Many homeowners may think the worst thing that can happen to their property is a fire or flash flood. But there's another kind of threat that's less obvious yet potentially just as harmful: mold.
Though not as pronounced as fire or flood damage, mold can be equally pervasive, scaling walls, floors and ceilings to inflict significant property damage and health hazards. Mold also is a progressive problem: It can spread quickly if not spotted and addressed early. So, how can homeowners head off mold problems before they begin? Here are five signs you should pay attention to if you suspect mold in your property.
- Mold-conducive environments. Many homes have rooms or areas that are especially susceptible to mold. Kitchens and bathrooms with old plumbing, pipes or appliances can lead to leaks—which, in turn, fuel mold. Crawl spaces, basements and attics with minimal ventilation and high humidity are ideal environments for mold to thrive. Cracks on exterior walls also can allow water to enter the structure slowly but in enough quantity to generate mold.
- Allergy-like symptoms. If people visiting or living in your property are experiencing hay fever–like symptoms outside of springtime, or whenever they enter the structure, that can be a sign of mold. Mold causes symptoms very similar to allergies in many people, like itchy eyes or skin and irritated noses, throats and lungs. These mold-exposure symptoms are especially prevalent for those with a preexisting respiratory problem such as asthma.
- A musty smell. Perhaps the most surefire way to detect mold is its scent. Mold produces a musty odor similar to that of rotting wood. If you catch wind of an odor like this and can't pinpoint the source, it's likely mold that is festering nearby.
- Water stains. If water stains appear on a property’s walls, ceilings or carpeting, there may be mold lurking beneath those surfaces. The older the water stain is, the longer the mold will have had a chance to spread. Even if the source of the water damage has been fixed—like, say, a busted pipe—mold may still be present and thriving.
- Strange coloring. Not all mold is green, nor does it all have the same texture. In fact, mold can appear in just about any hue, because it takes on the color of whatever it's eating to sustain itself. If you notice strange discolorations or textures on the surfaces of a home, it may be mold.