My Attic Sheathing Has Black Mold – Should I Replace the Roof Or Not? The Truth Revealed at Last
“Do I really need to tear off my roof?” is a question that I am asked frequently, by homeowners who have discovered they are the victims of a black mold infestation in their attic.
Many of them have been told by someone that it is the only way to truly fix the mold problem that they have in their attic. Many roofers especially are quick to recommend this remedy as the “only right way to use” if you have attic mold.
Don’t get stuck on the color of the mold either. The media has hyped “Black Mold” way out of proportion. What makes black mold black is the same chemical that gives your skin a suntan, namely melanin. Melanin is not poisonous or dangerous. This gives homeowners a false sense of security if the mold in their home happens to be white, green, yellow or some other color than black, believing incorrectly that it is harmless.
The truth is there are Toxic Molds that are white, green, gray, brown, red and black.
In fact even non-toxic molds can become opportunistic pathogens that are capable of feeding on you and living in or on your own body! It all depends on the kind of mold and the state of your own immune system.
The fact is, it doesn’t matter what kind of mold it is or even if its poisonous… if it is feeding on the boards of your attic, it needs to be treated right away. The reason is simple it can make your family sick and it is destroying the boards of the roof. That’s right mold releases powerful enzymes that are proven to rot and destroy wood! These enzymes are so powerful they are actually the workhorses inside of the gut of wood boring beetles and termites. That’s right scientists have discovered that termites and wood boring beetles actually have a symbiotic relationship and mold living inside of their guts is what allows them to digest the strong lignen binders inside of wood, allowing them to eat their way through the toughest wood.
Now, back to whether you need to replace the roof or not.
In most cases, the answer is a resounding NO!
As long as the boards are not rotted replacing the roof will do one thing only – Empty your wallet! What’s worse is that I have known many, many homeowners that decided to forego mold remediation because they took the advice of a roofer that really did not understand mold . That’s what happened to Mr. and Mrs. Green. On the advice of a roofing contractor they decided not to have the mold in their attic treated but rather to replace the whole roof including the plywood sheathing. Problem solved? Unfortunately not. You see they called me after only one winter with the new roof and to their dismay the new attic boards were covered in as much growth in one year as they had been after twenty years on the older plywood. Why you ask? There are two primary reasons for this. First When you see a board that is covered in mold you are not really looking at the body of the organism itself; instead what you are actually seeing is the fruit-body, like an apple is to an apple tree or a mushroom to a mushroom plant. I’m sure you eaten a mushroom right? Well have you ever seen a mushroom plant??? Its white and fuzzy and it looks like mold, but it remains unseen because it is growing beneath the surface of the soil. The mushrooms we eat contain the seeds so they are the fruit.
The fruit bodies or spores are like the mold’s seeds, its what allows them to reproduce. In fact in one square inch of flowering mold there can be upwards of one to five Million spores! In a square foot there can be billions. When you have hundreds of square feet of flowering mold it is hard for the human mind to comprehend the sheer numbers! And each and every one of those spores can reproduce into up to 12 million in just 12 hours! Ugh! And when mold senses it is being attacked, it has a defense mechanism called bursting or sporulation which causes it to release its spores into the air in a cloud. The act of just spraying mold with a chemical will cause this reaction.
When the roofer rips the boards off of the rafters during a re-sheathing process these spores are literally spread everywhere, all over the attic. In the insulation on the rafters, everywhere! This is like planting a new mold crop all over the attic which is just waiting for the slightest moisture to occur, as an excuse to go right back into full bloom!
The second reason that it is not a good idea to replace the roof boards is that the plywood for sale today is much softer than the older plywood and roofing boards of yesteryear. The reasons is that the new plywood today is made from wood that comes from planted forests. Planted forest wood is much softer than the wood grown in a natural forest. Put simply, in a planted forest there is no dense canopy of leaves overhead, so the trees never have to fight for light. This results in a heavy pith ring from summer growth and a narrow cambium ring, resulting in a much softer wood. And with a mold problem, the softer the wood is the easier it is to be colonized or attacked by mold. That’s why the Greens’ attic grew more mold in one winter than it had in the last twenty years, the new softer plywood was an easy target for the mold that had been spread all over, by the roofer, when he was ripping off the boards; and he inadvertently planted the new mold crop in the attic!
Finally, it is flat out like throwing your hard earned money right out the window! Why waste money to replace shingles and boards that are structurally sound???
It is possible for the mold to be safely treated and for the mold job to last permanently, the key is in both destroying the spores and destroying the mold roots. The home owner must be very careful however in selecting a knowledgeable contractor with a thorough, safe and not-toxic process. It can be a challenge, which is why we train contractors all over the world in safe effective mold treatments. Remember if you have a mold problem in the attic don’t buy a new roof and throw away your money, hire a safe mold professional and treat the heart of the problem the mold…. Not the roof!