September 2002 Edition

Removing Mold

We have mold growing in our house. Can we remove it ourselves or should we call in the professionals?

Almost every home gets mold infestations. The trick is to stop them before they get big and harm both you and your home. In this article, we’ll show you how to identify mold and eliminate the small infestations that have gotten out of hand. We recommend any infestation on the inside of your house larger than a ten foot by ten foot area be removed by a professional. You can normally do a crawl space by yourself.

Before you attempt to remove the mold, be sure the source of the mold has been eliminated.


You can easily remove minor mold with ordinary household cleaning products. But disturbing big infestations can be bad for your health, particularly if you are an allergy sufferer or have a weakened immune system. When you discover an extensive mold problem, we recommend that you consider calling in a professional to handle the problem. Look under "Industrial Hygiene Consultants" or "Environmental and Ecological Consultants" in your Yellow Pages. Or call your local public health department.

How to identify mold

You can easily spot the most visible type of mold, called mildew, which begins as tiny, usually black spots but often grows into larger colonies. It’s the black stuff you see in the grout lines in your shower, on damp walls, and outdoors on the surfaces of deck boards and painted siding, especially in damp and shady areas. A mildewed surface is often difficult to distinguish from a dirty one. To test for mildew, simply dab a few drops of household bleach on the blackened area. If it lightens after one to two minutes, you have mildew. If the area remains dark, you probably have dirt.

Mildew is a surface type of mold that won’t damage your home’s structure. But other types of mold cause rot. Probe the suspect area with a screwdriver or other sharp tool. If the wood is soft or crumbles, the fungi have taken hold and rot has begun.

If you have a high concentration of mold, you may smell it. If you detect the typical musty odor, check for mold on damp carpets, damp walls, damp crawl spaces and wet wood under your floors, wet roof sheathing and other damp areas. Clean up these infestations right away before they get worse.

Removing infestations requires precautions

Surface molds grow in just about any damp location, such as the grout lines of a ceramic tiled shower. They’re easy to scrub away with a mixture of 1/2 cup bleach, 1 qt. water and a little detergent. The bleach in the cleaning mixture kills the mold, and the detergent helps lift it off the surface so you can rinse it away so it won’t return as fast. You can also buy a mildew cleaner at hardware stores, paint stores and most home centers.

CAUTION: Don’t mix ammonia or any detergent containing ammonia with bleach. The combination forms a poisonous gas.

Even for simple cleaning, protect yourself from contact with mold and the bleach solution by wearing a long-sleeve shirt and long pants as well as plastic or rubber gloves and goggles. Tip: Special gloves made of nitrile are as tough as latex but thinner and more protective.

If the mold doesn’t disappear after light scrubbing, reapply the cleaning mix and let it sit for a minute or two. Then lightly scrub again.

Seal the clean surfaces when they’re thoroughly dry to slow future moisture penetration. Apply a grout sealer ($5 to $25 per quart from tile shops and home centers) to tile joints.

You can scrub away the surface mold common to bathrooms, decks and siding in a matter of minutes with a 1-to-8 bleach and water solution. But often mold grows and spreads in places you don’t notice, until you spot surface staining, feel mushy drywall or detect that musty smell. If you have to remove mold concentrations covering more than a few square feet, where the musty odor is strong or where you find extensive water damage, we recommend that you take special precautions. You want to not only avoid contaminating the rest of the house but also protect yourself from breathing high concentrations of spores and VOC's (volatile organic compounds).

Cleaning crawl spaces can be a major job. First of all, remove any insulation between the floor joist. If the insulation is damp or wet, replace it. Next take a garden sprayer with a 1-to-8 bleach and water solution. Spray all of the floor joist and subflooring with an even coat. Wait two hours and reinspect. Any areas you missed, retreat. It is critical to wear protective clothing, goggles and respirators while in the crawl space.

CAUTION: A few types of mold are highly toxic. If you have an allergic reaction to mold or a heavy infestation inside your home, call in a pro to analyze the problem.

EPA has an excellent brochure available called "A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home". It can be downloaded from their website at:

Source: The Family Handyman, July/August 2002

Dryvit Settlement

A class action suit was brought by homeowners against Dryvit Systems to recover damages caused by the company's EIFS or synthetic stucco, and that suit has recently reached a tentative settlement. Whether the settlement is a good deal or bad one for homeowners is very much open to debate.

According to the suit's provisions, owners of homes where Dryvit was installed between Jan. 1, 1989, and June 5, 2002, may be entitled to monetary compensation as well as other benefits. The package includes paying for 50% of repairs to a cap of $30,000, and a three-year limited warranty. While this might sound attractive, it may also trigger other problems for the owner, according to Edward Eshoo, of the Chicago law firm of Childress & Zdeb.

"By accepting this settlement the owner runs the risk of impairing their insurance carrier's right to recover," said Eshoo. "If that happens the carrier can cancel its coverage of the property."

Indeed, there are many owners who feel the settlement is inadequate, and does not begin to address the scope and extent of the damage they've suffered. They intend to pursue better results by filing their own suits, but that course of action closed on September 3, 2002 and now the owner's are bound by the settlement.

More information on Dryvit and the tentative settlement can be found at and

If you have a question, change of address, comment, home tip or would like to send Home Tips to your clients, send your letter to Home Tips, Christian Building Inspectors, Inc., 3697 Habersham Lane, Duluth, Georgia 30096. You can E-Mail your questions to us at We reserve the right to edit questions for length.

Quote Of The Month

"The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home."

- Confucius

A Tip Of The Hat To:

Pat Graves

Prudential Atlanta Realty

4390 Pleasant Hill Road

Duluth, Georgia 30096

**** Thank You****