Five Steps If You Find Mold

The moldy joist in the middle isn’t as bad as it looks. This mold grew on the wood before it was used for construction. The mold is dormant now because the wood is dry.

Mold is an essential and healthy part of the natural world. The thing is, when you discover mold in your basement, that’s another matter. Mold growing inside any part of your house is ugly, unhealthy and surprisingly common. That’s why you should have basic indoor mold control know-how. Here are 7 steps for effectively dealing with mold you find as you strip an old finished basement, or anywhere else in your house.

Step#1: Assess the Situation

Begin by revealing the full extent of mold growth in the affected area. This will be easy with an unfinished basement and easy when you get an old basement stripped.

Mold authorities in both Canada and the US say that homeowners can safely tackle indoor mold issues themselves, but only if the affected area is no larger than 30 or 40 sq.ft. Anything bigger is probably a job for a pro. Professional help is also strongly recommended if your situation involves sewage back-up, though that’s not likely the case with an ordinary basement situation. Bacterial contamination in cases involving sewage pose their own threats that go beyond mold hazards.

Step#2: Eliminate the Moisture Source

As I’ve mentioned before, mold is always associated with moisture in some way. Without moisture, mold can’t grow on anything. With sufficient moisture mold can grow almost anywhere. This is why a permanent mold solution always involves creating dry conditions in your basement all the time. The presence of mold is an indication of where water leaks are happening.

Step#3: Make Removal Decisions

Some moldy surfaces are ideal for treatment and restoration, while it’s easier to remove and replace others. Drywall, ceiling tiles, carpet and other non-structural materials should usually be removed, bagged and discarded.   That’ll all happen as you strip an old finished basement. Be sure to wear a HEPA-rated respirator when removing moldy materials because mold spores will become airborne. Perimeter walls and structural wood can be removed, but they can be successfully treated.

Step#4: Dry the Area

After eliminating the source of moisture, you may still have wet conditions that can lead to trouble. That’s why creating dry conditions is essential before any mold treatment can succeed. Air circulation, heat and a dehumidifier are the three most powerful drying tools you’ve got. You’ll get best results if you monitor the relative humidity of the space with a hygrometer, allowing more or less outside ventilation to speed drying, depending on outdoor temperature and humidity conditions. Getting the area superficially dry like this will also make it easier to see exactly where leaks may be happening.

Step#5: Kill Mold and Discourage Regrowth

This is where common practice is actually a mistake. While bleach is an effective way to kill mold on hard, non-porous surfaces, it can’t do a good job on surfaces that are even a little bit porous.  Roots are the reason why. All molds send root-like structures called hyphae into porous surfaces to gather nutrients, and surface tension prevents traditional bleach and water solutions from penetrating deeply enough into wood or concrete to kill the hyphae. Bleach will cause a superficial mold kill in situations like these, but the mold remains established below the surface, ready to return with a vengeance. And as toxic as bleach is at first, it actually offers no residual protection when new mold growth starts because it dissipates as a gas.

All this is why registered non-bleach fungicides are a better bet than bleach when it comes to breaking the mold cycle. Products sold as fungicides that carry an official registration have been proven to work by independent testing, and this designation is something you should look for when choosing anything to kill mold.  The most widely available and effective registered product in North America right now is Concrobium Mold Control. It’s a liquid that kills mold and mold spores by mechanical action, physically crushing all parts of the mold organism as it dries. This mechanical action explains why a non-toxic product like this can still kill mold and prevent regrowth if the area occasionally does become moist again. The product remains in place too, providing residual action to kill mold.

Watch the video coming up next for an explanation of how to kill mold wherever you find it in your home using a non-toxic, non-bleach approach. I’ve used this approach for years with great results.

VIDEO: How to Kill Mold Properly


By the time you finish the lessons in this section, you will:

1. Understand the main basement waterproofing strategies

2. Know how to assess and plan for power, lighting and plumbing

3. Recognize the best tools and methods for tearing out an old basement in preparation for refinishing.

4. Understand what to do if you find mold in your basement.

Coming up next section . . . Learn how to plan your basement renovation for special features such as a kitchen, bathroom, root cellar and other features.