Are Boarded-Up Businesses Mold Hazards?

Are unoccupied buildings ticking time bombs? One local mold inspector says the ramifications of the coronavirus shutdown could create dangerous conditions that aren’t discovered until after the lockdown ends.

Doug Hoffman, Executive Director of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors, says problems build up when buildings are not occupied.

“Building maintenance doesn’t end when people leave,” says Hoffman, who owns NORMIPro Management LLC in Abita Springs. “Buildings are designed to have people live and work in them.”

The biggest issue is potential mold growth, Hoffman says. When a building is occupied, it has someone to dust it, clean up spills, run the air conditioning, and open the windows. If it’s boarded up, all this maintenance neglect can lead to mold growth that won’t get found until the lockdown ends.

The first problem is dust. Mold needs food to spread, and dust is full of skin cells. Without people around to clean up, mold has a feast.

Hoffman also warns that water issues pop up in spaces that don’t have the usual controls.

“The tightness of construction, the lack of fresh air, and our reliance on air conditioning have made our buildings prone to becoming Petri dishes when the controls are shut down,” he writes in an article for CleanFax.

Business owners usually turn off air conditioners and close windows when they close down a business, meaning the critical airflow gets cut off. Air conditioners de-humidify a space, Hoffman says, and when that space gets humid, mold can thrive.

So what are owners to do with their closed businesses?

Hoffman recommends simulating living conditions. Owners should make occasional visits to clean and check for leaks, as well as open windows and curtains. Sunlight contains UV light that kills mold.

Owners should set their air conditioners to 80 degrees, Hoffman says, because that gives them a chance at keeping the relative humidity below 60 percent, the point at which mold thrives.

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