Mold under your stairs: A cautionary tale
When most people think of hazardous mold in homes, they don't expect to find it in a newer property. Even if a house is a little older, many homeowners assume that either renovations or home inspections before moving in will alleviate any issues, or at the very least bring them to light.
However, problems like "toxic mold" can often be found in unsuspecting places that often get overlooked during renovations where the issue only gets exacerbated. One key example is beneath the home’s main staircase, which has a tendency to seal in moisture that rises from the concrete slab in a home's basement.
One example of this comes from Healthy Air, an air-quality assessment company based in Georgia, who visited a home for an inspection on a house that was only 10 months old. A family had recently moved into the home and, despite the property's youth, the clan had already reported a mildewy smell and nausea whenever they entered the house. Numerous inspections turned up no signs of mold residue before Healthy Air found a high level of moisture surrounding the stairwell from the underside, where the skeleton of the staircase was enclosed.
When a contractor was called in to open up the underside of the stairwell, they discovered a serious mold outbreak within. In less than a year, enough moisture was able to rise from the concrete of the basement and get absorbed through the wood into the non-ventilated enclosure that a serious health hazard had developed.
When installing a new staircase, make sure you don't create a breeding ground for mold build-up by keeping the underside well ventilated. This is especially true if you are going to enclose the stairwell from beneath. If your basement is prone to flooding or high moisture levels, purchase a dehumidifier to keep the air healthy.
Wooden stair parts are especially susceptible to mold, so keep a close eye on the underside of your staircase as part of regular household maintenance. This will ensure not only the integrity of the structure, but also protect your family from an unnecessary health risk.
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