Tips to Prevent Mold in Your Newly Constructed Home

Conventionally, homes were built with plywood sheathing and flooring. As time went on plywood became expensive. Corporate production builders in an attempt to save money and make houses more energy efficient came up with alternative materials. Most homes today are clad in what is called “oriented strand board” or O.S.B. This wood-like material is made up of wood chunks and glue. It was lauded for being stronger than wood and more energy efficient or “tight.” Indeed when a home built with this material is new, it is strong and tight. What home builders didn’t consider though is that it is a breeding ground from mold spores.

After having my home constructed in 2002, I did a lot of research on how it was constructed. I had heard so many media stories about “toxic mold” appearing in new homes. What I’ve leaned is that while there is no definitive evidence that mold can cause serious health problems, it is a problem in new construction because of the material used. Media hysteria has contributed to criticism of modern building techniques. Blamed are shoddy construction techniques from unskilled labor. While this may be partially true the real story is that in the old days when homes used plywood, it could breath and dry out and didn’t form mold. Oriented strand board does not dry out as fast and mold can form if exposed to water intrusion repeatedly. This calls into question the proper installation of water intrusion prevention such as proper “flashing” and caulking around windows and doors. Proper grading of the lot is also important to keep water running away from the foundation instead of toward it. Flashing are channels at roof seams that divert water away from the home and into gutters. Sealing around windows and doors keeps water out if done properly but sometimes the windows and doors are installed so improperly today that they are hard to seal being crooked in there openings.

As lawsuits mount against large home builders they have tried to thwart off the problem with “house wrap,” the most popular of which is called “Tyvek.” After they surround the house with OSB, nowadays they are then wrapping the house in this Tyvek before putting up the siding. Tyvek is supposed to allow the OSB to breathe allowing moisture to escape without allowing broad based water to penetrate from the outside. There are many debates though as to whether Tyvek and similar products help the problem or exacerbate it. Some experts fear that Tyvek will allow even more mold to grow.

I’ve read stories on the Internet of homeowners who have faced mold problems so severe that mushrooms were growing out of the walls! Once a home gets this bad there is really no practical cure. The home is self destructing and the cost of repair is about the same as tearing it down and starting over. While this is horrific, I feel the problem should have never gotten to that point. Knowing how your home was built and keeping an eye on what’s going on can prevent such a problem. When you move into a newly constructed home the first thing to pay attention to beyond any safety issues is water intrusion. Is your house damp? Is there a musty odor? Are there any obvious leaks with water spots on ceilings and walls? I recommend that you search out any water intrusion immediately and get the home builder to fix them now before it’s too late and the builder is long gone and the repairs so huge that they are not practical. Some things to look for are water at the point where the side walls meet the foundation. Usually you will have to pull back some insulation to check for this at the top of the basement walls. Also look for water damage around doors and windows. Look to see if you gutters are installed correctly and doing their job keeping water away from the siding. Make sure you dryer is vented to the outside properly. Dryers can create intense humidity when not vented to the outside. I’ve also heard that whole house humidifiers can create mold problems along with rusting your ductwork. Another recommendation I’ve heard is to use the exhaust in bathrooms to keep moisture from tubs and showers low.

New homes start out their life stronger and more energy efficient than ever but if they are not maintained properly they can turn to mush. Check out the web sites in the resources section at the end of this article for more information. These sites may scare you with sad stories of people who have had awful problems but if you learn about moisture prevention in your new home, possibly you can avoid these awful consequences.

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