Black Mold and Dry Rot: Putting your Home at Risk
A simple search of the Internet will reveal pictures of homes damaged by black mold. Much of the time, the damage is not discovered until renovation of the home is in progress. When people remodel the bathroom, for example, which is one of the best growing environments for black mold, they discover when old tubs, shower stalls and fixtures are removed that black mold has invaded their homes. Changing plumbing behind interior walls also leads to the discovery of toxic black mold, due to water pipes either sweating in high humidity situations, or from possible leaking of the plumbing.
This is not an unusual circumstance. Black mold will grow in any area of the home that is dark and humid. It only needs four things to establish itself: a source of oxygen, moisture, temperatures in a range conducive to growth, and a food source. Conditions for the growth of black mold are not critical - it only needs relative humidity levels to be above 55 to 65 percent and temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit to establish a colony. Since black mold feeds on cellulose, and nearly all homes are constructed of wood and wood byproducts, the entire home may be at risk if the conditions are right for growth. And because black mold feeds on cellulose, the resulting damage leads to dry rot.
Dry rot is nothing more than wood and wood products that have been exposed to mold and moisture, which then breaks down in composition, requiring replacement due to structural damage and home hazards. If, for example, the bathroom floor is damaged by dry rot because of carpeting installed in the bathroom, and the problem goes unnoticed, the likelihood of a person being injured due to the floor caving in is a very real threat, especially in older homes. The same can apply to kitchen areas, where appliances are typically heavy and require a lot of space, thus hiding areas of dry rot. A refrigerator that "sweats" or possibly leaks moisture in the kitchen area is a good source of dry rot in the home. A tiny leak in plumbing under the sink, left unnoticed and unattended to, can accomplish the same thing.
Beyond health and safety hazards, the cost of replacing interior walls, flooring and subflooring due to dry rot is significant. Even though many homes are renovated over a period of years, if dry rot damage is present and goes unnoticed, costs for repair and reconditioning almost double.
The prevention of black mold, and the subsequent dry rot from exposure to mold, is really not rocket science. One only needs to inspect the home on a regular basis to determine if water damage is present, and do everything needed to prevent moisture from damaging the home. Routine inspections by a professional should be done on a regular basis - not just when a home is being purchased. Because black mold grows in dark, moist areas, these areas are often overlooked by the busy homeowner. It is only when interior damage is discovered after prolonged exposure to black mold, or health issues arise, that steps are taken to correct the situation.
By closely monitoring the home for moisture damage, high humidity, and noticing odd smells in the home, damage control can be established. Routine inspections of the attic, crawl space and basement, where most plumbing is evident, leads to a safer healthier home. And because we constantly live in an environment where molds and spores are present, by following a few simple guidelines, we can protect both our health and home investment.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.