How to Prevent Mold in New Home Construction
If you’re building a new home, either as the homeowner or contractor, it's wise to consider ways to prevent mold from the beginning. It’s not unusual for even brand-new homes to have problems with mold on drywall, mold on wood, and even mold on new carpets. Homes haven’t always been built with mold control in mind, but these days there are many ways to work mold prevention into new home construction.
Use Mold-Resistant Building Materials
- Mold-resistant drywall – Traditional drywall has a paper covering that hangs onto moisture, creating a perfect environment for mold to grow. Mold-resistant drywall replaces this paper with fiberglass, prevents moisture from being absorbed and helps to maintain a mold-free surface.
- Mold-resistant insulation – There are a variety of choices for insulation, but the most common insulating materials are fiberglass and cellulose. For mold resistance, fiberglass is typically the best choice since cellulose can encourage mold growth rather than prevent it. However, it is also important to consider what (if anything) is used for the insulation backing. Insulation may be backed by paper, foil, another material, or nothing. If the insulation is being used in an area with high potential for moisture contact and buildup, paper backing essentially cancels out the mold resistance of fiberglass by offering a surface for water absorption and mold growth.
- Fungicide-treated paint – Fungicidal paints are made with compounds that give them anti-microbial properties. These paints prevent mold growth on the surface and provide an effective barrier to protect the material underneath from moisture buildup and mold growth.
- Anti-mold treated wood – Most wood used for building can be treated with an anti-mold fungicide to make it resistant to mold growth. Once mold has begun to grow on wood used to frame and build a house it can be very difficult to treat, and using anti-mold treated wood provides mold resistance deep within the structure of the home.
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Protect Building Materials from Potential Moisture Sources Prior to Building
- Keep packaging sealed – the minute any packaging is opened, building materials are exposed to moisture and potential mold growth. Of course, it isn’t always possible to avoid leaving unsealed materials, and even sealed materials aren’t always airtight. It might be difficult to prioritize planning to keep materials sealed and maintain efficiency in opening and using materials…but doing so can prevent much more tedious mold-related issues down the road.
- Climate-controlled storage – whenever possible it is ideal to keep building materials in storage that is as climate controlled as possible. This could be an insulated area with well-sealed doors and constantly maintained humidity levels, or it could mean simply taking steps to cover materials that are left otherwise unprotected. Either way, doing what you can to prevent moisture accumulation on and around building materials can have a big impact on preventing mold growth in newly constructed homes.
Grade Land Down Away from the Foundation
For many builders, this is common practice to allow water to naturally drain away from a home and its foundation, but its worth mentioning and repeating. The land around a foundation is usually capable of holding a large amount of moisture, essentially keeping the foundation constantly damp. Grading the land to drain water away doesn’t completely solve the problem since the foundation will always be sitting in potentially damp ground, but it does a good job of preventing excessive saturation.
Avoid Wall-to-Wall Carpeting
Wall-to-wall carpeting can certainly make a home feel cozy, but it also creates a very cozy home for mold. Any moisture that enters the carpet, whether it's from environmental humidity or from a spill, is going to soak into the carpet material. Without being able to lift the carpet and have airflow to dry the moisture, its bound to take longer than usual to dry and therefore gives mold an excellent opportunity to grow.
Moisture and mold growth in a carpet also means there’s a good chance of moisture and mold growth on the flooring underneath. Avoiding wall-to-wall carpeting and opting for hard flooring and rugs instead removes a major source of potential mold growth and damage.
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Consider Alternatives to Wood Framing
Most houses are still framed with wood, but alternatives like steel framing and poured concrete are becoming more popular due to their durability and mold resistance. There are pros and cons to all building material alternatives, and steel is no different. It’s slightly more expensive than traditional wood, can be susceptible to rust, and can result in higher energy costs due to the heat conductivity of steel.
Still, if you’re building in an area where moisture or water damage is likely, steel framing is worth considering. It's naturally resistant to water damage and mold growth is more durable than wood and is more environmentally friendly due to its recyclability. This can be an ideal option for preventing mold in new home construction.
Like steel framing, building with concrete can be more expensive than wood but also comes with perks. It is faster drying than wood in the event of water damage or moisture buildup, making it less likely to promote mold growth. It is also stronger and non-combustible, meaning it may be a safer option than wood in areas where fires or hazardous weather are common.
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Thick moisture barrier beneath a concrete slab
Concrete slabs naturally absorb moisture from the surrounding earth and release it upward. This is a natural part of the building process. Slabs are typically dry for an extended period of time before the building proceeds. Unfortunately, the initial drying of the slab doesn’t last as soil moisture fluctuates naturally.
Concrete slabs will continue to absorb moisture from the ground and release it into the home if there is moisture available. By applying a thick moisture barrier beneath the slab, the concrete is not in direct contact with the ground and is less likely to absorb moisture. As an added bonus, these barriers also prevent gases like radon from seeping into basements and homes.
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Looking to make changes that will prevent mold growth (or regrowth) in an existing home?
As always, the first step should be consulting professionals and having a thorough mold inspection. Especially in warm and damp climates like Florida, having a mold inspection can often uncover even the most subtle mold growth. Once you’ve had a mold inspection, here are four easy-to-implement tips for moisture and mold control:
A dehumidifier is a quick, easy, and typically inexpensive way to control moisture in a home and prevent moisture damage and mold growth. Many are programmable to automatically maintain a predetermined humidity level. Dehumidifiers can do an excellent job of pulling moisture from the air inside your home.
Open doors and move furniture away from walls
Air flow is essential for drying moisture buildup and preventing mold. Allowing airflow around furniture keeps moist air from getting trapped and promotes mold growth on upholstery and walls. Keeping doors open helps air move throughout the house.
Consider keeping inside air temp higher to prevent condensation
Many people like to keep air conditioning in the home cool, especially in warmer climates. Unfortunately, maintaining a cool home also means more condensation as warm, moist air quickly cools. Condensation sits on surfaces like walls, floors, and furniture, keeping things damp and possibly allowing mold to grow.
Install bathroom fans to actively remove moist air (opening a window doesn’t cut it)
It’s no secret that the bathroom is likely the dampest room in any home, besides possibly the basement. If your full bathroom doesn’t have a fan to remove moist air and vent outside of the house, look into having one installed.
Opening a bathroom window while showering is common practice for many people, and it can help, but it's not enough. While having an open window does promote some airflow, it's usually minimal. A built-in fan will actively remove moist air, preventing it from sitting and collecting in sneaky places like grout and caulk lines where mold loves to grow.
Engage Mold can help
While there are ways to slow and prevent mold growth in older homes, the best way to control mold is from the beginning. With all the options for mold prevention available to new construction, it may be confusing to know where to start. Mold professionals like Engage Mold Solutions of Florida can help. Contact us for mold inspection in Tampa and surrounding areas, whether you have an older house or are starting a new build.