Mold makes me sick!

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When I was in first grade, my teacher told us that if we ever opened a container of food and found mold growing there, we should throw the whole container of food away immediately. “Don’t just scrape off the moldy part and eat the rest,” Mrs. Jensen said (that’s not her real name, by the way). “You should always throw away moldy food and never eat it.”

Fast forward to when I was a Boy Scout. On week-long Scouting trips to the canyons, lakes, and mountains of Utah, it can be hard to keep food fresh. During one trip, we found some of our food was moldy. Some of my twelve-year-old peers suggested we eat it anyway. Into my mind came the warning of my first grade teacher: “Don’t just scrape off the moldy part!” I didn’t eat the moldy food, and I warned my companions not to eat it either. Not all of them listened, and they suffered the consequences. Those of us who didn’t eat it didn’t get sick!

The truth is, most folks don’t realize how bad mold can really be. My first grade teacher saved me a severe illness—perhaps even saved my life. Certain kinds of mold can be deadly (especially black mold), and most mold will make you very sick. I assume you probably aren’t eating mold on a regular basis (if you are, I strongly suggest you stop!), but ingesting mold is not the only way to be affected by it. Mold spores in the air can make you ill if you breathe them.

But you don’t have mold spores floating around in the air, do you? I’ve been quite surprised—most people aren’t aware that they have mold growing in their house. During home inspections, we commonly find mold behind walls, in insulation, behind cabinets, in food storage rooms, and anywhere else where there is moisture, a food source, and just the right temperature. Whenever we go out to remediate mold, we always wear protective gear, seal off the area, and clean ourselves up afterward with special chemicals. Why? Because mold can cause respiratory problems, skin irritation, and pretty bad illnesses. I don’t want that for myself, and I definitely don’t want it for you. You wouldn’t eat mold. Why would you live with it in your home?

The Mysterious Water Leak

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Water damage and black mold

We had an interesting week with two separate clients calling about unknown water leaks. In both homes we found that there had been a small water leak, but from an unknown source. We did our normal routine—first a visual inspection, and second, we pulled out our protimeter. The protimeter is a great way for us to look behind the walls and get a better idea of where there is moisture. It does this by quickly penetrating the wall or floor with a radio wave.

In both homes we could see that there had been some  moisture behind the sheetrock or directly on the wall. The first home had another restoration company who had tried their best to find the water leak but was unable to pinpoint the problem. They had made a cut in the wall and taken out mold, but didn’t see any source of water. I’m sure it must have been baffling to them, as it was to us at first. But we kept searching. We pulled down the insulation form the wall in each home. When we did this in the second home, we found black mold and quickly set up a containment barrier with a Hepa filter. This is a precautionary step to prevent mold from spreading further.

Containment barrier: this helps seal in spores from black mold. Inside is a Hepa filter that removes harmful particles and debris.

We had hoped that without the insulation, we would easily be able to see the water leak. But removing the insulation did nothing to reveal the problem. Our mysterious water leak seemed to have no origin. We checked the wall with our camera and still saw no water pipe or leaking source.

It started to become apparent that our mysterious water leak was coming from the foundation wall of the home. Our inspection quickly lead us to the outside of the house. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We began spraying water down the outside of the foundation. Within minutes the foundation had sprung a leak, and we had found our culprit!

Foundation leak that caused both water damage and mold growth.

You couldn’t believe the shock and gratitude of each homeowner that we had found the source of the leak. We will now begin the steps for both mold remediation and well as water remediation. We found that a little dedication and detective work goes a long way when you’re helping someone in need…especially in the case of an unknown water leak!