How to identify and deal with mould in your strata property

How to identify and deal with mould in your strata property feature image

How to identify and deal with mould in your strata property

Preventing certain types of mould in your strata property may even save your life

Mould is a pervasive and harmful living organism that can penetrate almost any surface or space—especially damp or poorly ventilated spaces. There are thousands of different species of mould that occur in our natural and built environments. Despite its prevalence, some types of mould can have severe effects on our health.

Keep reading to learn about mould in your strata property, how it may be caused, how to identify it and most importantly, how to help prevent it from occurring in the first place.

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If you’ve begun to notice mould in your strata property, it’s important to deal with the problem quickly before the situation gets out of hand. To do this, you’ll need to understand the following:

  1. What can cause outbreaks of mould in your strata property
  2. Common types of mould found in strata properties
  3. How to prevent mould in your strata property

1. What can cause outbreaks of mould in your strata property

Mould thrives in poorly ventilated wet or damp environments. There can be many reasons for outbreaks of mould, ranging from property water damage caused by severe defects to personal practices that can easily be changed. Some of the more common causes include:

Water seepage or leaks leading to moisture collecting on walls, ceilings, flooring and other strata property fixtures and fittings.

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Insufficient or poorly placed exhaust fans in properties with evaporative air conditioning units.

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Warm interior temperatures compared to cold exterior temperatures, which can lead to condensation forming on walls and windows.

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Condensation on bathroom walls and ceilings caused by hot showers on cold mornings, particularly when an exhaust fan is not used.

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Windows being closed during the day while occupants are out, leading to a build-up in humidity within the property.

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Wet and dirty clothing and shoes stored in closed wardrobes or closets.

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Use of gas heating without proper ventilation, causing an accumulation of excess moisture.

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Insufficient natural UV light to prevent mould growth.


2. Common types of mould found in strata properties

With more than 150 different types of mould found in Australian properties, it can take many different forms and grow in hard-to-reach places, making it challenging to identify and ascertain how dangerous it is.

Mould can appear as a stain or discolouration, a collection of oddly shaped or slimy spots or fuzzy appearances on a building surface. A strange, musty smell could also be a sign of mould.

When you notice mould in your property, it’s essential to identify which mould you are dealing with and how toxic it is. Some common types include:

Type of mould What it looks like Example Where it thrives
Acremonium Initially a small, moist type of mould, acremonium can become fine and powdery. It can seem pink, orange, white or grey. Acremonium example In areas with lots of condensation, including humidifiers, window sealants and drain pans.
Alternaria Velvet-like in texture, with fine green or brown hairs. This is the most common type of household mould. Alternaria example Anywhere with dampness or water damage.
Aspergillus Flask-shaped spores that can form thick layers. There are more than 185 species within this type of mould, and they appear in a range of colours. Aspergillus example It is commonly found both indoors and outdoors.
Aureobasidium Pink, brown or black mould that darkens with age. Aureobasidium example Behind painted, wooden or wallpapered surfaces.
Chaetomium White, grey or brown mould that darkens to black over time. It is cotton-like in texture and may produce a musty smell. Chaetomium example In damp, leaking or water-damaged areas within buildings and homes.
Cladosporium A mould with a texture similar to suede that is olive green or brown. Cladosporium example On materials like fabrics, upholsteries and carpets, inside cupboards and under floorboards.
Fusarium A pink, reddish or white mould. Fusarium example In buildings with water damage, especially on carpets, wallpaper and fabrics.
Mucor Thick white or grey patches of mould that spread quickly. Mucor example On damp carpets and areas with condensation, such as near air conditioning units and ducting.
Penicillin Velvety-textured blue or green mould. Penicillin example In water-damaged areas and items such as carpets, ducting and mattresses.
Stachybotrys Slimy-textured black or dark green mould. Stachybotrys example In areas that are damp, wet or high in humidity over a long time.
Trichoderma White mould with green patches that is woolly in texture. Trichoderma example On wet surfaces within buildings, including on wallpapers, carpets and damp fabrics.
Ulocladium Black in colour. Ulocladium example In wet areas, or areas with extreme water damage.

Committees, owners and residents should adopt a safety-first approach to getting rid of mould from their properties. Leaving the job to an unqualified person to remove mould can expose them to serious health risks and make things worse by not removing it entirely.

Qualified and experienced mould cleaning specialists have the diagnostic tools to quickly identify the type of mould in your property and the expert training and equipment to eradicate the mould.

Engaging a professional mould removal company may reduce health risks and minimise the chance of repeat outbreaks of mould in your property.


3. How to prevent mould in your strata property

Mould needs moisture and nutrients to grow, and the best way to tackle it is to prevent outbreaks from occurring in the first place. The good news is, controlling both these factors is critical to minimise the likelihood of a mould outbreak.

These nine tips may help you control and reduce outbreaks of mould in your property:

Assess water overflow points. 

Preventing excess water from overflowing gutters and pipes may minimise the likelihood of mould outbreaks in areas with little or no sunshine to dry the surface.

Let in the light.

Mould doesn’t grow in UV light, so limit the use of curtains and blinds in common areas or open the windows frequently to enjoy the sunshine and stop the mould from taking over.

Use high-quality vacuum cleaners.

Regularly cleaning common areas, particularly vacuuming carpet areas, may help reduce airborne dust and mould spores. While there is a wide range of vacuum models in the market, do look out for one with a HEPA filtration trap. This helps to capture the dirt you can’t see rather than sending allergens back into the air.

Install reverse cycle air conditioning. 

A good air conditioner is a worthwhile alternative to a dehumidifier in the fight against mould. A hybrid split system or reverse cycle air conditioner can draw air from the outside and circulate it inside, reducing the humidity and excess moisture without affecting the temperature.

Use mould-resistant paint. 

Invest in high-quality mould-resistant paint if your property’s hidden-away areas are prone to mould outbreaks. They contain a chemical called fungicide that is designed to cope against mildew commonly found on the walls and ceilings of bathrooms.

Pressure test water pipes.

Promptly repair leaking bridging piping. A sure sign of this is if you notice the plaster or paint bubbling or if the carpets are wet. Routine property or home maintenance can help early identification  of the problem.

Waterproof your walls.

Properties built with brick or stone can be quite porous. If these materials are exposed to excess water, the masonry may absorb the water into the wall. The water carries salts that may eventually move through the wall and evaporate onto the surface, which could create a moisture stain. If this is the case, you may need to install a new membrane, mould-resistant plasterboard or insulation.

Maintain proper ventilation.

Mould strives in damp environments, especially where moisture can’t easily escape. To avoid humidity in closed areas and thereby reduce mould outbreaks in your property; turn on the exhaust fans when bathing, showering, cooking or doing laundry. Also, try to keep common area windows open for ventilation whenever possible.

Maintain indoor plants regularly. 

While indoor plants can beautify common property or your home, they can also provide the perfect breeding ground for mould. To help prevent this, don’t let water stagnate in drip trays. Add a dash of natural antifungal substance that can hinder mould growth in the plant soil. Of equal importance are outdoor window or planter boxes that may not feature adequate drainage. They can deteriorate and allow water to permeate the adjoining walls and structures. This water may even seep into internal walls, which could cause large-scale water damage.

Set up a dehumidifier.

If some rooms in your property are more prone to mould than others, you could consider setting up a dehumidifier. Keeping the humidity of a room under 40% is ideal for preventing mould, and a dehumidifier may help you achieve this.

When it comes to managing a property, there are various compliance or legislative requirements that are needed to help protect owners and residents. Also, when the situation allows, you don’t want to miss out on the chance of an insurance claim. Ask about our by-laws (NSW only), Community Health & Safety and related services to help protect your property. You can also download our FREE Community Living guide series on defects by clicking here.

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