OK, well, maybe it is, but the truth is that if your house mold were killing you, you would be vastly in the minority. “But wait, aren’t you supposed to be in the business of promoting the fear of mold, given that you get rid of mold for a living?” It’s a good question, and one that I am –at least tacitly- confronted with almost everyday. The short answer, is a resounding ‘No!’ I am not in the business of promoting fear about mold, but instead in the business of educating the home or business owner about mold, the real and perceived effects, and – most importantly – how best to get rid of what they have, and prevent it moving forward. Too often our industry treats our clients like children, with that attitude of scaring them into action. I just don’t believe that most folks will make the wrong decision when presented with all of the facts. So let’s talk about all of the situations that you shouldn’t have the pants scared off of you, and maybe a couple in which you should!
If you have mold growing on the surfaces in your bathroom, you probably aren’t dying from your mold. This is probably the phone call I get most often. While it is unsightly and annoying, and sometimes difficult to clean, it probably isn’t dangerous. You know those yellow dots that grow on the ceiling sheetrock above the shower? That’s mold. You can try bathroom cleaner, and sometimes it will work, but let’s take a look at the root cause of the mold in the first place.
Since you have been reading this blog religiously, you remember from a previous post that mold needs water in order to root and grow. That is why we see mold growth in the places that always have water present—kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms etc. and bathrooms are probably the worst offender in the fight to control the moisture. Think about how many times you put moisture into the air in the bathroom in a single day. If you’re like most people, you flush the toilet for one reason or another within a few minutes of waking up. Then, it’s a shower. After you shower, you ‘get ready’ which for some (especially those that wear makeup, etc.) there is a fair amount of rinsing off hands, face and so on. Brush the teeth and off to work. Then, upon getting home from work, usually a trip to the bathroom happens at least once before dinner, some need a shower after work as well, depending on the nature of their job. Makeup must come off, faces and hands must be washed, and finally, another brushing of the teeth before bed. That is just one person in one day! Multiply that times a family of 4 or 5, and you are talking about some serious water consumption!
Where does all that water go? If you are responsible, the bathroom fan is run constantly, and so the hope is that it goes through the bathroom fan and out the roof into the world. However, most of my clients don’t run their bathroom fan nearly enough. When I ask how long the fan is run, the answer I get most often is, “when I’m in the shower.” This is better than nothing, but the truth is that you should run your fan for at least 45 minutes after you turn the shower off!
Even if you do run the fan a lot, is it actually moving moisture? Let’s check. Turn on your bathroom fan. If you don’t have a bathroom fan, you fail this exercise and you should proceed immediately to a plumbing supply store to purchase a Panasonic Whispergreen fan. There are a number of models, and I will go over which one I think you should get in a moment. IF you can install it, do so immediately! If you are like most folks, you need an electrician or HVAC professional to install it for you. This is some of the best money you can spend, give that it should cost you somewhere around $4-600, as compared to the average remediation invoice that is well in excess of $2000.
If you have a bathroom fan, and it is on, take the single square of toilet paper and hold it up to the fan. Did it stick or did it fall to the floor? If it fell to the floor, or a corner of it started to peel away, you know that your fan is either old and tired, or not nearly powerful enough. Either way, go to the previous step for people that didn’t have a fan, and proceed accordingly. If it did stick, that doesn’t mean your fan is appropriately sized, but at least you know that it is doing something.
For $80 at Home Depot, you can get a Broan fan that looks nice, and isn’t too tough on the wallet. Unfortunately, by purchasing one of these fans, you are being penny smart and pound foolish. If you pay just a little bit more, say $125, you can get a Panasonic Whispergreen bathroom fan that you will never hear (hence the “whisper” part of the name) and doesn’t cost you any more to operate (hence the “green” part of the name), which is good because it’s going to be in motion a lot if you take my advice (which you will, because, why else would you be here?). The model I recommend (especially if you are a landlord, but for homeowners as well) and that I have in my home, is the 85 CFM/27 CFM model because it can be wired to run at 85 CFM when the switch is on, and 27 CFM when the fan is off. Wait, you’re telling me that it runs 24/7, even when the switch is off? Absolutely! (Hint, if you are a landlord, your tenants aren’t running their fan… EVER! So remove the human element of the equation and install a fan that is designed to run all of the time). First of all, you will never hear it. Second, it costs less to operate 24/7 than a cheaper bathroom fan competitor for 45 minutes after a shower. Just make sure you tell the professional who wires it up that you want it wired to run on 27 CFM with the switch off, and 85 when it’s on.
This simple and cost-effective change will solve 99% of the moisture issues out there. However, when you (or a professional) is in your attic installing said new fan, make sure they check to make sure the duct is properly connected because disconnected ducts account for dozens of jobs performed by my company each year as they cause mold problems in your attic.