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Non-wood decay fungi (molds)

By: Jasna Aleksandrova

The occurrence of non-wood decaying fungi in a crawl space is a good indicator of high moisture levels which could be an indication of a problematic air duct system, an unwanted water supply and/or a sanitation issue. It is important to state that, non-wood decaying fungi are commonly known as molds and they cannot destroy wood. Of course that’s no reason to neglect mold if found on the wood in a crawl space. Molds are microscopic fungi that live on the surface of and discolor wood. They do not break down wood fibers or weaken its structure, but they can increase the capacity of wood allowing it to absorb moisture, which makes better conditions for wood decaying fungi to grow.

The symptoms

The sight of mold is the first symptom that there is excessive moisture in a crawl space. Experts usually say: where there is mold, there is or has been moisture. When moisture is present, mold grows on the ground, the walls, the outer walls of the air duct system, or on the surface of the wood construction in the crawl space.

There are many species of molds that belong to the fungi family. Molds reproduce by forming spores and spreading the spores through air movement. When the air moves mold it spreads throughout the space. If neglected for a long period of time, a crawl space can be swamped with mold. When molds grow they reproduce a gas called (mold volatile organic compound). The gasses, reproduced by molds, enter the house through the air duct system and can cause problems in the air quality of a home which can create a mildew or moldy odor. This is usually associated with damp environments. Also the nasty odor of mildew can enter the house through the microscopic cracks in the floors and walls. When a home start to smell musty or have an earth like smell then it is highly likely that crawl space is damp and contains mold.

Problems, fixes and advices

Mold and moisture in a crawl space can indicate more problems than poor indoor air quality. Moisture in a damp crawl space will eventually rise and extend into the wall cavities and attic spaces. These conditions can encourage the presence of termites, ants, and other unwanted pests. Yet the problems do not stop here. Molds also attract other organisms that can affect or destroy the wooden structures in a home – wood decaying fungi. The extent of any problem depends on how often and how much moisture is present. Controlling and eliminating favorable conditions for mold growth can prevent a house from literally rotting. That’s why it is important to have regular inspections of your crawl space performed by an expert. An expert can notice the signs of moisture, leaks in the air duct system, an unwanted water supply and sanitation issues. If moisture does exist, an expert can fix leaks in the operating system of a home and cover the entire crawl space with protective plastic sheeting. They can also advise you on how to carefully water the lawn and landscaping to prevent spraying the house or areas near the house that would affect the crawl space.

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