Crawl spaces separate the first floor of a home from the moisture and dirt of the earth below. They also often provide access to essential heating, cooling, and plumbing systems. While crawl spaces offer many benefits to homeowners, they’re also especially susceptible to mold. Given that about 15% of American homes have a crawl space, it’s important for homeowners to know the risks of mold in crawl spaces and how to identify them.
If left to grow, crawl space mold will eventually travel to other areas of the house through vents and other connected systems, presenting risks to your health and your home. Catching early signs of mold growth can protect your property and family, as well as simplify the remediation process.
Keep reading to learn more about common signs you may have mold in your crawl space and how a professional analysis from an accredited lab can help.
How Does Mold Grow in Crawl Spaces?
Mold spreads by reproducing microscopic spores, which thrive in dark, moist environments. Since crawl spaces are situated directly above the natural ground, they readily attract moisture and humidity, especially in rainy climates like the Pacific Northwest. This makes a crawl space the perfect place for mold to spread quickly and potentially enter your living spaces.
The Most Common Signs You May Have Mold in Your Crawl Space
1. It Smells Musty
An unpleasant odor is one of the most common signs of mold growth, especially if it continuously worsens over time. As mold grows, it emits microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs), which often produce a musty or earthy odor. If you notice a musty smell in your house – especially in your crawl space – this may be a sign that you have a mold problem.
2. More Pests Than Usual
Many common bugs and pests such as cockroaches, fungus gnats, booklice, and crickets are attracted to mold, as many of them feed on decomposing materials and/or mold itself. If you notice an increase in the amount of pests around your crawl space, it may be evidence of mold growth.
3. There Was Water Damage
If your home suffered recent water damage, it’s a good idea to keep your eye out for mold. Water damage from a flood or leak undeniably increases the presence of moisture in your home, setting the stage for mold. That’s why it’s always a good idea to take proactive steps to prevent mold after water damage.
4. Sagging Floors
Mold feeds on organic materials such as fabrics, wood, and paper. This can cause the surfaces in your home to deteriorate, warp, and sag. If you notice that your floors look uneven or are beginning to droop, mold may be the culprit.
5. Getting Allergies
Mold in your crawl space can result in a number of health risks, especially with prolonged exposure. Mold allergies are extremely common and can produce a number of persistent, unpleasant symptoms. Certain populations such as people with existing respiratory conditions, immune disorders, or a family history of allergies are especially vulnerable.
Common symptoms of mold allergy include:
- Itchy eyes, throat, and nose
- Sore throat
- Dry or scaly skin
- Runny nose
6. Discoloration on Your Walls, Floors, or Baseboards
Surfaces of your home that have been affected by mold will often become discolored and/or take on a fuzzy appearance. There are many different species of mold and various mold colors such as black, brown, white, or yellow. If you notice discoloration on the surfaces of your home, it’s a good idea to test for mold.
7. Decaying Beams
Excess moisture can begin to compromise the integrity of structural supports in your home. If you have wooden beams in your crawl space that are starting to rot, decay, or change shape, it could be due to mold.
What To Do if You Think You Have Mold
If you suspect mold in your crawl space or anywhere else in your home, the first step is to have the area professionally tested. JSE Labs offers fast mold testing and analysis to homeowners. We can send one of our field staff to your home to collect a sample for you, or you can collect your own sample and mail it to us from anywhere in the United States.
How To Get Rid of Mold in Crawl Spaces
If you have mold in your crawl space, it’s important to take steps to have it removed as soon as possible. If the mold is only present on a small surface in your crawl space, you may choose to remove it yourself.
You can do this by thoroughly cleaning the area with household cleaning products such as a spray, soap and water, or a diluted bleaching solution. If you choose to get rid of mold yourself, wear protective gear such as gloves, goggles, and a face mask.
For more severe cases, it’s highly recommended that you contact a professional mold remediation company to ensure that it’s removed safely and properly. You should seek professional help if:
- The mold growth covers more than 10 feet
- There has been significant water damage
- The affected surfaces have started to erode or degrade.
How To Prevent Mold From Growing in the Future
Fortunately, there are many ways to help prevent mold from growing in your crawl space. Here are a few helpful tips:
- Set up a dehumidifier to keep humidity below 50% and clean up any standing water.
- Fix any cracks or holes in the walls or ceiling of your crawl space.
- Lay a plastic vapor barrier along the floor to protect the crawl space from the moisture of the natural ground.
- Clean your gutters and make sure they are working properly to direct water away from your home.
- Check regularly for leaks in your plumbing system.
Get Fast, Reliable Mold Testing and Analysis With JSE Labs
JSE Labs is proud to serve residential and commercial property owners with safe and accurate same-day mold testing and analysis. If you’re concerned about mold growing in your crawl space, we can come to your property and take a sample or you can collect one yourself and submit it to our Milwaukie laboratory for testing in person or via mail.
JSE Labs utilizes advanced technology to ensure that you’re fully informed about the presence of mold in your home.
Contact us to speak with our experts and get your sample tested today.
Jennifer is the Laboratory Manager of JSE Labs, and holds a BS in Environmental Studies & Science from Portland State University. She is an avid learner and enjoys exploring new topics related to natural processes and the environment. She has experience analyzing hazardous materials, including asbestos and lead, and is committed to promoting safe and sustainable practices in the workplace and beyond. When not in the laboratory, Jennifer can be found exploring the Pacific Northwest with her Catahoula Leopard Dog, Oliver, or volunteering locally.