Attic Mold

Yes, everyone has some level of mold in their attic!

Yes, virtually every attic I have seen in the past decade or more has had some level of “normal” mold. Unless you have unexplained medical conditions like migraine or nose bleeds it is very unlikely you have a health issue due to the mold.

So, lets talk about the steps to follow if you find that you do have mold or you worry that you have a mold issue… or even worse you had mold, you paid someone to “fix” it and you have the same issues again.

To get mold issues you really have a moisture issue. For mold to propagate and create issues with the structural integrity of the roof or shorten the life of your shingles, you are not properly vented the attic and the moisture from inside of your home. Humidity in your home comes from showers, cooking, whole house humidifiers and steam showers (This list is not meant to be comprehensive but hits the highlights…)

The first step is to understand the humidity levels in your home and in your attic. Yes, fancy thermostats are pretty and fun to connect with your devices but they are not always accurate when measuring humidity. Get two or more old school humidity sensors. Humidity levels in your home should not exceed 30-40% in the winter and should not be above 50% in the summer. In the winter, it is typically a problem when you have your whole house humidifier running to much. Turn off the whole house humidifier and see if it drops to the normal range. Get your HVAC company to service the equipment and you have solved the “source” of the issue and things should dry out depending on how long the issue has been happening and how sever the damage is.

If you are having humidity issues in the summer, it is often the lack of proper dehumidification on the part of your Air Conditioner. You should set the fan to circulate the air all the time to equalize the humidity around your home. Again, you must confirm that all sources of moisture in the home are properly vented to the outside, through the roof and to the outside via good quality fans that run and and are properly vented.

Roof vents? Do I need more? Do I need different vents? This is a tricky process. Here is the formula: One square foot of ventilation is required for every 300 square feet of enclosed attic space, with half being exhaust and half being intake (This is the most common failure in roof ventilation, making sure the vents are shared between the top and bottom vents). For a home with 1500 square feet of attic floor space you will need 5 square feet of attic ventilation. If you need to talk to a good quality roofer, give us a call and we can share the name and number of a qualified contractor in your area. If you do not follow this rule regarding intake and exhaust you can cause the moisture in your attic to be trapped and not vented properly.

The number one issue causing moisture issues in attics is improperly vented bath fans where the vents terminate in that attic flooding the attic with humidity. The simple fix for this is to extend the duct to a “roof jack” and allow the moisture to pass through the attic and out of the home.

Do not add or use an attic fan, please see other blog regarding this issue which is becoming more and more common and will not solve your comfort issues in your home.

The number one issue causing moisture issues in attics is improperly vented bath fans where the vents terminate in that attic flooding the attic with humidity.

If this issue is occurring in the winter, it is very likely that in addition to the above issues, that you have an issue with the whole house humidifier or the steam shower. In the case of the whole house humidifier, turn it off and see if the issue goes away. If the issue goes away, contact your HVAC service provider or ask us for a referral and we will connect you with an organization that can properly maintain your whole house humidifier.
Additional issues that permit the attic to be too humid is the lack of air seal at the floor of the attic. Can lights can also be the source of humidity from the home causing issues with the attic. For existing situations we strongly suggest swapping out the existing bulbs for Air Sealed, LED Retrofit lights that when seated and sealed properly can play a role in reducing the humidity moving from the home into the attic.

If there are isolated areas that moisture is condensing in your home in the winter, the other issue is to make sure you have good air movement by keeping your fan on the HVAC system to circulate air and use ceiling fans to circulate air in those areas with condensation issues.

If you see small areas with condensation on windows, please keep the window coverings open when possible to allow for air circulation. (Windows as the coldest surface in your home are the first place most people will see condensation occurring and this should be used to modify the level of humidity in your home.)

Now lets talk about what to do with the “problem” once you have isolated the source. Lets talk about new case of mold first, then we will talk about what to do if mold is coming back for a second or third time.

In any newly found case of mold in the attic the process is, do we have a problem that needs a solution or is the mold something that will go away now that we stopped providing moisture into the attic. A few black spots or issues with the far corner of your attic that the home inspector identified as an issue during the home inspection are unlikely to need much after we have diverted the source of the moisture.

For mold issues that are larger than a few black spots, you need to make good choices about who would be the right person to determine how the cleanup should go. The person you should be talking with is a licensed Hygienist, someone who will determine what is going on, what needs to be done and provide you with a certificate that all mold has successfully been removed via testing at the end of the process. There are many options for mold treatment that will not provide you a path toward a mold free future in your home, please be very cautious about whom you trust and the license is the key as well as the signed certificate at the end certifying that your home is now “mold free”.

For those of you who have been through this more than once, see the process above. The reason that mold would return is either due to moisture still being introduced into the space and/ or the original mold was not properly removed.

For any of you dealing with this issue, foam is a fantastic solution after the existing problem has been successfully resolved. When we are looking at potential foam jobs, we strongly suggest the proper ventilation of moisture and by foaming the attic, you do not need to modify the ventilation in the attic. For homes without easy ways to vent the attic, foam may be the only easy solution.

If you would like more information or would like us to help you get this process going, give us a ring. Comfort is only a FOAM CALL AWAY! 847-987-3626

About the Author, Tom Decker

With ten years of experience selling spray foam insulation in Chicago, Tom Decker is THE person to call and the Chicago Green Insulation is the organization to hire when you are looking for top notch quality and performance as well as someone who can deal with the needs of code officials, home owners and general contractors. Call the others in Chicago, if you are interested in the cheapest price, call Chicago Green Insulation if you are interested in using your dollars to make Chicago a better city for all of us!

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