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July 2019
It’s vital to look into your attic annually, looking for any signs of moisture intrusion, roof leaks, and insufficient ventilation.  Why is this important?  Because moisture leads to a host of issues, one of the most common being mold growth on structural elements in the attic areas. 

This issue is discovered and called out by home inspectors and real estate appraisers alike and, truth be told, it’s expensive to repair and remediate.  The sooner it is discovered, the less expensive the issue is to repair.  I would estimate it’s present in 30 percent of homes I inspect, so it’s a prevalent issue.

To help people tackle the problem, I’ve written a blog article about it, interviewed experts (see below) and recorded a podcast specifically discussing this issue (to be launched soon, so stay tuned!).  

The salient take-home points are that it’s common, it can be repaired, and it’s usually not an indoor air quality or health concern.  If your attic doesn’t look like new construction (e.g., if building components are starting to turn black, white or green), it’s a good idea to get it inspected and repaired by a qualified professional sooner than later because—when you sell your home—it’s most likely going to be an issue you’ll need to address.


- Tim Hance

3 Questions:
Mold Issues with
Cleaner Guys

Every month, we seek to bring our readers insight from the worlds of home construction, home repair, and home maintenance straight from local Northwest Washington contractors in a segment we call “3 Questions.” Yep, you guessed it: we ask three questions, and the contractors answer them.
 
This month, we talk about mold in the attic with Bob Shupe, Principal at Cleaner Guys in Mount Vernon.
 
Q1: Mold: It’s a hot topic and frequently discovered in attics above homes in the Pacific Northwest.  Is this a health issue for the home’s occupants?
 
Unfortunately, the answer has to be “maybe.” There are numerous variables involved with making a determination like that where the occupants of a home are concerned. Generally, mold in an attic space is not an immediate health concern/risk for the occupants simply due to the unlikely exposure to attic mold. People spend little or likely no time in their attic so they would not be directly exposed to it. Additionally, most health risks associated with mold are chronic exposure issues, not acute exposure. An example of chronic exposure would be to have a bedroom in a basement where there is groundwater intrusion regularly causing active mold growth in a wall cavity. Because people spend many hours per day in their bedroom, an active mold problem in the walls could develop into a health problem. There are still many factors that contribute to this (including the general health of the person exposed, the severity of the mold problem, general home cleanliness, etc.). Significant risk multipliers would be pre-existing health issues such as respiratory or immune system conditions/disease etc.

(To see more of this response, visit the All Islands blog.)
 
Q2: In your experience, what’s the most frequent cause of mold growth in attics?
 
All attic mold is caused by the same thing: the right growing conditions for mold. The key ingredient for mold growth is water. It is the key because, realistically, it is the only ingredient we can have a positive impact on. Like any plant, mold needs water, air, food and a temperature range appropriate for the species of mold. We build houses out of wood (food source), and the air is obviously present. Therefore, by controlling water issues, we can control mold growth. This means proper ventilation, no acute moisture sources such as leaks, bathroom vents blowing steam into the attic space, etc. Engineering controls can be put in place to give an attic better resistance to higher levels of water and water vapor—but it’s always best to prevent water from entering initially. Building materials can be treated with mold-resistant coatings, powered fans can be installed to create high air flow rates—but if you have a bathroom fan blowing steam in the attic every time someone takes a shower, just fix that. If there is some mold as a result, it can be remediated. Once this occurs, this will likely be the end of it because both the cause and effect have been corrected. Sometimes, however, the cause cannot be adequately repaired, and so some degree of a long-term solution needs to be implemented.

(To see more of this response, visit the All Islands blog.)
 
Q3: Can you give an approximate average cost for remediation of mold in attics?
 
There really is no magic formula for arriving at the cost of a mold remediation project, especially in an attic. To properly conduct a mold remediation project you have to have containment set up to prevent cross-contamination (workers, tools, supplies, and equipment going in and out of the contaminated area to an un-contaminated area). We do this through building temporary structures in the house that isolate the work area from the home. We use large air filtration equipment to keep the work area and containment chambers under negative air pressure (vacuum) so that air migration is always from the work area (through a HEPA filter and then to the outdoors). Access to the attic space itself and then access around the attic weigh heavily on the cost of a project. If the mold is in a garage with no drywall ceiling or insulation and the roof is framed with rafters instead of trusses, the cost will be less. If the attic access is a small hatch in the ceiling of a closet and the roof is framed with trusses, the cost is going to be higher due to the additional time required to access all of the affected areas for cleaning/remediation. In addition to investigating the underlying cause of the mold/water sources, etc., it is crucial to assess the access to provide a comprehensive bid on work before bidding on the remediation project.
 
BONUS: What advice can you share with our audience about preventing mold growth in attics?

Always be aware of the conditions in your home, generally. Keep the roof/gutters clean and flowing. Ensure all vents/ducting and mechanical systems are functioning correctly. Ensure attic venting is open/free-flowing and adequate for your site and living conditions. If you don’t have an ability or interest in making sure all of these systems are working correctly, periodic inspection by a qualified party like Tim is well worth the cost compared to long-term water damage or mold problems.
 
About Cleaner Guys
 
Cleaner Guys is a well-established business in Mount Vernon that provides exceptional cleaning and restoration services.  As a fully licensed and bonded general contractor, the company also performs repair and reconstruction work, making it a one-stop-shop for property damage clean-up, restoration and remodeling projects.
 
The business specializes in water, fire, mold and wind damage restoration for clients in North Puget Sound. Cleaner Guys also offers carpet cleaning, tile/grout cleaning services and general project/site cleaning for both residential and commercial clientele.
 
For more information, visit http://cleanerguys.com.
 
A big “thanks” to Bob for his responses!

Do you have questions or comments about home inspections in general? Go “All” in and tweet us (@AIHomeInspect).
Copyright © 2019 All Islands Home Inspections, All rights reserved.


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