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How to Get Rid of Black Mold In Your Basement

Mold on a basement wall.

Whether your concern is aesthetic or medical, you don’t want mold in your basement.  It’s gross, it smells, and it can cause cold-like symptoms (if not worse).  There’s a lot of conflicting information on mold removal on the internet; but that’s typical, right? Sometimes I think the internet specializes in conflicting information. 

Acculevel, however, specializes in something a lot more useful: foundation repair and basement waterproofing.  Since our start in 1996, we’ve helped more than 35,000 homeowners restore their homes to optimal health and stability.  Our coverage area includes our home state of Indiana, and portions of the surrounding states

Some articles will use fear tactics to get you to read them.  Most of these reference the dangers of “toxic black mold.”  This is not our plan.  Yes, mold can have a strong negative effect on people’s well-being; but it is rarely the boogeyman it’s portrayed to be. 

We are going to cover factual information about mold, how to get rid of it, when you need a professional’s help, and how to prevent mold from growing in your home. 

 

What is Black Mold?

All molds are types of fungus, and they come in a wide range of colors including black.  When people talk about “toxic mold” or “toxic black mold,” they’re probably referring to the mold strain called stachybotrys chartarum.  It is definitely not good for people, but most of the stories about it causing hemorrhages or similarly catastrophic health problems are urban myths.  As of the time this article was written, we still have no proof that a mold can cause such major health problems in the average person. 

Mold on a basement wall.
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during a free in-home assessment.  There is a thin layer of black mold on this customer’s basement wall.

 

Who is Vulnerable to Mold-Related Health Problems? 

Some people are at greater risk of respiratory problems (lung-related illnesses).  This includes the following groups:

  • Infants and very young children, whose immune systems are still developing.
  • People of any age that have mold-specific allergies.  This includes anyone who is allergic to mushrooms, penicillin, or other types of fungus.
  • Anyone who has a compromised immune system, including the elderly, diabetics, those with lupus, etc.
  • People with asthma, COPD, or other respiratory ailments. 

 

What Are the Most Common Signs You Are Allergic to Mold?

Generally speaking, mold allergies closely resemble the symptoms you have with hay fever, other seasonal allergies, or a cold.  They range from the mild to the more severe, depending on how much exposure you have to the mold: 

  • Headache
  • Itchy, watery eyes or blurring vision
  • Congestion
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Sore throat

If you have these symptoms and they will not go away, or they worsen when you are in the basement?   It’s probably an allergy.  If you don’t take any action, this can eventually lead to more substantial illnesses like bronchitis or pneumonia.

 

How Do You Remove Black Mold? 

If the mold only covers a small area, and you’re not allergic to it, cleaning it off your basement wall or floor is possible.  You will need to use warm soapy water and a rag or sponge that you are comfortable discarding after use.  You don’t want to wash and re-use that cleaning material on other surfaces. 

Make sure you are using a cleaning solution that is designed for cleaning mold/mildew off of porous surfaces.  (Concrete, brick, and the mortar used with brick or stone are all porous.)  Be a smart consumer: read the instructions carefully and take the recommended precautions.  These are usually simple things like wearing rubber gloves, and opening windows for ventilation.

PLEASE BE SAFE: Do not use bleach; it is a disinfectant, not a cleaner, and it is not designed for porous surfaces. Using bleach can actually make the problem worse; it can seep into the concrete and linger. (The fumes are often hazardous to allergy sufferers.) And please do not mix cleaning solutions together; the wrong combination can literally be fatal.

 

Large amount of white mold on floor joists
This photo was also taken by an Acculevel project advisor.  There is a large amount of textured mold on the floor joists in this crawl space.  

If the mold is covering a larger area (the EPA specifies 10 square feet or more), or it needs to be scraped off the surface, you need to hire a professional.  The photo above is a great example of mold that has to be scraped before it can be cleaned or sealed.  This type of mold removal requires more industry-grade PPE (that’s personal protective equipment).  You also need to be trained and equipped to remove the mold and all the debris.  If this is not done properly, the mold can release spores and actually spread to other areas.

 

How Do You Prevent Black Mold? 

Preventing black mold, or any color mold, means you have to address the cause of the mold. Mold is a symptom, an indication that you have a bigger problem in your basement. You don’t get mold in your basement without a source of moisture. 

Start by finding out how water/moisture is getting into your basement.  Check all of your plumbing and pipes for possible leaks.  If you find any, hire a local plumber to remedy the situation immediately.  Not only is a leaky pipe feeding mold in your basement, but it’s wasting water that you have to pay for!

If all of the plumbing is solid, move on to the windows and doors in the basement.  Water may be seeping in around the edges of the frames.  A good general contractor can replace the flashings, repair the frames, or even replace them if necessary.

water leaking into basement
This photo was taken by an Acculevel project advisor during a free in-home assessment.  Water is seeping in through the cove joint (where the wall and floor connect).

The water may be coming through a crack in the foundation; if this is the case, you’ll need a foundation repair company like Acculevel.  Please do not hire a general contractor to work on your home’s foundation.  This is an area where you need an expert; your entire home relies on the foundation to remain stable and secure.

But it is always possible the water source is none of these things.  Remember: your foundation is built out of a porous material.  Water may be coming directly through the wall or floor.  This would mean your home needs a waterproofing system installed.  If there’s no actual water in the basement, but it’s damp and humid?  A high quality dehumidifier may be what you need.  

 

Have More Questions About Basement Waterproofing?

Please use our free homeowner’s guide to basement waterproofing.  This is a thorough, detailed review of all the major topics from crack repair, drainage types, dehumidifiers, all the way to encapsulation.  We answer the most commonly asked questions about repair methods, costs, and even discuss potential issues that our customers have encountered. 

link to our waterproofing guide

 

If you have mold growing in your basement or need to waterproof it before mold starts, please call Acculevel at 866-669-3349 or complete our online form.   We’ll schedule you an appointment with one of our friendly, knowledgeable, and experienced project advisors.  

They will come to your home, discuss your concerns, your plans for your home, and any previous issues you’ve noticed.  Then, they’ll perform a thorough assessment of your home.  Once they have determined both the problems and the potential solutions, they will review everything they’ve learned with you.  As a team, you will decide what the best whole-home solution is for you and your family.  

If you don’t live within our service area, please be cautious when you begin your search for contractors.  Most are ethical, responsible businesses, but we don’t want you to be caught by a con artist only pretending to be a contractor.  Our blog on questions you should ask a contractor will help you be prepared for meeting with anyone who may be hired to work on your house.  This guide is free to anyone, and includes a downloadable questionnaire for you to use. We also recommend that you verify all tradespeople who work on your home are properly insured and accredited by the Better Business Bureau

 

 

Kelly Kater

Over her twenty year career, Kelly has worked in a wide variety of fields: secondary education, nursing, biology, elder care, the postal service, multicultural development, and academia. She has developed a skill for translating industry-specific jargon into everyday language. Her goal is to share the knowledge and experience of the Acculevel team with homeowners, in a way that is both engaging and informative.

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