
You Can’t Imagine How Many Times I’ve Heard Of Mold Re-occurring After Expensive Treatments From Basements STILL leaking following Expensive Mold Clean Up Projects and Attics Having Uncorrected Ventilation issues After Being Treated.
Attic Mold Remediation or Attic Mold Removal Should Be Performed By A Certified Trained Professional With Proper Protection, and Environmental Controls.
I hope This Article Saves You From Throwing Good Money Away, and risking your Health on failed, phony methods
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