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6 Tips to Keep Winter Mould and Mildew Out of Your Basement

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Winter is traditionally viewed as the dry season here in Ontario.

However, a more accurate assessment might be “less wet,” especially as climate change has been bringing in increasingly erratic weather and more severe storms during the cold season.

The truth is, winter in Canada can be a wet, humid season in its own right, especially when you factor in the connection between outdoor cold, seasonal moisture and indoor heat.

In fact, winter is actually prime time for mould growth here in Ontario, as one news article recently reported.

We offer these six timely tips to keep winter mould and mildew at bay in your home and workplace.

Tip 1: Keep humidity indoors at 40 percent or lower

The greater the disparity between indoor and outdoor temperature, the greater the chance for indoor damp patches to form and promote mould and mildew growth.

This is because of what happens to moisture when temperatures drop. Cooler air is less well able to hold ambient moisture, which then gets transferred to nearby surfaces in the form of condensation.

The moment moisture condenses on walls and other surfaces, mould spores looking for a place to colonize move right in and set up shop. This is particularly likely to happen in poorly insulated or uninsulated areas such as your garage, attic, crawl space or basement.

There are two main methods of balancing indoor humidity: using a dehumidifier and/or installing a heat recovery ventilator. Both can help you adjust indoor humidity levels to repel condensation.

Tip 2: Make full use of exhaust vents for indoor air circulation

Air circulation is another key to keeping indoor humidity levels balanced while repelling condensation that can promote mould and mildew growth.

Exhaust vents are typically located in higher humidity areas of the home such as your bathrooms, kitchen and laundry room.

If at all possible, turn on exhaust vent systems and leave them running for at least half an hour after you have finished activities in these rooms.

Also be sure to wipe down shower walls and other places where water remains to prevent mould and mildew spores from colonizing in these areas.

If you do not have existing exhaust vents, ceiling and/or floor fans are a handy and economical substitute.

Tip 3: Keep all interior flooring clean and dry

Most Canadian homes feature some type of front and rear entryway where residents remove wet shoes and clothes before entering.

Unfortunately, these areas are some of the hardest hit for household mould and mildew each winter because of the indoor/outdoor temperature and moisture disparities that arise.

You can do a lot to reduce the risk of mould growth in these areas by taking up wall-to-wall carpeting in favor of washable flooring and area rugs. Always dry the floor and lower walls after coming in and removing wet attire and inspect the area frequently for mould and mildew.

Make a point to enter your crawl space or basement regularly throughout the winter season to check for small leaks, damp, humidity, standing water or efflorescence (mineral salts left behind when water evaporates).

If you find evidence of these, you can be certain mould and mildew spores have detected their presence as well.

Tip 4: Remove any items that could serve as food for mould and mildew

Mould and mildew fungi love to feed on damp organic matter. Books, linens, cardboard boxes, clothing, rugs, draperies and similar items can hold on to moisture and invite mould and mildew spores to move in.

These types of less-used possessions are often stored in a basement or crawl space during the winter.

If your basement or crawl space is not already sealed, insulated and encapsulated (and especially if there is an old-school ventilation system still in place), you are basically hanging out a “welcome” sign for mould and mildew spores to come in and take over this space.

Tip 5: Quickly identify and repair leaks and cracks

Micro-fissures and cracks in your foundation, crawl space or basement can become particularly problematic during winter because of storm activity.

When a winter storm rolls in, temperatures plunge. This causes any existing micro-fissures and small cracks to contract. After the storm passes and temperatures climb again, these same cracks expand. If the temperature drops again while water remains inside the cracks, this further expands the cracks during the next thaw cycle.

As winter drags on, this constant cycle of contraction and expansion steadily widens tiny cracks and lets more damp and moisture in. This, in turn, invites mould and mildew to enter and take root.

Fixing small fissures and cracks in floors, walls and ceilings guards against continued widening and future major structural instability.

Installing a backup sump pump system is another vital part of protecting against small leaks from becoming big leaks. Power outages are a common occurrence due to downed power lines in winter. If your pump doesn’t have an independent backup, mould and mildew may actually be the least of your winter worries!

Tip 6: Preventing leaks is the best protection against mould and mildew

Current statistics suggest that as many as 98 percent of all basements may eventually take on water from the surrounding soil.

This data suggests that taking a proactive, preventative approach is the smartest and most cost-effective strategy to protect your home.

An affordable basement waterproofing treatment can typically be completed in just one to two days. Once the interior of your basement has been sealed, there is no pathway moisture can use to get in.

Get in Touch

Do you need help protecting your home or workplace from winter mould and mildew? Our Easy Quote service provides you with a free, no-obligation inspection and quote so you have the information you need to take the next steps.

Contact us online or give us a call at 1-866-875-6664.  

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