There's a real sense of satisfaction in getting the decor in your home just right. You've worked hard to get that paintwork or wallpaper looking perfect. And even if you didn't actually do the job yourself, you invested your hard-earned cash into the interior decoration and you're happy with the results.
It can be really disheartening, then, when you spot those tell-tale signs of mould appearing. It seems to come from nowhere, spreading across walls, window sills and window frames, water pipes, discolouring grout and silicone sealant. It looks awful, spoiling paint and ruining wallpaper.
It's a common problem found in millions of homes, both old and new, but what exactly is it, why does it happen, and (most importantly) how do you get rid of it?
Any type of mould thrives in warm, damp conditions where there's a lot of moisture hanging around. Mould is a naturally occurring type of fungus that plays a vital role in our ecosystems. It generally grows on organic matter as part of the 'recycling' process of nature, where dead things (trees, plants, animals and so on) are broken down into smaller parts. Without this essential part of the decomposition process, dead organic material would never decay.
So, we need fungi and mould. But it's not something we want to see in our homes!
Although most moulds are a variety of colours, such as green, grey, white and blue (you've probably seen these on those leftovers you forgot about), the one that spoils the look of our homes is usually black.
That doesn't mean that it is always the same variety of mould, as there are about 20,000 types of black mould.
At least 1 in 5 homes in the UK suffer from black spot mould, so you're far from being alone if you have spotted the signs in your own house.
When warm air filled with excess moisture hits cold surfaces it condenses, where the water droplets will remain, especially on cold walls and windows, particularly in the bathroom or kitchen.
The main cause is a lack of ventilation, as all buildings contain different levels of moisture at different times, but some are better at allowing the excess moisture to escape. Properties with poor ventilation are likely to have a black mould issue as there is nowhere for the moisture to go.
The amount of moisture in buildings can be surprising. We create it simply by living our daily lives, whether cooking, showering, taking baths, washing up, washing our clothes, and even by breathing! This can add up to significant amounts of moisture.
New homes can use vast quantities of water during their construction, most of which evaporates, although some will remain. The average new home uses nearly 17,000 pints of water in cement, concrete, screed, mortar and so on. Some of this moisture is stored within the materials well after it is built and could add to the black mould issue.
Aside from excessive condensation, black mould can also be a symptom of other types of damp problems, such as rising or penetrating damp. These all have their own causes, such as a leaking roof, damp in basements (usually in older properties that haven't been waterproofed), or breached damp-proof course.
Any of these can be bad news, especially when they come into contact with porous materials like plasterboard (drywall) and wood as they can cause structural damage in the long term.
It is essential that the damp problem is correctly identified so that the right solution can be applied.
Not only is this important for the appearance of your house and its structural integrity, but it is also important with regards to your health.
The unsightly mould stains aren't just horrible to look at, but they could be negatively impacting your health. People with allergies, lung conditions and asthma sufferers can react badly to black mould spores, and even healthy people have been known to develop symptoms of asthma after exposure to mould.
As well as causing asthma development, it has also been recognised as a cause of skin problems such as eczema and skin rashes, which are essentially an allergic reaction to mould spores. Even if you don't react badly, you still may suffer from a runny or stuffy nose.
Some sources state that certain black moulds are toxic, due to mycotoxins within the spores. Though this is disputed by others, the fact remains that exposure to black mould isn't exactly healthy.
Children, babies, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk, so it is wise to deal with any damp problems, whatever the cause, so that the right treatment can be implemented as soon as possible.
Any leaking pipes or breached damp-courses will then need to be repaired, as well as any damaged structural materials.
As the majority of black mould Lanchester cases are due to ventilation issues, the first thing you can do is to use as much natural ventilation as possible. You might also consider Positive Input Ventilation, a special system installed to balance the airflow and moisture levels within your home.
Advice varies as to the effectiveness of using bleach to treat mould, as porous surfaces will probably remain affected long after the bleach has dried and you'll soon see the problem returning. This remedy is probably better used in mild cases where only hard surfaces are affected.
Anti-mould paints can be effective, but should never be painted over existing mould as this will only slow down mould growth rather than kill it. In rooms with heavy condensation (mainly bathrooms) the effectiveness will be reduced over time as the anti-mould properties will wear off.
In severe cases, where several rooms are blanketed in mould, the best thing is to seek help form the experts.
Our mould-removal specialists will advise you on the cause of the problem, apply treatments to remove it permanently, and offer guidance on how to improve ventilation and reduce excess moisture.
And this makes sense, for the sake of your decor, your peace of mind, and your health.