Renovations Done Right: Tips for Dealing with Sticky Situations and Substances

bathroom mold

Editor’s note: As firm believers in making the most of existing products, materials, and structures, we firmly support your efforts to renovate your current home. But make sure that you’re not extending the problems you already have: Chris Long of Home Depot provides some “baby steps” for dealing with mold and mildew in a bath renovation.

We all know that labor is one of the largest costs of home renovation. Of course, the way to eliminate that is to do the work yourself. But when you’ve decided to perform a DIY renovation in the bathroom, what do you do when you run into hazardous substances or toxic materials?

After all, any time you have water or moisture, you have the potential for mold or mildew, and plumbing that was improperly installed (or subsequently un-cared for) can be a breeding ground for nasty substances in and around your pipes and surrounding walls.

But don’t discard your do-it-yourself attitude just yet! By taking the proper precautions (and yes, sometimes calling in the pros) and following appropriate safety guidelines, you can still have solid plumbing and the bathroom of your dreams.

Here’s a closer look at some of the bathroom bandits you might encounter and some best practices for kicking them to the curb for good.

Murky Mildew

Although the term is often used interchangeably with mold, the two are separate and distinct species. The one connection they do have – other than both being members of the fungi family – is their preference for warm, moist spots to take up residence.

In the bathroom, mildew is most commonly found in showers, toilets, bathtubs and sinks; if caught early, mildew is usually easy to remedy with household cleaners and a scrub brush. For that no-so-easily rectified problem, we need to move on to a more serious culprit.

Monster Mold

Let’s dive right on in and discuss the #1 problem where plumbing and pipes transporting water are concerned… the bad boy of the bathroom: the dreaded mold.

Characterized by black and green spots that can start as little dots and spread to something with web-like tentacles that looks like it emerged from a bad horror flick from the ’60’s, once mold starts to appear, you need to act immediately.

And act immediately you must because the longer you wait, the more your body and health can end up paying for it. For instance, some of the health problems caused by mold include allergy issues like:

  • Nasal discharge
  • Mucous drainage
  • Sinus pressure
  • Earaches
  • Irritated eyes
  • Headaches

Long-term exposure to mold has even been linked to serious neurological conditions, so if you have been living in a place inundated with mold and you have experienced headaches for an extended period of time, having a check-up with your physician may be advisable.

Remedy or Removal?

Unfortunately, once mold has set up shop in a porous material (wood, drywall, sheetrock, carpet, etc.), there is no solution short of kicking that unwelcome tenant out. More specifically, you must remove the entire affected area – cut out the pieces of sheetrock; replace wood paneling with new; toss those pillows, blankets and carpets…you get the idea.

But you can’t just pile them all up, toss them in a trash heap, dust off your hands and call it a day. In order to have a “renovation done right,” you need “mold removal done right.”

Must-Haves and Tips for Mold Removal

As you can see from the picture, mold spreads quickly and can overwhelm an area in no time. Unfortunately, at this point, a tiny bristly brush just won’t cut it!

Although you may have already set this up in the course of your bathroom renovation (a HUGE help when you have sawdust or drywall dust floating about from cutting, sanding, etc.), before beginning the process of patching up your infected plumbing, you should create a barrier between rooms like this one:

This is largely because even if you eliminate the appearance of mold on the surface, you can never destroy the airborne spores, so you need a means to contain as much of these floaters as possible.

In addition to exit points, cover vents and ducts to avoid the mold from migrating from room to room.

Once this is set up, you’ll need:

  • Eye protection, like safety goggles without ventilation holes
  • Gloves made from natural rubber, or more industrial products like polyurethane, PVC, nitrile or neoprene
  • P-100 rated respirator that fits snugly on your face
  • Ventilation fan to dry out the area

And this brings us to our final point when dealing with mold – the cause is also the cure (as much as possible, that is).

In other words, poor ventilation and humidity provide the ideal habitat for these nasties (mildew and mold) so by ensuring the room is properly ventilated and free of humidity, you provide the least desirable place for them to reside.

At the end of the day, you may still have to call in the professionals to perfect your plumbing, but for “baby issues,” the baby steps above should help.

What issues have you encountered in your DIY bathroom/plumbing renovations?

Chris Long is a Home Depot sales associate in the Chicago suburbs. Chris writes on plumbing for the Home Depot website, and provides tips on bathroom renovations, plumbing fixtures and supplies to homeowners.

Image credit: Wally Hartshorn via photopin cc

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