The Mold Monster: Fact V. Fiction

Magazine ,

By Alexis Vilaboy

When you think of mold, do you imagine a relentless, living growth set on taking over multiple apartment units and draining your community’s finances?

Search the internet for answers to what exactly mold is, how it affects one’s health and budget, and what it takes to get rid of the dreaded nuisance, it is easy to get lost in sea of confusion and fear.

But industry experts tell us that there’s no need to worry. There are steps you can take to prevent the mold monster from knocking on an apartment door. Even if mold does happen, there are ways to combat it before it becomes a disaster.

What exactly is mold? “Mold is a living organism that belongs to the kingdom Fungi,” says Justin Mainit, who was a business development representative with Baxter Restoration for two years and is currently with Arbor Contract Carpet.. “Mold must gain nutrients from other organic substances by causing them to deteriorate.”

As scary as that sounds, says Steve Brown, vice president of restoration at Disaster One, keep in mind that mold is “natural and is a very important part of our ecosystem.” Although mold is a natural part of outside life, when it becomes part of inside life, it can have harmful effects on a resident’s home and health.

What are some damaging health effects if it goes untreated? Because mold produces allergens and irritants, the most common symptoms are watery eyes, headache, sneezing, and itching skin. These symptoms can be everyday annoyances, so it may be hard to realize there is a mold problem if it isn’t in a highly visible area of the home. Some more severe symptoms include fatigue, nose bleeds, ear pain, sinus infections, joint pain, and nausea, although these reactions can sometimes be delayed and are commonly not attributed to the mold problem.

How can mold be prevented? Brown offers these tips:

  • Service heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems often, and use HVAC and monitor humidity, not just temperature.
  • Keep humidity between 30 and 50 percent.
  • Educate residents to keep areas prone to repeated water use clean and dry: showers, tubs, sinks, windows that are prone to condensation, humidifiers, etc.

What do apartment residents/property managers most need to know about mold? “Mold does not go away by wiping with bleach,” Mainit says. “Err on the side of caution and always consult a professional. Mold remediation can be costly, but lawsuits from sick tenants and repairs to moldy structures are more so. When in doubt, have an air quality test performed.”

The main cause of mold growth is unnoticed or unresolved water issues, Mainit says. Once you have identified an issue, respond immediately and effectively. “Always use an IICRC certified company to dry out your units after a water issue,” he explains. “Not everyone who has blowers and dehumidifiers knows how to properly use them.” 

What is the typical step-by-step process to remove it? First, determine the extent of the problem. Mold remediation experts know what to look for. It’s also important to stop and fix the water or moisture issue. Then comes the remediation — remove damaged materials and thoroughly clean the contaminated area, washing and completely drying the area. Lastly, furniture and affected items are repaired or replaced once remediation is complete.

How much does treatment typically cost? Depending on the level of contamination, Brown says, remediation can cost anywhere from $2 to $6 per square foot, not including post-remediation repairs. Mainit adds that price can be affected by cause, mold species, and the types of materials affected.

If you want to keep the mold monster from moving into your community, enlist residents to help keep water-prone areas as dry as possible and report any water issues immediately.

If you do find yourself facing a mold issue, consult a professional right away, to minimize the problem and keep remediation costs as low as possible. That way, you can drag the mold monster into the daylight and kick it to the curb.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Multifamily Florida.