Ask the Restoration Services Expert – Jay Won
What The Heck Is That Fuzzy Stuff?
When it comes to recycling, nature wins top prize in this category as it’s been doing this since the beginning of time and pretty much has this down to an art form. Nature recycles organic materials through the functions of microorganisms that digest organic materials into compounds that can be regenerated into living organisms once again. As efficient as this recycling process is, it does become a concern when it happens in an indoor environment. When this process occurs in an indoor environment, these microorganisms have the potential to cause harm to the occupants by introducing unpleasant odors, mycotoxins and allergens.
When a mold problem becomes visible, it’s a good indication that there is also a moisture problem. Other factors can also contribute to the growth of mold but the introduction of water is the main catalyst as it’s the one element that it needs to survive. Without water, mold will become dormant or die. The one thing about mold is that it can become very adaptable to its environment. Ultimately, it can improvise, adapt and overcome to any situation based on its current surroundings. The need to survive dictates this. Some other factors that can contribute to the growth of mold, but not limited to, are as follows:
Temperature – Molds that we come across in most water damaged structures are called mesophilic because they grow best at room temperature, however, as I said before, mold is very adaptable and can grow over a wide temperature range.
Light – A common misnomer is that mold will only grow in dark environments. Usually mold is more abundant in dark environments because there is frequently more moisture available. Many molds will actually begin dispersing their spores when exposed to light due to the reduced amount of moisture available to the mold.
pH – Most molds prefer a slightly acidic environment (slightly less than a pH of 7)
Food Source – Cellulose is a preferred nutrient for mold growth. Cellulose is the major component of paper, paperboard, and card stock and of textiles made from cotton, linen, and other plant fibers. Taking this into consideration pretty much reduces our homes, our offices, or any building, to one degree to another, to just a big smorgasbord for mold.
Water – I only bring this up again due to its highly influential impact regarding mold growth. Every species of mold requires a different amount of available moisture in order to grow. To put this into perspective, I’m not referring to situations where there’s flooding. A persistent amount of high humidity could trigger mold growth and this is evident in houses that have been used as grow-ops.
Mold can pretty much grow on any surface that can support organic residue, dirt or soil i.e. a “bio-film”. I have seen instances where mold was growing on a non-porous object like a mirror. The mold wasn’t growing or feeding on the mirror per say, but on the layer of bio-film that was on the mirror. In the past, I have received calls from concerned homeowners who have said to me, “In my basement, I have a crack in the cement (be it the pad or foundation walls) and there’s this white, fluffy stuff coming out of it and I think it’s mold”. This is a common mistake and what you’re actually seeing is known as efflorescence, which is French and it means to “flower out”. Efflorescence occurs when water infiltrates the block or the concrete and dissolves minerals. As water evaporates from the surface of the unit, the mineral deposits are left behind, thus efflorescence crystals can grow. Although efflorescence is generally a visual problem, if the efflorescence crystals grow inside the surface of the unit, it can cause spalling, which is when the surface peels, pops out or flakes off. The salt pushes from the inside out and can eventually cause crumbling and deterioration of the concrete.