Mold from Water Damage

The growth of mold is one of the biggest threats caused by water damage in your home. When water accumulates due to leaks or flooding, mold can grow quickly, potentially causing extensive (and expensive) damage to your home’s structure.

Once mold starts to grow, it can become airborne and affect the health of you or your family members. Among the many health risks posed by mold exposure are respiratory problems like asthma, allergic reactions, sinus congestion and skin irritation.

It is critical for you, the homeowner, to understand the risks of mold from water damage so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent mold growth when possible, and to clean and remediate the mold damage when it does occur.

What is Mold?

Mold is a type of fungus, or a simple, living organism. Yeast and mushrooms are types of fungi that are edible. Some molds have beneficial properties and uses, like the molds that are used to make penicillin and other antibiotics. But any mold that grows in your home after water damage poses risks to your home’s structural integrity and may be hazardous to your health.

Mold grows in damp, dark areas. In your home, it may be found in places like attics, basements, and bathrooms. Mold may appear around windows and doors, particularly those that aren’t properly insulated.  Mold can grow on almost any type of surface including wood, fabric, paper, paint, tile, and more.

mold from water damageMold in basement after flooding

Health Risks from Mold

Mold is frequently a source of cold-like symptoms because it acts as an allergen. Mold spores can travel by air and be inhaled, which triggers the allergic reaction. People sensitive or allergic to molds might deal with sneezing, nasal and sinus congestion, sore throats, itchiness, watery eyes and asthma symptoms like wheezing and coughing. Over time, exposure to the mold spores can increase these symptoms. Fortunately, removing mold from the home usually provides relief. 

Sneezing and coughing may seem minor compared to some of the more serious risks of mold exposure. Certain molds can cause even worse reactions or infections. For example, fusarium can cause a nail infection called onychomycosis or an infection of the cornea called keratomycosis. The mold bipolaris has been found to cause a serious infection of the sinuses that can spread to the skin, eyes, or whole body. Rhizopus can sometimes cause a serious infection in immuno-compromised people called mucormycosis, which can be extremely dangerous if it spreads to the lungs or brain. Some molds are neurotoxins, affecting the nerves and brain, and others are even thought to cause cancer from longer term exposure.

Mold from water damage in the home is often thought to be a structural concern for homeowners, but protecting the health and safety of you and your family matters even more. Addressing mold issues as soon as they are discovered is critical for avoiding health consequences from mold exposure.

What Do You Do If You Find Mold?

If your home has experienced water damage, after you clean up the water, look for mold growth. It may not appear right away, and can grow even if you think you’ve completely dried out the water damage. Check the damaged areas frequently for evidence of mold until you are certain there is no mold growing.

Mold can be green, orange, white, brown or black, and all shades in between. It may be fuzzy or smooth, and can be found as a small patch or a large area of growth. It can grow on walls and floors, sheetrock or drywall, ceiling tiles, studs, trusses and beams, carpet, furniture, and personal belongings. Indeed, anywhere there has been water damage is a potential breeding ground for mold.

Once you’ve identified the presence of mold from water damage, you need to work quickly to remove it. The longer mold is allowed to grow undisturbed, the bigger the problem and the greater the risks to your home and your health.

Cleaning Up Mold from Water Damage

If you are able to find mold growth quickly after experiencing water damage in your home, it may be a small amount that you decide you can remove yourself. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that homeowners only attempt to clean or remove mold in an area 3 feet by 3 feet or smaller. Any larger area than that should be handled by a professional mold remediation specialist. Also, if the mold was caused by contaminated water, or is in your HVAC system, it should be removed by a professional.

To attempt to remove mold yourself, make sure you have the proper personal protection equipment, including gloves, goggles, a tyvek suit and an N-95 mask to avoid inhaling mold spores. You’ll need materials such as tape and plastic sheeting to contain the mold as you clear the damaged area. Mold dust should be vacuumed using a HEPA-filtered vacuum. In addition, you’ll need extra thick plastic bags to carry the moldy materials out of your house in so that you don’t accidentally spread mold to other parts of your home.

If the mold has already grown over an area larger than 10 square feet or is in a hard to reach part of your home such as the sub-flooring, we recommend that you work with a specialist. Paying a professional to remove the mold in your home will ensure that all the mold is removed, even that which can’t be seen by the naked eye yet. It will give you peace of mind that your family’s health is no longer at risk.

Repairs due to water damage and resulting mold problems may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. If you experience water damage and mold growth, contact your insurance company to find out if you are eligible to file a claim for reimbursement.

How to Get Help

If you have experienced water damage and suspect you have a mold problem, get immediate, 24-hour assistance by calling 877-960-0491. You will be connected to local, experienced professionals to answer questions and help you get assistance to deal with mold from water damage.

Additional Reading:

Homeowners Insurance and Mold - How to know if mold in your home is covered by your homeowners insurance policy. Covered perils, what won't be covered, flood information, how to file a claim.

Mold Odor Removal - A damp, musty smell is indicative of a mold problem in your home. Causes of mold, finding hidden mold, removing the mold and getting rid of the odor.

Mold Allergy Symptoms - How to know if mold in your home is causing your allergy symptoms. Finding mold, safe removal, allergy symptom relief...

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CDC - Mold Cleanup