Make sure your home isn’t feeding a mold problem


By Cold Climate Housing Research Center Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: I have a cabin on posts.

I’ve been seeing mold on various parts of my walls. What could be causing this?

A: You might not have enough insulation in the walls or the floor, or you might have air leakage in the walls or the floor bringing in cold air.

Either one of these cases, combined with inside humidity, can create a mold situation. Unfortunately, both sheetrock and wood are great mold “food.”

Living spaces should be warm enough that inside humidity will not cool and condense. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Check the insulation around these parts of the cabin to make sure there is enough, and add more if necessary. Ventilating and controlling humidity will help as well. Windows are a great indicator of a moisture problem because they start showing signs of condensation first.

Stay on top of mold growth. Mold can be dangerous as it leads to nasal and sinus congestion, coughing, wheezing, breathing difficulties, sore throat, skin and eye irritation, and upper respiratory infections. Mold can be especially hazardous depending on the occupant’s age or existing medical condition like asthma or allergies.

Q: Where can I get more information about permafrost, building and leveling my house?

A: If you are looking at building a house on permafrost, consult a soils, building and analysis company. Many local companies have been in operation here for a long time, and they might have core logs for your neighborhood, which means they have drilled to look for permafrost and to determine the kinds of soils present.

They might not have been to your particular site but can provide advice and give information on whether you are a good candidate for soils drilling. If you are looking for information on permafrost construction, the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service has many detailed publications that show options for different types of foundations and other information.

The Cold Climate Housing Research Center has information on building on permafrost using adjustable post and pad foundations and other techniques. The UAF Rasmuson Library houses many studies done on permafrost, and the United States Geological Survey has information as well.

If nothing else, simply drive around the Fairbanks area and look at the different types of foundations.

There has been a lot of construction on permafrost in Fairbanks and many innovative ways of dealing with it. Some systems are well built, well engineered and can provide a useful resource for your own plans.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center. If you have a question, email us at can also call the CCHRC at 457-3454.