For homeowners, mould can be a serious problem, as it can cause a great deal of damage. Mold (also spelt mould) is caused by water damage, such as a burst pipe or sewer back-up. It poses a serious health risk to you and your loved ones, and can be very costly to repair. As a homeowner, you need to be educated about mould, know how to deal with it and understand how your homeowners’ coverage relates to mould damage.
What is mold / mould?
Mould is a type of fungus that grows both indoors and outdoors, thriving on moisture. It sprouts from tiny spores that float about in the air and settle on moist surfaces, where they reproduce into mould colonies. Mould will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. It can also cause physical damage to structures, which can lead to rotting of wood (ceiling tiles, cardboard and wood products). Additionally, it can grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.
Types of mould
There are thousands of different types of mould, which are divided into three broad categories:
- Allergenic: This type is not toxic in and of themselves, but can trigger allergic reactions, such as asthma.
- Pathogenic: Pathogenic mould can trigger illnesses in people already weakened by other causes.
- Toxigenic: The most dangerous type because they create their own toxins that can lead to health problems that are sometimes lethal.
Mould can create sick building syndrome, an illness where occupants feel sick while inside, but the direct cause is not specified.
The dangers of mould to your health
People with allergies are more susceptible to mould exposure than others. Living in a house with unhealthy mould conditions, being exposed to it at work or at school might cause the following symptoms:
- Stuffy or runny nose
- Eye irritation (watering, red eyes, itching)
- Sore, dry throat
- Dry cough or sneezing
- Skin irritation (rash, skin scaling)
- Wheezing or shortness of breath
- General malaise
- Brain fog (difficulty focusing)
It can produce a potentially harmful substance called mycotoxins, which creates a variety of allergic responses or hypersensitivity diseases in people.
Where mould can hide in your home
Trust your nose! A moldy or damp smell is usually a good indicator that mould is present. Unfortunately, mould can grow anywhere. However, we all have shared common areas to check:
- Damps areas: Laundry and bathrooms (especially shower tiles and the tub)
- The kitchen: In, on and under the sink
- Basement: Around pipes and ducting
- Attic: Check insulation
- Walls and ceilings that have experienced water related accidents.
- Rotting shingles and wood caused by overflowing rain gutters and age
- Underneath siding
- Outdoor stairwells where water is prone to pooling
- Anywhere else where water and moisture is present
Note: If you notice a lot of condensation on glass or metal, it can build up over time and turn into an issue.
Mould damage and removal costs
The costs of mould removal vary depending on three factors:
- Where the mould is located
- The amount of mould damage there is
- How far the mould extends in the affected area(s)
Mould remediation (removal) can be quite expensive in Canada. It often ranges between $3,000 and $30,000 (this gap may seem wide, but the price is heavily influenced by factors, like the difficulty of the job, the severity of the mould damage, etc.).
Mould damage and your home insurance policy
Mould forms typically due to water damage, such as a sewer back-up incident or a burst pipe. You may have home insurance coverage for both types of damage, but that isn’t always the case. However, your insurance provider may reject certain claims if they see that mould growth has been present for a long period of time. Most insurers may see this type of mould damage and development as a sign of neglect of regular home maintenance. Basic homeowners’ insurance policies exclude the coverage of damage from mould growth.
Some policies will cover damages if it can be associated to an actual loss that was covered and mould is a result of that loss (for example, water damage causing mould). Coverage is mainly dependent on the source of the moisture and the cause of the growth. There are some insurers that do have a clause for mould, but it is capped at $10,000. Typically, insurance policies will cover the following as they relate to mold removal in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada:
- Acts of God or natural disaster (extreme storms, floods, hurricane, tornado, etc.)
- Burst pipes
If the cause of water damage or mold is said to be a result of negligence or human error, it is more likely your homeowners’ insurance will not cover the cost of the removal.
With an all-risk or comprehensive policy, there is coverage for all types of water damage, except those your insurer will specifically exclude.
Depending on your policy, you may have coverage limits related to water and mould protection. If the repairs go beyond your policy, you will have to pay out-of-pocket after the insurance deductible is paid.
What to do if you see mould in your home?
If you’ve pinpointed the mould infestation in your home, there are several things that you can do to take care of it as soon as possible:
- Section off any mould-infested areas of your home: By doing this, you will prevent the infestation from spreading to other areas.
- Turn off the HVAC system in your home: This can prevent the spores from becoming airborne and reaching your respiratory system.
- Notify your home insurance agent or broker and/or a mould remediation service: Do this as soon as possible. Removing the mould infestation expediently allows you to retain the value of your home, stay healthy and return to everyday life.
You shouldn’t attempt to remove mould from your home. Never attempt to paint over or bleach a moldy section of your home. Doing this will merely act as a band-aid solution for the problem and potentially make matters worse in the long run.
Furthermore, attempting to remove or deal with the mould can make it difficult for an adjuster to make a proper estimate on the damage (if you end up making a claim).
The best ways to protect your home from mould damage
According to Canadarestorationservices.com, the best way to protect yourself is to know how the mould was created. Be sure to:
- Reduce indoor humidity by using dehumidifiers, and make sure they are regularly cleaned and disinfected.
- Check that every exhaust fan in your bathrooms and kitchen are connected and are exhausting outside.
- Be sure there is enough (or not too much) insulation in your attic.
- Make sure there is sufficient airflow throughout your home.
- Double check that the soffits in your attic are not blocked.
FAQs about mould
Does insurance cover all mould damage?
Any mould that forms after a sudden accident may have coverage under your home insurance policy. Water damage and mold forming as a result of putting out a fire, for example, will likely be covered by your policy. However, mould near a leaky pipe will most likely not.
Can my renters’ insurance cover mould damage?
If you rent, not only is it crucial to have tenant insurance, but it’s important to speak with your landlord about any mould problems. Most policies will cover it, but only if it’s the result of an accident from a covered peril.
Will my insurance cover mould removal?
If you have a named peril in your policy that is covered, your insurer will help with the removal of mould in your home. Perils, such as tornados or floods, that cause water to enter your home, resulting in mould on the wall and under the carpet, you may have coverage.
Do mould damage claims increase your insurance?
Depending on the type of claim, the cause of mould damage and your insurer, you may see an increase in your premium. Always evaluate the situation and costs to decide if it is worth making a home insurance claim.
Who is responsible for mould cleanup in a condo?
Dealing with mold can also be an issue for condominium owners. Many building owners say they are responsible for preventing it in common areas, but residents are responsible for their units. Be sure you have mould coverage in your condo insurance so if you need to make a claim, you will have some support.
Who is more vulnerable to mould?
Mould infestation puts certain individuals at a higher risk to its toxic effects, including:
- Individuals with existing respiratory conditions, such as allergies, chemical sensitivities, or asthma
- Persons with weak immune systems (such as people with HIV infection, cancer chemotherapy patients, and so forth)
- Infants and young children
- The elderly
Anyone with health problems they believe are due to mould should consult a medical professional. Longterm exposure to high levels of mould spores can also have serious effects on a “healthy” individual.
If you ever experience mould from water damage, contact your isure broker to see if your policy covers the damage. Or get ahead of the problem and ensure you have the proper coverage before disaster strikes! We are always here to assist and will provide information on the proper steps to take to resolve the issue.