The Ugly Truth About Mold

It’s disgusting, it’s disturbing, it’s unsightly, it smells and we are sick of hearing about it. Most of us have been directly affected by the “M” word or soon will be! Mold is here, and it is a force to be reckoned with. This writing is not intended to fuel the debate about what percentage of mold claims are legitimate or bogus. It is simply information intended to facilitate sound management concerning an expensive phenomenon affecting our industry.

What is mold?
Molds are microorganisms that reproduce by feeding on organic substrates such as wood, gypsum board and paint. When excessive moisture intrusion occurs, mold growth will often occur. Indoor moisture intrusion may be a result of exterior shell leaking, flooding or lack of proper cleaning and maintenance. While there is no way to eliminate all mold spores from existing in the indoor environment, the way to control interior mold growth is to control interior moisture.

What can you do to deter mold growth?
The first step is to control moisture by weatherproofing your building envelope. This includes your roofing system, decking systems, stucco, sub terrain waterproofing, windows and integrated flashings. Even if you have a new roofing or siding system, regular maintenance must be performed to eliminate moisture intrusion at penetration and termination points. Openings in the sub terrain can also invite moisture intrusion, which can facilitate mold growth.

It is crucial that a proactive association manager and board of directors contact reputable waterproofing vendors to facilitate comprehensive maintenance that will eliminate exterior shell moisture intrusion.

Much of the responsibility also lies upon the individual homeowner. According to Rod Sibley of Servpro, “Most mold growth can be prevented around the house by simple maintenance such as periodically checking behind the refrigerator and under the sink and dishwasher for water dripping, as most mold growth originates from slow, continuous leaks. When a leak is discovered, it is imperative that it be corrected and treated immediately.”

How should you react to a mold claim?
In the past, asbestos, dry rot or construction defects fueled fear and lawsuits, but the new buzzword is mold. Although I offer no opinion on what percentage of claims are legitimate, I have witnessed abuse both from professional vendors and from individual homeowners. Perhaps the scariest concern for HOAs and managers is that the “problem” homeowner now has a stick to wave, which requires immediate action and cost to the association. No matter the homeowner’s frivolous nature or propensity to cause trouble, their simple claim of mold now requires immediate action.

According to Sibley, “When the claim of mold is made, the most important thing to do is to contain the area using a minimum of 6-mil plastic (Plastic comes in a folded roll, which is cut to fit and taped to the walls, ceiling and floor to limit the spread of mold by airborne spores. The minimum thickness accepted is .006 millimeters) containment, mold removal and cleanup can be facilitated by a mold expert and/or mold remediation team.

How does mold affect your vendors?
Due to the high cost of mold remediation, your vendor’s liability is higher than ever. As prices rise, most of this cost is eventually passed on to the homeowners’ association. What used to be a $250 interior drywall repair from a new roof leak can now cost the roofer $10,000 in mold remediation fees.

A reputable vendor understands that quality and customer service is more important than ever. Bids now include expenses for quality control and on-the spot customer service. This is because a leaky roof or sprinkler head can equate to expensive mold remediation liability.

The ugly truth is that mold is here to stay, and it will cost you. So protect your investment by fulfilling all of your roofing and exterior-envelope maintenance needs, and treat every homeowner’s claim seriously.