Attic Mold Removal Done Right – Don’t Encapsulate Soda Blast Or Use Dry Ice!

Got Attic Mold? Warning: Never Encapsulate/ Paint Dry Ice Blast Or Soda Blast!

When facing an attic mold problem, many homeowners are confronted with the daunting task of solving a problem far afield of the typical home improvement job. Getting rid of attic mold is not like remodeling a bathroom or kitchen or painting a house. Mold is both dangerous and alive. And when it comes to getting rid of it there is a ton of conflicting information out there.

Many homeowners never even knew there was a toxic evil dwelling right above their heads in their homes gradually consuming the very decking boards that form the roof. In fact over half of the attic mold problem we routinely encounter were only discovered when the homeowner decided it was time to sell their house.

We have seen many, many, home sales fall completely through just because a home inspector discovered mold hiding in the attic area, feeding on the roofing boards. One of the biggest reasons for this is the color of the most common mold that grows in attics north of the Mason-Dixon line is the dreaded color black. Many potential home buyers are scared away by this black mold pigment, thinking that it is “the toxic black mold” the dreaded stachybotrys chartarum. But in fact this is almost never the case. What makes a black mold black is simply the pigment melanin, a harmless pigment found in our skin to protect us from the harmful UV rays produced by the sun. It serves the same purpose in mold. Attic mold is almost never the more deadly black mold as attic mold almost always grows during the winter time as a result of simple heat loss, coupled with inadequate or improperly designed or installed roofing ventilation.

Ventilation Problems: How The Mold Grows

When it gets freezing cold in the winter we turn on our homes heating system. Naturally heat rises, and when we don’t have adequate insulation or when it is too cold to keep up with heat loss, this hot air makes its way into the attic itself. When a roof is ventilated properly, this hot air is channeled out of the attic through what are called out take air vents. These are in the form of box vents, power vents, gable end vents, or ridge vents. In order for the out take air vents to work properly the roof needs an intake air vent system. These vents allow colder air to move through the attic while the hot air is forced out through the outake air vents.

When this does not happen the hot air becomes trapped in the attic and coalesces against the freezing cold boards of the roof. This creates a hot air mass meets cold surface form of condensation called dewpoint, and usually results in droplets of water or frost. This moisture begins the cycle of mold growth that leads to attic mold infestations.

Attic mold typically only grows in the winter time unless it is caused by the rare roof leak or wet basement or crawlspace sending water vapor upwards. The reason it only grows during the 5-6 months of winter is during the rest of the year the temperature reached in the attic are far too hot, for aggressive mold growth.

The Solution:

When trying to decide what to do to solve the attic crawspace mold problem, the average homeowner is baffled. Why? Well in getting several estimates for the clean up he or she is often faced with completely different suggestions from local contractors who each insist that their method is “best” or “right”. We have met mold victims who have had 5-6 different estimates with 5-6 differing “solutions” that left the homeowners heads spinning as to what to do, if them if the goal is permanent eradication. The reason why there are so many differing approaches to mold clean up is the direct result of the mold training authorities or certifying bodies or schools who never actually specify which products to use when. Also the average contractor has a limited to poor understanding of the true life processes of the mold and its actual microbiological processes.

Fix The Ventilation/Leaks:

In solving every mold issue it is a must to eliminate the source of the moisture, and this means fixing the ventilation issues. While the prevailing theory is to install a ridge vent we find that these often do not breathe as advertised. We recommend box vents placed as close to the peak as possible, they almost never clog or leak and work exceptionally well even though their use has fallen out of vogue. Next make sure there is adequate intake air in the form of soffit ventilation. There is no such thing as too much soffit ventilation.

Killing The Mold Means Killing The Roots:

One of the most over looked and misunderstood components to permanent mold eradication and removal is killing the roots of the mold. When the average person thinks about mold they usually conjure up some memory of moldy bread or cheese. The human brain love to store memories by association, and we think of the fuzzy stuff we can see on the surface of a mold problem as the mold itself. WRONG! What we can see the fuzzy stuff is actually the fruit-body or the reproductive part of the mold organism, it is the seed. It is the apple not the tree! If we want to eliminate mold permanently we need to kill the roots which ARE the BODY of the mold organism itself. And they are invisible to the naked eye because they are growing under the surface, just like the tap-root of a dandelion grows beneath the surface of the Earth. And just like with a dandelion we need to kill the roots to kill the organism.

Popular mold removal techniques almost universally fail to address this and most mold removal companies actually do horrible work because they fail to understand this very basic premise. To kill the mold you must kill the roots. What do these companies do? There are several approaches that are usually employed and they are all inadequate. Most companies will start by applying a biocide. It is common to see this written on almost every mold protocol. Rarely does the contractor mention that 95% of these biocides do not kill the spores and they also do not kill the roots. Most also contain some form of carcinogen which can cause cancer in lab animals! Next they will apply an encapsulant which really means to paint the wood. This is a booby trap waiting to go off as the paint will form a vapor barrier and eventually peel off. Since the paint has poisons in it, it can become a future hazard just as happened with lead paint. It is also a dead give away during a home inspection that there was a problem cause attics only get painted when there is mold or a house fire. This method also leave the mold roots alive and well and waiting for moisture. Next there are a variety of sanding methods from hand sanding to soda or dry ice blasting. The companies that offer these approaches will tell you that they are sanding away the mold roots. However this is simply not true! The roots of mold grow deep into the wood at least 3/16’s of an inch. If you actually tried to sand the wood that deeply you would end up doing structural damage to the roof. Well why do they do this you ask? They remove the pigment layer with these techniques and make the mold visually appear to disappear all the while leaving the roots intact and waiting for a drink. The companies who sand usually charge an arm and a leg for this as it is very labor intensive. It is an OK strategy for stain removal but it is NOT a permanent approach to mold removal.

The Ideal Attic Mold Removal System:

The ideal attic mold removal solution employs ventilation correction to remove the source of the water. It involves the use of a biocide that is all natural and is also a sporicide rated for porous substrates, in order to kill the mold. It also focuses on removing the stains or getting rid of tome he evidence, so future homebuyer are not spooked by the appearance that a mold problem once existed. It should focus on killing the roots and preventing the mold from recurring the ideal way to do this is to load the wood or the decking boards with a non-toxic mineral salt so that the exisiting roots suck up the salt and die off and new spore never has a chance to get started growing. It also should employ an inhibitor in the insulation in order to prevent the dust that gets trapped from growing mold. Lastly scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory proved it should also use a gas out. This is accomplished by filling the space with a reactive gas that can get into the tiny spaces in an attic where mold spores can hide, and completely destroying them.

There is one national mold company that has been using this comprehensive approach for almost 14 years, with 100% success! Their customers span the continent of North America and have discovered the only way to truly eliminate attic mold once and for all without using poisonous chemicals. See the box below for more information and to learn how to get a free estimate. And for you daring types they even offer a complete Do-It-Yourself mold removal system so you can get professional results without breaking your wallet. Call today for a free estimate.

Attic Fans – A Good Way to Help Cool Your Home

Attic fans work in tandem with open soffit vents to lower the temperatures in the attic. They work on the premise of bringing air in from the soffit vents and dispersing that same air out through the attic fan mounted in the roof. The unit is mounted in the roof decking, at about the same area as a roof vent. Under normal conditions, only one fan is needed per attic area. The motor is powered by electricity or solar power and is controlled by a thermostat. It is designed to operate at a temperature set normally about 110-115 degrees; much like setting a thermostat for the furnace or air conditioning. Installation is best left to those who have good construction and electricity skills. If you don’t have the skills or feel uncomfortable on roofs or around electricity, hire a qualified contractor to install the attic fan to the best standards.

The key to maintaining good attic circulation is to ensure there aren’t any open roof or ridge vents. If there are open vents in the roof, they will not allow proper ventilation of the attic as the it will only draw air from the roof vents or the top third of the attic space. It will not draw air from the soffit vents as is the desired effect. Cover the vents from inside the attic. Covering the vents will ensure exterior air enters from the soffit vents and out the fan.

If you decide to aide ventilation of the attic by installing an attic fan, choose wisely. There are many questions that need to be answered in selecting the proper attic fan:
• What is the square footage of the attic? Purchase the correct size fan. Going small won’t move the amount of air to ventilate the attic.
• Is there electric service in the attic? If not, this will add costs to your project.
• Solar powered vs. electric power? Be aware, solar powered attic fans are not yet as powerful as the ones powered by electricity. Nor can it move as much air. They will improve as they become more popular.
• Present ventilation in the attic, is it doing the job required? If so, why change?!
• Is the attic insulated? If not, it should be.

If you want to increase attic ventilation, this is one of the means in which it can be done. Do your homework and choose wisely. Attic fans installed to the best standards and right size can help keep the attic cooler. Increasing attic ventilation correctly can save money.

Save Money and Energy Through Attic Ventilation

There are four main reasons attic ventilation is important and can save you money:

  1. The first is energy savings. During warm summers, your attic could actually be heating your house, resulting in high, unnecessary energy costs coming out of your pocket. Proper attic ventilation gives that heat somewhere to go, resulting in a naturally cooler home.
  2. The second reason to pay attention to your attic ventilation is the effect poor ventilation has on your roof’s performance. Under vented attics get very hot in most summer climates and can bake the shingle from the inside out.
  3. The third reason for installing the correct number and placement of vents is so moisture does not get sucked in through some of the vents. Moisture can actually get caught in the attic that can results in damage to your ceiling and roof structure.
  4. The fourth reason is to reduce the probability of moisture build up in the attic from condensation.

The other day, I was inspecting a roof that had reported a leak. While looking in their attic, I found an actual blanket of snow covering the floor of the attic. This was the result of the attic being over ventilated at the ridge. Because there were too many turtle vents on the roof, the attic actually started to intake air, and moisture along with it. Snow was being pulled into their home during storms, causing obvious issues with moisture content. This is the first time I had ever seen anything like this. The problem could have easily been avoided if the roofing contractor had been more educated about attic ventilation principles.

Under ventilating your attic can be just as dangerous, and is much more common. If your attic does not allow air flow, your attic would stay unnaturally warm throughout the winter. This could cause snow on your roof to melt off and then refreeze in your gutters and at your eaves, which may force water to freeze up under your actual shingles. In the summer, your attic could reach temperatures above 160 degrees, heating your home as you are trying to cool it. The overwhelming heat of your attic could be prematurely aging your shingles or ‘frying’ them from the inside out. Not only this, but if your attic gets hot enough, you could even warp the framing on your home.

Proper ventilation is simple to enforce. The biggest mistake I have seen homeowners make is to build a roof with proper ventilation and then install insulation covering the soffits (the area adjacent to the eaves where the air enters the attic through the soffit vents). Another similar mistake is storing items that block the soffits. This makes the ventilation system worthless. Instead, be sure to install insulation clear of this area and store your items away from the vents to allow proper air flow.

By far, the best way to ventilate your attic is to use soffit vents at the eaves and ridge vents. These vents are installed by your roofing contractor. Soffit vents are installed on the bottom of the overhanging area of your roof, or the eave. These should be used to intake air, as they will not intake moisture along with it. Your outtake vents should be your ridge vents at the peak or highest points of your roof. These will help to cool your attic, and as they are covered with shingles, they will also avoid the intake of moisture. This system will keep the air in your attic moving and flowing, maintaining the health of your home.

How can you tell if you have proper ventilation in your attic? One way to monitor this is by keeping track of the temperature in your attic. An ideal temperature in the summer would be less than 20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. It is ideal to have the winter temperature the same inside as outside the attic, as to avoid ice dams. The winter temperature is probably the most important to monitor in terms of up keeping your home and roof.

Another way to measure ventilation is by a floor space to ridge ratio. There should be 1 square foot of ventilation along your ridge for every 300 square feet of floor space in your attic. For example, if you have 1200 square feet in your attic, you should have 4 square feet of ventilation along your ridge.

Following these tips and precautions should save you money on your energy bill and in unnecessary repairs to your home.