Plaster Walls And Mold Growth: Keeping Vintage Homes Safe

There is no question that mold is unattractive, potentially a health risk and expensive to eradicate if allowed to expand too far into a home. However, a careful homeowner can prevent any serious damage to their home or health risk to themselves or family members with a little caution. Older homes may seem more at risk to mold intrusion than a modern house, but this is not necessarily true. The biggest concern owners of older homes have is the safety of their plaster walls. Here is what they need to know. 

Mold needs water in order to grow.

Mold only develops when there is a combination of porous material and water. The material must be able to hold the water long enough fo the mold to develop. In order to continue to thrive, it will need to remain wet. A small water leak onto a non-porous surface is not an emergency situation. A few gallons of water poured inside a wood and lath plaster wall does require professional inspection. 

Sometimes mildew disguises itself as mold. 

Homeowners cannot always easily distinguish between mold and mildew. Homes with mildew typically lack good ventilation and need a proper cleaning, but they do not have a critical flaw that instantly leads to permanent damage. Determining if a stain is mold or mildew is as easy as wiping it with a wet cloth. Mildew sits on the surface and wipes away easily. Mold embeds itself into materials and remains (or returns) despite the best cleaning efforts. 

Plaster is vulnerable to mold growth.

Plaster does not necessarily provide an adequate growth environment on its own but the horsehair mixed into the plaster is organic and appealing to mold. This is also true of the wood used inside the plaster walls and the wallpaper covering the walls. 

Any potential infestation requires a mold inspection. 

Mold testing is the easiest way to determine if mold is a concern without adding to the problem unintentionally. In some instances it is possible for mold to be present but contained within a wall. This is generally older problems where moisture is no longer an issue. However, if the mold is disturbed it could easily end up in the air of the home and begin to spread. 

Some remediation tasks may be small enough to enable the team to detect and encapsulate the mold in the home. This is usually not recommended because it means leaving the mold in the home. In most cases the mold growth must be cut out and removed. This is distressing for homeowners hoping to retain the historical inegrity of their home but it is often the only way to prevent further damage in the future. Many historically popular products, like brick and stone, are not a mold risk at all. As long as the home was built well and properly maintained over the years it is not any more vulnerable than any other home.   


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