Where Does Moisture Come From?

There are three main sources in your home; the first being air leaks.

Air can leak into the home through walls, roofs, and floors and have damaging effects on a house. Uncontrolled airflow through the envelope of the home not only carries moisture into framing cavities, causing mold and rot, but it can also account for a huge portion of a home’s energy use and can cause indoor air quality problems. In a leaky house, large volumes of air – driven by exhaust fans, stack effect, and the wind – can blow through the floor, walls, and ceiling.

moisture: Cut-away view of a two story house with a basement, using arrows to indicate the flow of air through the structure.

The second source of moisture is diffusion through materials.

This is a process by which vapor spreads or moves through permeable materials caused by a difference in water vapor pressure. An example of this is when the soil becomes saturated and moisture enters the crawl space through the walls by vapor diffusion. Installing a vapor barrier can help reduce the amount of moisture that makes its way into the crawl space and into the rest of the home.


The final source is internally generated moisture.

A family of four produces on average two pints of water an hour, or up to 25 pints of water a day, simply by washing dishes, taking showers, cooking, and breathing.

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5 Symptoms of Mold

Mold allergies are easily treatable when properly diagnosed, so it is important for individuals who suspect their symptoms may be related to mold to consult with an allergy specialist or a physician to determine an appropriate course of treatment. Taking steps such as repairing water leaks and installing dehumidifiers in the home can also help to hinder mold growth and relieve mold allergy symptoms. Understanding what causes mold allergies and taking preventative measures to avoid exposure are essential in managing symptoms.

Itching Eyes

Itching eyes are a common allergic symptom that can develop following exposure to mold spores, pet dander and seasonal pollens. Individuals who experience itching eyes during wet or humid weather or when moisture levels are high inside the home may be suffering from mold allergy symptoms.

Stuffy Nose & Post Nasal Drip

Nasal congestion is a common mold allergy symptom that is often triggered after periods of wet weather or when an individual is exposed to mold spores in the home. When nasal stuffiness occurs, it is often accompanied by postnasal drip, a condition in which nasal secretions run down the back of the throat. Additional symptoms of postnasal drip include bad breath and coughing.

Itching Throat

Individuals with mold allergies may also experience an itching sensation in the throat. Itching throat symptoms are typically caused by postnasal drip, but can also be a symptom of a serious allergic reaction that can lead to throat swelling if left untreated. It is important for sufferers to seek medical attention if itching throat symptoms are present to ensure prompt treatment.

Sinus Headaches

Mold spores can cause the sinuses to become congested, which in turn can trigger sinus headaches in individuals with mold allergies. Sinus headaches cause pain and pressure in the forehead and sinus cavities. In certain cases, sinus pressure can also cause tooth and ear pain. Sinus headaches tend to worsen when lying down.

Exacerbated Asthma Symptoms

Individuals with mold allergies who also suffer from asthma may experience exacerbated asthma symptoms when exposed to mold. Asthma symptoms include chest tightness, wheezing and coughing. Anyone experiencing a severe asthma attack following possible mold exposure should seek immediate medical attention.

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Allergen Glossary

Allergen – A substance that induces a specific immunological response that may lead to allergic disease.

Allergist – A physician specializing in treating allergies.

Allergy – Symptoms induced by exposure to an allergen to which previous sensitization has occurred.

Antibody – An antibody is a protein (also called an immunoglobulin) that is manufactured by lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to neutralize an antigen or foreign protein. Bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms commonly contain many antigens, as do pollens, dust mites, molds, foods, and other substances.

Asthma – A respiratory disease, often caused by exposure to allergens, marked by wheezing, chest tightness, and sometimes coughing.

Cockroach – Any of various oval, flat-bodied insects common as household pests. The two most common indoor species of cockroach in North America are the German cockroach (Blatella germanica) and the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana).

Dander – The tiny particles of skin and dried sweat and saliva that are shed by animals such as cats and dogs. These are a major cause of allergies.

Dust mites – Tiny creatures related to spiders and ticks. They are found in house dust. House dust mites, due to their very small size, are not visible to the eye, and live for approximately 3 to 4 months. The two most commonly occurring dust mites are the American house dust mite, (Dermatophagoides farinae) and the European house dust mite, (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus).

ELISA – ELISA is the abbreviation for “Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay” which is a highly sensitive technique for detecting and measuring antigens (allergens) in a solution. The solution is run over a surface to which immobilized antibodies specific to the antigen being measured have been attached. If the antigen is present, it will bind to the antibody layer, and then its presence is verified and visualized with an application of antibodies that have been tagged in some way.

Mold – Any of various fungi that produce visible growth on organic material.

Moldy – Covered with or containing mold.

Protein – Any of a group of complex organic compounds that are composed of amino acids.

Rhinitis – Rhinitis is an inflammation of the mucous membrane that lines the nose, often due to an allergy to pollen, dust or other airborne substances. Seasonal allergic rhinitis also is known as “hay fever,” a disorder that causes sneezing, itching, a runny nose and nasal congestion.

Sensitization – Become responsive to external conditions or stimulation. In the case of allergens, sensitization involves the production of specific antibodies.

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Mold Remediation Before & After

Here are a few photos showing a mold remediation project prior to the wood being encapsulated. Always remember, encapsulating in white isn’t a bad option, but some mold remediation contractors insist on it because they’ll use regular primers and also because they do not want you to see how they cleaned the surfaces.  For us, white is only an option when the customer chooses it.

What is Alternaria?

Alternaria is one of the most important allergenic molds found in the US. It is most common as an outdoor mold, as it thrives on various types of vegetation. Alternaria spores can be detected from Spring through late Fall in most temperate areas, and can reach levels of thousands of spores per cubic meter of air. While one usually thinks of molds as a problem in damp or even wet conditions, Alternaria spores can be at their highest concentrations during dry, windy conditions that are ideal for the spores to become airborne.

Alternaria is one of the most common outdoor molds, but also has been found in the indoor environment. The National Survey of Lead and Allergens in Housing conducted a study looking at house dust samples from 831 homes in 75 different locations throughout the US. Alternaria was found in over 90% of those dust samples. While much of that allergenic load was probably due to outdoor Alternaria finding its way inside, Alternaria is known to grow on moist surfaces in the home as well.

Alternaria is known to be a problem in allergic disease. In patients who show allergy to molds, up to 70% of those patients demonstrate allergy to Alternaria, and Alternaria is known to be a risk factor for asthma. Dampness and mold problems have been reported to occur in 20 – 50% of modern homes. Additionally, keep in mind that mold spores often outnumber pollen spores by 1,000 to one, and mold can produce spores for months on end, versus the weeks of pollen production by many allergenic plants.

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Minor Kitchen Leaks

Sometimes what appears to be a small leak, can result in major water and mold damage. These photos show a kitchen in Newtown PA, where a leak under a sink caused major damage not only to the cabinets, but the walls behind them and the sub flooring.  Some of the cabinets had to be removed, while the back splash and walls needed to be cut out in order to properly clean and dry the home.  This is just a few of the photos, as more cabinets and the ceiling in the basement below, also needed to be removed.

Interpreting Mold Samples

A useful method for interpreting microbiological results is to compare the kinds and levels of organisms detected in different environments. Usual comparisons include indoors versus outdoors, or complaint areas versus non‐complaint areas. Specifically, in buildings without mold problems, the qualitative diversity (types) of airborne fungi indoors and outdoors should be similar. Conversely, the dominating presence of one or two kinds of fungi indoors, coupled with the absence of the same kind of fungi outdoors, may indicate a moisture problem and degraded air quality.

Also, the consistent presence of certain fungi, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, Aspergillus versicolor, or various Penicillium species, over and beyond background concentrations may indicate the occurrence of a moisture problem and a potential atypical exposure. Generally, indoor mold types should be similar to, and airborne concentrations should be no greater than, those found outdoors and in non-complaint areas. Analytical results from bulk material or dust samples may also be compared to results of similar samples collected from reasonable comparison areas.

Comparisons of total bacterial levels indoors versus outdoors may not be as useful as with fungi, since natural bacteria reservoirs exist in both places. Comparisons of the specific types of bacteria present, excluding those of known human origin, can help determine building-related sources.

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