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How To Build a Mold-Safe Home or Commercial Building


by mold consultants Phillip Fry and Divine Montero, Certified Environmental Hygienists, Certified Mold Inspectors, and Certified Mold Remediators
 
June 22, 2012. Mold infestation in a new home or commercial building is common. New building mold infestation problems can cause severe health problems for occupants as well as substantially reduce the fair market value of the structure because moldy homes and buildings are difficult to sell or rent. 
 
To build a mold-safe house or commercial building, follow these twenty-one mold prevention recommendations from mold experts Phillip Fry and Divine Montero, Certified Environmental Hygienists, Certified Mold Inspectors, and Certified Mold Remediators. Mr. Fry is the author of the mold advice ebook Do-It-Best-Yourself Mold Prevention, Inspection, Testing, and Remediation, available at Mold Book.
  
1. Prior to blueprint drafting, obtain the advice and suggestions of a mold prevention consultant to include the most effective water intrusion and mold prevention strategies in building design, selection of building materials, and construction techniques. “The key to mold control is moisture control,” advises the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  
2. Make sure that the building lot and its landscaping grading are downward and away from the building to keep rain and surface water from entering the building foundations, basement walls, concrete floors, and crawl space areas.
  
3. Install a thick, high quality moisture barrier (with no holes from negligent installation) beneath any concrete floor slab or basement concrete floor to stop water from wicking up from the ground into the concrete, and thus into flooring materials and walls resting on the wet concrete. Do not use regular plastic sheeting as a moisture barrier because such sheeting is easily damaged in installation, and it usually suffers physical degradation over time---thus allowing water penetration and upward wicking in the concrete.
  
4. Add adequate amounts of top-quality waterproofing compound into the concrete mix to transform the entire concrete floor or slab into an effective water barrier. Also, thoroughly waterproof the exterior of basement walls and of the building foundations.
  
5. Dry thoroughly (30 days) the concrete floors and concrete/masonry walls prior to adding wood building components. New concrete floors hold hundreds of gallons of water.  Most of this water usually dries to the inside of the house or building if the wood building components are installed prior to complete concrete drying, according to the Nova Scotia (Canada) Department of Energy.
  
6. Do not install plumbing supply lines into concrete slabs or floors, wherein the lines usually degrade and start leaking in twenty years or less.  Hire the most capable plumber to install the best quality plumbing lines, fittings, and equipment. Concentrate all plumbing lines and sewer drain lines in as few areas as possible, with large, easy access panels for the monitoring, maintenance, and repair of plumbing components.
  
7. Minimize the potential for water damage from frozen, broken pipes by insulating water supply lines (in the attic, crawlspaces, garage, and exterior walls), protecting exposed outdoor faucets, and sealing gaps in exterior walls.
  
8. Use a hidden moisture meter to scan the ceilings, walls, and floors of all plumbing areas for water leaks prior to building occupancy, and on a regular basis thereafter.
  
9. Use steel framing components instead of wood (delicious food for mold to eat and grow with) to build the walls, second floor, attic, and roof of the building. Although steel framing is a little more expensive than wood, it is very affordable long-term, especially in consideration of steel’s water damage and mold prevention qualities, as well as fire resistance.
  
10. Alternatively, build the walls out of poured concrete, concrete blocks, or insulated concrete building components. Use adequate amounts of waterproofing compound in both the concrete and in cement stucco interior and exterior finishes. Build weep holes into the exterior masonry walls. Weep holes are openings at the foundation level of a brick or concrete block wall that allow moisture to escape from behind and inside the wall. Do not close or block these openings.
  
11. If the owner or builder uses any wood timbers, plywood, plywood substitutes, drywall, plasterboard, and ceiling tiles, pre-inspect such cellulose-based materials for mold growth and mold stains prior to their use.  Remove the mold completely from the materials or return the materials to the supplier, and replace with mold-free materials. Use a moisture meter to scan all wood for moisture content, which should not significantly exceed 16 to 17 percent. Cellulose is the main substance in the cell walls of plants (and thus of wood from trees), and it is used in the manufacture of the paper backing of insulation, artificial fibers (e.g., for carpeting and padding), and many building materials such as drywall, plasterboard, and plywood substitutes.
  
12. Protect all wood timber, plywood, drywall, and other cellulose-based materials by spraying them on all sides and edges with boric acid powder or Tim-Bor (which also prevents termites).

13. Install a high-quality rubber water barrier beneath the roof shingles or tiles to keep rain from entering the building should there be degradation of, or damage to, the shingles or tiles. Install gutters (with leaf-catching screens) that lead to in-ground pipes that take rainwater away from the house.
  
14. During construction, store all mold-vulnerable, on-site building materials off the ground and beneath waterproof tarps or plastic sheeting to protect the materials against rain, and thus against mold growth.
  
15. During rain and as a precaution at the end of each construction day, cover the entire building with waterproof tarps or plastic sheeting to keep rain off of the building until the roof has been shingled, and the siding and windows have been installed.
  
16. Prevent construction defects that allow water entry into the home or building by carefully monitoring the day-to-day construction of the structure.  A construction-savvy owner, a trained employee of the building’s architect, or an independent physical engineer or home inspector should do this important construction quality control monitoring.  Construction defects are an important cause of mold infestation.
  
17. Design the heating/ventilating/air conditioning (hvac) system to have in its return air duct a built-in mass media (6 inches or thicker), replaceable hepa filter, or a top-rated electronic air cleaner to remove continually airborne mold spores from the circulating air.
  
18. Install a programmable dehumidifier into the hvac to reduce indoor humidity to a mold-discouraging sixty percent or less. Do not install a moisture-increasing humidifier. Install a humidistat-controlled exhaust fan in the attic and any crawl space area to help keep the humidity level low in those areas. Install exhaust fans that vent directly outdoors in the bathrooms and kitchen.
  
19. Do not use wall-to-wall carpeting because carpeting and padding are great mold food and a great place for mold growth, viruses, bacteria, and dust mites to hide and to multiple. Instead, for concrete floors, use ceramic tile set in cement containing a waterproofing compound. Use colored cement with waterproofing as the tile grout. For wood floors, install vinyl tile or linoleum. Use washable area rugs for comfort and beauty. 
  
20. Use only windows that are double-glazed (two sheets of glass with an air vacuum in between) to insulate effectively your home and to reduce mold-causing water condensation on the indoor (room-side) glass surface.

21. During construction and also upon completion prior to sale, rental, and occupancy, the building should be inspected and mold tested all-around for mold problems by a Certified Mold Inspector or Certified Mold Remediator, or have all cellulose-based surfaces and the insides of heating/cooling equipment and ducts mold tested with mold test kits, available at Mold Test Kits

For free answers to your mold questions and problems, please email mold expert Phillip Fry phil@moldinspector.com, or phone
toll-free 1-866-300-1616 or cell phone 1-480-310-7970, and visit Mr. Fry’s mold information websites: Mold Inspector, Air Conditioning Mold, and Mold Expert.

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