Author Archives: Tara Valley (Toronto's Mold Inspection Expert)

Marijuana Grow-Ops – Legal or Not

There are illegal marijuana grow-ops, but what happens when it’s legal cultivation?

The Federal government had plans to scrap its current system (or non-system, depending on who you ask) of allowing medical marijuana users to grow their own supply and replace it with a government-run system of approved growers and quality controlled product. A Vancouver judge threw that into doubt however by issuing an injunction on March 21 that delays the legislation that would have been implemented as of April 1.

There are currently 30,000 legal licences for homegrown pot – that’s a lot of people growing pot where they live, be it in a backyard or a container on the balcony.

What does it mean for homeowners – and potential home buyers?

Illegal marijuana grow-ops are one side of the story. We know they can mean a lot of trouble. Oftentimes, an entire house is used to grow marijuana, with growing lights and humidity maintained at levels that make it a haven for mold growth along with a host of other problems.

What happens if it’s a legal situation?

  • If you’re in the market, outside of homeowner disclosure, there would be no way of knowing if the home had been used to grow marijuana. A real estate agent is only obliged to disclose what they’re made aware of.
  • If you are a landlord, and especially if, like many people, you live in one part of your home and rent out the rest, what assurance do you have that tenants are growing safely and not damaging your property?

The Solution..?
It’s clear the legal aspects of marijuana cultivation (and if it’s legal in some states down south, will we be far behind?) still need work at the government level. There has to be a better solution than allowing for potential damage to property with no controls in place to minimize that aspect.

What you can do – knowledge is power
You may be able to find out if a home has been used as an illegal grow-op but there’s really no way of finding out about legal, licensed homegrown marijuana cultivation. Mold is perhaps only the start of a long list of problems that includes contamination by toxic chemicals and many other issues that affect indoor air quality and the structure of the house itself.

If you’re looking to buy a property and suspect that it may have been used as a marijuana grow-op, the experienced technicians at Mold Inspections can do indoor environmental assessments and testing for tell-tale signs like mold, yeast, bacteria and other toxic substances.

Know what you are getting into. For Grow-Op & Drug House Testing Services in Toronto, Contact Moldinspections.ca for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111(416) 575-6111.

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Grow-ops House Condemned for Mold Infestation

Grow-ops are common so it takes a lot to make the national news. One such recent case in Calgary is a stark reminder of the link between an unhealthy indoor environment, mold growth and maintaining a liveable home.

Police in Calgary recently arrested two women in connection with a marijuana grow-op that was discovered in what was described as a quiet suburban neighbourhood. Officers found a three-stage grow-op, seizing 743 plants and equipment worth more than $900K.

They found something else too – massively extensive mold infestation.

A police spokesperson commented to the press: “Based on the presence of mold in the home, it would appear this grow-op has been in operation for some time,” said Sgt. Len Dalton in a release. “People underestimate the damage grow-ops can do to a home. Besides mold, there are fire risks, electrical issues, and crime-related violence.”

The home was declared unfit for human habitation by officials.

Your Dream Home?
Yes, the law requires that a real estate agent let you know if a home you’re looking at has been used as a grow-op, but the agent can only do that if:

  • The owner has let them know about it.
  • The owner actually knew about it him/herself.

That’s the real problem: when a grow-op like this one goes unnoticed for years and then is finally sold without ever being discovered by outsiders. Then you may be buying a host of destructive problems – and mold is perhaps only the start of a long list that includes contamination by toxic chemicals and many other issues that affect indoor air quality and the structure of the house itself.

Knowledge is The Key
If you suspect that a property may have been used as a marijuana grow-op, we can do indoor environmental assessments and testing for telltale signs like mold, yeast, bacteria and other toxic substances.

Know what you are getting into. For Grow-Op & Drug House Testing Services in Toronto, Contact Moldinspections.ca for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111(416) 575-6111.

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A Programmable Thermostat, Moisture and Mold

Programmable thermostats have become one of the more popular home HVAC upgrades in recent years. Everyone’s looking to save on their energy bills all year round and a programmable thermostat offers that possibility – but it does require a little knowledge on your part to avoid the potential for moisture build-up and mold.

Programmable – or Setback – Thermostats
A programmable thermostat is a so-called ‘setback’ thermostat. That means that you set an ideal temperature and the thermostat turns on the furnace when the actual temperature falls below it and then turns it off when the temperature rises above it.

Sounds easy, right?

But, in order to really maximize the savings potential, you want to think about your actual needs in terms of temperature. Do you need as much warmth overnight when you’re sleeping? How about during the day when everyone’s at work or at school?

The same principles can work for a cooling system in the summer, where you may want to program a higher temperature during the day when the house is empty.
Many people set their thermostats for around 20 C to 21 C, but the savings will increase the lower the temperature you set.

The Problem
It’s a matter of physics: Cold air can hold much less moisture than warm air. That means that the lower the temperature you set, the greater potential for moisture condensation to occur on your walls and windows as the building cools down.

Know the signs:

  • Windows that are perpetually fogged
  • Damp walls

Where there is frequent moisture, there is the potential for water damage and mold infestation.

  • To prevent mold, begin with a drop of 2 C at first and keep an eye out for moisture issues. Then you can see if it’s possible to drop it farther – up to 3 to 6 C.

Remember:

  • A household with fewer people (people = moisture source) will be able to get away with a larger setback as a rule.
  • Air will warm up and cool down more quickly than the walls of your home and it’s that difference in temperature that causes condensation. If you shower in the morning and then leave directly for work, setting the thermostat to shift back right away, that moisture in the air will condense on the walls. If you shower right after coming home, just as the air is warming up, you will likewise get condensation on the still cool walls.
  • Remember that when the thermostat shuts down your forced air furnace, it also shuts down the furnace fan, which may leave you with inadequate air circulation – crucial for dealing with moisture issues. You can find models that will allow you to run the furnace fan continuously.
  • A programmable system works best when your schedule is predictable.

Vigilance is the Key
Keeping an eye out for any moisture-related issues is the key to preventing mold infestation. If you’ve noticed a persistent, musty odour in your home or other signs of mold, we can help. For mold testing, inspection and removal Services in Toronto, Contact Moldinspections.ca for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111.

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Marijuana Grow-Ops – Find Out Before You Buy

Marijuana grow-ops have become an unwelcome but pretty routine facet of contemporary life in the GTA. Homes old and new, in upscale or working class neighbourhoods – all can and have been used by organized criminals to grow marijuana.

Marijuana cultivation requires constant moisture and the houses that have served as grow-ops are riddled with problems, including mold and mildew and generally poor indoor air quality.

When You Buy…
When you’re in the market for a new home, you’d like to believe that you’re being given all the information that’s important – such as whether the home was ever used as a marijuana grow-op.

Now, if the real estate agent is aware of such a situation, they are required to let you know under their professional Code of Ethics. But – what if the agent doesn’t know? The actual owner of the home isn’t under any legal obligation to let you know unless you ask them point blank.

The Web to the Rescue
There are websites that can help you get to the bottom of that property that looks perfect from the outside, including:

These web-based directories can let you know whether a property was ever used as a grow-op or meth lab, or whether an insurance claim was ever made for water damage or sewer backup – all situations that can contribute to a wide variety of problems including widespread mold infestation.

The caveat: Naturally, like anything else on the web, you’ll have to do your homework.

  • Verify any information you get online in the real world of public records and documents.
  • A good tip? Ask the neighbours.

Remember too that this type of website can only catch those cases where the marijuana growers were caught and prosecuted. What happens if they remain undetected and simply move on after a few years, putting the property on the market to an unsuspecting public?

Knowledge is The Key
If you suspect that a property may have been used as a marijuana grow-op, we can do indoor environmental assessments and testing for telltale signs like mold, yeast, bacteria and other toxic substances.

  • Know what you are getting into. For Grow-Op & Drug House Testing Services in Toronto, Contact Moldinspections.ca for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111.

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Refrigerators, Beer… and Mold

Most of us associate mold with lingering moisture, and we know that in warmer temperatures it can flourish. But, did you know that mold can grow just as easily in the cold?

The Beer Store outlets, when you think of it, consist largely of coolers – refrigeration units – with a small space for the retail end of the store. Recognizing that refrigerators and walk-in refrigeration units, being inherently moist, are also prone to mold infestation, the Beer Store has a regular program of thoroughly checking their outlets on a yearly schedule. That means shutting down the outlet while the inspection goes on – even if it’s the only Beer Store in a small town!

Your Basement Refrigerator
Many of us use the basement area for extra storage, including another fridge or freezer for foods. Basements are inherently damp and if you combine that with the moisture inside a refrigerator, you may be creating the ideal conditions for mold growth.

Some fungi, as a matter of fact, can actually grow best at temperatures at typical refrigerator temperatures of 5C or lower.

  • Clean the refrigerator’s drip pan regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. The drip pan is virtually always located on the bottom of the fridge and catches the condensation that takes the moisture from your defrost drain in the freezer outside where it can evaporate. In a cooler basement in particular, that moisture can linger and invite mold to grow.
  • Check the door seals - if the fridge is not sealed properly, moisture will build up and mold will develop.

If your basement refrigerator is empty and in storage, it too can be a great place for mold to develop and accumulate, so before you close it up for good:

  • Clean the interior thoroughly with baking soda and warm water
  • Dry thoroughly
  • Buy a few pairs of new cotton socks and fill them with baking soda. Place one in each compartment.

Mold… in Your Home?
The conditions that can help to create mold can be multiple and may involve things you don’t know about – like too much condensation around windows that doesn’t ever dry out. Sometimes the only hint you have that mold is present in your home is a persistent musty odour or unexplainable respiratory symptoms.

  • Get help from the experts at MoldInspections.ca. Please call us for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111.

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Modern Radiant Heat and Mold Reduction

Modern housing construction methods are always innovating to try and address the kinds of moisture and ventilation issues that cause mold – such as tighter vapour barriers and improved window design. But, sometimes we can look to the past for good ideas that can be brought back into the present.

Radiant heat, put simply, is heat that comes from a source of energy like a burning fire or stove element. As a system of heating the home, radiant heating has been used since the days of ancient Rome. It works via circulating heated water, because water retains heat much longer than air.

What we now think of as old-style hot water radiators – those clunky, ornate and often hissing rads – were invented in mid-1800′s and largely went out of favour when forced air furnaces came to replace them. Modern builders, however, are taking a look at this old method which, interestingly, has the beneficial effect of reducing the tendency to mold growth.

Modern radiant heating systems, which are extremely popular in the U.K., typically circulate warmed water through tubes beneath the floors, inside walls or along baseboards. Its promoters say the heat is consistent and constant and can even lower energy use.

Since radiant heating adds no humidity, it reduces the incidence of excess humidity and condensation – and the chances for mold to grow. Forced air furnaces, on the other hand, tend to dry out the air and often require a humidifier – not so with radiant heating. For those reasons, radiant heating is said to be a good choice for those suffering from allergies.

Mold … in Your Home?
The conditions that can help to create mold can be multiple and may involve things you don’t know about – like too much condensation around windows that doesn’t ever dry out. Sometimes the only hint you have that mold is present in your home is a persistent musty odour or unexplainable respiratory symptoms.

Be sure – get help from the experts at MoldInspections.ca. Please call us for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111.

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Etobicoke Grow-Op Nightmare

An Etobicoke landlord finds himself in a growing legal battle over a grow-op located in one of his apartments. At issue is the damage he says was done by a couple who grew marijuana under a legal medical marijuana growing license.

Under the legal license, the couple is allowed to maintain several plants as well as store over 2000 grams of dried marijuana on their premises. This landlord isn’t alone. The number of medical growers with legal permits has risen from 500 in 2001 to 37,000 this past year.

The law on medical marijuana changed earlier this year to shift production from small residential growers like this couple to licensed commercial operations, but in the meantime the apartment languishes – and homes and properties are put at risk.

The Damage Done
While in this case, the tenants are insisting their grow-op only used a rundown room in an already dilapidated apartment, there’s no doubt that marijuana cultivation causes significant damage to an indoor environment. The deleterious effects of a grow-op can include:

  • Poisonous gas and chemicals
  • Biological contaminants
  • Poor indoor air quality
  • Formation of damaging mold and fungus
  • Mold and mildew from intense condensation
  • Greater chance of fires occurring

The legal climate is ambiguous and on top of that, history proves that people will grow it legally or not – in the meantime, where does that leave you as a potential homebuyer or rental property owner?

We Can Help
Grow-op testing and clean-ups are among our areas of special expertise. If you suspect your home or property has been used as a marijuana grow-op or you’re thinking of purchasing a property and you have similar suspicions, get help from the experts at MoldInspections.ca. Please call us for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111.

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Christmas Tree Syndrome – and Mold

Late in the year – around Christmas-time – doctors and other medical professionals notice a spike in respiratory illnesses. So-called Christmas tree syndrome can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Itchy nose and eyes
  • Fatigue
  • Problems sleeping

At the root of these problems is mold. Trees, particularly evergreens, naturally house mold as they grow outside. According to a new study at SUNY Upstate Medical University, mold is common in conifers.

The problem is compounded when you bring the tree indoors, where warm, humid conditions cause the mold to multiply. In fact, the researchers found that after a tree was put on display indoors for two weeks, the number of airborne mold spores leaped from 800 per 35 cubic feet to 5,000. As you breathe in the spores, they cause physical symptoms – just as it would if the mold was in your walls or around your windows.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as allergy-prone, sensitivities can flare up at any time and you don’t have to be allergic to mold to feel its effects.

Here are some tips on how to minimize Christmas Tree Syndrome:

  • Wash the tree and let it dry before bringing it indoors (you can also spray it with a mold-resistant sealant)
  • Get rid of it quickly after Christmas – the longer it lingers, the more mold it brings in
  • Use an air purifier in the room where the tree is standing
  • Go artificial

But – even if you use an artificial tree, you’ll still need to take care of allergy issues… like dust.

Mold in Your Home
A persistent musty odour may be your only outward sign of mold infestation. It can begin to infest your home from even a pinhole sized leak in plumbing or a loose shingle on the roof and begin to grow inside walls and floors where you’ll never see it. Once it’s established, mold spores can enter your HVAC system and disseminate throughout your home.

We Can Help
Get help from the experts at MoldInspections.ca. Please call us for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111.

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Mold Allergies on the Rise

This year’s damp weather all over North America has caused mold allergies to flourish. Mold spore counts were measured as high as 125,000 in the Midwest United States – and 50,000 is normally considered an indication of dangerous air quality issues.

There are estimates that mold allergies have increased by 12 percent in the last three years alone.  You may not be able to do anything about the weather, but you can help to minimize your exposure to mold – whether or not you have an allergy (yet!)

Outdoors

  • Minimize mold in your outdoor environment by getting rid of piles of leaves and other yard waste that’s left to sit quickly. Mold spores can get tracked back into your home.
  • When the weather is damp or muggy, keep windows closed and use an air filter.
  • When working in the yard, wear work clothes that you keep separate and away from the inside of your home, putting them on and taking them off as close to the door as you can.

Indoors

  • Make sure to be on top of regular maintenance and check for leaks and lingering moisture especially in basements, attics and other places where you may not see it.
  • Pay attention to the signs of mold infestation – a persistent musty odour, flu-like symptoms, any worsening allergies – and get professional help if you suspect you have mold in your home.

That musty odour may be your only outward sign of mold infestation. It can begin to infest your home from even a pinhole sized leak in plumbing or a loose shingle on the roof and begin to grow inside walls and floors where you’ll never see it. Once it’s established, mold spores can enter your HVAC system and disseminate throughout your home.

We Can Help
Mold is recognized as a serious health hazard – it’s not something you can ignore or just wipe away with regular household cleaners. Get help from the experts at MoldInspections.ca. Please call us for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111.

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Mold in Household Appliances

You may be aware of the dangers of mold when it comes to leaky basements or attics, but have you ever considered that it might be lurking in some of your household appliances?

A new study found that 62% of dishwashers contain mold and about half of these were also home to a black yeast that can cause illness. In dishwashers, the rubber gasket around the door is typically the culprit, providing a welcoming – i.e. perpetually moist – environment for mold and other organisms to flourish. Dirt and debris can collect in this area because it’s not cleared out with the wash cycle.

It turns out that your vacuum cleaner may also be home to mold and other allergens. Human detritus – skin cells, hair, and so on – collects on your floor, where vacuuming can actually kick it back into the air. Your vacuum actually creates dust – aerosolized dust that contains small, breathable particles. Once it’s gone through the machine, it can also be re-released in breathable form. Older models in particular are prone to this type of phenomenon.

The good news is that these types of situations are preventable. Some tips:

  • Use a vacuum with a hepa filter – although it’s not perfect in removing allergens, it eliminates most
  • Use a microfibre or electrostatic duster (not feathers!)
  • Change your vacuum’s filter regularly
  • Get rid of old carpets and area rugs where those biological scraps and moisture can linger and create mold
  • Clean the rubber gasket of your dishwasher regularly – once a month at least
  • Clean around the dishwasher’s drain to make sure water is exiting properly

Just like your home itself, when it comes to appliances, proper and regular maintenance and repairs are the keys to avoiding mold infestation.

A Lingering Smell…
A persistent, musty odour may be your only outward sign of mold infestation. It can begin to infest your home from even a pinhole sized leak in plumbing or a loose shingle on the roof and begin to grow inside walls and floors where you’ll never see it. Once it’s established, mold spores can enter your HVAC system and disseminate throughout your home.

You may also notice the health effects of mold before you actually see it – including respiratory, nose, throat and eye irritation and other flu-like symptoms.

We Can Help
Get help from the experts at MoldInspections.ca. Please call us for a hassle-free quote today.

MoldInspections.ca is the trusted leader for mold-free homes and breathable indoor air spaces in Toronto, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and beyond. Providing certified mold inspection, detection and testing since 2005, we service home owners, real-estate agents, landlords, property managers, insurance companies and businesses. Featured on CTV and Global news, official supplier to HGTV’s Income Properties with Scott McGillivray and Leave It To Bryan and recommended by local contractors, we regularly serve as expert witnesses in court proceeding relating to Mold and Indoor Air Quality issues. Do you have mold? Call us today for a free quote at (416) 575-6111.

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