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Avoiding Structural Damage and House Value Depreciation

Curbed University delivers insider tips and non-boring advice on how to buy, sell, or rent a home or apartment. Additional questions welcomed to seattle@curbed.com

Selling a house is never an easy breezy task. But when you find out that your house has been damaged by something as small and easily preventable as a “mold problem,” things can go downhill fast.

But you're not a hoarder or an unsanitary person -- it could never happen to you, right?

Well, you don’t have to live in a rickety, filthy, nasty house filled with rotting Chinese takeout and scattered Siamese cat feces to have a mold problem in Seattle. Not to sound apocalyptic, but mold is everywhere. But Western Washingtonians, residents of Rainy Town, USA, here’s a terrible news flash: moisture is mold’s aphrodisiac. In other words, our homes are particularly susceptible to mold proliferation. When mold spores find moisture in homes, they will cozy up, settle in, and multiply like bunnies.

Here’s the issue. Mold presents a double whammy problem for Seattleites. Residents can develop severe allergies and suffer from asthma, fatigue, sinus infections, and more from extended exposure to mold growth in homes. But on top of becoming a serious health issue, mold can also cause major structural damage, weaken the foundation of your home, and possibly even depreciate the value of your residence if left uncorrected.

But fear not, Curbed U’s lesson for today will set you up with some solid mold-fighting tactics that will keep your house in tip-top shape and prevent your house from crumbling into a wet, moldy, valueless mess.

Proactive Prevention

Because mold thrives on moisture, one of the best ways to prevent mold proliferation is by controlling the level of moisture in your home. The combo of poor air flow and moisture accumulation makes poorly ventilated spaces like attics, basements, and crawl spaces hotbeds for mold growth. But the solution involves more than making sure your windows are shut so you don’t have puddles of rainwater expanding on your shag carpet.

Basic preventative measures include
- Checking to see if your pipes are leaky (look for condensation or rusting)
- Keeping particularly damp areas like bathrooms well ventilated by leaving the fan on for at least 15 minutes after showering
- Putting a plastic cover over dirt in crawlspaces to prevent moisture from seeping in through the ground
- Unclogging rain gutters, as the water build-up can leak through the walls, roof, and foundation of the home, and
- Applying a sealant around windows that have excessive condensation to ensure that it is completely air tight.

Don’t-Freak-Out-Yet Measures

Okay, say that mold has already started taking hold of the house. Don’t start packing up your things and checking for new listings quite yet. There are some simple things you can do yourself to prevent mold from becoming a permanent, freeloading roommate.

The first order of business is to go on a search and destroy mission to find the source of moisture that has infiltrated your home. Grab some rubber gloves and try to cover as much of your body as you can, just in case the mold is toxic and comes in contact with your skin.

Once you’ve found the culprit, dry the area. If the area is extremely damp, move any wet items away from walls and off the floors and use a fan and/or a humidifier.

Next, look for any visible mold and sniff out any musty or mildewy odors. Once you locate either, launch a full attack. If the mold is dry, lightly mist the affected area with water so that the mold spores won’t go airborne and spread to other places in your home. Scrub the area with soap to remove as much of the mold as possible, and then douse it with hydrogen peroxide or bleach to kill any remaining mold spores. Bag up all the mold and take it outside ASAP. Finish off by drying the area.

Time to Call 1-800-Mold-B-Gon

There are a few occasions when you need to put aside your DIY pride and call the experts. Say you went away to Palm Springs and somehow, your house flooded. Suddenly, your house is a mold factory and it’s so bad that you can’t breathe when you walk through the front door.

Or let’s say that you’ve had bouts of unexplainable bouts of violent sneezing, unbearable headaches, and watery eyes, but when you leave the house, you seem to feel a little better and get more energy. WebMD has diagnosed you with the West Nile virus, a brain aneurysm, and/or a “foreign object in the eye.” Knowing that none of these are true, your house isn’t possessed, and you don’t have the common cold, you’re freaking out because there might be mold a-brewin’ in the house, but you just don’t know where. Call up local mold experts like Environix to do the mold hunting for you and make your house inhabitable again.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Office hours are all day, every day so drop us a line and let us know. Solid work today, class.