By Michael Rubino
We have a nationwide problem with the way we build and maintain homes that leads to this poor air quality. In certain parts of the country, poor construction practices are leading to mold growth in new construction homes. When mold is present, mold spores create indoor air pollution. The average person takes 20,000 breaths per day and each one is an opportunity to put pollutants into your lungs and body and to increase health risks if you are exposed to air pollution, including mold spores.
The mold source doesn’t cause a person’s symptoms. It’s what that mold source created that enters the body and makes that person feel ill. As a mold remediator, I ask what my clients are going through because I’m genuinely interested. I hear about all kinds of symptoms, and for the most part, I’ll typically run into someone else later who has similar symptoms.
Allergy-like symptoms are what I most commonly hear about. But sometimes I hear about an auto-immune condition like psoriasis that came directly after moving into a specific house. Or I’ll hear about rashes and hives that they never had before a hurricane caused water damage. Sometimes they tell me about their brain fog, their fatigue, or other cognitive symptoms. I’m not there to be a doctor or to diagnose anyone, but I am genuinely interested in what they’re experiencing because it relates to helping them. And in my experience, once the mold sources are removed, symptoms disappear.
The good news is that the construction industry can help improve the health and wellness of our country.
Three ways contractors can take-action to build healthier homes are:
1. Properly install vapor barriers.
The vapor barrier is the home’s initial line of defense against moisture intrusion. A poorly installed vapor barrier will allow moisture or water to intrude. The slightest rip or tear can negate the purpose of the barrier and allow moisture intrusion, which can create an opportunity for mold to grow in between the concrete slab and the layers of material that you plan to install on top of the slab. Even the slightest tear could potentially lead to costly remediation in the future.
2. Store lumber better.
When you accept delivery of lumber, is it stored on the ground, exposed to moisture? If it sits there for weeks at a time before the crew is ready to erect the frame, odds are it will be exposed to the elements.
On the surface, this might not sound too bad, but from a scientific standpoint, mold is very common in the soil. When it rains, having the lumber resting in the mud can cause excess moisture to retain in the wood for much longer than 48 hours. This creates the perfect opportunity for mold to grow on the lumber considering mold can grow in as quickly as 48 hours.
A simple solution to prevent this would be to deliver the lumber on cribbing that can keep the lumber elevated off of the soil. From there it can be protected from the elements using tarps until the framers are ready to begin.
3. Dehumidify spaces before the lumber is installed.
There should be no moisture present as lumber is installed. This can be especially dangerous if you are utilizing spray foam as your preferred form of insulation. When you apply spray foam on lumber with high moisture content, the spray foam will keep that moisture present by trapping the moisture in between the wood and insulation. This causes another opportunity for mold to grow.
Implementing a dehumidification process to dry out space properly before installing any insulation or drywall will go a long way in ensuring that you don’t have any opportunity for mold to grow throughout the beginning stages of construction.
The awareness of the harmful effects mold has on the body is growing every year. Mold should be a priority concern for home builders. We need to all do our best to prevent this issue from occurring in new construction to keep our nation healthier.