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bout your house
CE36
THE CONDOMINIUM OWNERS’
GUIDE TO MOLD
Understanding molds
• MOLD CAN BE HARMFUL
OR HELPFUL –
DEPENDING ON WHERE
IT GROWS.
• MOLD NEEDS MOISTURE
TO GROW.
• MOLD DOES NOT GROW
You encounter mold every day.
Foods spoil because of mold. Leaves
decay and pieces of wood lying on
the ground rot due to mold. That
fuzzy black growth on wet window
sills is mold. Paper or fabrics stored in
a damp place get a musty smell that
is due to the action of molds.
ON DRY MATERIALS.
• MOLD GROWING INSIDE
A CONDO CAN AFFECT
THE OCCUPANTS.
• OCCUPANTS CAN LEARN
TO RECOGNIZE MOLD
What are molds?
Molds are microscopic fungi, a group
of organisms which also includes
mushrooms and yeasts. Fungi are
highly adapted to grow and reproduce
rapidly, producing spores and mycelia
in the process.
Molds can be useful to people. The
drug Penicillin is obtained from a
specific type of mold. Some foods
and beverages are made by the
actions of molds. The good kinds of
molds are selected and grown in a
controlled fashion.
Molds are undesirable when they
grow where we don’t want them,
such as in homes. Over 270 species
of mold have been identified as living
in Canadian homes. Molds that grow
inside may be different from the ones
found outdoors.
What makes molds
grow?
Molds will grow if we provide them
with moisture and nutrients. If we
keep things dry, molds do not grow.
High moisture levels can be the result
of water coming in from the outside,
through the floor, walls or roof; or
from plumbing leaks; or moisture
produced by the people living in the
condo, through daily activities like
bathing, washing clothes or cooking.
Water enters the building when there
is a weakness or failure in the structure.
Moisture accumulates within a condo
when there is not enough ventilation
to expel that moisture.
Different kinds of molds grow on
different materials. Certain kinds of
molds like an extremely wet
environment. Other kinds of molds
may be growing even if no water can
be seen. Dampness inside the material
can be enough to allow them to grow.
Why are molds a
concern?
Damage to materials is one concern.
Materials get stained or discoloured,
and over time they are ruined. Moldy
paper and cardboard disintegrate over
time. Fabrics are damaged. Continued
mold growth can be indicative of
moisture conditions favorable for
growth of fungi that cause wood rot
and structural damage.
When molds are growing inside the
home, there may be health concerns.
Molds release chemicals and spores.
Page 2
How can you tell
if it is mold?
Discolouration
Discolouration is a sign of mold. However, all discolouration is not due
to mold. Carpeting near baseboards, for example, can be stained by
outdoor pollution entering the home. Stains or soot may also be
caused by the smoke from burning candles or cigarette.
Mold may be any colour : black, white, red, orange, yellow, blue or
violet. Dab a drop of household bleach onto a suspected spot. If the
stain loses its colour or disappears, it may be mold. If there is no
change, it probably isn’t mold.
Smell/Odour
Sometimes molds are hidden and cannot be seen. A musty or earthy
smell often indicates the presence of molds. But a smell may not be
present for all molds. Even when you don’t notice a smell, wet spots,
dampness or evidence of a water leak are indications of moisture
problems and mold may follow.
Health experts indicate that,
depending on the type of mold
present in a home, the amount and
degree of exposure, and the health
condition of the occupant, the health
effects of mold can range from being
insignificant to causing allergic
reactions and illness.
Pregnant women, infants, the elderly
and those with health problems, such
as respiratory disease or a weakened
immune system, are more at risk
when exposed to mold. Consult your
family physician if you believe there is
someone who may be at risk.
When is mold a
problem?
When should you seek
professional help?
You may need professional help when:
• ESTIMATE HOW MUCH
MOLD IS GROWING.
• YOU CAN CLEAN UP A
“SMALL AREA” OF
How much mold is
growing?
MOLD YOURSELF.
• FOR LARGER MOLD
One way is to estimate the area of
the mold.
AREAS OR RECURRENT
MOLD PROBLEMS, SEEK
PROFESSIONAL HELP.
Is there a mold
problem?
Molds are always found in the air
outside and in all buildings. They
come into the home in many ways through open windows or doors, on
clothing, pets, food or furniture. The
problem starts when mold grows
inside the unit.
Some mold growing, for example on
the window sill but not elsewhere, is
not a cause of concern. You can clean
the mold yourself. The presence of
mold is a sign that there is too much
moisture in your condo - a situation
which must be corrected.
Mold that is isolated inside walls and
which cannot easily come in contact
with the occupants is less of an
immediate concern but should be
dealt with by the Condominium
Board.*
Inspect the condo to find the extent of
the mold. Advise your Condominium
Board if you suspect a serious mold
problem.
Mold is considered to cover a “small
area” if it is no larger than the size of
a standard garbage bag folded in half
(crosswise or lengthwise). If there is
another mold patch beyond two
garbage bag lengths away it is
considered a separate patch
(otherwise it all counts as a larger
patch). Clean up small areas yourself
using a detergent solution, household
rubber gloves and a dust mask for
protection.
Small moldy areas may become larger
over time if ignored, so it’s important
to clean up and remove even small
patches of mold.
If the patch of mold or all nearby
patches (less than two garbage bag
lengths apart) combined are larger than
a garbage bag folded in half but smaller
than a 4 x 8 foot sheet of plywood or
drywall, the mold area is considered
“moderate.” You can clean up
moderate amounts of mold but you
must follow the proper procedures and
use the proper protective equipment.
A mold area is considered “extensive” if
a single patch of mold is larger in area
than a sheet of plywood. Being exposed
to this much mold is not a good idea.
Do not attempt to clean up large areas
of mold yourself. You need professional
help to determine why the mold is there
in the first place and how to clean it up.
• there is an extensive amount of
mold;
• the condo is very damp and moist;
• mold comes back after repeated
cleaning; and
• a family member suffers from
asthma or respiratory problems or
other health problems that appear
to be aggravated inside the condo.
How do you get
professional help?
Advise your Condominium Board
of mold problems you may be
experiencing. Your Condominium
Board will determine if envelope
specialists should be consulted to
resolve moisture ingress through
the envelope.
You may wish to seek advice on how
you can improve your own unit.
Contact your local CMHC office for a
list of individuals who have completed
the CMHC Residential Indoor Air
Quality Investigator program. A
trained IAQ investigator, who operates
a private business and sells his/her
services, examines the inside indoor
air quality conditions of your condo
and documents your concerns. He/she
identifies the problems, finds their
sources and suggests solutions in a
written report. Recommendations are
provided to you in an action plan that
consists of various options to improve
the indoor air quality in your home.
Ask your Condominium Board for
names of mold clean-up contractors individuals who have been trained to
clean up mold.
*References to Condominium Board can also be read to mean Strata Council or Property Manager.
Page 3
How to clean up small mold problems
• “SMALL AREAS” OF MOLD CAN BE CLEANED WITH A
DETERGENT SOLUTION.
• WEAR A MASK, SAFETY GOGGLES, RUBBER GLOVES AND
A LONG-SLEEVE SHIRT.
• SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP IF THERE IS A LOT OF MOLD
OR IF MOLD COMES BACK AFTER CLEANING.
“Small area” clean-up
You can clean up “small areas” of mold
(less than the area covered by a garbage
bag folded in half) yourself. The
minimum protective wear needed is:
• safety glasses or goggles;
• a disposable dust mask (3M 8210
or equivalent);
• household rubber gloves; and
• long-sleeved shirts and old clothes.
How to clean up
moderate mold
problems
AREAS” OF MOLD, BUT
WEAR PROPER PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND
• NOTIFY YOUR CONDOMINIUM BOARD OF
REMEDIATION STEPS IN
Steps to follow in
cleaning up small mold
areas
Washable surfaces
Scrub with a detergent solution; then
sponge with a clean, wet rag and dry
quickly.
Moldy drywall
Clean the surface with a damp rag
using baking soda or a bit of
detergent. Do not allow the drywall
to get too wet.
Mold that comes back after cleaning is
usually an indication that a source of
moisture has not been removed. Seek
professional help from a trained IAQ
investigator.
Page 4
b) General cleaning
Vacuum surfaces with a vacuum
cleaner which has a High Efficiency
Particulate Air (HEPA) filter or is
externally exhausted. Scrub or brush
the moldy area with a mild detergent
solution. Rinse by sponging with a
clean, wet rag. Repeat. Dry quickly.
• CLEAN “MODERATE
FOLLOW PRECAUTIONS.
Occupants with asthma, allergies or
other health problems should be out
of the unit during the cleaning.
a) Safety precautions
• Wear a half-face respirator with
charcoal cartridges, safety goggles,
heavy-duty rubber gloves, disposable
coveralls and head covering, and
washable boots.
• Isolate the area to be cleaned with
plastic sheeting, taped to walls and
ceiling.
• Family members at higher risk
should not be in the work area
during the clean-up.
YOUR OWN UNIT.
• SEEK PROFESSIONAL
HELP IF THERE IS A LOT
OF MOLD OR IF MOLD
COMES BACK AFTER
CLEANING.
If you follow the proper procedures
and use the proper protective
equipment, you can clean up
“moderate areas” of mold.
“Moderate” means the patch of mold
or all nearby patches (less than two
garbage bag lengths apart) combined
is larger than a garbage bag folded in
half but smaller than a 4 x 8 foot
sheet of plywood.
c) Cleaning wood surfaces
Vacuum mold from wood surfaces
using a HEPA or externally exhausted
vacuum. Skip the vacuuming step if
the wood is wet. Wipe down with
full strength bleach, then sponge with
a clean, wet rag. Bleach fumes are
harmful – provide good ventilation
and don’t mix bleach with detergents
that contain ammonia. Extract the
moisture using a dry/wet vac and/or
clean, dry rags. Accelerate the drying
with fans and open windows. If the
relative humidity outside is high, use a
dehumidifier. The wood should not
be allowed to remain wet for more
than a day.
d) Cleaning concrete surfaces
Vacuum the concrete surfaces to be
cleaned with a HEPA or externally
exhausted vacuum cleaner. Clean up
surfaces with detergent and water. If
the surfaces are visibly moldy, use TSP
(trisodium phosphate). Dissolve 1 cup
of TSP in two gallons of warm water.
Stir for two minutes. Note: TSP must
not be allowed to come in contact
with skin or eyes. Saturate the moldy
concrete surface with the TSP
solution
using a sponge or rag. Keep the
surface wetted for at least 15 minutes.
Rinse the concrete surface twice with
clean water. Dry thoroughly, as quickly
as possible.
e) Moldy drywall
The paper facings of gypsum
wallboard (drywall) grow mold when
they get wet or repeatedly wet and
don’t dry quickly. Cleaning with water
containing detergent not only adds
moisture to the paper but also can
eventually damage the facing. If the
mold is located only on top of the
painted surface, remove it by general
cleaning (above). If the mold is
underneath the paint, the moldy
patch and other moldy material
behind it are best cut out and the
surrounding areas also cleaned. This
should be done by a mold clean-up
contractor. New materials may
become moldy if the moisture entry
has not been stopped. If this is the
case, replacement of the materials
should be deferred until the
remediation of the building is
completed. The affected areas should
be temporarily covered with plastic
sheeting and sealed at the edges.
Any areas that show new patches of
mold should be cleaned promptly.
Notify your Condominium Board of
the extent of mold in your unit.
Dealing with an ongoing problem
• WATER ENTERING UNITS FROM THE OUTSIDE REQUIRES
REPAIR TO THE BUILDING ENVELOPE.
• OWNERS CAN REDUCE THEIR EXPOSURE TO MOLD IN
THEIR OWN UNITS.
Repair to the building envelope is
required if moisture is entering the unit
from the outside. Your Condominium
Board may already be undertaking the
work or is in the process of preparing
to carry out the remediation.
Condominium owners, meanwhile, can
take steps to reduce their exposure to
mold in their own units.
1. Discard moldy or damaged
materials.Wear a dust mask and gloves.
Furnishings, such as mattresses, carpets,
or sofas that got wet or have been
stored in damp conditions should be
discarded. Discard items that are no
longer needed. Clothes and other
items that have been cleaned should
be stored in sealed plastic bags to
prevent re-contamination.
2. Proper vacuuming reduces the
amount of mold spores. All surfaces
in the condo (floors, walls, ceilings,
shelves) and non-washable furnishings
(such as sofas, chairs, etc.) must be
vacuumed thoroughly.
3. Keep moisture generated
within the unit to a minimum by
conscientiously following the
prevention steps.
4. Pull carpets and furnishings away
from walls that get wet. Carpets and
underpads that are moldy should be
cut out and discarded.
5. Take steps to dry up areas that get
wet. Monitor the relative humidity of
the air. Use a portable dehumidifier, if
necessary. Ensure that the condensate
drain pan of the dehumidifier is
emptied regularly.
6. If the mold is limited to one area,
isolate the area if possible. Cover the
affected surfaces with plastic sheeting
secured at the edges with duct tape.
Note that this is only a temporary
measure to minimize your exposure.
7. Healthy individuals can regularly
clean “small” and “moderate” areas of
mold, thus preventing these from
getting out of hand, by following the
safety precautions and cleaning
guidelines.
8. Consider seeking professional help
from trained IAQ investigators to
identify appropriate remediation
steps inside the unit. Removing large
amounts of mold will require the
services of mold clean-up
contractors.
Page 5
Preventing mold
• Keep the condo dry.
• Find and fix water leaks.
• Discard clutter and excess
stored materials.
• Clean and maintain the
condo regularly.
• Encourage lifestyle
practices that reduce
moisture.
Basic steps to prevent
and reduce mold
growth
• Mold needs moisture to grow.
Controlling the moisture and
keeping the condo dry prevents the
growth of mold.
• Check your condo for signs of
moisture and molds.
• Find out if water is coming in from
the outside and if substantial
moisture is produced inside the
condo.
• Report any water leaks, moisture or
molds to the Condominium Board
promptly.
• Think of the different ways moisture
is produced inside the condo (for
example, cooking, bathing, numerous
indoor plants). Remove the
moisture as it is produced by using
exhaust fans. In the absence of fans,
open windows for a short time, but
note that the wind can push the
moisture to other parts of the
condo.
• Measure how much moisture is in
the air. To find the relative humidity
in your home, you’ll need a
hygrometer. You can buy one at a
hardware store or electronics store.
A hygrometer costs from $5 to
$20. Relative humidity in the home
should be under 50%. If necessary,
use a dehumidifier to lower the
relative humidity.
• Reduce the amount of stored
materials, especially items that are
no longer used. Molds grow on
fabrics, paper, wood and practically
anything that collects dust and holds
moisture.
Mold-proofing your
condominium, room by
room
Basement or crawl space
(Note: Although this section was written
for homeowners, some of the principles
would also apply to basements in
condominium buildings. Communicate
with your Condominium Board.)
• Reduce the amount of clothes,
paper and furnishings stored in the
basement. Discard badly damaged
materials. Eliminate clutter to
improve air circulation. Only
washable items should be stored.
• Avoid carpets on slab-on-grade or
below-grade floors.
• Periodically clean the drain in your
basement floor. Use half a cup of
bleach, let it stand for a few minutes,
then flush with plenty of water. Keep
the drain trap filled with water.
• Avoid standing water. Keep sump
pits covered (you can use plywood
wrapped with plastic).
Furnace room
• Regularly clean and replace furnace
filters. Use a pleated one-inch filter,
not a coarse filter.
• If you have a heat recovery
ventilator (HRV), clean the filter
inside the HRV often.
Page 6
• If you notice molds or signs of
dampness, such as water on your
windows or wet spots elsewhere,
do not humidify.
• Disconnect furnace humidifiers that
are no longer used.
• If you have electric baseboards,
vacuum the units, or have a
professional clean them for you.
Laundry areas
• Check that your clothes dryer
exhausts to the outside.
• Remove lint every time you use
the dryer.
• Don’t hang-dry laundry indoors.
• Dry your laundry tub and washing
machine after you use them.
Bathrooms
• Check the bathroom fan to make
sure it exhausts to the outside.
• Turn the bathroom fan on when you
shower. Keep it running for a few
minutes after you finish your shower.
• Take short showers.
• Keep surfaces that get wet, such as
the walls around the bathtub and
shower, clean and dry.
• If there is a carpet in your
bathroom, remove it.
• Check for water leaks.
• Keep drains in good shape by
removing debris from them.
To clean a drain:
•
•
•
•
Pour a handful of baking soda into it.
Add a cup of vinegar.
Put the plug in the drain.
Let the vinegar and baking soda work
for about 20 minutes.
• Run fresh water into the drain.
• If the drain is still clogged, use a small
plumbing snake.
Kitchen
• If the fan over your stove exhausts
outside, use it when you cook.
• Minimize open boiling.
• Keep your drains in good shape.
Follow the steps in the Bathroom
section above.
• There’s a drip pan at the back of
your refrigerator. Pull the
refrigerator out to clean the drip
pan. At the same time, vacuum dust
from the coils at the back of the
refrigerator.
• Check under the kitchen sink to
make sure there are no leaks.
• Take out the garbage daily to
prevent odours and spoiling.
Closets and bedrooms
• Get rid of clothes and other stored
items that you don’t use. Keeping
your closets and bedrooms tidy
makes it easier for air to circulate –
and harder for mold to grow.
Other parts of the condo
• A dehumidifier helps to reduce
moisture in the condo during the
warmer months. Close the windows
when the dehumidifier is running.
• When family and friends come into
the condo, have them take off their
shoes.
• Vacuum often. If you are buying a
vacuum cleaner, try to get one with
a HEPA filter (see below).
• Clean hard floors with a damp mop.
• Do not bring into your condo
furniture, clothing, books, etc. that
have been stored in a moldy place.
• Cut down the number of potted
plants in the house – soil is a good
place for mold.
Exterior
(Contact your Condominium Board)
• Regularly check the condition of the
roof and exterior finish for any
places where water might enter.
• Make sure that eavestroughs and
downspouts are connected and
working properly and that they are
free of debris.
• Install downspout extensions to lead
water away from the building.
• Deal promptly with any problems
that you find.
Frequently asked
questions about mold
The air feels dry - can I
humidify?
Before you add moisture to the air,
measure the relative humidity. Air that
feels dry may not be really dry. It may
be moldy. High relative humidity (over
50%) promotes the growth of molds
and dust mites. The moisture in the
air may condense on colder exterior
walls where molds start to grow.
If your physician has advised you to use
a humidifier in your child’s bedroom at
night, monitor the relative humidity. Turn
the humidifier on and off as necessary. In
the morning, take steps to make sure
the room gets dry. Clean and empty the
humidifier after each use.
What advantages do HEPA
vacuums provide?
Ordinary vacuums capture large
particles only - small mold spores pass
through the vacuum into the air. HEPA
vacuums have special filters that capture
small particles. A central vacuum
cleaner which is exhausted to the
outside also removes mold spores. A
regular portable vacuum is useful only if
its exhaust goes outside the home.
Vacuuming removes settled dust that
contains an accumulation of mold
spores over time. Reducing the settled
dust reduces molds.
Vacuuming with any vacuum cleaner
(ordinary, central or HEPA) stirs dust
and mold during the process. Wear a
dust mask so you will not be
breathing more mold.
Is vacuuming with a HEPA or
externally exhausted vacuum
cleaner recommended for
serious mold problems only?
Vacuum regularly with a HEPA or
externally exhausted vacuum cleaner
to prevent the ongoing accumulation
of dust and molds. The need for
Page 7
HEPA or external exhaust vacuuming
increases with the severity of the
mold problem.
If a furnishing has been wet at some
time in the past or has been exposed
to dampness over a prolonged period
of time, vacuuming with HEPA or
externally exhausted vacuum is
unlikely to remove the mold growing
beneath the surface. It is better to
discard the item.
Where do you find a HEPA
vacuum cleaner?
Vacuum cleaner dealers carry HEPA
vacuums. Consider purchasing one as
an upgrade to what you may be using.
A HEPA vacuum is a good investment
in the long term whether you have
mold or not. A generic canister HEPA
vacuum cleaner costs approximately
$300. Brand name products of the
same type may cost more.You may
inquire if the dealer has a HEPA
vacuum cleaner to rent. Contractors
who clean up or renovate houses for
mold should also have this equipment.
Does painting over a moldy
surface take care of the mold?
Painting over mold only masks the
problem. Paint does not kill the mold
nor stop it from growing. Surfaces that
are washable should be cleaned with a
detergent solution, following the
procedure suggested on page 4, then
allowed to dry. If you are going to paint,
remove any mold first.
Does cleaning stop the mold
growth?
Mold will reappear until its source of
moisture is removed. High moisture
levels that are not corrected can
make the molds grow back quickly.
To find more About Your House fact sheets plus a wide
variety of information products, visit our Web site at
www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca
or contact:
Your local CMHC office
or
Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
700 Montreal Road
Ottawa ON K1A 0P7
Phone: 1 800 668-2642
Fax: 1 800 245-9274
Cleaning is only a temporary but
essential measure.
You can help by making a conscious
effort to keep the condo dry. For
obvious reasons water must be
prevented from entering the
condominium. But you can help by
controlling moisture that is produced
inside the condo.
How does one clean clothes
that are moldy?
Non-washable clothing can be dry
cleaned.
Wash clothes with a detergent
solution to which a cup of bleach is
added. Make sure the detergent you
use does not contain ammonia.
Repeat as necessary until the moldy
odour is gone.
Clothes and other items that have
been cleaned should be stored in
sealed plastic bags to prevent
re-contamination.
Other useful Canada Mortgage
and Housing Corporation
information products:
Homeowner’s Inspection Checklist
$19.95 ( order # 62114)
Healthy Housing Renovation Planner
$34.95 (order # 60957)
Cleaning Up Your House After A Flood
$3.95 (order # 61094)
Measuring Humidity in Your Home
Free (order # 62027)
62341
©2001, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
Printed in Canada
Produced by CMHC
08-01
Although this information product reflects housing experts' current knowledge, it is provided for general information purposes only. Any
reliance or action taken based on the information, materials and techniques described are the responsibility of the user. Readers are advised to
consult appropriate professional resources to determine what is safe and suitable in their particular case. CMHC assumes no responsibility for any
consequence arising from use of the information, materials and techniques described.
Page 8
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