Old house or new, waterfront or inland, there aren’t many homes on Cape Cod or the Islands that are immune to the ill effects of dampness during the summer. Our brand new appliances seem to rust overnight, unprotected wood appears to rot from one season to the next, and it’s difficult to keep surfaces of any kind free from mold or mildew. Most of us with homes here are engaged in a constant battle against dampness, required not only in order to maintain our vacation rental properties, but also to ensure the happiness of our tenants, who may not be used to the consequences of seacoast living.
Arriving at a rental property and encountering a strong musty smell can be a real turn-off to your tenants. Many folks, including increasing numbers of children, suffer from allergies to molds, and in some cases, cannot even spend a night in a home where there’s much mold. It’s not easy, but we strongly urge you to do whatever you can to minimize the dampness and prevent mold from growing.
Here are a few suggestions:
It’s expensive to run and prone to abuse by tenants, but it’s also effective in not only cooling your home but drying it as well. Even a window air conditioner or two can be helpful during a particularly damp, hot spell.
There are often issues of how to dump or drain the water collected, but having one in your basement or a particularly damp part of your home is very effective. If you don’t feel comfortable having your tenants deal with its operation, at least try to run it for a few hours during your turnover, if possible.
Avoid wall-to-wall carpeting
Especially in your kitchen and bathrooms, floor coverings of any kind should be kept to a minimum. Rugs and carpets just aren’t that necessary in the summertime, and they really retain dampness, stains, odors, and dirt.
Wallpaper tends to absorb dampness, which eventually turns to mold – even if you can’t see it. We stripped our master bedroom of its old wallpaper years ago, and we were amazed at what a difference it made to the freshness of the house.
Keep trees and shrubs away from your house
The debris from them retains moisture in your home, and the shade from them prevents the house from drying out.
Keep surfaces thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis
This includes walls, window and door frames, and moldings. It’s challenging when the humidity is high, but pay particular attention to the areas around and under toilets and sinks. Cold porcelain and pipes condense the humidity and “sweat,” making it appear that you have a leak.
Buy gallons of ammonia
It’s by far the most effective and safest means of killing the toxic spores of molds and mildew. Bleach appears to remove the stain caused by mildew, but it can actually promote the growth of the spores beneath the surface. Ammonia neutralizes the deadly mycotoxins that the spores produce. (Read more about Surviving Toxic Mold.)
Whenever possible, either treat your decks, fences, thresholds, and other wood surfaces liberally with a weather proofer such as Thompson’s Waterseal. Or, if they’re painted, don’t let the paint chip and peel, allowing dampness to enter the wood. We go through gallons of paint every year!
Anything metal, from toasters and other kitchen appliances to bicycles and tools, rusts very easily in this salty, damp air. If possible, coat the surfaces of your tools and bikes with oil to protect them. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do in the kitchen besides buying stainless appliances if you can. If something rusts and causes a stain, an effective cleaning product is “CLR” (for calcium, lime and rust). For more cleaning and maintenance tips, click here.
For more advice about battling dampness and mold, read Adriana Lopez’s article from Porch: “How to Remove Humidity from Your Furniture and Textiles for Proper Moisture Control” .