How to Control Moisture in Your Basement This Summer

In recent newsletters we have discussed asbestos and household mold, a common concern in many homes. For this newsletter we wanted to focus on controlling humidity in your home, especially in the basement, which are prone to problems related to excess moisture.

RTS Environmental Services wants to help by providing you with the facts about moisture in the home so you can take the steps necessary to prevent a small problem from becoming a major crisis.

Keeping Humidity in Check

Whether you use your basement for storage or as a living area, the lower level of your home is vulnerable to damage from humidity that can eventually lead to problems with mold and mildew. Controlling the humidity in your basement is the key to creating a healthy and livable space that your entire family can enjoy.

Household occupants are usually very comfortable when the temperature and relative humidity are maintained within the ranges of 68 to 72 degrees and 25 to 50 percent relative humidity, but maintaining a proper humidity level isn’t always easy. Normal household activities such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, washing and drying clothes – even breathing and perspiring – can raise the humidity level too high.

It has been estimated that the typical family of four converts three gallons of water into water vapor per day. It takes only four to six pints of water to raise the relative humidity of a 1,000 sq. ft. house from 15 to 60 percent. To avoid the problems of excess moisture it is necessary to limit or control the amount of water vapor in the house.

For effective humidity control in your home, follow these suggestions:

  1. Ensure that the exterior of your home has a sloped grade and moves water away from the foundation.
  2. Extend the down spouts by at least 3 feet away from your foundation and assure the gutters are free of debris.
  3. Operate a dehumidifier in the basement especially after heavy rain and humid weather.
  4. Additional air movement also helps to mix humid air with dry air allowing a dehumidifier to be more effective at drying. Operate an inexpensive circulating fan in rooms with poor ventilation.
  5. Check your clothes dryer vent to assure it is pushing its exhaust outside and not into your house or attic.
  6. Retrofit your HVAC unit (Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning) to provide effective return inlets low to the basement floor if one does not exist now.

We can help answer these questions…

Contact Information
RTS Environmental Services, Inc.
Tel: 1-800-722-5589
301-607-6276 Maryland Line
Fax: 301-831-6235

Prevent Mold Before A Problem Occurs

“A Mold /Moisture inspection is also an education in Moisture Prevention.”

A great mold inspection begins with honesty, integrity, and an education. At RTS, we endeavor to help you understand those elements of your home which are significant to preventing mold growth, as well as outlining possible areas of improvement for overall indoor air quality and home health.

Primarily this is understanding the role of moisture control in and around your home. All homes are unique in construction features, materials, aspects of foundation, ground water, drainage, heating & cooling systems, ventilation, and hundreds of other variables.

Part of the inspection is understanding how any number of these variables affects your home and its potential for moisture in any form to produce mold growth. For example, what if you have a full in ground basement and little air exchange between floors and a high ground water table? We would be interested in knowing your relative humidity, if you have a humidifier on your HVAC system, and if you operate a dehumidifier. Under these circumstances, we might suggest you get a dehumidifier and to use room fans to keep air moving in your basement. Also, to be very cautious in regards to operating the humidifier. This set of instructions would orient you to better understanding the role of humidity (high, ambient moisture in the air). These simple controls prevent many molds from blooming on surfaces in your basement due to high relative humidity and stagnant air.

Is Mold Dangerous?

We get that question a lot, as well as… “Is that the toxic black mold?” or “is that the dangerous mold”. Here is a common sense response to this often asked question.

After much research and literally thousands of mold inspections, ultimately the answer depends on your own personal susceptibility:

Generally when mold of any kind is actively growing in small surface area (less than a few sq. ft.) it does not cause a significant health issue (Air Quality issue) to most of us.

However, those who are otherwise highly sensitive, allergic, or prone to be bothered by mold of any kind will demonstrate a side effect right away and more often than not, it has nothing to do with what type of mold it is. In fact a mold group called Penicillium / Aspergillus tends to be the mold which irritates most people first. Why…….

It’s the first mold to grow (Penicillium / Aspergillus is very opportunistic) and it can grow under many conditions needing less moisture and grows on many material types like leather and vinyl.

“Black Mold” is a mold species called “Stachybotrys” (pronounced Stacki-bot-tris) which tends to grow on paper and processed wood fibers easily such as found with drywall. There is a potential for this mold to have what is called a “Mycotoxic” affect although it is rare and not well substantiated scientifically.

Generally many mold types tend to grow in conditions where moisture, wood based materials, and sustained high relative humidity work together to produce an Air Quality issue. Whether or not the mold type is Stachybotrys or Chaetomium or Cladosporium or Penicillium / Aspergillus or dozens of other mold types which are seen in both indoor and outdoor environments, it doesn’t necessarily matter because ultimately your reaction to mold is based on your own personal sensitivity to it.

Molds such as Stachybotrys may be potentially “Mycotoxic”, but there is a lack of real evidence that there is a direct relationship to exposure to it and a known toxic affect in most people.

What’s the lesson here….Know what your conditions are for mold growth and prevent the growth. If you have uncertainties, RTS can help you better understand air quality and mold in the indoor environment with an inspection and consultation. An inspection is especially important for those who are sensitive to molds.

Please contact RTS Environmental Services at 1-800-722-5589 –

Crawl Spaces and Mold Problems

If I made a list of building features or scenarios where mold growth is almost always an issue, Crawl Spaces or Void Spaces (areas you can’t actually crawl in to access) would be at the top of the list.

Here’s why:

• Often the floor of a crawl space is below grade and water will pond on the floor of the space providing a damp, cave like environment.

• Humidity levels are high due to passive venting or marginal to no ventilation which accumulates humid air which condenses (every day) especially in the months of June through September.

• Exposed dirt – often there is no or a poorly installed vapor barrier sheeting over the dirt to reduce moisture movement from the soil into the crawl space.

• Outside conditions that are causing wet crawl space conditions such as roof issues or gutter/ downspout drainage by the home foundation.

• Insulation installed upside down exposing paper backed surfaces to the moisture which always grows mold in large surface area.

• Other causes such as dryer venting into the crawl space, condensation lines pouring into the space, plumbing leaks, uninsulated ductwork, cardboard boxes and wood debris stored in the crawl space.

All these variables and conditions produce opportunities for mold growth to be at its most conducive conditions.

When RTS Environmental does a crawl space mold inspection, we inspect the exposed, joists, infrastructure, insulation, venting, sub-flooring and vapor barrier conditions. We look at all of the factors listed above and educate you so you are informed as to the existing scenario and how to remedy or prevent mold form becoming a problem. RTS has the know-how, experience and certification to inspect and fix, if needed, your crawl space scenario.

If you suspect that there may be mold in your home’s crawl space and wish to have better insight to determine the severity of the problem, give RTS Environmental a call to discuss this with a certified mold inspector.

Please contact RTS Environmental Services at 1-800-722-5589 –

Consumers: Ask About Your Contractor’s Mold Certification

These days, lots of contractors say that they’re experts. But are they really? Before you hire someone to inspect, test, or remediate mold from your home or business, ask about their mold certification.

Some contractors obtain Mold Certificates from organizations that aren’t very credible. The most credible organizations for certifying mold professionals are the American Indoor Air Quality Council and the American Board of Industrial Hygiene.

The American IAQ Council has several mold certifications related to both mold inspection and mold remediation. The following list describes their mold certifications and the associated experience requirements which are dependent on university level of education:

  • Certified Microbial Investigator (CMI), requires minimum 1-2 years of field experience
  • Certified Microbial Consultant (CMC), requires minimum 4-8 years of field experience
  • Mold Remediation
  • Certified Microbial Remediator (CMR), requires minimum 1-2 years of field experience
  • Certified Microbial Remediation Supervisor (CMRS), requires minimum of 1-5 years of field experience
  • The other recognized certifying organization, the American Board of Industrial Hygiene (ABIH) has a more general certification, Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH).

You can view our certifications here. RTS has provided thousands of inspections including Radon gas, Lead Paint, Asbestos, and Mold / Indoor Air Quality issues. With more than 20 years of experience in the environmental, mold and asbestos industry, RTS Environmental can protect your family and your home from the dangers of mold.

Contact Information
RTS Environmental Services, Inc.
Tel: 1-800-722-5589
301-607-6276 Maryland Line
Fax: 301-831-6235

Signs You May Have Mold in Your Home

Mold in Your Northern Virginia Home

Mold growth is all about moisture, so it stands to reason if you live in the Washington, D.C.-Northern Virginia area, which is area prone to high humidity, then the chances of your home developing a mold problem are much higher. Anything over a 55% RH level promotes mold and fungi growth. Often, heating and cooling systems will mask that there is a humidity problem, and it’s not until you actually test the room with a humidity sensor or plug in a dehumidifier that the condition is obvious.

Physical Signs of Mold:

  • Mildewy or musty smells in the house can be a sign of a mold problem. The presence of this odor does not mean you have a problem, but it should prompt you to look for further signs.
  • Increased or chronic allergy or respiratory problems, especially by all or most household members is a common sign that there is a problem. According to a Mayo Clinic study, almost all chronic sinus infections (we’re talking about 37 million Americans), are a result of mold.
  • When levels of toxins from black mold or other fungi reach high levels, toxic poisoning can occur. Common signs include headaches, decreased attention span, difficulty in concentration, and dizziness.
  • Signs of Mold in Your Home:
  • Water pipe leaks, especially those that have gone undetected, are perfect breeding grounds for mold.
  • Areas of the house that may have been damaged from flooding is a common site for mold growth.
  • If your house has ever had a leaky roof, one logical place to look for signs of mold is the attic. Look for evidence of water damage or mold growth in ceilings on the upper floors.
  • Use of humidifiers can raise the moisture level to a point where mold growth is encouraged. Regulate the humidity level so that it stays within a 55-60% RH range.
  • A damp basement or crawl space can be a haven for mold growth and go undetected for long periods of time. Water leaks from upper sources may also make their way down and add to the problem.
  • Yellowy colored stains on walls, ceilings, and carpets are a sign of excessive moisture. A green, brown or blackish color may indicate the presence of mold. A medical grade black light shone over the area will indicate a yellow glow if mold growth is present. Also look for areas that are bowing or swelling due to excess moisture. Paint peeling and loosening drywall tape are also common indicators.
  • Blocked gutters can cause water to be absorbed into walls through the roof or collect at the base of the foundation.
  • Signs of condensation around windows, walls or pipes, or rusting metal is a sure sign of high moisture that may lead to a mold problem.
  • Warped wood is a sure sign of excess moisture. A build up could cause mold growth.
  • Mold growth behind tiles in a humid bathroom is a common area for detection. The grout is porous, and once the water penetrates, dirt is trapped and encourages mold cultivation.
  • If the steam from dryers or other appliances are vented indoors, this also can be a sign of a problem area. Check for indications of mold around the vent and surrounding area.
  • Be on the lookout for the presence of any wet articles in the house such as rags, indoor clothes dryers or areas where there is poor ventilation.

What to Do:

When you see actual spores of mold growing, perhaps in a small area of the bathroom or shower, take immediate action before it spreads any further. You’ll need to identify the cause of the problem and check to see if it has spread to any other areas. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the area and dry completely. Any spores left behind will continue to grow once the area is exposed to any moisture.

For more information on mold growth, call RTS Environmental Services. We provide state of the art Mold & Moisture Inspections, Mold Identification, Mold Remediation, Air Quality Testing, Asbestos Inspection & Removal services in the Greater Washington D.C. Metropolitan area, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.