Water damage vs. mold comparison

Water damage vs. mould: How do they differ from each other?

Comparing water damage and mold based on their smell and appearance, causes, health risks, and more.

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Key Facts

  • Mold is a fungus that grows and thrives in humid areas. It can spread on walls, floors, and other wet surfaces, causing structural damage in homes and posing various health risks. 
  • Water damage occurs when moisture accumulates on surfaces due to poor ventilation and insulation. If left untreated, it manifests as discolored patches that might lead to mold and bacteria growth.

If you live in an area with high humidity and heavy rainfall, mold and water damage spots are most likely to occur in your home. These issues are a nuisance that can significantly affect your home’s integral structure while posing various health risks.

While both results from excessive moisture, mold, and water damage differ, they have different ways to fix and prevent them. Know more about these persistent issues in this water damage vs. mold guide so you can maintain a safe home for your family. 

What is mold? 

Water damage vs mold - What is mold

Mold is a type of fungus that grows in areas with high humidity. It appears in a wide range of colors, but the most common household mold is blackish green with a fuzzy and slimy texture and rotten smell. 

If left untreated, mold spores continue to spread, and they may destroy your furniture, walls, and floors. Mold can also pose various health risks, especially respiratory problems and allergic reactions. 

There are many types of mold on walls, floors, and other surfaces, including:

  • Allergenic molds - These are common indoor molds found in damp areas such as wet carpets, wood surfaces, showers, and under-sinks. They quickly spread and cause mild allergic reactions and lung issues. 

  • Toxigenic molds - These are the most dangerous and can cause various health risks, such as skin and nail infections. They typically grow in contaminated humidifiers and window sealants. 

  • Pathogenic molds - These are molds that can cause infections and diseases. The most common pathogenic mold is Aspergillus, which is also an allergenic mold. However, some other Aspergillus mold species are pathogenic and can cause infections and lung diseases. 

What is a water damage? Water damage vs mold - What is a water damage

Water damage results from dampness or the accumulated moisture trapped on surfaces. This can happen when houses lack ventilation and insulation, causing the moist air to condense and build up on cold surfaces. Some visible signs of water damage at home include discolored patches on walls and windows, peeling wallpaper or paint, and rotting skirting boards. 

Other factors, such as water leaks and routine tasks such as cooking and showering, can also cause water damage. If not fixed, damp areas might occur, causing mold and bacteria to grow. 

Mold vs. water damage: What are their key differences? ?

Since mold grows in damp areas caused by water damage, you probably think, is water damage and mold the same thing? Or, does water damage mean mould? No, they’re not the same. Here are some factors to consider that can help you differentiate these two common household issues. 

In terms of smell and appearance

Like mildew, mold has a distinct earthy, musty smell because it emits microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) as it spreads. However, when comparing mold vs. mildew, the latter has a more overpowering pungent smell that can make you easily gag! 

As for appearance, indoor mold growth looks black or green. Other mold types may appear brightly yellow, brown, white, purple, and even pink! You don’t have to be worried about the color because it doesn’t indicate how toxic a mold is. It is normal for mold to change color depending on its surrounding environment.

Meanwhile, water-damaged areas have a similar distinctly musty smell, but it is not as strong as mold. Water damage can also look like a brownish or slightly yellow wet patch on the wall after it rains. 

In terms of causesWater damage vs mold - Comparing them in terms of causes

What causes mold on walls? Excessive moisture and lack of ventilation. Kitchens and bathrooms are some areas in the house that exhibit this kind of environment. Steam from cooking and showering causes most air to build up on cold surfaces, creating a perfect breeding ground for mold growth.

Mold growth can also appear on paper, wood, and carpets because these are organic materials that mold spores feed into. When these materials become wet and moist, irregular stains appear, signaling mold formation.

Meanwhile, the root cause of water damage is the moisture that has penetrated the walls and floors due to poor building structure and lack of insulation. This is highly likely to happen after a series of rainfalls and snowstorms.

You may also encounter a condition known as a rising damp. It occurs when groundwater seeps through and travels up the walls, causing the timber to rot. Signs of rising dampness include peeling paint and bubbling wallpaper on walls. 

In terms of health risks

Is mold from water damage dangerous? Yes, because it can increase health risks and cause allergic reactions. Mold produces spores that contain allergens, irritants, and even toxic substances. Inhaling these microscopic mold spores can make you cough and sneeze, and you’ll have difficulty breathing. You should also avoid touching mold spores because the spores can cause skin rashes and trigger eczema. 

Prolonged mold exposure can be even more dangerous for people with a weakened immune system. If they accidentally inhale mold spores, they may experience severe respiratory and airway infections.

Aside from affecting your physical health, living in a damp and moldy place can also significantly impact your mental health. With these unpleasant living conditions, you’ll most likely feel more stressed, anxious, and depressed. 

In terms of treatment

Water damage vs mold - Comparing them in terms of water treatment

Finding and eliminating the source is the first step in water damage cleaning. Start inspecting the roof and gutters because these areas are likely to leak. Consider hiring licensed water damage professionals to help you quickly find the source of leaks. 

Penetrating dampness can also occur in water-damaged areas. This happens when the moisture from the exterior wall moves into the interior, causing the wooden panels in the walls to rot. Some treatments for penetrating dampness include adding a damp-proof course (DPC) or injecting a specialized damp-proof cream into walls. These serve as extra barriers to protect the walls from moisture and water damage.

On the other hand, treating mold involves removing the spores with potent cleaning agents like hydrogen peroxide or bleach, and white vinegar. You can do this yourself, but wear protective gear like gloves and masks to avoid inhaling and touching mold spores. If you don’t want to risk it, seeking help from mold removal experts is the best. 

Consider also buying and applying anti-mold paints. They are specially formulated that can help prevent mold growth.

In terms of removal cost

The cost difference between water damage and mold removal services depends on the severity of the issue and the required treatments. In the US, water damage restoration costs can range from $500 - $20,000. The fees are high because this involves fixing your leaky pipes, roof gutters, and other water-damaged home maintenance repair tasks. 

Meanwhile, mold removal costs can range from $500 to $30,000. It is more expensive than water damage restorations due to the health risks that come with removing mold. Moreover, mold remediation is a complex process that requires advanced containment methods, such as negative air pressure.

In terms of prevention methods

Water damage vs mold - Comparing them in terms of prevention methods

Since one of the causes of water damage is moisture, using dehumidifiers and air conditioners in areas with high humidity can help. You can also install exhaust fans to improve ventilation and reduce moisture in these areas.

Waterproofing the roof, walls, and floors is another way you can help prevent water damage. This includes adding sealants and insulation to reduce condensation damp on surfaces. 

The methods for preventing mold damage are similar. You'll also have to use dehumidifiers and exhaust fans to improve ventilation and inhibit mold growth. 

However, mold growth prevention requires more thorough cleaning maintenance. For example, when mopping the floors, you must always ensure wet surfaces are completely dry after 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold infestation. 

Remove stubborn mold and water damage with Airtasker

Need help looking for mold removal and water damage restoration online? Look no more! At Airtasker, you can find many cleaning experts who can help eliminate mold colonies and repair water-damaged areas. 

Finding one is easy! You just have to post a task, indicating the type of service you need, and wait for proposals and quotes from Taskers. 

Water damage vs. mould

Water Damage
Smell and Appearance
Produces a musty smell with a brownish or slightly yellow color
Also has a musty smell, but more overpowering. Comes in many colors
Accumulated moisture due to poor building structure
Excess moisture and lack of ventilation, especially in kitchens and bathrooms
Health Risks
Causes damp spots that can trigger allergies and cause respiratory issues
Similar health risks to a water damage, but causes more severe skin reactions and lung problems
Waterproofing and adding Damp Proof Course (DPC) or damp-proof cream
Removing mold spores with bleach and white vinegar, and using anti-mold paints
Removal Cost
The average cost ranges from $150 - $6,000
Cheaper with the average cost ranging from $500 to $4000
Prevention Methods
Using dehumidifiers, installing exhaust fans, and waterproofing surfaces
Similar to a water damage, but requires a more thorough cleaning maintenance

FAQs on water damage and mould

A mild water damage is more visible on your walls. The signs include peeling paint, bubbling wallpaper and small hairline cracks in walls. You’ll also notice a slightly yellow or brownish stain on surfaces. 

Symptoms can vary. Mold exposure from water damage includes coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and shortness of breath. For people with weakened immune systems, severe symptoms such as pneumonia and other respiratory infections may also arise.

If the room has poor ventilation and the walls are water-damaged, mold can form after 24 to 48 hours. Before mold grows, seek help from a professional mold removal expert remediation company immediately to prevent mold damage. 

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