Oh no! I have water damage, now what?
Water damage is an unfortunate event that literally brings on headaches for people. Someone very close to me recently shared how concerned she is about water damage in her newly finished basement. She is particularly worried because she is very sensitive to toxins in the air brought on by mold and other environmental allergens. Because of these known sensitivities, she took certain precautions to guard herself when designing her basement. For example, she chose to have cork flooring installed because it is naturally mold and mildew resistant.
Cork flooring is considered hypo-allergenic and naturally waterproof…or so she had hoped. What she didn’t count on is that a significant crack in her foundation would cause water to squeeze through the seams of the cork flooring. As if that wasn’t enough, her beautiful basement window was installed UPSIDE DOWN by a window installation company! Water was slowly leaking into the basement and by the time she realized why – it was too late. Despite having installed mold resistant flooring, a black growth quickly spread along the trim.
Before my friend contemplated her next move, she had two questions that are fairly common. The first was how to tell the difference between mold and mildew (and how long mold takes to grow). The second question was when to call for a mold assessment brought on by water damage? These are fairly common questions and problems that environmental experts hear of on a regular basis.
Mold vs. Mildew
I can see why my friend questioned the differences between mildew and mold. The two types of fungi can seem very similar, however, there are differences. Mildew is a type of mold that typically grows in bathrooms on shower tiles or window sills where moisture levels are high. It is actually a red yeast called Rhodotorula, a common environmental fungus. Mildew can also be distinguished by the color white.
Mold, especially toxic mold, presents in shades of black, green, or blue. Not everyone who encounters mold or mildew, however, is in immediate danger, but you will want to prevent it from spreading. Remember, mildew is a type of mold so allowing it to grow could affect your health at some point. Other people who are sensitive to environmental allergens or have asthma may be symptomatic immediately. This includes runny noses, watery eyes, or asthma flare ups. A big difference between mildew and mold is that mildew is not necessarily toxic, meaning it doesn’t produce mycotoxins like mold can.
How long does mold take to grow?
Mold spores grow and spread in moist environments and do not take long to grow. In the case of my friend’s basement, by the time she realized her newly installed window was leaking and water was coming up from the floor, she’d already seen a significant amount of growth. Depending on the type of mold spores and how wet the conditions are from water, black mold could grow within a week. Other types of mold only need 48 hours. Toxic black mold can appear slimy from moist conditions or dry and powdery if its water source is dried up. It’s best to let it be and call a professional to assess the situation.
If you have experienced basement flooding or any kind of water damage in your home, don’t delay in your response to address the situation. Act quickly. And make sure you contact a trusted company to guide you through the process of environmental testing and restoration. You do not need to go through something like this alone. Trust the experts to help you protect what is most important to you.
By Camille Panaro, M.S. ES., M.S. Ed.