Oct 24, 2022
A guide to dealing with mold damage in your home
Mold is a common enemy of homeowners in Ontario. It’s not something you want to see. It’s a common result of water damage from flooding, leaks, and other issues. Growth can also happen over time in areas where water and moisture are present.
In your home, it poses a serious health risk and it can do significant damage which can be extremely expensive to repair and impact your home insurance in Ontario. As a homeowner, it’s vital to understand how to improve indoor air quality to keep your family and visitors healthy.
For these reasons, you need to care about mold, know how to deal with it and make sure you understand how your coverage relates to mold damage.
What is mold?
Mold is a common term for any fungus that grows on damp materials. It is related to yeast, mushrooms, and other fungi. Even though it is a natural part of the earth, it often grows inside buildings and can be a health hazard when growing inside.
It can produce a potentially harmful substance called mycotoxins, which creates a variety of allergic responses or hypersensitivity diseases in people.
It can also cause physical damage to structures because mold can lead to rotting wood components of buildings, tiles, drywall, and carpets. Mold can also create sick building syndrome, an illness where occupants feel sick while inside, but the direct cause is not specified.
What you need to know about mold damage and home insurance
Where there are leaks, pooling water, and dampness, mold is never too far behind.
While mold from severe water accidents such as sewer backup or a burst pipe is commonly covered, it’s not uncommon for mold related insurance claims to be rejected if growth has been present for some time. This is viewed by insurers as neglecting home maintenance and it will not be insured.
Depending on your policy, you may have coverage limits related to water and mold protection. If the repairs go beyond your policy, you will have to pay out of pocket, after the insurance deductible is paid.
Since mold remediation can be expensive, it’s important to address leaks and mold damage as soon as an issue is identified. As soon as you experience damage, call your insurer and have it cleaned up by a professional. The longer you leave the issue, the more it will spread and the more difficult it will be to clean up.
Make sure you are aware of what is not covered in your policy and consider purchasing additional coverage to top up protection against water issues. In some cases, you may be able to purchase a mold rider to supplement your current coverage. Talk with a ThinkInsure expert about your options.
Does renters insurance cover mold damage?
If you rent, not only is it crucial to have tenant insurance, but it’s important to speak with your landlord about any mold problems. Most policies will cover it, but only if it’s the result of an accident from a covered peril. Similar to being a homeowner, mold from poor maintenance or negligence will not be covered by insurers.
Does insurance cover mold removal?
Insurance will not cover mold caused by negligence – but if you have a named peril in your policy that is covered, your insurer will help with the removal of it in your home.
For example, it will not cover mold that grows in your basement over a number of years because of a foundation crack that was not repaired. On the other side, if there was a storm that caused water to enter your home, and caused mold on the wall and under the carpet, you may be covered.
Will a mold claim increase insurance?
Depending on the type of claim, the cause of mold damage, and your insurer, you may see an increase in your premium. The more claims you submit, the more your rate is going to increase, no matter what the claim is for. Always evaluate the situation and associated costs to decide if it is worth making a home insurance claim.
Health risks of mold
Mold can be extremely hazardous to your health. Elevated levels of mold in your home can affect anyone who is exposed to it. If ingested, it can make you seriously ill, and in extreme cases, could cause death if you have an allergy or pre-existing medical condition.
Signs that mold or mildew may be present in your home include :
- Runny nose and sinus congestion
- Cough and throat irritation
- Sneezing, chest tightness, wheezing, difficulty breathing
- Skin and eye irritation
- Respiratory issues such as asthma
Some people are at a greater risk to the health effects of mold. Infants, the elderly, and people with respiratory issues are more sensitive to it. Some airborne molds can cause lung infections and infect people with weakened immune systems.
See your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms, and have your home inspected by a professional for the presence of it.
Where does mold grow?
Mold grows just about anywhere. It can grow on almost any surface indoors and outdoors. However, there are common areas that you should check :
- Damp areas (laundry sinks, sump pump, bathrooms – especially shower tiles and the tub).
- The kitchen.
- In the basement and garage.
- On walls and ceilings that have experienced water related accidents.
- Rotting shingles and wood.
- Underneath siding.
- Outdoor stairwells where water is prone to pooling.
- Anywhere else where water and moisture is present.
How to determine if you have mold
There is a very good chance you will have mold if you don’t properly clean up damage from water. Here are the ways you can identify the presence of it in your home :
- Look : Look for visible signs in the common areas where it grows. Common areas include floors, windows, walls, and carpets. You’ll want to pay extra caution in bathrooms and kitchens.
- Smell : A damp, moldy, earthy smell is a common clue that it is present. You can contact an expert to help you if you have any concerns or need clarification.
- Condensation : If you notice a lot of condensation on glass or metal, it can build up and turn into an issue.
- Past Leaks : If you’ve had leaks and damage from water in the past it could create a breeding ground for it to grow.
Not all mold is simple to find, but if you pay attention to any visible signs or odours, you can catch the problem early.
How to prevent mold growth
While you won’t be able to completely mold proof your home, there are some proactive steps you can take to help prevent it from growing :
- Professional Help : Use a professional for mold removal and to assist with cleanup.
- Problem Areas : Know the common problem areas in your home and address them. Don’t allow areas to remain wet – clean up the moisture right away. Check basements, closets, window sills, sinks, tubes and pipes around the home.
- Ventilation : Make sure your home is properly ventilated. Use kitchen and bathroom fans when cooking or bathing. Open windows and use indoor fans when necessary.
- Humidity : Keep your home at the right humidity level and improve overall airflow. It is recommended to have low humidity levels – 50% in the summer and 30% in colder months. You can invest in a dehumidifier to help remove access moisture in the air. Here are some tips on measuring humidity in your home.
- Roof And Gutters : Make sure gutters and downspouts are in working order and make sure groundwater properly flows away from your home through proper land grading. Check if your roof needs replacement or repairs.
- Cleaning tips : If you use a dehumidifier, humidifier, or air conditioner, ensure you spend time regularly cleaning and disinfecting them. Check to ensure tubs and sinks are properly sealed to prevent water from leaking into walls.
Mold damage cleanup – should you use a pro or DIY?
Mold cleanup is something that you need to take seriously. Whether mold is a result of flood or a sewer backup insurance claim, how you approach cleanup will depend on several factors.
The first thing you need to do if you find mold determines the size of the issue. Small areas of mold can be cleaned up by you, however, a larger presence should be handed by a professional mold remediation company.
The US Environmental Protection Agency explains :
The US Environmental Protection Agency explains :
Who should do the cleanup depends on a number of factors. One consideration is the size of the problem. If the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet (less than roughly a 3 ft. by 3 ft. patch), in most cases, you can handle the job yourself.
Other things to consider when determining whether or not to use a professional are :
- Where is it located? : If it’s near an HVAC unit and could have gotten into the system, call a professional.
- What is the source? : If the mold is a result of sewer backup or potentially contaminated water, a professional is your best option.
Types of mold found in homes
There are thousands of different types of mold. Some thrive inside the home more than others. To help you understand the various kinds, here are the three broad categories they can fall under :
- Allergenic : This type is not toxic in and of themselves, but can trigger allergic reactions such as asthma.
- Pathogenic : This mold can trigger illnesses in people already weakened by other causes.
- Toxigenic : The most dangerous because they create their own toxins that can lead to health problems that are sometimes lethal.
Common molds found inside homes include:
- Stachybotrys (black mold) : Often found in damp areas and ventilation systems. They stem from too much moisture and poor indoor air quality.
- Alternaria : This occurs in damp places indoors, such as showers, under leaky sinks, the bottom of windows where condensation develops. It’s one of the most common types of allergenic mold.
- Aspergillus : This often grows indoors, on dust, powdery food items, and building materials that have water related damage, such as drywall.
- Penicillium : Don’t get this confused with the source of antibiotics – this blueish-green mold can cause allergies, trigger asthma, and travel easily.
- Cladosporium : This can grow in either cool or warm areas on fabrics and wood surfaces.
Mold damage and insurance FAQs
Any black mold that was formed after a sudden accident, may be covered under home insurance. For example, if there was a fire and the water used to put out the fire caused mold, your policy would likely cover it. If you notice black mold around a leaky pipe, you will likely not be covered since it was caused by negligence and could have been prevented.
Your Toronto home insurance will cover attics that are affected with mold, if it was caused by accidental water related damage. If you need to submit a claim in Toronto for mold, be sure to review your policy and hire someone to help declare the cause of it.
Dealing with mold can also be an issue for condominium owners. Many building owners say they are responsible for preventing it in common areas, but residents are responsible for their units. Be sure you have mold coverage in your condo insurance so if you need to make a claim, you will have some support.
Mold is a growing concern for homeowners - ensure you are properly covered with insurance
If you have mold from water related accidents, it’s best to contact your insurer about your Ontario home insurance. They’ll be able to verify if you are covered and can help you start the process of cleaning up.
If you are not sure about the extent of your water damage insurance, contact our team today. We’d be happy to help ensure you have ample coverage to protect your home.