Published in MONTEREY HERALD SEPTEMBER 2018 | COMMUNITY FOCUS
Local builder helps clients create a healthy home
By Lisa Crawford Watson
No matter how well you clean your house, it can still be susceptible to mold, a type of fungus that sprouts from tiny spores carried on the air. Mildew is a common type of mold that grows on the surface of damp walls, doors, shower grouting and elsewhere in the home.
Mold spores are everywhere and, given the right conditions, will grow just about anywhere. Give them a little food, warmth, moisture and oxygen, and they’ll happily colonize in your home. The Monterey Peninsula is a hotbed for mold.
For most people, mold is a four-letter word. It looks awful, smells awful and possesses the potential for awful health consequences, among them allergic reactions, energy loss, fatigue, respiratory distress, mood changes, headaches and memory loss.
John Lewis is not afraid of mold. And he’s seen plenty of it. The CEO of Lewis Builders design/build firm based in the Barnyard Shopping Village, has remediated enough of the insidious invader to become both skilled and certified in mitigating mold.
“I suffer from allergies, myself,” he said, “so I took great interest in how I could ensure houses I was designing and building didn’t encourage mold. Rather than being terrified of it, I became educated.”
Mold can thrive in our homes, says Lewis, because, unwittingly, we have created perfect incubators for it. The ‘70s push for efficiency in home design, which meant installing dual-pane windows, and insulating and sealing the house to create air-tight building envelopes, created a whole new problem. The house can’t breathe.
People give off moisture, a reported four quarts a day per person, as do sinks and showers, washers and refrigerators. Without proper ventilation, even a carefully cleaned house can produce mold. Particularly in bathrooms and basements, closets and crawl spaces.
Lewis’ solution has been to use an air scrubber portable filtration system to manage dust, gasses and chemicals during construction, to use HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters to trap pollutants and exhaust them outside, and to incorporate a system into his home design that serves as the lung of the house. The Zehnder Comfoair ventilation system brings fresh air to all rooms of the house and simultaneously removes moist or contaminated air and odors.
Headquartered in Switzerland, the Zehnder Group is represented worldwide, says Lewis, but was introduced to the Peninsula by Bill Hayward, CEO of Hayward Lumber and Hayward Score, the latter of which Hayward established, after remediating his own mold crisis, to ensure healthy homes throughout the nation.
“John Lewis is incorporating the principle of Hayward Healthy Homes,” said Hayward, “which begins with fresh-air ventilation. Then he’s employing modern building science to make sure our local Carmel homes stand up to the climate and don’t become soggy, moldy environments.”
Consider the “Four Hayward Healthy Home Principles”: Continuous Fresh Air, Proper Sealing and Insulation, Less-toxic Materials, and Cleanable Surfaces. Haywardscore.com offers a free assessment tool to help people determine how healthy our home is and how it’s impacting our health.
“People simply feel better,” said Hayward, “when they have a home with fresh air. People who have allergies will walk into a healthy home and say, ‘I don’t feel them when I’m in this home. How is this possible?’ A healthy home fosters a healthy person.”
When Lewis Builders was brought in to remediate the mold issues in a 3,400-sq. ft., century-old English Tudor stone house in Carmel, they discovered the house had the perfect storm of poor drainage, insufficient ventilation, and closed, dark spaces.
“Air movement within a house is known as the ‘stack effect,’ where all air wants to flow up and out,” said Lewis. “Yet, when it gets trapped, where there are no windows to facilitate movement, or in an attic, it heats up. Pair that, in this Tudor, with a plumbing leak, causing moisture to come up through the floorboards, and mold had all the elements to thrive.”
Lewis Builders mitigated the mold problem in the house, and then returned to start structural work that would enable the house to remain mold free. This developed into a complete renovation, with the introduction of modern conveniences while maintaining the character of the historically significant home.
“We stabilized the house,” said Lewis, “by running a steel structure from the foundation, up through two stories to the roof, without affecting the stone on the building. We opened up the floor plan, vaulted the ceilings, and introduced more natural light by adding dormers and glass doors with handmade steel windows to match what was there. We updated the kitchen and brought in audio-visual elements. Outside, we redid the landscape, using significant grading and design changes to reroute water.”
More often than not, Lewis and his team discover mold during the demolition phase of remodels and renovations. And, it’s equally common for mold-mitigation to develop into a renovation project to keep the problem from recurring.
Mold is far more common than people want to believe, Hayward says. In fact, more than half the homes local have an indoor air quality problem, due to moisture and dampness.
“With all the renovations we do in this area to enable people to ‘age in place’ or remain in their homes longer as they age,” said Lewis, “mold mitigation is an important part of the process, so people can remain in a safe and healthy home.”
For more information on how to identify and mitigate mold issues, and how to have a healthy home, visit lewisbuilder.com or haywardscore.com.