Article by: Michael Rochon, P.Eng, Co-CEO.
We all want to maintain a healthy home living environment for our family with the best air quality and toxin free environment as possible. Additionally, we want to maintain our monetary value in our property to help ensure our family’s financial independence. An annual spring checkup is essential. As a Certified Mold Inspector and Professional Engineer, I would encourage you to get outside to see what damages or conditions have been caused by our exceptionally long harsh Canadian winter.
To help you look for trouble areas, I have outlined a basic inspection guide of what I look for during my engineering and mold inspections:
- Grade issues;
- All structural flaws, such as potential moisture intrusions into the building assembly;
- Areas of elevated moisture and pooling water;
- Prior water damage;
- Discoloured building materials;
- Storing of volatile organic chemicals; and
- Other information pertinent to moisture or water entry into the building.
Inspection of the landscaping against the foundation walls is critical. Plants trap moisture and do not allow the ground to dry out completely under a canopy. Keep plants away from the foundation walls and make sure the soil, interlock or concrete slabs have a negative grade away from the foundation wall to ensure water drains away from the house. Excessive overgrowth on buildings can be damaging. Foliage growing on brick facades of a building will not only deteriorate the brick and mortar joints, but can allow penetration of water, and entry points for insects, as well as the development of mold.
Flashing and caulking are very important in how the building assembly functions. Caulking and sealants close off an opening, whereas flashing promotes drainage out from construction joints and building assemblies. Flashing prevents water from flowing along wall surfaces by providing a drip edge. Examination of these areas should be thorough to ensure that they are optimally functioning as intended. Roof sheathing requires examination. Conditions that may cause water penetration and mold growth in the attic include cracked or worn shingles, shingles excessively curled upwards, as well as torn or missing shingles. Flat roofs have a tendency to leak if not constructed in accordance with the Ontario Building Code standards which includes a drainage system to ensure positive grade to prevent water pooling. Siding and gutter systems provide the first line of defense against water infiltration into the building assembly. Look for “warping” of siding, and “deterioration” due to wood rot or brick spalling which allow moisture into the wall assembly.
Water shedding occurs when the eavestrough system is damaged, blocked partially, or blocked completely. This condition will allow water to deposit and collect onto the ground next to the foundation walls. A second very common problem is the dropping of water from the downspout to the foundation wall rather than the water being piped away from the foundation wall. This could cause oversaturation against the foundation, which may result in water penetration into the basement or efflorescence on the interior side of the foundation wall. Often substances like efflorescence are mistaken for mold problems. Efflorescence is the deposits of water soluble salt (e.g., chlorides, nitrates, salts of vanadium, chromium and molybdenum) on the surface of masonry, stucco or concrete. It looks whitish and powdery.
One area people forget about is the sprinkler system. The sprinkler spray pattern can be affected by the winter condition and seasonal plant growth. If sprinkler heads are installed too close to perimeter walls or are not adjusted annually, they can cause capillary suction of water into building materials, moisture saturation, deterioration and consolidation of soil to create pooling of water against foundation walls. Window wells allow light into otherwise dark basement environments and provide an alternate means of exit in case of emergency. Unfortunately, very few people properly maintain their window wells. Leaves and other organic debris accumulate in these wells creating compost piles. Fungi, being the primary cellulose degrader on the planet, can colonize in the well. Furthermore, blockage of the drainage path down to the weeping tile system from improper maintenance can result in oversaturation of the foundation and accumulation of water up to the window that provides an entry point for water into the basement. Cracks in foundation walls, unsealed openings, gaps or holes are all areas where moisture will enter the building assembly to dramatically increase the potential for mold growth.
If any of the previous conditions exist and they have caused the development of mold, they must be fixed in order to stop the source of water damage prior to any remediation. Call a Certified Mold Inspector/ Professional Engineer to properly exam, test and remediate. Testing for mold may be appropriate. As a Certified Mold Inspector and experienced Professional Engineer I am qualified to provide the appropriate air and/or surface testing during a preliminary assessment and at the end of a remediation.
The main reason I am called in to inspect a property is to find the source of mold. If a suspicious area or substance is discovered, swab testing or lift tape sampling for example will greatly help to pinpoint the source of mold in the property. If a client is complaining about health issues or potential health risks, knowing the type of fungi present in an environment is critical. For example: Are we dealing with cladosporium, which is mostly an allergenic mold, or are we dealing with fusarium or stachybotrys , both of which may release toxins into the environment? The testing can provide information on the “type”, “severity”, and “source” of mold and whether or not an area has been successfully remediated of the mold contamination.
Testing for mold will help fulfill the preliminary assessment goal, identify whether a substance is mold, type assist with determining the source of mold, set a baseline for remediation and evaluation, as well as provide evidence for successful litigation (if required). After the property is tested, the extent and location of any mold infestation can be determined. I advise how the remediation should be performed and I oversee compliance. After the remediation, mold testing should always be performed to determine that the remediation was successful, failed or whether the property has been returned to normal fungal ecology. This testing is called “Verification” or sometimes “Clearance Testing”.
I am here to support you and the healthy living environment of your family.