Sub-Floor Mould

What is subfloor mould?

Sub Floor MouldMoulds are a type of microscopic fungi that grow under wet conditions on materials with high cellulose content. Subfloor moulds are the mould varieties that can grow on the wooden subfloor materials.

The subfloor of a house is the lowest level of a home or building and commonly refers to the space between the soil and the timber floor substrates. This area of the house can easily get wet or flooded due to heavy rains, melting snow, water leaks or other water problems. The combination of wet wooden floor materials and poor ventilation makes the subfloor a common source of mould problems in houses.

The subfloor mould problem is made worse by the fact that it is very difficult to detect mould in the subfloor area. Occupants are sometimes made aware of subfloor mould when they smell a strong musty odour or start to experience allergies or breathing problems in the building. However, only some types of moulds have musty odour while other moulds have floral, fruity, oily or earthy smells and are less easily detected by odour. Also, not all occupants of the building may experience health problems due to subfloor mould.

The best way to determine whether your house or building has subfloor mould is to arrange an inspection by PureProtect, an experienced mould remediation company.

It is important to detect and treat subfloor mould as it can be a major problem in houses. Moulds grow in the form of spores, which can move through the air and land on other wet materials in the house and start growing. They can move from the subfloor area into the walls, floors, and heating/ air-conditioning ducts and continue growing. Moreover, the subfloor mould spores can float through the air, enter the living areas and be inhaled by the occupants. Inhalation of mould spores can lead to many health problems ranging from allergies to potentially some forms of cancer (discussed in later sections).

What are the causes of subfloor mould?

  • Lack of ventilation: Mould grows well under warm, still and moist conditions. Adequate ventilation will dry out the excess moisture, preventing their growth. The subfloor area does not often have proper ventilation and allows the mould to grow well.
  • Moisture in soil: Wet earth or soil below the building due to heavy rains or flooding or the elevation of the building can cause the subfloor to become damp. If the subfloor is not dried or drained after getting wet, mould can start to grow in the subfloor area.
  • Moisture getting into subfloor area: Moisture can also enter the subfloor area through water leaks from plumbing in the bathroom or kitchen. If the excess moisture problems are not addressed right away, then the subfloor could remain wet and cause ideal conditions to exist for the development of mould.
  • Organic material: Moulds, like all living organisms, require certain organic materials as food sources. Subfloors commonly contain timber, particleboard and other types of wood which make them good food sources for the mould.
  • Humidity: It is known that high humidity levels (above 55%) can lead to mould growth. In areas with high humidity or in homes with poor ventilation, the humidity levels would be high enough in the subfloor area to sustain mould growth. So, keeping the humidity below 55% can minimize the risk of subfloor mould in your home or office.

What health issues can subfloor mould lead to?

Subfloor moulds may be of the toxic ‘black mould’ type, the type of  mould varieties will determine the possible health problems in people exposed to it. Moreover, mould does not cause the same health issues in every person due to their differences in age, health, immune system and other factors. Mould spores and fragments are well-known allergens. Also, some types of moulds produce metabolites called mycotoxins, which produce toxic health effects.

People with allergies and weak immune systems as well as children and the elderly are more likely to be affected by subfloor mould. The risks of serious health problems from mould exposure are greatest for people with autoimmune disorders (like lupus) or compromised immune systems (from recent surgery, chemotherapy, certain medications). Also, mould can be dangerous for persons with respiratory disorders, like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

If you have any of the above risk factors, or even if you are healthy, the following are the various health issues to watch out for:

  • Respiratory problems: Some of the main symptoms related to respiratory problems are coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, sore throat, nose bleeds, burning feeling in mouth, throat and lungs, runny or blocked nose, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma attacks, and other serious lung problems (swelling or bleeding of the lungs).
  • Allergies: Subfloor mould can lead to allergic reactions ranging from mild to severe, including runny nose, red or itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and breathing problems.
  • Other effects: Some persons may also experience other symptoms such as eye and ear infections, sinus infections, rashes, muscle and joint pain, dizziness, disorientation, memory problems, headaches and chronic fatigue.
  • Long term effects: Prolonged or heavy exposure to subfloor mould may be the cause of some severe health problems in some people including depression and mental problems (lack of concentration, mood swings, irritation), heart problems, blood clotting disorders, reproductive problems (miscarriage, infertility, birth defects), kidney and liver damage, and possibly some types of cancers.

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