December 8, 2022

Can You Paint Over Mold or Mildew?

Can You Paint Over Mold or Mildew?

Homes in regions prone to high humidity are always at a higher risk of developing mold. While it's tempting to think interior house painting or exterior house painting will solve the problem, it sadly won’t. Painting over mold is a waste of time and money because it’ll reoccur if you don’t treat the actual cause; excessive moisture. Instead of explaining how to paint over mold, let’s discuss how to prevent it in the first place, what causes it and what you can do to get rid of it.

What Is Mold?

Mold is a type of fungus that’s part of the natural environment. It plays an important role in breaking down dead organic matter and returning nutrients to the environment. However, mold growth in the home is a health risk.

It can trigger allergies and causes breathing issues, eye and skin irritation, coughing, and respiratory infections. Painting over black mold, or any mold for that matter, doesn’t get rid of it. In fact, mold under paint will continue to grow even after the paint dries.

What Is Mildew?

Mildew is a specific type of early-stage mold that appears in white and gray patches. In the home, it's likely to grow in damp areas like basements, bathroom walls, and places with past water damage.

The main difference between mildew and mold is that mildew can be removed with household products, whereas mold requires stronger cleaning agents because its roots penetrate beneath moist surfaces. Just as it is with mold, painting over mildew does not get rid of it either.

Why Homeowners and Landlords Shouldn’t Paint Over Mold?

mold under paint

We’re often asked by homeowners, “Can I paint over mold?” Yes, it’s physically possible to cover mold with paint, but it will always reappear without proper remediation. Furthermore, painting over mold poses the following risks:

  • Paint doesn’t kill mold and can exacerbate it. Therefore, it will always return.
  • As the mold continues to grow, it can spread to the drywall and make it unsafe, meaning the drywall will eventually need to be removed and replaced.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold causes nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye and skin irritation, and more severe reactions in immune-compromised people.
  • Since mold is a health issue, contractors and landlords who cover mold with paint can be sued.

Can You Paint Over Black Mold?

Painting over black mold is unconducive to the well-being of your health or the structural integrity of your home. There is a commonly held belief that black mold — sometimes called toxic mold — causes severe health problems because it releases mycotoxins (toxic compounds).

Painting over black mold on the exterior or interior of your home is never a good idea. A study by the Institute of Medicine found sufficient evidence to link indoor exposure to mold with upper respiratory tract issues in otherwise healthy people.

Those with underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections. And individuals with chronic respiratory disease may experience difficulty breathing when continuously exposed to black mold.

What Happens If You Paint Over Mold?

Painting over mold invites a host of issues. Opting for a cosmetic fix will only lead to larger (avoidable) problems down the line:

  • Covering mold with paint is a waste of resources because the mold will continue to thrive and grow underneath.
  • Eventually, the paint will bubble and peel off, and the mold will be exposed once again.
  • Mold and mildew are an indication of potential moisture issues that need to be remediated before painting the surface. So, can mold be painted over? Yes, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.
  • What’s more, the mold you see may only be a small fraction of the actual problem. Mold infestations tend to extend far below their visible surface. Painting over mold might conceal the severity of a mold infestation.
  • Lastly, a mold infestation can severely damage a property’s resale value.

What Causes Mold or Mildew Inside the House?

cover mold with paint

Mold reproduces through tiny spores; these are invisible to the naked eye and float through outdoor and indoor air. Mold will only begin growing indoors when its spores land on wet surfaces.

No mold will grow without the presence of water or moisture. So unless you eradicate moisture, painting over mold stains won’t help.

Below are the leading causes of mold inside homes:

  • Persistent humidity: a high moisture content in the air causes mold to grow on walls, ceilings, in dark closets, and under kitchen sinks. This is common if you live in a humid climate or near a large body of water or the ocean.
  • Leaking pipes: one of the most common causes of mold behind drywall and under-sink cupboards is leaking pipes.
  • Condensation build-up: rooms where condensation can build up, like kitchens or bathrooms, are prime real estate for mold spores and the proliferation of mold growth. That’s why proper home ventilation is so important.
  • A leaking roof: over time, a leaking roof may lead to a backlog of moisture in your ceiling or attic, which can lead to mold on walls and ceiling cupboards.
  • Wet and damp clothing: mold only needs 24 hours to grow! Wet or damp clothing and towels lying around your home can contribute to mold problems, especially in bathrooms and mudrooms.
  • Flooding: after a flood, a home can take weeks to dry out, making it an ideal environment for mold to grow. In most cases, this is best handled by mold-cleaning experts.
  • A damp basement: basements are exposed to higher levels of moisture because they’re below ground level and lack proper ventilation. Water leaks also accumulate in basements, which may also lead to mold growth.
  • Foundation dampness: if water can’t sufficiently drain from your house, it can pool around its foundations, causing mold. Proper drainage will prevent this from happening.
  • Leaking HVAC systems: mold growth is a common issue with AC leaks. As the water builds up, the mold gets the moisture it needs to grow on the walls of your home. This is especially common with leaks that begin within an AC closet or interior wall.

Common Inside and Outside Places of Your Home for Mold Growth

Mold can grow almost anywhere, including living houseplants. Here are the most common places where you’re likely to find it:

  • In high-humidity rooms such as kitchens, laundry rooms, basements, and bathrooms.
  • Inside air ducts, which spread mold spores throughout the house.
  • Behind drywall where pipes have leaked.
  • Inside attics, either due to leaky roofs or when bathroom fans vent to the attic space instead of outside.
  • On towels, upholstery, and curtains.
  • In showers and bathtubs, as they tend to remain damp most of the time.
  • On exterior walls that are predominantly in the shade.
  • On exterior soffits and fascia when there’s poor ventilation in attics.
  • On exterior porch ceilings if there’s poor ventilation.

How to Identify a Moisture Problem?

can mold be painted over

The presence of green, white, gray, or black spots is an obvious sign of mold and a moisture problem. However, there are other signs to take heed of:

  • Paint problems: rooms with high levels of moisture often have bubbling, peeling, cracking, or flaking wall paint. This could also be a sign that someone painted over mold.
  • Smell: a musty or damp-smelling room or cupboard indicates you may have a moisture issue.
  • Rotting wood: wood damage may be a sign of termites and moisture, which typically go hand in hand as termites thrive in moist conditions.
  • Floorboard issues: swollen, separated, cracked, stained, or loose floorboards are a result of wood responding to changing humidity levels.
  • Sticking doors and windows: it’s common for doors and windows to swell and start sticking due to increased moisture.

How to Get Rid of Mold and Mildew in Your Home

The best way to get rid of mold and mildew in your home is to follow these steps:

Interior Wall Mold Removal

#1 Remove the Source of Moisture

Address the cause of moisture first, whether this entails repairing a leaky pipe or investing in proper ventilation.

#2 Replace the Drywall

If the mold has permeated deep inside the porous drywall, you will need to repair or replace it. If you don’t know how to replace drywall, call professionals.

#3 Wear Proper PPE

Personal protective equipment for mold removal is necessary because the process of eradicating mold exposes you to potentially hazardous mold spores.

#4 Prep the Wall

Use a paint scraper and/or sandpaper to remove any loose, cracked, or peeling paint. Mildew and mold require different cleaning agents that usually contain bleach and various other chemicals. So, be sure to pick the correct cleaning products.

Wet a rag with the cleaning agent and ring it out. Wipe it thoroughly over the moldy area, including surface areas that don’t visibly show mold, i.e., the entire wall and/or ceiling.

#5 Let the Surface Air Dry

Wiping away the cleaning solution too quickly doesn’t give it enough time for it to reach the mold’s roots, so it’s important to allow the surface to dry and for the cleaning agent to penetrate the infested area’s surface.

#6 Prime the Wall

While you should never cover mold with paint, you should treat your newly cleaned walls with a high-quality, moisture-resistant, or mold-resistant primer.

Exterior Wall Mold Removal

#1 Reduce Moisture Formation

If you live in an environment that gets a lot of rain and has high humidity, you can discourage mold from growing on your outside walls by keeping vegetation trimmed back from painted surfaces.

#2 Replace the Drywall

You might need to learn how to repair drywall if the mold has penetrated past your home’s exterior surfaces. In some cases, it may need to be completely replaced.

#3 Follow the Same Steps for Exterior Walls, except…

The only difference here is that you spray detergents from the bottom of the wall to the top and then once they’ve taken effect, you can rinse them off using a hose or power wash the walls before priming them. Painting over black mold on the exterior walls is a no-go. Rather remove it.

How to Prevent Mold in Your Home

can i paint over mold

Obviously, painting over dry mold is unwise. The best way to prevent mold from growing in the first place. You can do this by:

  1. Keep humidity levels no higher than 50% in your home. Use an HVAC system or dehumidifier if your home is naturally humid.
  2. Open windows when cooking and showering or bathing.
  3. Check for leaks under sinks, behind toilets, around your washing machine and dishwasher, and under radiators.
  4. Don’t dry clothes indoors. Without ventilation, the moisture will evaporate and settle on the ceilings and walls.
  5. Remove carpets from damp areas like basements, kitchens, and bathrooms.

What Paint Should You Use in Mold-Prone Areas?

Does paint kill mold? As we already mentioned, paint cannot kill mold. However, you do get products like Zinsser Mold Killing Primer that prevents mold from growing on surfaces, even if a surface has been previously infested.

It is suitable for outdoor sheds, open-door garages, saunas, and bathrooms. This primer is relatively maintenance-free and can be cleaned using soap and water. Even scrubbing it won’t impact its mold-resistance characteristics.

Zinsser and other products like it contain EPA-registered antimicrobials to prevent the growth of mold, mildew, and other fungal organisms. They also help cover residual mold and mildew stains.

When to Call on Professionals

You should seek professional help if the mold in your home is bigger than ten sq. ft or if it has spread to another part of your house, or if you’re dealing with toxic mold. Of course, if you’d just prefer that professionals take care of it, that’s perfectly fine too.

Oahu Pro Painters has experience in apartment painting as well as painting homes that have suffered from mold infestations. Not only that, but we’ll be able to tell you whether you need to replace drywall or call in mold removal experts. Contact us today to deal with mold and get your home looking good as new!

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Sign Up For A Free Estimate Online Today, Or Call Us At 808-468-5604

Can You Paint Over Mold or Mildew?
Written By:
Karl Van Zadnt

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