Should I Order A Mold Test?

Should I Order a Mold Test or a Mold Evaluation?

Start with an Inspection: When there are indoor air quality concerns we recommend starting with a Home Inspection or a Mold Evaluation first.  Anything that causes moisture can cause mold which is why our inspectors look at everything first – grading, gutters/drainage, siding/flashing/decks, plumbing, insulation/ventilation, heating and cooling, appliances, attics, crawl spaces – EVERYTHING!  Most of the time we can identify the causes of moisture and we can make recommendations without the need for mold testing.   

We recommend additional Mold Testing when: we suspect hidden water behind finishes or we believe there may be a possibility of it (finished basements, recently repaired plumbing leaks, recently renovated/painted basements, etc)  or for highly sensitive individuals or families.

More on Mold Testing here.

More on Mold Evaluations (or Inspections) here.

Is Mold Testing recommended for families or individuals with environmental or mold sensitivities?

Yes.  Newer homes with very dry basements and crawl spaces (or with excellent dehumidification or closed crawl spaces) may not need additional testing- your home inspector can be asked for more information.

Is Mold Testing recommended for homes with finished basements?

Yes.  Mold testing can help confirm air quality issues for older basements, musty basements, or basements with active water penetration.  Seen or unseen moisture can become trapped between the foundation walls and finishes which can cause air quality issues over the long term.  Renovating finished basements with moisture or air quality issues can be very expensive and sometimes mold testing can provide helpful information– especially if the buyer is unsure if renovations are needed.

Is mold testing recommended when moisture issues are already observed?

Depends.  When a lot of water penetration is observed at finished basements, for example, the buyer can be certain that more than typical mold spores will be found in a test.  If a buyer is already budgeting for repairs/renovations then that buyer may consider NOT doing the mold test until AFTER the renovations.  In some cases when a buyer is unsure whether or not renovations/repairs are needed the buyer may opt to do a mold test anyways to verify the extent of the air quality issues.

Should a mold test always be interpreted in relation to a Home Inspection or a Mold Evaluation?

Yes, the reliability of the mold test results can be affected by many factors, and mold test results are best put into context by the Inspector.

The best professional for Mold Testing: The Home Inspector

Because our Federal Agencies have not stated how to test for mold, or what levels are too high– the ‘mold’ industry is unregulated.  Some sales-driven companies will offer discounted or even free mold testing however Mold testing is best performed by an unbiased party that does not have a financial interest in ‘mitigation’ or repairs.

The home inspection will typically provide a lot of information about water penetration into the home and the potential sources of water.  In all cases, the sources of water penetration will need to be addressed regardless of the result of a mold test.  A mold test should always be taken in conjunction with a home inspection or mold evaluation as the inspector is typically the only professional that inspects all the related components of the home– grading, drainage, gutters/downspouts, crawl space, roof, attic, plumbing, plumbing fixtures, HVAC, etc…  Ordering a mold test before a home inspection can save a travel fee, however in some cases, the home inspector may determine that a mold test is not recommended- saving the buyer money.

Can a Home Inspector Tell me if the Levels of Mold are Unsafe or Unhealthy?

A Home Inspector can indicate whether conditions exist that could cause potential health issues however a Home Inspector can offer no opinions about how the mold could affect your health. A doctor or an Industrial Hygienist should be consulted for more information regarding mold and health concerns.

What Causes Mold?

Fungi grow and reproduce in wet or moist environments.  When an environment becomes dry the fungi die or becomes dormant.  The number of spores in the air will be higher during hot/humid Seasons (like Summer) or during rainy periods.  Mold thrives best in persistently wet environments.

What is the Problem with Mold?

When fungi reproduce they send spores into the air.  The spores of most species of fungus do not have allergenic potential. Some species, however, like Aspergillus Penicillium, Stachybotrys ‘black mold’, and others are known to cause allergic reactions in some people.

Is Some Amount of Mold in the Home Considered Normal?

Yes.  Mold spores are found everywhere and especially in our forested humid subtropical climate with high rainfall (here in Western North Carolina).  Fungi thrive on the decaying matter in our trees/shrubs/plants and it’s normal for many of these spores to be brought into the home.  We haven’t seen a mold test result with zero spores in the home yet and in fact, if I did I would likely retest because I would suspect an issue with the equipment.  Most outdoor mold spores are harmless to people.  We suspect a mold or air quality issue when the indoor samples are significantly out of range from the outside and contain a high number of predominantly indoor species with fungi with high allergenic potential.

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