Out of all the questions people ask me about mold, the most important question to them is always, “How can I get rid of my mold?” Even though this is an important question, it’s not the question they should be asking, which is, “Why do I have mold?”

In the past, we’ve discussed things that might contribute to mold growth in a home or building. Some of these factors were high humidity, organic building materials, and air-tight building structures. But these factors alone should only accelerate mold growth, not be the root cause of it. The fact is, serious mold growth should only occur if there is something wrong with the building.

Serious mold growth only occurs when there is a lot of moisture. Correct building design allows for a normal amount of water vapor to ventilate through the building and escape outside. So the only reason mold should exist is if there is an abnormally high amount of water or the building is not doing its job.

When an abnormally high amount of water exists in a building it is usually because of a flood, a burst pipe, or a leaky roof (often the case with schools). Homes and buildings endure wear and tear over time and it’s hard to avoid some occurrences. So you should focus on what you can control. For roofs, keep the roof in good condition, routinely inspect for weaknesses, and fix leaks as soon as they occur. For burst pipes, shut off the water, repair the leak, and dry and remove the spilt water as soon as possible. If you have a flood then you need to focus on drying immediately and preventing further water from pouring into your home. Do not wait for the insurance adjuster to arrive first as it may take several days, more than enough time for mold to grow.

The reason why older homes and buildings may be moldy is simply because it is more likely they have experienced water leaks during their lifetime that were not repaired quickly or effectively.

But new buildings sometimes have mold too. When this happens it is because the building was constructed incorrectly and, by flawed design, either allows rainwater to enter the building or does not allow water vapor to escape through proper ventilation. This happens more often than it should. Oak Ridge Elementary, which was recently assessed as “the worst case of mold ever seen” by one inspector is only four years old. The 17-story Sam H. Gibbons courthouse is practically uninhabitable now because of mold, and it is only 12 years old.

What people need to understand is that mold isn’t the problem; it is merely the result of an existing problem. Any honest mold remediation company will stress this fact to you early on and work to identify the cause and source of water in a building.