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Eliminating Mould and Mildew

Tuesday, 07th September 2010

M&M means different things to different people. Most associate it with the delicious candies and colourful cartoon characters. Music devotees will associate it with Marshall Mathers, AKA Eminem, the controversial rapper. But for those of us in the trade, M&M means Mould and Mildew...and it's not nearly as popular as the former two. The rain and cold weather of the last few months have caused a dramatic increase in M&M in strata properties - and kept us extremely busy. So here are some tricks of the trade to deal with the problem.

What is it?

Mould is a living organism; a fungi that grows like a network. Generally speaking, the mould we tend to see in buildings thrive at temperatures from about 4-degrees Celsius where humidity is high. A quick search of the Internet can provide you with a wealth of information on the science relating to mould. Where will it grow?

Usually in damp, dark or steam-filled areas. These include bathrooms, kitchens, cluttered storage areas, recently flooded areas, basements, plumbing ducts, poorly-ventilation rooms, and outdoors in humid environments. It is most common in:
1) Ground floor units that either have a southern aspect or are shaded by trees or neighbouring buildings. 2) On brick or concrete surfaces that are either common or external walls. 3) In warm air environments, particularly where the occupants use a radiant-type heater such as an un-flued gas heater or an exposed electrical element. Water leaks will also increase the incidence of mould. So get a plumber to check for failed membranes or roof problems. Ensure that the plumber has a moisture meter and knows how to use it. How does it grow? Our experience shows that M&M starts on a wall or ceiling that is generally cold to touch. Most of the time it’s an external wall that is directly in contact with the ambient air outside. In most cases the affected wall is shaded and gets very little natural warmth from the sun. If there is excessive moisture in the air from showers, cooking or rain, this damp air becomes heated inside the apartment from appliances such as a heater, and comes into contact with the cold walls. This starts to form condensation. We have often seen condensation to the point of absolute saturation, with water running down the walls. The condensation that remains on the surface becomes a breeding ground for the mould spores and, in a very short space of time, the mould can spread. How can it be stopped? The first thing is to remove moisture from the surface and the air. The best way to do this is by ventilation. It can be as simple as opening doors and windows, promoting cross-ventilation. The area may require additional ventilation bricks and, in some severe cases, fans and forced-air movement. Mould struggles to survive in open, well-ventilated spaces. Secondly, you need to get some natural light and warmth onto the affected walls. Trimming trees and opening blinds will help. A property with a southerly aspect will be the worst affected, particularly in winter when the sun is low in the sky. Limit the use of artificial heating (un-flued gas heaters and radiant-type electric models), and opt for a reverse cycle air conditioner because it tends to remove moisture from the air. The weather is now on your side, and the warmer Spring and Summer months will make mould easier to contain. How do I get rid of it permanently? Because the mould is an organism it has to be killed. Cleaning alone will not stop the mould from growing back. You must address the cause and implement a strategy to stop M&M from growing. Then you can look to get rid of it permanently. Special mould killers do work, although it takes considerable elbow grease. We have had particular success using Selley’s ‘Mould Killer’ and then sealing the area with Zinisser ‘B.I.N’. Both products should be available at your local hardware store. Like all maintenance and repair issues, every site is different. You should contact a professional. Ask questions, and if you are not confident in that professional get another opinion. Eliminating M&M can be a very expensive process, and it needs the right diagnosis and strategy to be totally effective.

By Stephen Ellis

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