Ice jams, standing water lead to mold and water damage

MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula County health specialists are warning people to look out for mold growth in their homes and attic spaces as temperatures rise and snow melts. They say excess water can seep into homes and create mold damage.

Five Valleys Restoration and Cleaning remediates mold from homes. They say they've never been this busy, and crews are working around the clock.

"The last two weeks we've been absolutely inundated with ice dams, moisture in basements, exterior water coming into the homes," said president Matt Cavanaugh.

Cavanaugh says the rush is all due to ice jams and the freeze-thaw cycle in the weather.  He says ice jams typically cause standing water and generate the perfect storm for mold growth.

"You (definitely) see ice jams in the winter, but this magnitude is pretty extensive," Cavanaugh said.

He says in the last 10 years Five Valleys has only dealt with 25 ice dam insurance claims total. Cavanaugh says this year the company's seen between 40 and 50 since the beginning of January alone.

"With any water damage you run the risk of mold. Any water damage that's not handled from the very start runs the risk of potential mold issue," he added.

Missoula County environmental health specialist Todd Seib says mold needs four elements to grow including food, temperature, time and moisture.

"Usually we say moisture is the one thing you can control. Keep your humidity down between 30 and 50 percent in your home, and you can control mold growth," Seib said. "But when you have flooding it's hard to control the moisture. Luckily, if you do have a flooded basement or water damage in your house, you can control time."

Cavanaugh says if you see water leaking into a home don’t let it sit for more than 72 hours. However, sometimes water leakage can be in difficult-to-access areas like attics.

He says excess insulation and clearing off snow and ice from the roof can help prevent mold damage in attics.

"You should not have a foot or two of snow sitting on the roof. When you start to see icicles coming out of your soffits, you know that there is water penetrating that space," Cavanaugh said. "Make sure you have enough insulation in your attic space. Heat loss is a big thing. When you have a lot of snow on the roof and you have excess heat loss, that causes that snow to keep melting. It then gets down to the gutter, which freezes up and continues to build backwards. That's what creates an ice dam."

Seib says mold can pose a significant health risk. He says it does not always matter what kind of mold or length of exposure, but everyone can react to exposure differently.

Seib says mold exposure can lead to lung and respiratory issues.


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