If you’re in real estate in Georgia, chances are you’ve heard someone talk about black mold. Most of the time it’s a potential tenant complaining about their current landlord, how he doesn’t fix anything and that there’s black mold all over the property.
As and aside, here a word to the wise: Stay away from tenants like that. It’s not always the case, but most of the time these tenants are property hoppers, and you don’t want them in your house tearing it up and giving it a bad name.
This is not always the case when you hear about “black mold.” I got a call, along with a picture message of a bathroom, from one of our tenants asking if the residue on the ceiling was black mold.
After looking at the picture, I assured the tenant it was not black mold, that it was mildew, and that it probably meant something was wrong with the exhaust fan.
They asked me, “How can you tell?”
That’s a great question. As a landlord or a flipper, you need to know the difference between the infamous “black mold” and mildew so you can protect your tenants and future buyers.
So what is the difference?
First off, mold and mildew are in the same family. They’re both fungi and they both occur naturally. As a matter of fact, mold and mildew spores will be found in most houses in Georgia due to the humidity. That being said, we often never know they’re present because the spores don’t have a steady moisture source that will allow them to take root and breed.
Mildew is a surface dweller and appears on food, leather, fabric, wood and paper substances. Because it needs moisture to live and breed, you will often find it in bathrooms, kitchens or close to a leaky pipe. Mildew is whitish grey in smaller patches but it can darken to a black color when it thickens – thus the confusion with black mold. Since it’s only on the surface of the affected area, it often looks powdery or pasty.
Mold, on the other hand, grows deep into the material that it’s breeding on. It also needs steady moisture and can be lots of different colors. It can be white with black specs, a deep solid green, and yes black. (I had a friend who worked for SERVPRO tell me he remediated a really bad case in which the mold was all the colors of the rainbow.)
Mold expands outward and grows on top of itself. It’s often described as being hairy or bushing looking. So when you think about the difference in appearance of mold and mildew, remember mold is going to be 3D, and mildew will be 2D.
You will also know the difference between mold and mildew by the quality of the air. Mildew will have a musty smell or no smell at all. When it is dense, mildew may make you feel raspy after being it for a while. Mold, on the other hand, will make you feel like there are weights on your lungs within a matter of minutes. I’ve only ever been in a few houses that had actual mold, but it leaves an impression on you.
Needless to say, when you get a call form a tenant scared about black mold, assure them that it’s probably mildew and get someone out there ASAP to investigate. Most mildew problems can be fixed by eliminating the moisture and with some bleach spray.
In our case, the exhaust fan duct wasn’t attached, thus dumping all the moisture on top of the bathroom ceiling. We put a new fan in, with a new duct and sprayed the ceilings with Zep’s mildew remover. Problem solved.
Our quick response to the mildew calmed our tenants and kept them from cussing us with that other four letter word.
Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to www.cashflowwithjoe.com or call Joe at 678-986-6813.