A Builder’s Guide to Preventing Mold in New Construction
Although it doesn’t seem fair, new home construction is just as susceptible to mold issues as a house built 100 years ago. The advantage, according to experts, is the opportunity to put proper measures in place during construction to prevent moisture buildup. The trick, however, is to then ensure sure those barriers are being maintained on a regular basis.
“People figure that if they buy a new house, they don’t have to worry about anything,” says builder Joe Visciano, the owner of Viscon Builders in Little Silver, NJ. “They think that a new house just maintains itself.”
He says he’s always surprised when customers have him come back out a few years later for a new construction project, and he uncovers an issue — like mold growing in their crawlspace. “You need to walk around the house every 2-3 months to make sure everything’s okay,” says Visciano, who’s been building custom homes for 20 years.
“Walk around the outside, go down into your utility room, look behind walls,” he advises. “Make sure you don’t see or smell anything that seems off.”
It all starts on the outside.
Mold needs moisture to grow so the first line of attack, according to Visciano, is to prevent water from finding its way inside the house. “It all starts from the outside,” he says.
To keep water at bay, there are a few main lines of defense that need to be monitored:
- Keep your gutters clear: Overflowing gutters is one of the top reasons for water leaking into a basement or crawlspace, says Visciano. “The number one problem leading to water coming in is clogged gutters.” To cut down on maintenance, he likes to install gutter guards on the homes he builds to try to keep leaves out of the gutters in the first place.
- Grading: Ensure the grade of soil surrounding your new home is pitched away from the structure, and don’t be fooled into thinking that this is a one-time only concern. “When landscapers come in the spring to put mulch down around the house, make sure it’s angled away from the foundation,” he says. If not, water will drain toward your foundation and potentially seep in.
- Drainage: Another important step to take for preventing water from seeping into your home is to give all that water pouring from your gutters through downspouts a place to exit a few feet from the house. “You want water being taken at least 3-4 feet away from your house with a leader attached to the elbow at the end of your gutter downspout,” says Visciano. Some homeowners go a step further and dig a french drain along the base of the foundation that redirects surface water and groundwater away from an area.
Preventing mold issues inside the house.
While your first step of defense against mold is keeping water from making its way inside, there are other precautions you can take inside the home as well, says Visciano:
- Hook up a dehumidifier: “I always tell people to hook up a dehumidifier in their basement,” he says, which reduces and maintains the level of humidity in the air. Visciano suggests doing it one better by sticking the appliance in the utility closet and let the accumulated moisture drain directly into your sump pump (something he always likes to install in new construction). “You never have to think about it.” For homes with crawl spaces, Visciano suggests you pay even more attention to the threat of moisture. “If you have a crawl space, chances are it’s because you’re near the water,” he says. “It’s probably going to get moist in there at some point.” Once again, a dehumidifier will help zap any moisture from the air, provided it’s the right size for the space and maintained properly.
- Foundation air vents: For new homes with crawl spaces, Visciano also likes to install foundation air vents, which allow outside air to circulate under the floor in summer to prevent the moisture buildup that encourages mildew and rot. However, the vents need to be closed in the winter, when the air is drier, to reduce the chance that the pipes in the crawl space might freeze. Once again, homeowners need to be proactive and make sure the vents are opened and shut at the right times of the year.
- Vapor barrier: When Viscon builds a new homes with a finished basement, they install a vapor barrier —- plastic sheeting that resists diffusion of moisture through the wall —- directly onto the foundation. “I want to keep the moisture between the plastic and the foundation, and away from the sheetrock and insulation,” he explains.
- Mold resistant sheetrock: Visciano is also a fan of installing sheetrock in finished basements that will resist the lure of mold if there is some moisture buildup inside.
If you do suspect that there’s mold in your new construction, Stock Environmental Consulting — with over 20 years of experience — can provide testing, inspections and assessments of the issue. Schedule your appointment at (732) 383-5190.
Despite having all the right tools in place to prevent mold in your new construction, Visciano stresses that in the end, it’s up to the homeowner to ensure that water is not being given an opportunity to get inside your house to start wreaking havoc on your new home.
“The homeowner really has to do due diligence,” he says.