August 13, 2014 at 4:33 pm

The Handyman

After the rain, you need to beware of mold

Dennis and Debbie Gerbe clean up their flooded basement in Warren. After clearing out wet drywall, insulation, carpet padding and upholstered furniture, homeowners are advised to get the space cleaned, decontaminated and thoroughly dried. Keep an eye -- and nose -- out for mold. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

The Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem “The Rainy Day” ends with “Into each life some rain must fall,” but for Metro Detroit businesses and homeowners, the problems are just beginning.

The record-setting rains resulted in flooded streets, leaky roofs and flooded basements. More importantly, the aftermath of the water damage can have longer lasting impact on you and your family’s health.

First, you’re involved with removing the water.

Then there is the cleanup along with the inconvenience and initial loss of property. The next concern you need to address is that there can be long-term health consequences from mold contamination.

When a basement or house is flooded, a great deal of work has to be done. The water has to be pumped out. Contaminants, as well as all wet drywall, insulation, carpet padding and upholstered furniture, have to be removed.

Then the area has to be cleaned, decontaminated and thoroughly dried.

Immediate drying is critical if future mold problems are to be eliminated. Standard practice for drying out a flooded area is to bring in large fans and super dehumidifiers.

A homeowner trying to do the job usually settles for an inefficient home dehumidifier assisted by a fan at the opposite end of the room.

To determine if you have a mold problem, first do the smell test.

If you have a suspicious, musty or earthy odor in your home, then you probably have mold growing. In Michigan, that musty smell frequently shows up in basements or attics.

If you think you have a hidden mold problem, I don’t recommend do-it-yourself mold testing. There hasn’t been a universal standard established regarding what is and isn’t an acceptable amount of mold in a home. And because mold spores are everywhere, tests can be very inaccurate.

To clean up mold inside your home, bleach was the product of choice in the past. However, today the government does not recommend using bleach because of its toxic fumes and the health risks involved for the homeowner. Instead, it is recommended that homeowners use a detergent-based solution for cleaning mold and mildew. There are also plenty of good products on the market that will clean the mold without the health risks inherent in bleach products.

One such product is Concrobium Mold Control (866-811-4148, concrobium.com) by Siamons International.

If you have a hidden mold problem, you need to hire a professional company that deals in mold detection and remediation, such as Emergency Restoration (866-225-5371, caller1.net).

If you have a recurring mold and mildew problem in your basement, I would make sure you run an Energy Star-rated dehumidifier during the spring and summer months.

But remember, dehumidifiers are just a Band-Aid, and you really need to stop the source of your basement’s moisture to keep mold from coming back.

Humid basements are often caused by ground slope problems where water flows toward, not away from, the basement wall. You can usually solve this problem by re-establishing the ground to slope away from your home so that it drops 1 inch per foot away from the home.

If you would like more detailed information on mold in the home, there are many good sources online.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a lot of information about mold and mold remediation on its website, epa.gov/mold.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also has a lot of information regarding mold at its Center for Disease Control website, cdc.gov/mold.

The Michigan Department of Health also has an excellent brochure you can download from its website by typing in “mold” in the search box at michigan.gov/mdch.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail askglenn@masterhandyman.com. If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536, between noon and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The “Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.