4 Signs There is Mold in the Attic: Removal Tips, Safety Concerns, and Prevention

Written by Angie Menjivar
Updated: November 15, 2023
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Unless you have some keepsakes in there that you regularly visit, you probably don’t consider your attic too much in your day-to-day life. But you should. Your attic is the optimal environment for mold growth and if you don’t know what’s going on in there, you might be dealing with a silent, persistent problem. Discover four signs there is mold in your attic!

4 Signs There is Mold in the Attic

1. There’s Excess Moisture

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious when there is excess moisture in your attic. You might have a leak that’s telling you there’s already water pooling and escaping from the space. However, sometimes water leaks are a bit more inconspicuous. You may have experienced a recent storm that caused some damage and you’re not realizing it until you notice there’s something funky going on in your attic.

Your attic is a perfect space for mold to thrive. Even a little bit of moisture can get moldy because all it needs to flourish is oxygen and water. So, if there’s any moisture in your attic, especially if it’s excessive, you’re likely dealing with mold. What’s even scarier about mold is that it can go dormant for a while, and you’ll think the problem has been resolved. However, once the conditions are just right again, it’ll start growing as if nothing happened.

2. There Is a Peculiar Smell

It’s kind of a musty smell that is not at all pleasing. Although mold can smell sort of like an enclosed room with closed windows that desperately needs fresh air (much like your attic), some people say that it actually smells more like urine. The smell of urine is unmistakable so if you do pick up on a urine smell coming from your attic, it’s highly likely you are dealing with mold. Now, with that said, your attic may not at all smell like urine.

So, this is where it gets a little trickier. Nevertheless, if you suspect mold, consider how you would describe the smell in your attic. Sure, it might be a little stuffy but try to pick up on any scent relating to wetness or moisture. If you do pick up on that damp smell, it’s another surefire way to know that there’s likely mold growing in your attic. Remember, all mold needs is a little bit of moisture and oxygen to thrive.

Old Rustic Attic with Sunlight coming through Window.

Attics are optimal environments for mold growth, considering they retain moisture and have poor ventilation.

©Beliphotos/Shutterstock.com

3. The Wood Is Stained

If you’re inspecting your attic, another sign that there’s mold is staining. Look at all the exposed wood in the attic and check each surface. When there’s mold, it’s going to appear big and splotchy. Most often, these splotchy stains are going to be a greenish color or maybe even white.

However, don’t rely on the color to determine whether or not it’s mold because it could also be present in different colors as well. Sometimes it’s black. When it’s black mold, it’s the worst of all mold types. Usually, it starts forming in circles and if you notice this pattern, get out of your attic right away and call a professional. They’re the ones who are going to need to move in to take care of it for you.

4. You’re Experiencing Persistent Symptoms

This is what’s most concerning about mold growing in your attic. It can affect your health and the health of your loved ones. Many variables can affect how you and your family feel and could also contribute to a sudden onset of symptoms. To make matters more confusing, a lot of the symptoms associated with mold seem to mimic those of the common cold.

However, if these symptoms persist for longer than three weeks, you may be dealing with health issues related to the presence of mold in your attic. Some of those symptoms include long-term coughing, a sore throat, and congestion. However, you may also notice that you’re feeling unusually fatigued. Sometimes, mold can cause you to have allergic responses like itchy, watery eyes. For those who have asthma, they may notice that their symptoms worsen when there is mold present in the attic.

Mold Removal

As much as we love a good DIY job because it helps you save (and who doesn’t like to keep their hard-earned cash?), mold removal, especially in the attic space, is much too dangerous for someone who is not experienced. Even those who have worked as mold technicians know that they could seriously injure themselves. So, as far as mold removal is concerned, make sure that you shop around in your area to find a professional who can come by your home and execute the job without you having to step foot in the attic.

Worker fix leaking pipe in ceiling ,close-up of a stain on the ceiling.

It’s best to leave mold removal to professionals.

©Toa55/Shutterstock.com

Types of Mold and Their Health Consequences

Mold operates silently but the more you know about it, the more you can help protect yourself and your family. You must take quick action when you suspect there is mold in the attic. Three primary types of molds might be growing in your attic. They include the following:

Toxic

This type of mold is the worst you could be dealing with. It’s highly dangerous not just for you and your family, but also to your pets. The good news about toxic mold is it’s unlikely that’s what you’re dealing with. This is a rare type of mold. Nevertheless, it does happen, especially in environments with higher humidity. If you don’t deal with this issue right away, it can cause a range of health issues, even damaging your organs and your central nervous system.

Pathogenic

Some people might respond to pathogenic mold with the development of asthma. Others might experience something like dermatitis, which is when your skin gets irritated, and you experience swelling. Others might have more severe reactions to the presence of pathogenic mold. Each person responds differently to the presence of mold depending on their sensitivities and immune system response.

Allergenic

This type of mold is a bit milder in terms of health consequences. Some people may develop symptoms similar to what they experience when they have allergies. They might have itchy, watery eyes or may develop noticeable irritation on their skin. They may also find that they’re coughing more frequently or sneezing more often. Nevertheless, this type of mold needs to be cleared out to prevent further health issues.

Mold Prevention

Like with any issue in your home, prevention is key. It’s easy to forget about your attic altogether but without ensuring that moisture levels don’t get too high, you put yourself and your family in a vulnerable position. The best thing you can do is monitor your attic and make sure it’s well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of moisture and the inevitable build-up of mold. Below are some actions you can take.

Plastic (mansard) or skylight window on attic with environmentally friendly and energy efficient thermal insulation rockwool.

Keep a mold-free environment in your attic with adequate ventilation.

©brizmaker/Shutterstock.com

Buy a Hygrometer

A hygrometer is an inexpensive instrument you can use to measure the humidity in your attic. You can stay on top of the humidity in your attic and make changes as necessary when you notice humidity levels rising.

Install Attic Vent Fans

In areas with high humidity, you may notice that the attic reaches up to 100% humidity. This is a danger zone for mold, so you must step in to bring that percentage down. With attic vent fans, you increase the air circulation, which breaks up the stagnant conditions that allow mold to thrive.

Schedule Regular Roof Inspections

During a roof inspection, a roof inspector takes the time to examine your roof for any cracks or water damage that may be allowing water to get into your attic. They’re going to look at the exterior part of your roof as well as the interior to ensure you don’t have anything worth worrying about. If you do, they can let you know what steps to take to fix it.

Clear Your Gutters

Gutters with clogs can accumulate moisture, which is optimal for mold. Make sure you make it part of your routine to clean your gutters or buy gutter guards to prevent clogging.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Ethen Dell/iStock via Getty Images


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About the Author

Angie Menjivar is a writer at A-Z-Animals primarily covering pets, wildlife, and the human spirit. She has 14 years of experience, holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology, and continues her studies into human behavior, working as a copywriter in the mental health space. She resides in North Carolina, where she's fallen in love with thunderstorms and uses them as an excuse to get extra cuddles from her three cats.

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