Volume 37, Issue 6, June 2002
An Unwise Way to Address Mold Issues
by Ric Jackson
Ed McMahon and Erin Brokovich are just two of the recent “celebrities” involved in litigation, drawing attention to the ever-growing health threat of mold in residential housing and construction. High-profile cases such as these incite lawyers and homeowners to bring multimillion-dollar lawsuits against insurance companies, window manufacturers and builders. Recent cases of mold claims include:
• A case against Farmers Insurance Group in which a jury awarded a homeowner $32 million;
• A California lawyer who claims he is working on more than 1,000 mold-related lawsuits. The majority involves condominium residents; and
• In Texas, more than 70 families are pursuing litigation against a homebuilder and a synthetic-stucco manufacturer, claiming that the material traps moisture behind the homes’ walls, causing the growth of mold.
In a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune, Randall Bell, an appraiser in California who specializes in properties stigmatized from violent crimes to environmental concerns, said, “It’s a cutting-edge issue … I think it’s going to be bigger than asbestos.”
What Can Manufacturers Do?
What is unfortunate (or fortunate, depending on your point of view) for many manufacturers is that the window itself is usually not the culprit. Windows undergo stringent testing for certification against water leakage. However, mishandling in delivery, improper installation and the homeowner’s failure to maintain the window’s integrity may contribute to potential causes for moisture and condensation in buildings, which may lead to mold formation.
According to the American Architectural Manufacturers Assoc-iation, window manufacturers can take steps to help reduce their risks. They include:
• Controlling shipping and handling to provide protection from mishandling;
• Educating the homeowner. Prepare a maintenance bulletin that includes a periodic maintenance schedule and checklist; and
• Providing thorough instructions for installers to follow. Monitor installations when possible and document all activity and problems.
Along with these steps to improve the installation of your window units, it is also very important to focus on the components used in the window. Since the proper handling and installation only help prevent leakage issues—a small contributor to the issue of mold—it is necessary to focus on reducing condensation and moisture with better insulating
Mold, Windows and Warm Edge
For mold to survive in a home it needs three things: food, air and moisture. Obviously, you cannot remove the air from a house, and the house itself serves as food for mold. You cannot even control the level of moisture in a customer’s home, but you may be able to reduce the amount of potential condensation on the windows.
This can be accomplished through the use of insulating components such as warm-edge spacers, gas fills and low-E glass coatings that can reduce moisture significantly in the form of condensation—thereby reducing the risk of mold. The better the insulating unit insulates, the less condensation will form.
Deal with the Facts
One unfortunate trend seen all too frequently in this industry is opportunity-exploiting companies that are attracted to the issue of mold. Some companies have even resorted to age-old scare tactics to play on homeowners’ fears.
As an industry, we need to deal with the facts related to mold. No one in the industry will benefit long-term by preying on the fears of consumers. It is in everyone’s best interest to be as factual and well-informed as possible when dealing with this issue.
Rick Jackson, serves as director of marketing for TruSeal Technologies Inc., based in Beachwood, Ohio.
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