A mold problem is not always obvious when walking through a home looking around. Mold can be a serious problem to remedy in your newly purchased or existing home and is something you will want to be aware of. Mold is an issue you want to address when purchasing while you still have time to negotiate.
Why test for mold?
There are three main reasons your home should be inspected for mold. First, we'll look at the most obvious, the smell. When mold begins growing it is always identifiable by it's musty, damp, obnoxious smell. No homeowner wants to have these smells emanating from their home. You might say that this is a small concern. In some respects you would be correct, that leads us to our next reason for mold testing, potential health effects.
The very young or old, people with allergies, asthma or impaired immune systems can be sensitive to mold in the home. In some cases, the consequences can be serious. The EPA has an entire area of their website dedicated to mold in homes. Mold and Health on the EPA's website addresses these potential health issues relating to mold.
The third reason to test your home for mold is the impact of the structure of your home. Mold eats what it grows on by producing enzymes and breaking down the material for digestion. If this sounds bad, it should. If it is growing on the materials your home is constructed of, then it is digesting those materials in a very destructive manner. Your home is constructed of literally tons of food for mold. A good article for more information on the subject is the EPA's Ten Things You Should Know About Mold.
How do you control mold?
Mold needs four things to grow, spores, a food source, temperature, and moisture.
Spores are ubiquitous, meaning they are everywhere. They travel easily on gentle currents and are entering your home every time the door is open or air gets into your home. No matter how "airtight" your home is, mold spores will get in.
What about a food source? As we discussed, your home is constructed of literally tons of food for mold to eat and grow healthy on.
The temperatures that most molds require to grow well in fall within the range we like to keep our homes for comfort. Mold can flourish at temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The final requirement for mold to grow is moisture. Molds do not require a flood to grow in your home. They only require an elevated level of moisture on surfaces due to condensation as seen in a shower, tub or bathroom windows. It can be moisture entering from issues with your roof, gutters or siding penetrations (holes cut in siding for utilities, windows, etc). Moisture can enter the home through the basement or crawlspace walls if they are frequently exposed to direct water contact. There are many ways for moisture to enter a home that must be examined during a mold or home inspection.
So What is the answer?
In conclusion, we cannot do much about the first three mold growth conditions so we must focus on water intrusion. Every mold and home inspection evaluates for moisture penetration issues and potential moisture penetration areas. We identify these areas so that any moisture issues can be resolved to eliminate what we call "conditions conducive to mold growth".
What does the inspector do?
As home inspectors, we not only look for the obvious mold issues but the hidden problems. As we investigate the home we are looking for potential water penetration points and further research any potential water leak areas we identify.
One tool we use at Huron Inspections during a home or mold inspection is a Flir high definition infrared camera which allows us to see water issues before they are visible to the naked eye (read more about our infrared thermal imaging here). A moisture meter, "humidity meter", and "barometric pressure meter" are used in concert with the infrared camera to confirm suspected areas of water penetration and elevated humidity.
While we are looking at the home for signs of potential water penetration we take air samples to evaluate the air in your home for mold spores that are above normal limits.
If any suspected mold growth is discovered during our visual inspection samples are taken for further analysis to validate that it is mold and to determine the type of mold present. After the mold tests are complete we provide a comprehensive report with any necessary recommendations.
We are here to help identify mold and moisture issues...
Mold testing can be done as a stand-alone test to check your home.