Mold is one of the most common problems you’ll find in commercial buildings. Not only does mold diminish the integrity of the affected structures and potentially spread to other areas of the property over time if left untreated, but it can also impact the health and well-being of those exposed.
If you own a commercial property, you know that maintaining your building is essential to protecting your community and running a successful business. Mold can be harmful to those who breathe it in, and can cause damage to the structure of your building if left untreated. Luckily, with proper maintenance strategies, you can prevent mold from forming, protect the health of your workers, and avoid the associated personal and financial damage.
Keep reading to learn more about how to prevent mold in commercial buildings like government buildings, retail centers, hospitals, schools, restaurants, apartment buildings, and more.
What Is Mold and How Does It Grow?
Mold is a fungal growth that can be found almost anywhere moisture and oxygen are present, both indoors and outdoors. There are an estimated 1,000 species of mold in the US, and more than 100,000 species have been discovered worldwide. Different species of mold come in different colors and differ in appearance, and various types of mold thrive in different environments – but all require water or moisture.
Mold spreads over time as microscopic spores move through the air, land, and reproduce on other nearby surfaces. Mold can be found during all seasons of the year, in both outdoor and
indoor spaces. Outdoors, mold has a role to play in the natural environment by breaking down dead organic matter, including leaves and other debris. Indoors, mold can begin to grow when spores land on wet surfaces, as they require moisture and a nutrient source.
In and around commercial buildings, mold may grow on building materials such as drywall, insulation material, or wood, as well as on fabric, furniture, wallpaper, or even inside wall cavities. Common moisture problems in modern buildings can be traced back to the 1970s, when changes in construction practices led to diminished ventilation. Moisture can also build up as a result of roof leaks, certain landscaping features, and insufficient maintenance.
What Is the Importance of Preventing Mold Growth?
There are a variety of important reasons to take active steps to ensure your commercial building is free of mold. Mold spores can be hazardous to human health when they’re inhaled or accidentally ingested.
In order to protect yourself, employees, customers, and anyone else who spends time inside your building from the health risks associated with mold, it’s important to be diligent about mold prevention strategies and test for mold if you suspect it may be present. If mold has spread in or around your building, you may also expose yourself to potential lawsuits if you don’t take steps to remove it.
Since it takes time for structures to be seriously damaged by mold growth, removal and treatment is generally sufficient to restore your building to its original state. However, if the problem is significant enough and mold is left untreated for an extended period of time, the affected areas (which may include walls, studs, flooring, drywall, furniture, and more) may have to be removed and replaced during remediation efforts, which can be costly.
Industrial or commercial buildings in Portland and the wider Pacific Northwest region represent ideal conditions for mold to form and spread, so it’s important to take additional steps to keep your building dry and test for mold when you see signs of its presence.
Ways to Prevent Mold Growth in Commercial Buildings
1. Get Regular Inspections and Surveys
Staying vigilant is one of the best ways to prevent mold from growing on your property. Having a long-term maintenance plan and keeping up with frequent surveys will help you catch early signs of mold before it causes problems for your health or your business. It’s also a good idea to learn how to spot potential signs of mold such as warped or stained walls, persistent musty smells, and new or irregular allergy symptoms.
2. Repair Leaks as Soon as Possible
Mold thrives in moist, damp environments. That’s why it’s vital that you keep up with repairs to prevent mold from having a chance to form. If you notice leaky pipes, walls, ceilings or have unsealed windows or doors, address those concerns as soon as you can. Of course, in addition to small cracks and leaks, buildings that suffer from significant water damage are at a much higher risk of developing a mold problem. Whether your building experiences a flood or minor leak, make sure you take steps to prevent mold from developing after water damage.
3. Keep Humidity Levels Low
Even if you aren’t dealing with active leaks in your building, certain areas can still be damp enough to attract mold and lead to problems in the future – especially if you live in a humid climate. Investing in a dehumidifier is an easy, low-maintenance way to keep your building dry. Focus on areas that commonly collect moisture such as basements, crawlspaces, and attics. You can also use a dedicated spray to prevent mold growth in commonly affected areas.
4. Clean Your HVAC Systems
Heating, cooling, and ventilation systems are common culprits of mold spreading. Any system that increases the flow of air can potentially allow mold spores to travel to various areas of the building, increasing the spread of mold particles throughout the property and making it much more difficult to identify the source and treat the issue. Routinely cleaning your HVAC systems is a great way to prevent mold from growing and traveling to other areas.
5. Call in a Professional Environmental Inspector
If you suspect that your building is vulnerable to mold, the best way to identify risk factors and catch early signs of mold is to call in a certified expert to inspect your building, take samples, and help you develop an effective removal plan. JSE Labs provides quick, effective, and reliable mold sampling and analysis in Portland, OR and the surrounding area. If you suspect your commercial building may contain mold, it’s worth scheduling a mold survey to protect the people inside as well as your investment. Learn how to select the right environmental inspector to maintain the integrity of your building and operations.
What to Do If You Find Mold In Your Building
If you identify mold in your building, it’s important to remove it safely and as quickly as possible. Mold remediation involves removing moldy materials, as well as correcting the moisture problem in your building to protect the health and safety of people and prevent further damage to your building and its inhabitants.
In general, killing mold with biocide or other chemicals alone is not sufficient for remediation. The mold must be thoroughly removed. OSHA maintains guidelines for removing mold in the workplace, which can help guide you in the event that you discover mold in your commercial building. Effective cleanup methods – which are most successful when used in conjunction with one another – include:
- Disposal of damaged and contaminated materials
- Wet vacuums
- Damp scrubs
- HEPA vacuums
It’s also essential that whoever is working to remove mold from the building wears protective clothing, gloves, respirators, and unvented goggles in order to ensure they’re not exposed to unnecessary risk.
Mold Lab Testing in Portland, OR
Do you think you may have mold in your commercial building? If so, you should have your sample professionally tested. JSE Labs offers quick, accurate mold sampling and analysis. We can even provide same-day results and can also test for other hazardous contaminants, including lead and asbestos.
Contact us to get your questions answered and drop off your own sample or have one of our professionals collect it for you.
Lisa started in the industrial hygiene and environmental industry in 1992 as an asbestos microscopist and began performing building inspections for asbestos, lead paint, and other hazards in 1994.
“This career has been an amazing experience, traveling for work to perform inspections both locally and abroad to locations such as Hawaii and Germany. My real love however is being in the laboratory and assisting our wonderful clients.”