No matter where you live, mold can be a very serious problem. Here in Chicago, we have the “perfect storm” if you will, for mold and mildew to grow inside buildings and residences.
I’m often asked how spray foam can fit the strategies to avoid mold. Mold and mildew are subjects my business takes very seriously and in today’s article, I want to help you understand what mold is and how spray foam can prevent it from ever showing up at your home or business.
What is Mold?
You know it when you see it, but at its essence, mold is a naturally occurring fungus that exists in order to break down all types of organic matter.
When the conditions are right, mold can grow almost anywhere. To flourish, mold only needs 3 things:
- Mold spores
- A source of food (organic matter of any kind will do)
- Moist conditions. Most times this means more than 80 percent relative humidity and while it likes warmer temps, it’s been known to live in temps as low as 70 degrees.
Mold spores are plentiful in our home environment, which makes controlling them very difficult.
Building materials are organic in nature (wood, paper, etc.) which act as a food source for mold.
Since we cannot (or we don’t have plans anyway) get rid of the organic materials that homes are made from, it makes more sense to control mold by eliminating moisture and/or controlling temperatures.
This is where spray foam insulation comes into play.
How Moisture Enters Buildings
Moisture enters our buildings and homes in several different ways.
The primary source is bulk moisture via rain or snow. Rainwater will enter the building via construction flaws or improperly sealed rooms. Water that enters in this manner is more substantial than most people realize.
Spray foam should not be used to stop leaks that can occur due to construction flaws, such as leaking roofs or worn-out flashings.
Many types of construction materials, such as wood or concrete, tend to be very porous, which allows moisture to move inside the building or to accumulate in concealed areas.
The most effective way to control this type of moisture is to provide a barrier, also known as waterproofing, or drainage planes to move moisture away from these water-sensitive materials.
While identifying these problem areas is simple, correcting them is very expensive. For example, imagine the costs of excavating a foundation to provide waterproofing or drainage?
Care must be taken to ensure that there are no pre-existing bulk water leaks that can deposit large quantities of water in your home.
Air Leakage and Diffusion
One of the most important reasons for choosing spray foam will be to control air leakage. Air leaks will often be cooled to the point that condensation will occur, which results in the moist conditions that mold prefers.
Spray foam will control air leakage and it insulates exposed surfaces from moisture, causing surface temperatures to be well above the dew point. This basically means that surfaces stay dry, which inhibits mold.
In climate zones 5 and above, a vapor retarder may also be required. This can be provided by the spray foam itself, or a separate vapor diffusion barrier will need to be installed.
Do Mechanical Systems Help or Hurt Mold Growth?
The design and size of the HVAC system and the way it is used is a major factor when it comes to humidity levels inside buildings.
Common issues after retrofit work include:
- An Oversized heating or cooling system. When significant improvements to the building are made, the HVAC system may be oversized, meaning that it won’t run long enough to remove moisture from the air.
- Airtightness effects on combustion venting or combustion air. Sealing work can reduce the combustion air that is available for furnaces, fireplaces, or water heaters.
- Reduced air leakage results in less natural ventilation. This can bring about higher humidity levels in interior environments when using heaters. Mechanical ventilation may be necessary.
Spray Foam is Superior When it Comes to Mitigating Mold
Spray foam has been thoroughly tested and it is not a good food source for mold. The air barrier that spray foam provides prevents the ingress of mold spores into the foam itself.
Open Cell foam insulation is resistant to moisture absorption, it will not draw moisture into it. This is a flexible material that remains soft for the life of the structure. Closed Cell spray foam is a vapor barrier when installed to the correct depth and can even be installed to the outside of the foundation in certain cases to be a combination insulation and moisture barrier.
If spray foam should become wet, it has no detrimental effect on either the insulation performance or the air-sealing effect that this material creates.
What Are You Waiting For?
If you want to stop mold from forming in your home or business, spray foam insulation products, whether medium density or low density, qualify as both insulation and air barrier materials that will provide you with a durable and reliable air-tight seal for the life of your building.
Once your building has been made watertight and any existing mold problems have been dealt with, spray foam is the superior performance product, which is why it is the natural choice of remodelers, architects, and home builders.
If you want to prevent mold from ever showing its ugly face in your building, if you want unmatched energy efficiency, then the obvious choice is spray foam insulation.
I’ve said for many years that Comfort is only a FOAM CALL AWAY! Perhaps I should add that a mold-free, money-saving home environment is also just a FOAM CALL AWAY!
Got questions? Want to know more? Call the professional at Chicago Green today!