Morgan Sloane

Mould and your home

The tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, ruled by Rochale Coroner’s Court to be due to prolonged exposure to black mould in his home, has highlighted a problem that until now, largely gone under the radar.  Mould is a form of fungus and there are many types. Mould spores are everywhere at all times and just need the right conditions to grow: moisture is the main prerequisite, ideally in a dark and still environment but it will still thrive in well illuminated areas.  
Black mould is a generic term covering a wide range of species. It is associated with allergies, respiratory disease and immunological damage, particularly for children and the elderly as well as those with respiratory or skin problems or a weakened immune system. Mould has also been linked to the increasing prevalence of asthma.  
Government reaction to the coroner’s verdict has primarily focussed on social housing but mould can and does impact housing of all sectors, ages and types. Even modern homes in good condition can suffer from mould as, although in good order and well insulated, they are also well sealed and have low ventilation rates. 
Before a problem of mould can be eliminated, the source of moisture must be identified and dealt with.  It can be a physical failing of the building such as a leaking roof, damaged chimney flashings, penetrating dampness through solid walls, failed window and door sealant, absence or failure of a damp proof course or a missing or poorly detailed floor membrane, especially at wall junctions.  Leaks from water, heating and drainage systems are another common cause.
The most prevalent cause of mould in homes though, results from the actions and the simple presence of the occupiers as breathing, bathing, cooking and also more avoidable habits such as drying clothes indoors.  All produce significant amounts of water vapour in the air. This moisture laden air then pervades the home similarly to the smell of burnt food, resulting in condensation forming, often far from the original source.   
Condensation occurs when air carrying water vapour meets a colder surface that is at or below its dewpoint. This causes water droplets to form on the surface.  These and the resultant dampness and mould staining can often be seen around window and door openings where cold bridging can occur and at the base of external walls where it can be confused with rising or penetrating dampness or even be in combination.  Up at first floor ceiling level a band of mould growth is sometimes apparent at the junction with an outside wall. 
Condensation can also occur between materials and in cavities.  This is called interstitial condensation and can be especially harmful as it is out of sight. It can lead to extensive hidden mould growth on materials including plasterboard and timber.  More significantly, timbers can develop wet or dry rot.  Materials such as timbers and plasterboard that are heavily contaminated with mould often have to be replaced at significant cost. 
Black mould can develop just about anywhere but particularly thrives where air circulation is restricted.  So it is often hidden behind large items of furniture such as sofas, wardrobes and beds where these are placed against a wall, especially an outside one.  Mould, often in the form of mildew, can also develop on clothes in wardrobes, cupboards and drawers - especially if they are overfilled.   A musty, earthy or dank smell is often a giveaway even when the mould cannot be seen.  
The areas of the home where mould is most often found are the kitchen and bathroom, as cooking, bathing and showering are major sources of water vapour.   Simple actions can be very effective at preventing mould:

·         Install humidistat-controlled extractor fans in kitchens and bathrooms (or at the very least keep the doors to these rooms shut and open windows after and/or during cooking and bathing)
·         If you have to dry clothes indoors, use a dehumidifier
·         Leave trickle vents open
·         Leave a gap between large furniture and walls to allow air circulation 
·         Try to heat the home evenly (including unused rooms) to avoid large differences in temperature
·         Reduce the temperature and time taken for a shower 
·         Wipe away condensation when it forms and wipe down showers after use 
·         Treat mould as soon as it appears using proprietary fungicidal products to remove it and prevent it spreading  

Where dampness and/or mould are identified, it is important to establish the likely cause. If this cannot be done, then further specialist investigation should be advised.  This is where Morgan Sloane can help, with our extensive experience and dedicated damp / mould specialists we are well placed to advise you on the best course of action to remove this problem from your home.

Contact us today on 0800 161 5767 or enquire here

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