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Mike Holmes on Creating a Safe and Mold-Free Home

All homeowners should ensure that they have a plan for renovations – and what to do if mold strikes. Mike Holmes, TV host and professional contractor, offers tips for creating a safe home.

What should you do if you discover mold in your house?

The No. 1 thing you need to do when you discover mold is find the source. You can mitigate the initial mold outbreak, but if you haven’t taken care of what caused it (likely an excess of moisture), you’ll find that the mold returns again and again.

A home inspection that includes thermographic imaging can detect temperature changes behind your walls, which may indicate spots that are moisture heavy. Find the source of the mold, mitigate that, and then clean up the mold so it doesn’t return. For a mold outbreak that’s smaller than 10 square feet, you could handle cleanup on your own. If it’s bigger than that, call in a mold remediation pro.

What do you find homeowners overlook when trying to keep their home safe?

When it comes to outdoor structures, I find that homeowners tend to overlook them when it comes to care and maintenance. I’ve seen too many situations where a loose railing, stair, or ledger board leads to a major disaster. You can’t always trust that your balconies and railings are secure and strong enough. I think any deck older than five years should be inspected regularly.

Keep a close eye out for visible rot on components of your deck. Check for dry rot by tapping your screwdriver with a hammer in the area where the joists meet the ledger board. If the screwdriver sinks into the wood, that’s what dry rot looks like.

When is the best time to start home improvement projects?

If a project needs to be done, there is no bad time to start. You could even add a new roof during the winter, if that’s something your home desperately needed. That said, you never want it to come to that point. Spring is a good time to tackle home improvement projects for two reasons. One – you can assess if the winter did any damage to your home that needs to be addressed. Two – you will have a lot of time to complete your projects to make sure your home is safe and secure before the next winter hits.

A good rule to follow is to begin your home improvement projects at least one season before it matters. For example, check your furnace in the summer so you can catch a problem before it becomes one. Doesn’t it always seem like your furnace fails in the dead of winter?

If you’ve got projects in mind, it’s never too early to start planning. Good contractors’ schedules fill up quickly, so the sooner you have them booked, the sooner your project can begin.

What are some good steps homeowners can take to improve their indoor air quality? 

This is an important topic because we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors. Most of the time, when the outdoor air has toxins, it can dilute into the atmosphere. But when those unhealthy toxins – I’m talking about things like volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mold, lead, even cancer-causing gasses like radon – get into our homes, they can build up and cause us harm, make us sick, or in extreme cases, cause death.

A simple step to improving indoor air quality is changing your furnace filters every three months. Get your ducts professionally cleaned. Your bed sheets, curtains, and cushions are big magnets for dust mites. Clean these items regularly. I also recommend buying a radon test kit. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. You can’t see it or smell it, so the only way to know if you have elevated levels of radon in your home is to test for it.

How can a homeowner transform their kitchen space into a more sustainable and healthier environment?

This is really important, not just for the kitchen, but for the whole house. Cooking, bathing, and even breathing generates a lot of moisture for your house. A lot of people tend to jump immediately to the design phase when tackling a kitchen reno, but a remodel is a good opportunity to address problems in your kitchen. 

Home ventilation is important in all homes, but especially in newer construction, since new homes are built to have good insulation and tight air seals that prevent air movement. As a homeowner, you need to understand the importance of proper ventilation in your kitchen and how to properly install and operate them. This is key for removing excess moisture from your indoor air, and we all know that moisture can lead to mold. 

Why is the element of design so important to creating a happy home?

It’s important to have a place where you can relax and carry out your day-to-day activities. Think about the functionality of your rooms. Do you work from home? If so, you need to design a home office that will allow you to be productive, with good lighting and organization solutions.

I also say make your landscaping work for you, especially in the summer. While curb appeal is important, a good landscape design will keep your home naturally cool in the summer.

How can we become more energy efficient throughout our home?

There are many ways to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Smart appliances are a good choice when you’re upgrading; they’re more energy-efficient, saving you money in the long run. Programmable or smart thermostats are a great idea as well. Change your HVAC filters regularly. I change mine every month during the winter.

Energy-efficient windows are a key player in saving energy and money. Heat loss is prevalent in old and single-paned windows, which makes them remarkably inefficient. Make sure you are checking the caulking and weather-stripping around your windows as part of your seasonal maintenance checks.

I also try to have ceiling fans installed in every project I work on. While ceiling fans don’t make the air cooler, they do keep the air moving, and cool down the room. This means in the summer you can set your AC a couple of degrees warmer.

Good insulation is key to keeping the heat inside your home during the winter and outside during the summer. Having a well-insulated home is great for keeping your home at optimum temperature.

I also like to tell all homeowners to unplug devices when not in use because they can still draw power even if they are turned off. It’s a good idea to get an energy audit done to assess how much energy your home consumes so you can make better decisions on where to spend your reno dollars.

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