Moldy Cold

The first house I bought was brand new, never lived in. I assumed that its newness meant I wouldn’t have any issues. Well that was just wishful thinking. I now know that the first owner of a particular home is likely embarking on a journey as guinea pig.

One of the bathrooms I never used developed a water leak in the ceiling. That room was on the top floor. After a short time, the wet spot turned dark instead of just drying out. I got a respiratory infection. My brother was coming out for a visit, and based on our phone conversations, he thought the infection was likely due to mold. My brother’s not a doctor, so I thought he was maybe a little alarmist.

Not so. Sure enough, when he arrived, he immediately identified mold on my ceiling. His first goal was to contain the mold area. As a mold inspector, big brother taught me that most household mold spores are three microns or larger. Thin plastic wasn’t enough to trap those tiny suckers, so he found some thick plastic that he knew would contain the spores. He then taped up a square of that plastic on the ceiling. Since my home was under full warranty, he didn’t try to clean it up, since all I had to do was call the builder.

Just identifying the problem wasn’t enough for my brother. Good thing, too – the builder certainly wasn’t going to solve the entire problem without prodding from me. Since the bathroom was on the top floor, big brother climbed into the attic and discovered that one of the vents on the roof wasn’t sealed properly.

I later called the builder and had the roof sealed and the moldy drywall ceiling replaced. Sure enough, my infection went away.

The most valuable, long-standing lesson I learned from this experience was actually about the furnace. Sounds odd, right? By explaining the mold spore size, big brother taught me what to look for in a furnace filter. The filter should trap particles three microns and larger. Without that protection, my mold problem could have gotten into my ductwork and caused a much greater issue – essentially causing my house to be an unhealthy place to live. Ouch. I now go for the washable, reusable type of filter. That requires me to clean the filter regularly, but the filter should be changed monthly anyway.

Sidenote: I recently heard from an acquaintance who failed to clean her filters. During a very cold spell, her furnace stopped working. She had to call in a professional, who told her the problem was due to her dirty filter. That mistake cost her $150 in repairs and shivers in the cold. I hope she avoided the problem lots of other area homeowners had at that time: burst pipes.



3 responses to this post.

  1. […] About this blog « Moldy Cold […]


  2. Enjoyed the post! I don’t remember the respiratory infection, but I’m glad it went away when the mold did. However, the size of mold spores are 3 microns or smaller. That’s why we call filter incapable of trapping 3 micron particles “rock catchers” 🙂


    • Posted by kermode on 2011/01/05 at 13:53

      Interesting. I didn’t remember the exact size by the time I wrote this post, but I did look it up online, and several sources claimed common mold in houses is no smaller than 3 microns, though there are others that get down to 1 micron. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything that specified what types those smaller pesky spores might be. Ah well. I guess my point to readers is “do your research and look carefully at your options in the store.” Home Depot and Lowe’s carry filters that don’t trap even 3 micron-sized particulates. When I lived in a mold-prone area, I wanted protection. Now that I’m in a dry environment, I’m less concerned, but I still make sure my filter traps at least some mold spores! Thanks for the details!


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