Around the House: If  you can't see mold, it's likely not a problem
HomeHome > News > Around the House: If you can't see mold, it's likely not a problem

Around the House: If you can't see mold, it's likely not a problem

May 23, 2024

Ken Moon. Gazette file photo.

Dear Ken: I’m worried about our indoor air. We are rehabbing an older house, and are replacing shower tiles and drywall that back up to a musty smelling closet. Should we test for mold in the whole house? — Savannah

Answer: Testing for mold is problematic. The spore colonies, if they are present at all, tend to move here and there and may or may not travel near the testing device or container. The real key is whether or not you can see it. If it’s hidden in wall spaces, it usually doesn’t impact the indoor air quality. But when it travels on to walls and ceilings, you should kill it with bleach and water and seal the surface with a primer, like KILZ. Bottom line: If you can’t actually see mold, it’s almost never a problem.

The musty smell you ask about doesn’t necessarily mean there are mold spores present, but can simply indicate you need more ventilation with fresh air. That’s why I recommend in older houses — with their small basement windows — the installation of a small bath fan plugged into a timer that blows stale air out and draws new air into the space. Run it a couple of hours each day for a fresher smell down there.

Also, duct cleaning is a good idea in mature properties. Use your cellphone to take some pictures of the inside of a few of your ducts. If you see a layer of crud clinging to the inner surfaces of the tubes, ask your regular furnace contractor for a referral to get the ducts cleaned.

Dear Ken: What’s the best way to clean out the dryer vent pipe? We can’t get to it behind a wall. — Todd

Answer: Remove the exterior vent cap. It’s usually attached at the corners with simple wood screws. Attach the output of a leaf blower to the pipe on the inside. Switch the blower on and off several times while an assistant checks the output. Once the majority is loosened and collected, stop. If you overdo it you could loosen up or even separate connected vent pipe joints inside the walls— especially in an older home (they are not screwed together, only duct-taped). Then you’ll have a real mess on your hands!

Dear Ken: I have painted my cabinets. I sanded and primed them, then put a high-gloss paint on. There are brush stroke marks all over the place. What can I do now? — Mel

Answer: You’ll have to skim-sand them to remove the stroke marks; that will require another topcoat. Things will go better if you lay them down on a saw horse — because then gravity isn’t fighting you by tugging on the paint. Also, it helps to dip the brush only halfway into the paint bucket and then stroke in one direction only. Afterwards, let the doors sit flat for 24 hours to allow the paint to relax and merge into itself. Temperature is also very important. Paint in an environment that is at least 60 degrees.

With hindsight, it would probably have been better to spray them for a more uniform finish.

Dear Ken: I have a huge deck. We get tired of sealing it every two years or so. We have run across a product that claims to last “thirty years.” It’s quite expensive. What do you think? — Brittany

Answer: I’d save my money. At our elevation we have lots of UV light impinging on horizontal surfaces, like your deck. That’s pretty harsh, and it cooks away anything you coat it with — even the best deck stains. Thirty years sounds tempting, but really, whom would you go to, say, 10 years down the road for relief, and most importantly, what criteria would you use to make a claim under the warranty?

I think you’d be better off to stick with one of the name- brand deck stains — oil or water-based, your choice. These products are time tested, have built-in reflective chemicals that ward off UV damage, plus mildewcides and other ingredients to help preserve the wood. Yes, they require recoating every two or three years, but that’s the way it goes in the Rockies.

Dear Ken: I want to refinish the kitchen table. What kind of finish would be best, semi or high gloss or polyurethane? — Rod

Answer: I like the idea of good old oil-based paint. Actually, we don’t use the linseed oil formulation like we did years ago; it’s now a polymer resin mix that is quite rugged. It takes 12 or more hours to cure, but once it hardens it’s very durable. Again, apply it in a warm environment, and you’ll be happy with the results. Check in with a name-brand paint store for more help from their specialists.

P.S.: Polyurethane varnish is not a good choice because it tends to yellow over time.

Dear Ken: We have a southwest-facing sun room that gets unbearable. What do you think of window film? — Maggie

Answer: I like the idea. This is one of those DIY projects that looks daunting, but goes well with a little practice and a faithful assistant or two. Basically, you soap the windows, peel the backing off the film, slide it into place and then squeegee.

It will reflect heat and glare back outside, and you’ll not only notice a cooler environment, but also in the winter the reverse effect will save you heating dollars.

Ken Moon is a home inspector in the Pikes Peak region. His call-in radio show airs at 4 p.m. Saturdays on KRDO, FM 105.5 and AM 1240. Visit

Dear Ken: I have a 3-year-old refrigerator but lately the ice cubes don’t taste right. What can I do? — Tiffany

Comments are open to Gazette subscribers only

You can go to national parks in Colorado for free on Aug. 4 and Sept. 23. Plan a trip and tell us your favorite!

Dear Ken:Answer:Dear Ken:Answer:Dear Ken:Answer:Dear Ken:Answer:Dear Ken:Answer:Dear Ken:Answer:You voted: