Should New Laws Make Home Inspections Mandatory In BC?

With the huge number of bidding wars, spawned by the ever increasing demand for getting into the market, home buyers are feeling the pressure.

Many are jaded by the idea of getting that dream home. For others, its about buying a piece of investment property before the next guy.

This fierce competition leads to tight closing times, and in more cases than not, the home owner elects to forego a home inspection for fear of losing out. It is like pure capitalism vs. survival of the fittest (financially speaking).

When considering the thousands of homes being sold this way, statistically many of these homes will have a number of budget blasting repairs only to be discovered after the buyers take possession.

This article has been written in response to a recent video/news story about a Surrey home owner who is now is frustrated and discouraged after discovering a number of major issues in his brand new home…

In the story, Global News explains the nightmare this new home owner has been going through after he purchased a brand new townhouse, without an inspection.

He figured that a new home was a low risk investment, as it is covered by a new home warranty program.

Check out this story from > Global News <

This competitive environment makes it easy for people to turn a blind eye to the potential problems that buyers, like Frank (mentioned in the article) will have to face when they buy a brand new lemon without a home inspection.

Buyer beware is not relevant when home buyers are not given the opportunity to have an inspection…

When the market is slow, we all know that almost everyone is getting a home inspection done before they buy a home.

And many people will tell you that buying a home without an inspection just doesn’t make sense – yet these same people turn around and end up buying their homes without an inspection as well.

This seems odd, but when I questioned this, I was told a variation of… “Until you experience a situation where you feel this immense, pressure (due to the competitive market, bidding wars, etc) then the logical decision takes a back seat to fear of missing out.”

In some cases, home buyers have opted to get “partial” or “walk through” inspections during an open house. This is just marginally better than not getting an inspection at all.

No matter how good or efficient the home inspector is, the inspection is still limited, usually by time. These inspections are typically booked last minute, and in many cases performed without a written contract.  No contract means no liability, no protection for the buyer or responsibility for the inspector – which is not legal in BC.

Furthermore, home inspections are complicated and difficult to do well even when all conditions are favorable. So the chance of missing something during a “partial inspection” increases, resulting in a false sense of protection for the buyer.

Shouldn’t a brand new home be problem free?

It sounds plausible that when you buy a brand new home, you’d be getting a hassle free home, with maybe a few minor cosmetic flaws that can be easily repaired.  This is not at all the reality. A house has several systems and components that require skilled workers to get it all right, which rarely happens.

I have discovered a number of problems with brand new homes… such as missing roof vents, loose pipes, missing flashings, faulty circuits, broken faucets, missing structural members, partially installed doors and missing attic insulation, mold issues… to name a few.

When houses are built under realistic deadlines, fewer problems can be expected.

Issues are more likely to happen during a housing boom (like we have now) when so many homes are being built at one time. The deadlines and pressure to construct the homes in rapid succession can lead to hiring unskilled workers, mismanagement, short cuts and poor workmanship.

Regardless of ones perception on the viability of a brand new home, mistakes are going to happen. The buyer’s expectation should be in line with reality.

Do new laws need to be enforced to protect home buyers?

We’ve seen throughout history that change is typically reactive, rather than proactive.  Laws change when there is enough pressure from the masses to force the government to make these changes.

As a home inspector, I can tell you that Consumer Protection BC has taken a firm stance to ensure that home inspectors in BC are not only licensed and insured, but must adhere to strict protocols to guarantee we are legally permitted to practice in BC. As a result, this province has the best protected public in the country when it comes to the home inspectors.

At the same time, if protecting the consumer tops the agenda, it only seems to make sense that Consumer Protection BC and the government should sit down and figure out a plan to change the laws, thereby leveling the playing field for all parties.

If not, home buyers will continue to buy homes without inspections… and they will keep rolling the dice on what is arguably the largest single investment they will ever make.

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What BC Renters Need To Know About Mold In The Home

Are you a tenant, and worried about mold?

Dealing with mold can be challenging for a renter/tenant because you do not actually own the building you are living in. At the same time, any the mold issues will need to be dealt with in short order.

If you suspect mold from what you see, smell musty odours, or you are dealing mold related conditions (itchy eyes, nasal, throat irritations, runny nose, respiratory problems, sinus congestion, cough & sneezing, etc.) mold might be the culprit.

However, many of these symptoms may also linked to colds, the flu, dust mites, allergies to pollen etc.

Even when you visit a medical professional, they may not be able to give you the answers you are looking for. As a result, it can be very difficult to pinpoint the actual cause of these symptoms.

The reason for this is because there are several types of mold species, and they all affect each person differently.

To help you narrow down if your conditions “might” be mold related, you can leave your home, and take note of how you are feeling. If the symptoms subside shortly after you have been away from your home, then your symptoms return once you go home again… then there is slightly more evidence to support your mold suspicions.

Although documenting how you feel when leaving, then returning to an area of “suspected mold” may help answer some questions, it is by no means conclusive. The only way to know for sure is to have a certified mold inspector or mold remediation contractor identify and test for mold.

As a mold inspector, I receive a lot of calls from renters trying to find answers, then what to do about it.

Often, they want to know what a mold inspector can do for them and how much it is going to cost – because they are concerned about health implications, and anxious to resolve any mold related issues as soon as possible.

At this point, the conversation always comes down to three main questions…

  • Who is going to pay for the inspection, testing etc? (Tenant or landlord)
  • What is the landlord responsible for to ensure the problem will be dealt with?
  • What is the responsibility of the renter?

In the past and depending on the circumstances, I would either direct them to a mold remediation contractor (if they see areas of what they believe to be mold) or suggest that I come in for an inspection and possible testing (if they cannot see or find the mold, but smell or suspect it).

However, through experience, I have realized that my role begins after the tenant and landlord figure out what they want to do.

So, what do you do when you suspect mold?

The first thing you will need to do is inform your landlord as soon as possible. Explain why you think it is a mold issue, and that you need the situation resolved as soon as possible.

Now the complicated part of the problem is making sure that the landlord takes action in a reliable way. The landlord may try to establish if the mold problem(s) is/are caused the tenants or something he/she is responsible for.

Typically, tenants cause mold related issues when they fail to properly clean the home of dust and debris, especially in closets, bathroom and along windowsills and frames. They may not use the bathroom or kitchen fans, or choose to dry their clothing inside the home rather than using the dryer… or not report leaks or floods to the landlord in short order.

If a mold problem is due to building related issues such as a flood, leaky pipe, moisture ingress, or not providing proper ventilation, then this is something the landlord will need to be responsible for.

If the landlord is agreeable, the next step is to hire a mold specialist to investigate and or remove the mold.

However, the conversation can turn awkward if a landlord suggests a quick fix, like paint over the mold, rather than taking the time to properly investigate the issue further.

If you and your landlord cannot agree on a resolution, or you want to arm yourself with information about your rights as a tenant, then you can call the Residential Tenancy Branch at 1-800-665-8779 to discuss the matter.

For more specific information on this topic check out this link below…

Tenantbc.ca

To learn more about mold in general take a look at these links as well…

10 Places To Find Mold In A Home

How To Clean Mold From Your Home

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10 Facts About Stachybotrys Mold That You Need to Know

Have you ever seen black mold in your home?

Were you concerned that it was the “Toxic Black Mold” that we have been hearing about in the news?

These are common questions that people are asking, and desperately looking to find the answers to.

It has been well documented that mold spores are common indoors and outside. Mold requires moisture, an organic food source, timing, and the right temperature to thrive.

Any type of mold infestation can be devastating when it invades our homes, so why is this particular Black Mold so hazardous… yet intriguing?

 

Here Are 10 Facts About Stachybotrys Mold That You Need to Know

 

1. The “Toxic Black Mold” People Are Most Concerned About Is Called Stachybotrys Chartarum or Stachybotrys Atra.

For the purposes of this article I have interchanged the names Stachybotrys, Black Mold and Stachy to mean the same thing.

Yes, exposure to this specific type has been linked to several health issues, such as headaches, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, rashes, lymphoid disorders, damaged organs, flue-like symptoms or worse.

In fact, this particular mold gained wide scale recognition as one of the most harmful fungi, especially in the United States. Back in 1993-1994, there was a serious outbreak of pulmonary hemorrhage affecting infants in Cleveland Ohio.

Research revealed that Stachybotrys Chartarum growing inside the home of the sick infants.

Since that time there have been a number of other cases involving “Toxic Black Mold” across the nation, resulting in lawsuits and problems for building owners on how to address this issue.

However, there is much debate regarding the specifics on this topic with regard to medical claims… yet the common consensus is that people get sick when they ingest or breathe the harmful mycotoxins from this fungus.

It should also be stressed that several other non-related mold types, including Aspergillus can be dangerous as well. Some of these other molds are black, as well as green, blue, pink, brown, white and yellow.

Anytime you see a moisture issue and resulting mold in your home or building, the situation must be addressed in short order. Call in a professional for best results.

 

2. According To The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Black Mold, And All Other Mold Is Not Toxic…

The term “Toxic Mold” is apparently incorrect. Instead, it is the mycotoxins released from this fungus that are considered toxic. I have included a link at the bottom of this article for more clarification on this.

 

3. Black Mold May Or May Not Produce Toxins.

According to another article written in Mold-Help.org blog, there are a variety of conditions that will determine whether a mold will produce toxins. Although this mold has the ability to produce health compromising toxins, they do not always release the poisons.

It depends on a number of factors, such as the surface it is grows on, the temperature, the food source and humidity.

 

4. Stachybotrys Is A Wet, Sticky Mold.

Stachy spores are clumped together in a sticky coating so they do not usually travel well in air currents like many other mold types. However, if they dry out or become disturbed, they can be disbursed.

Dry mold is not really dead; it lies dormant and can still be dangerous. In the dry state it can take on the appearance of soot.

Due to its sticky make up, Stachy is best collected and tested by taking physical swab or tape surface samples. They can then be sent to a microbial lab for analysis.

Inspectors may suspect that a home has Stachybotrys, (based on visible observation) yet still choose to conduct air samples to determine if any other kinds of mold are present.

Knowing that these spores do not travel well in the air, you should be especially concerned if the only one tiny Stachybotrys clump is revealed in a lab report. This is a clear indication that thousands more are likely to be present.

 

5. Excessive Prolonged Moisture Leads To Stachybotrys growth.

This fungus needs to be exposed to moisture for long periods of time (1-2 weeks) before it begins to colonize.

Other mold types commonly found in a home, such as Aspergillus, Penecillium and Cladosporium, can grow within 24-48 hours.

Indoors, it grows best on organic cellular materials like insulation paper backing, drywall, ceiling tiles, cardboard, wallpaper or any other paper based materials.

A quick case study: During one of my inspections, a large concentration of Stachybotrys Chartarum was found behind a mattress leaning along a bedroom wall. According to the strata president, this was caused by high humidity over a three-month stretch.

Normally one would expect to see this fungus growing because of a long-standing flood or leak rather than high humidity.

To save money, the homeowners were air-drying all of their laundry in one bedroom, while keeping the windows and door closed. It was like a humid rain forest.

The takeaway from this… high humidity over time can cause this fungus to grow. Keep the windows open (about an inch or two) for cross ventilation and always use the dryer rather than hanging moist clothing in a closed room.

Stachybotrys mold found during a mold inspection

6. Poisonous Toxins Released By Stachy, And Other Molds Are Called Mycotoxins.

These poisons (mycotoxins) are what make people ill when they are ingested or inhaled. Another reason this mold has been called Toxic Black Mold is due to the fact that it produces more mycotoxins than most other types of indoor mold.

 

7. Toxic Black Mold Is Not Always Visible.

This mold is not easily seen for a number of reasons. It needs to be sitting in moisture for at least 8 days to begin growing. Visible leaks are usually dealt with right away, so it wouldn’t have the time to colonize.

A small leak that develops over time can start the process when the leak is not visible. Problems begin without us knowing, as many leaks are concealed behind walls, and under carpets, floorboards above the ceiling in and areas that have been saturated for long periods of time.

At this point is it too late… People begin to experience health effects, or eventually see the signs once it has established a presence. By this time, the subsequent damage can be vast and expensive.

 

8. This Black Mold Has A Very Distinctive Odour.

Some would describe it as a potent, damp, stale, musty or rotting earthy wood smell. If this strong type of odour is present, yet different from other rooms in the home, then the area should be investigated for mold infestation. Consider this a priority.

 

9. Over Time, Stachy Will Usually Dominate Other Molds.

Through testing and analysis we know that this mold grows best when exposed to moisture for at least a week, or more. When its food source is low in nitrogen and high in cellulose, (organic materials) Stachy is happy… us and other molds, not so much.

Although different mold colonies will likely grow beforehand, once the Stachy takes form, it will dominate the environment completely.

 

10. Dry Mold Will Grow Again When Exposed To Moisture.

It’s true… Stachybotrys and several other mold types can sit dormant for thousands of years until it gets wet, allowing new growth to take form.

For this reason, I strongly recommend calling in a professional remediation contractor to discard all contaminated items, and or building materials.

For more details on this take a look at my article called Tips for hiring a mold remediation company.

 

Summary:

Stachybotrys Chartarum/Atra fungi produce potent mycotoxins that are capable if making people and animals very sick, which have been documented and exposed by the media since the 1990s.

The elderly, infants and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk to illness caused by exposure to mycotoxins. However, anyone exposed to fungal poisons can develop health complications.

Although Stachybotrys has been branded as “Black Toxic Mold”, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains that this term is not accurate… but rather, the poisons released by the mold are toxic when inhaled or ingested.

Their ability to produce these toxins does not always happen as it depends on a number of environmental conditions.

Stachybotrys is different from other fungi for the following reasons.

  • It takes much longer to grow
  • Is less commonly found that other fungi types such as Aspergillus, Penecillium and Cladosporium
  • It is held together by a wet, sticky gelatinous structure
  • It produces higher mycotoxins than other molds
  • It is often difficult to detect until it establishes a firm colony

In appearance, it can closely resemble many other black/dark green mold types. So the only definitive way to identify it is through a microbial lab analysis.

Dry mold should be removed completely or it will regenerate when exposed to moisture.

When moisture or mold issues have been discovered, is imperative take quick action by calling a reputable, experienced inspector and or remediation contractor.

 

Resources:

The article from Mold-Help.com provides a thorough breakdown concerning health issues associated with Stachybotrys Chartarum.

http://www.mold-help.org/content/view/429/

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains the toxic poisons released by mold, as well as a number of other related topics.

https://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm#Q1

Feel free to share this article with anyone you believe it will benefit.

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12 Essential Tips for Hiring A Great Mold Inspector

Are you concerned about how mold in your home is affecting the health of your family?

If so, then I invite you keep reading so I can help point you in the right direction.

It is common knowledge that prolonged mold exposure can cause health issues, especially for those who have sensitivities to mold, especially the very young or elderly. This has been well documented by organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as well as numerous other sources involved with mold.

Many suffer “cold or flu” like symptoms, when they are in the presence of mold affected areas, only to feel better when they leave the environment.

The more our awareness grows on the subject, the more important it is or us to cut through the noise, so we can pin point exactly what we need to do about it.

Sadly, very few people take the time to properly qualify me, or anyone else for that matter, when looking to hire a mold inspector. I can certainly understand and empathize with them because their emotions take over.

The main focus becomes “I’ve got to deal with this mold threat”, rather than “I need to find the right inspector for a solution.”

Aside from the details outlined throughout this document, the key focus of the mold inspection is to find the source of the issue (if there is one) and exactly what to do about it. You absolutely need to know if your inspector is capable of doing so.

In my follow up article to this one, Tips For Hiring A Mold Remediation Company, I explain the difference between a mold inspector and remediation contractor.

 

In this article I will clearly outline 12 essential tips for hiring a great mold Inspector for your needs…

 

1. The initial phone call – This is where you want to establish how open the inspector is for taking the time to understand your concern(s).

Ask if he is willing to discuss your problem over the phone and answer any questions prior to booking the inspection. This is also an opportunity to find out how well the person on the other line communicates with you. Effective communication skills are vital for mold inspectors to have, so you understand any problems and potential implications resulting for the mold inspection.

 

2. Adequate Training – Even in our modern age of technology and apparent sophistication, the mold and remediation field is largely unregulated. In many cases, a handy man will be called in to conduct a mold inspection. Many strata management companies do this to save on costs (hoping their hired handy man can fix all of the building related issues).

Mold inspections require proper training. Find out what their level of training is and if they have the appropriate certifications to understand what they are looking for… and the impact of what they find. Ask when they took their last training course and which institution it came from. Just like contractors, not all schools are the same… Some good, some bad, so it is important to research this thoroughly.

 

3. Associations – Does the mold inspector belong to an accredited association and follow a Standard of practice or Scope of work. Do they have a Code of Ethics?

Professional associations are there to help inspectors be the best they can through support and training. When a professional belongs to one, it is a sign that they pay attention to their education and training to best serve their clients.

 

4. Experience – Find how long the inspector has been conducting mold investigations, and if this is a full or part time job. There are a lot of people who try to take on mold work on the side (like a handyman) without the proper training or experience. This can lead to poor investigations, and possible health safety issues – due to mishandling of mold infected materials, for example. Try to find out their level of experience during the initial phone call.

 

5. Inspection Procedures – All experienced and well-trained inspectors will have a routine for finding any mold or potential related issues. Ask the inspector to explain their procedures. This is not meant to offend the inspector, but rather to give you some insight on required protocol. A seasoned inspector will know that you have been informed and appreciate your insight.

The inspector should be able to tell you specifically what they plan on doing, including what systems of the home and areas they will be checking. The first priority should be focused on investigating any immediate issue(s). If there are no apparent visible concerns, and the inspection has been requested for peace of mind, this is where a systemized, established routine is important.

The routine should be a specific and detailed… including the water heater, main water shut off (if accessible) visible areas under bathroom and kitchen sinks, ventilation, interior areas along the walls, floors, by windows, in closets, ceilings, behind and under furniture where appropriate, corners, attic and crawlspace as needed. In addition, the exterior and roof may be required as well.

 

6. Insurance – All inspectors should carry insurance to cover them, should they need it. If they are not covered, then you may have difficulty recovering any losses.

 

7. Limitations – Ask the mold inspector about any limitations to inspection. They should let you know this up front, and within their contract. This is important to establish clear expectations on what the inspector can and cannot do. You should have this discussion in the beginning, to avoid any confusion later.

For example, the contract may say “The Inspection is a visual inspection of the readily accessible features and components of the Home for water damage and mold contamination. The Inspection is non-invasive and no destructive investigation will be performed.” In this case the inspector is stating that he is limited only to what can be seen, and therefore will not open up any walls or cause damage to find mold or moisture. Other limitations may come up during the inspection as well, such as areas of the home that cannot be seen due to furniture, carpets, wall hangings, appliances, etc.

 

8. Tools & Equipment – Mold inspectors should be using use a number of tools, such as a moisture meter, flashlight, hygrometer, humidity testers, infrared camera and air-sampling equipment, as needed to properly assess the home or building.

The infrared camera requires at least a level one certification by an accredited institution. Testing equipment for air samples and surface testing requires training as well. It is useful for you to know what tools they plan on bringing so you know they will be well equipped to perform the inspection.

 

9. Testing and Sampling – Note: Be cautious if the inspector plans on taking air samples at the beginning of the inspection, or suggests that it is standard practice. This is not the case! He may be insisting that you have testing completed when it is not always warranted. Regardless of the test results, each test sample taken will cost you money, which my not be

Inspection Tools

Mold Sampling Air Pump

necessary.

Air sampling should only be taken after the inspector has completed a full inspection. Air samples determine what the spore counts are at the time of sampling, and the species.

If samples are needed, there should be at least one sample taken on location outside of the home, one in an area of concern and one in an area of the home where the risk “appears” to be less likely. (This is the minimum. More may be required based on other factors, such as the size of the home or findings from the inspection)

Samples help determine if there is an unsafe air quality issue in a given location, but will not help to pin point specifically there the concern is. This is why a full inspection is needed.

Some mold inspectors will claim to verify samples immediately through their own testing procedures (in a van or home lab). Your inspector may in fact be trained to analyze samples under a microscope, however, the only way to know for sure if the test is truly authentic is by an having the samples sent to an accredited independent, third party lab to analyze and confirm the results of the test.

Find out about the lab the inspector uses. You should inquire about what types of testing the lab does, how long they have been in business, what their qualifications are and how many locations they have.

If any lab testing was completed, you should find out how long it will take for you to get the results. The typical turn around time for lab reports is three to five business days. If you need the results within one day, it is not unusual to pay an expensive rush charge. The larger and more established labs will usually be able to get the sample(s) completed and back within a reasonable time frame.

 

9. Reputation and References – Take the time to check the better business bureau to see if there have been any complaints. It the inspection company listed on the better business bureau? Not mandatory by any means, but it does show that they are accountable, transparent and willing to be held to the voice of public opinion.

See if there are reviews about the company to learn about experiences from others. Ask close friends and family if they know of reputable a mold inspector.

Ask the inspection company if they willing to provide you with a list of references, should you choose them.

 

10. Inspection Reports – Ask the inspector what type of report(s) will be provided. It is not unusual to get a verbal report only if the inspection does not lead to any issues of concern.

However, full investigations should be followed up with a verbal & written report. Almost all mold inspectors use software programs to generate their reports. It is best if they have a summary section detailing any significant issues, followed up by an action plan and recommendations with regards to remediation as needed. Good reports are detailed, with photos for reference.

 

11. Price – The mold inspection fee will depend on a number of factors, including location & services needed (testing, reports, etc). The fees should range from approximately $300 to $1500.

You should expect to pay a minimum fee to have an inspector come out to investigate, regardless of how serious the issues may be. Be wary of free inspections by remediation companies, as nothing is truly free.

 

12. The X Factor – You want to ensure that the inspector has all of the resources at their disposal to provide you with the best inspection and information possible. This shows their dedication to the profession.

As mentioned, you want to avoid moonlighters or the part time guy looking for something to do. It is best to hire an inspector that is does NOT do remediation as well, to avoid any apparent conflicts of interest.

Trust your intuition, and gut feeling when you are on the phone to see if everything makes sense and seems reasonable. Although difficult, try to take any emotions out of the decision making process, while focusing on the facts presented.

 

Conclusion:

I have emphasized the importance of finding a great Mold inspector for the wellbeing of your health and pocket book. To summarize I recommend asking the flowing questions:

  • What kind of mold inspection training have you received, including certifications, and educational institutions?
  • Do you participate in ongoing education to keep current?
  • How long have you been practicing mold inspections?
  • How do you go about conducting a mold inspection? Do you follow a set of procedures?
  • Do you carry insurance in care there is an issue?
  • May I call you after the inspection for follow up questions?
  • May I shadow you throughout the inspection?
  • What are the limitations of your inspection (what cannot be done by the inspector)
  • How long will the inspection take?
  • What tools will you be using during the Mold Inspection?
  • If we decide to do business, do you have any references for me to call?
  • What kind of report is included with the inspection? Verbal, writing?
  • How long has the lab been in business? What certifications does the lab have? If appropriate, how long will the lab report take?
  • What professional associations do you belong to?
  • Will you provide a list of recommendations and next steps flowing the inspection?
  • What is the Price? Ask yourself… Do you think you are getting fair value?
  • Does your company do remediation as well?

Yes, there are a lot of questions to ask. Yet when it comes to mold, I believe that it is necessary to properly qualify the right inspector for the overall well being of you and your family.

If you have any questions about this article, send me an email and I’ll do my best to assist you.

If you found this information useful, feel free to share it with anyone you believe it will help.

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Stop Mold from Growing In Your Fridge – 7 Awesome Tips!

How many times have you seen mold growing on the food in your fridge?

 

Probably too many times to count. Besides food, it actually it grows anywhere in the home as well… including all surfaces when the conditions are suitable. Regardless of how clean and fresh your fridge is, mold will eventually begin to grow unless we manage it.

 

Why Is Mold Growing In Your Fridge?

 

I’ll tell you why in two words… Bacteria and moisture. Excess moisture from the cold temperatures coupled by the bacteria, which grows from expired food or spillage, is the perfect environment for mold to start growing in the fridge.

 

It this article, I’m going share with you 7 awesome tips to help you stop, or reduce as much as possible that nasty mold from growing in your fridge.

 

I have interchanged the words fungal and microbial to represent the “M” word.

 

1. The Foods (listed below) That Should Not Be Stored In The Fridge

 

Tomatoes – Aside from changing the structure of the tomato, the fact is they just don’t last as long, become wrinkled prematurely and most certainly begin to rot faster.

Onions – The problem with putting onions in the fridge is that they can become mushy, soft, slimy and your guessed it… fungal!

Bread – Bread should be stored the same way it arrives from the supermarket, so keep it on the counter or the freezer if you cannot eat it all. Bread can actually dry out in the fridge or grow microbial bodies if enough condensation forms.

Garlic & Ginger – When you store garlic and ginger in the fridge, they will rot due to the moisture. In addition, the garlic will start to sprout.

Pumpkin – Pumpkin should be used up right away once opened, not in the fridge, as it is very moist. They should be placed in well vented, dark, cool (but not cold) area.

Cucumber – Refrigerated cucumber will decay and rot a lot faster in the fridge. So keep them at room temperature where they like it best. You’ll like them better that way too.

Potatoes, Yams & Sweet Potatoes – These three starch buddies would much rather hang out in a cool, not cold area. Storing them in paper bags work well, which allows them to breathe.

Refrigeration causes the starch to change into sugar rapidly. Once cut open they can succumb to fungal doom as noted in the featured picture.

Cereal and Grains – These items should always be placed in a dry space. The moisture and cool temperatures will cause them to spoil.

Mold infected food can make us sick when we unknowingly eat or smell it. Minor issues can result in allergic reactions, while mycotoxin producing fungi can be much more problematic, health wise.

In fact, even a tiny bit of growth on a tomato, for example, can infect that entire piece of food.

Really? Yup, and here’s why… In simple terms, mold grows and spreads through long thread like structures. These are known as hyphae. They cannot be seen by the naked eye, so there is really no way to know at a glance how much or the tomato has been affected.

So the next time you see a little bit of green fuzzy microbial growth on a yellow pepper, don’t cut out the infected area, just chuck it!

 

2. Quickly Use Raw Meat, Fish or Poultry

 

These foods tend to grow bacteria or may in fact be partially infected due to processing, so try to use them within one or two days. This is to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, when left unchecked, could lead to severe heath issues.

 

3. Inspect Your Groceries Twice – At The Store & At Home

 

Sometimes not all of your food items are as fresh as you’d like them to be. Putting infected food inside the fridge will cause fungal spreading and infect other food.

So, it is a good habit to check your food before you leave the store, and at home as well… especially the items that were packed in bags or boxes (which could not be inspected at the store)

 

4. Clean Out The Fridge Every 2-3 Months

 

We tend to forget about that baked lasagne from uncle Ken’s birthday two weeks ago. I know that we all do this, yes, me included.

Left-overs should be treated with respect and consumed quickly (within 3 to 4 days) or they will become poisonous and eventually turn into what I call mold-overs. There is nothing worse for food than to shoving it to the back of the fridge, only to be neglected and chucked out… Just say’n.

When you open the fridge and notice an awful odour, don’t ignore it like yesterday’s laundry. Instead, find where it is coming from so you can deal with it immediately.

The more often you clean out & sanitize your refrigerator, the better. Be sure to take everything out of the fridge. Of course, discard anything that is rotten or expired.

Yes… this even includes that cucumber Parmesan salad dressing that was cracked open four years ago for aunt Becky’s baby shower.

Individually clean all removable parts from the fridge, and dry them completely before putting them back. You can use a solution of vinegar, dish soap and water, or buy a solution from the hardware store.

Make sure that you check that all store bought cleaners are safe, and environmentally friendly. A final wipe down with baking soda and water will help remove any remaining odours.

 

5. Place A Box of Baking Soda In Your Fridge And Freezer

 

This will help absorb and remove unpleasant odours. Open up the entire top end and place in an area were it is not likely to fall over, like on the door shelf. For best results, replace the box after 3 months.

Although mold will not grow in a working freezer the baking soda will better circulate to remove odours in there as well.

 

6. Defrost, Thoroughly Clean and Wipe Dry Your Travel or Storage Refrigerators.

 

After the fridge has been unplugged and defrosted, clean all removable components such as shelves and trays, just as you would with your kitchen fridge. Of course, it should be bone dry after it has been cleaned.

When you are ready to use it again, keep the door open for a while to allow for some ventilation. If it is dirty or dusty, it will need to be cleaned again.

In the unfortunate circumstance where mold has taken over your fridge (usually after it has been unplugged and shut without a proper clean) I recommend replacing it, rather than cleaning it; especially if anyone who was going to use it has fungal allergies or sensitivities.

 

7. Only Use Air Tight, Sealed Containers

 

When storing using zip lock bags, try to remove as much air from the bag as possible. This will help keep your food fresh for longer, without absorbing bacteria, mold spores, etc.

Glass containers are best for meat, fish, veggies and poultry. Cheese can be wrapped up in wax paper, stored in cheese bags or cheese paper.

 

The Big Take Away…

 

  • Save some space in the kitchen for the foods that shouldn’t be refrigerated.
  • Inspect your food at the grocery store and at home before placing it into the fridge.
  • Toss out old food, and use perishables as soon as possible to prevent bacterial and microbial contamination.
  • Thoroughly clean your kitchen fridge out ever few months.
  • Storage fridges and small travel fridges should be thoroughly cleaned and dried out before use.
  • Baking soda is awesome for absorbing odours… use it all year long
  • Seal all food items tightly to maintain freshness!

 

For detailed information about potential heath related issues caused by mold, check out this post https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-and-health

 

If you liked this article or found it useful, share it with everyone who has a fridge…

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Attic Mold – Questions & Answers

As a mold inspector, attic mold is one of the most common issues that I come across in the field, and not surprisingly the topic of much debate and questions.

In this article I will detail the most common questions and answers regarding attic mold, while providing some advice on how to deal with it.

Why do we get attic mold?

Just like mold found anywhere else in the home, it needs a moisture source, moderate temperature and an organic food source to grow. There are a number of sources that can contribute to this. Due to past construction methodologies, weather conditions, lack of maintenance and mismanagement of the attic space, I have listed the most common reasons below…

Newer Building Materials – Older roofing installations (60-100 years +) allowed for more air and heat to escape, thus reducing the chances for concentrated moisture to develop into mold. However, OSB and plywood (newer materials) are less mold resistant.  The move to manufactured materials rather than traditional wood products, combined with poor ventilation design has resulted in moisture into the attic, while sustaining a perfect environment for attic mold to flourish.

Poor & Missing Ventilation – Attics require proper ventilation to allow air to flow both from the soffits (exterior vents along the perimeter of the home, below the roof line) and out through roof or ridge vents. In addition, air that escapes from the home below (also known as stack effect) will need to be vented as well. When soffit vents are blocked or missing, airflow is not possible. This allows areas of the attic to form condensation, thus, providing the necessary moisture source for mold growth. Other issues include poor vent design, which can cause vents to compete for airflow, especially with gable vents (wall vents in the attic). Attic mold can claim residence anywhere moisture accumulates in the attic.

Improper Attic Ducting: Laundry, Kitchen & Bathroom Ventilation – Often, the ducts inside the attic are made of outdated (plastic) materials, which are susceptible to damage. Damaged, disconnected or unsealed ducts will discharge warm humid air. When this happens, it comes in contact with the cooler sheathing surface, allowing moisture to develop and eventually mold growth.

Inadequate or missing Insulation – Missing insulation keeps the attic cold in the winter and warmer in the summer. This combined with warm air leakage through voids along the attic floor (ceiling lights, attic hatches, fans, electrical conduit pathways & piping cut outs) contributes to moisture and attic mold.

Rainwater Ingress, leaky roof – As the name suggests, small leaks can saturate the sheathing and to allow mold growth.

Low roof slope – When the decking or sheathing is not sufficiently angled, airflow is compromised, so condensation forms more easily along the underside of the sheathing or decking. This problem will be compounded when the soffits are blocked or missing, as mentioned above.

Night Sky Radiation, Condensation – The strange phenomenon looks like patches of dark moisture staining and possible mold growth along the sheathing. In the Pacific Northwest, it seems to appear primarily on the North side of the attic.

This issue is common with newer tighter homes… leaving homeowners frustrated and builders puzzled because it occurs in attics that have actually been designed according to recommended code specifications and proper venting.

According to research conducted by RDH (A Vancouver based engineering firm) this happens when the roof sheathing temperature drops lower than the dew point temperature, resulting from a cold night sky. Frost develops on the roof, even though the temperature is above freezing. The sheathing absorbs the condensation, while the subsequent moisture once again, leads to attic mold. Check out a link to their study here

Does attic mold affect your health?

Fortunately, mold growth in the attic is not usually a health concern. The reason for this is because warm air rises from lower areas of the home, upward into the attic through voids in the upper level ceiling, rather than into the home. This phenomenon is also called stack effect. In addition, we do not spend a lot of time in the attic, so the exposure is limited.

So how do we deal with attic mold once it has been discovered?

It depends on how problematic the situation is. This is a two-part answer. First, you want to call in a professional to find out the source of the problem, so it doesn’t continue.

The next step depends on the nature of the problem and how much actual mold is found. This may involve bringing in a few different professionals, especially if the problem requires more than just mold removal.

Remediation contractors will be able to remove the mold, yet may not install new roof or soffit vents and fix duct work. At times, the repairs may involve a roofer, engineer & remediation contractor to ensure the job is fixed properly.

A word of caution… In my experience, it is always best to bring in contractors with specific experience related to what you are dealing with, rather than a handyman. You want to call a contractor with experience, training and the proper insurance to make sure the job is done correctly the first time.

Remediation costs will also depend on the following…severity of the problem, access, materials, equipment, labour, time and applied methodologies. For more information on this topic, check out my article called Tips for hiring a mold remediation company.

What can be done to prevent attic mold?

The simple answer is to keep the attic warm and dry. As mentioned earlier, call a mold inspector to find the moisture source. The attic will always have enough food in the form of organic debris drawn in from the outside… so deal with the moisture first.

Strategies that we believed to be effective for reducing attic mold may be changing in the near future, especially in and around Vancouver/lower mainland, with regards to the “Night Sky Radiation” issue.

Innovations to building construction have spawned many new approaches to attic design. Building science specialists, engineers and energy advisors are testing ways to reduce moisture, advance energy efficiency and improve structure. Until concrete protocols come to fruition, it is best to contact an experience attic/roofing/remediation contractor. Also, consider the following…

  • Install ample insulation to ensue the attic is warm, and around skylights as well.
  • All vent ducts should be made from the appropriate materials, (rigid metal/flexible aluminum, not plastic) properly sealed and vented to the exterior. This includes bathroom, dryer and kitchen vents.
  • The attic hatch, and all voids should be properly sealed to prevent moisture and airflow from migrating into the attic space.
  • Cathedral ceilings should have insulation installed and adequate clearance between the sheathing and insulation to encourage airflow.
  • Heat ducts should be properly insulated, especially in cooler climates.
  • Ensure that the slope is proper to prevent ice damming (cooler climates) and condensation issues on the attic deck.
  • Make certain that all soffit vents are clear to allow proper airflow. Installation of baffles (rectangular Styrofoam boards to encourage air movement from the soffit up through the attic) should be utilized to achieve this.
  • Adequate ventilation, such as ridge or roof vents should be installed to allow the air to escape.
  • Gable vents (vents along the side walls of the attic) should not compete with upper ridge or roof vents. They may need to be closed off. It would be best to speak to a roofer about this as needed.

For more information on this topic, just let me know. If you found this article interesting and informative, please pass it along…

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