Mold’s Water Source
Within the earth’s water cycle, water moves from the ground to the air and then back to the ground again. In this process, it changes from solid to liquid to gas, over and over again. Pure water is tasteless, odorless, and colorless and it can exist in three states including solid (ice), liquid, or gas (vapor). Solid water is frozen water. When it freezes, the molecules within water move farther apart, making ice less dense than water. That is why ice floats in water. Water freezes at 0° Celsius, 32° Fahrenheit. Because mold only thrives between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re probably not surprised to know that solid water creates no risk of mold.
Gas Water is vapor present in the air. It is a less obvious source of moisture resulting from the effect of temperature gradients (temperature differences). It is more obvious in regions where warm and moist air comes in contact with cooler surfaces. Just as water condenses on the outside of a cool glass of water, these conditions can cause water vapor to condense on building surfaces. When relative humidity is elevated indoors, building materials and furnishings can trap the moisture. In turn, these dampened materials provide a place for mold to thrive. If there are no cold condensing surfaces and the relative humidity is maintained at or below 60 percent, there is not enough water for mold to take hold. Likewise, if the relative humidity is maintained above 70 percent, mold will grow. In the summer, air conditioning can dehumidify indoor space. But if the system is too large or too small for the space it serves, the cooling system can create high humidity by cooling without removing water vapor. A properly sized and maintained system will dehumidify and cool a building. Clothes dryers should be vented to the outdoors. Unvented space heaters can generate substantial water vapor and as a result, should infrequently be used. Homeowners should remember to run the bathroom exhaust fan when showering or bathing to avoid excessive vapor. Equally important, a kitchen’s exhaust fan will remove vapors created while cooking.
Mold can be hidden inside walls or under a house, in the attic, or under a carpet and as such may not show the slightest sign of its existence. Additionally, many property owners do not know what mold looks like. For example, they don’t understand the slight staining in a window sill or the flaking paint on the ceiling in the corner of a room could mean mold is present. The fact is that it is very common for sellers to be unaware of mold problems that exist on their property. When they have chronic headaches or frequently experience allergy-like symptoms, it’s easy for the human condition to simply chalk it up to seasonal allergies or even age. As a real estate agent, you own the responsibility of reasonably working to identify mold problems on behalf of the seller and/or the buyer.