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—— Question 1: Is this MOLD, or is it something else? ——

The good news is that not everything you see on your attic sheathing, drywall, floor boards, and other areas of concern in your home's construction are a sign of a mold problem. Of course, the bad news is that if you ignore something because you aren't sure if it is mold, and it turns out to be mold, then you can be looking at more time, cost, and reconstruction to completely remove the mold. So how can you tell?

First let's look at what is often mistaken for MOLD. There are three key areas of misinterpretation for mold. These are EFFLORESCENCE, CONSTRUCTION DEBRIS and WATER STAINING.

Efflorescence is a white, yellow or brown crystalline growth formed from natural earth salts that are already present in the raw materials that make up masonry products (concrete, asphalt and stucco). These earth salts remain trapped within the masonry (a porous substance) until enough moisture is present to dissolve the salts. Moisture can come from a number of places such as rain or leaking pipes. If cold, dry air is present, then the liquid will be drawn out of the masonry where it will evaporate, leaving the crystalline salt deposits on the surface. Efflorescence can look and behave very similar to molds. Some forms are powdery, or have sharp or indistinct edges. Some forms cover large areas and give a dust-like appearance, while others form large individual crystals. The behavior of the growth depends on the type of salts, and the rate and time of evaporation. There are some important differences between efflorescence and mold. Efflorescence will turn into powder when pinched between the fingers. Mold will not. Efflorescence forms on inorganic building materials such as masonry, while mold forms on organic substances such as wood, drywall, paper, and fabric. Mold can be found on masonry and other inorganic materials IF there is enough of an organic substance (like dirt) covering the inorganic surface. This is because ANY organic material will be used as food for the mold to consume. Efflorescence will dissolve in water. Mold will not. Efflorescence is always white, yellow or brown. Mold can be any color imaginable; therefore, if it's pink, purple or black, it is not efflorescence.

Efflorescence On A Cement Interior

Construction Debris can be anything that was used in construction and found its way onto the wood, sheathing, drywall, masonry, or other building material before it became an integral part of your home's construction. The most common construction debris we, at SMS Indoor Environmental Cleaning, Inc., find is Concrete and Blown-In Insulation. Seriously! Something as innocent as a boot or shoe print with some concrete on it can look like the beginning of a mold problem when you see it on the building material in your home. Blown-In Insulation looks like dust particles, which can also look like a developing mold problem. Construction debris is NOT mold and, generally speaking, does not pose any threat or problem to your home.

Construction Debris (Cement And Blown-In Insulation) And Water Staining Are Often Mistaken For Mold

Water Stains may also mimic mold growth patterns. The difficulty with water stains is that there may be mold spores present on/in the building material where water stains are visible. If the water stains are a signal of on-going water damage and mold spores are present, then mold growth will occur. If the staining is old and occurred prior to the material being used as part of your house, AND the material is completely dry (and remains dry), then the stain is not a signal of a mold problem. It's just a stain.

Visible Mold on Interior Surfaces

Now let's look at what MOLD is.
Mold usually displays BOTH discoloration and freckling. It may also have a sheen to it due to slime or may appear fuzzy as it grows. Mold often looks black, but may also be colored or gray depending on the type of mold it is. Some molds are more toxic and, therefore, more dangerous than others. Mold ALWAYS indicates a moisture problem that must be fixed. Mold spores are everywhere and they are dormant until activated. Therefore, the spores aren't the problem. The real problem is moisture. Once the spores get enough moisture to activate, they start eating your home (wood, drywall, paper, fabric, etc.), and then they grow. Before long you have a serious mold problem that is causing parts of your home to decay and endangering the health and well-being of all occupants. You must solve the moisture problem first. Fix leaks, locate and repair cracks, seal any openings where water is getting in. Let the area thoroughly dry out and then get expert advise on what remediation your situation will require. When dealing with MOLD, remember that there are different types. What kills one type, may not kill another. Simply washing the effected areas will not remove all the mold, AND may permanently damage the building materials used in your home. Structural damage can occur from improper cleaning. You may also need a special application of an FDA-approved inhibitor to ensure all the mold is gone and cannot return. This is not a do-it-yourself situation, and you must make sure the mold remediation company is LICENSED and carries the appropriate types and amounts of insurance.

SMS Indoor Environmental Cleaning, Inc., Professionally Cleans, Kills,
And Permanently Removes All Types Of Mold Contamination    

Finally, let's look at how proper, professional mold removal solves the problem.
SMS Indoor Environmental Cleaning, Inc., is a Mold Remediation Company that specializes in the Identification and Elimination of Microbial Contamination. Our Indoor Environmental Cleaning Services include: Mold Remediation, Water & Flood Damage Restoration, Air Duct & HVAC Systems, Dryer Vents, Industrial Facilities & Manufacturing Equipment, and Home Decontamination & Clean-Down. To learn more about how we can help you solve your mold problems, call Steve Timpany at 800-845-3022 or email at

© 2012 SMS Indoor Environmental Cleaning. Published January 2012. All Rights Reserved.

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