Monthly Maintenance Reminder: Mold Inspection

Monthly Maintenance Reminder: Mold Inspection

Appraisal and Home Inspection
By Dikran Seferian July 01, 2022

The chances of your house getting contaminated by mold may be low, but never zero. Spores can build up in places that aren’t easy to see. They can be in your attic, your basement, the air ducts, or even behind walls. And when you see them, it’s not a pretty sight. Not only are mold colonies unsettling to look at, but they can also pose a health hazard — especially if you have conditions like asthma or allergies.

As with inspecting for pests, for instance, carrying out a mold inspection every once in a while will allow you to possibly catch the spores early on. And if the coast is clear, you’ll have the peace of mind that you deserve. 

Importance of Inspecting for Mold

The very thought of having mold in your living spaces can be quite dreadful and for a good reason. Being exposed to this nasty substance is known to pose health risks. The best way to prevent these risks is by inspecting every corner of your home for mold, making sure that it doesn’t exist — and getting rid of it if you find any.

Mold can grow both outdoors and indoors. And while levels of sensitivity to mold vary from one individual to another, homeowners are more likely to inhale the harmful spores that spread indoors. The CDC reports that those with asthma, allergies or heightened sensitivities are more prone to the effects of mold exposure. Black mold, in particular, is especially dangerous as it can cause even more serious illnesses. Being subject to house mold is also known to trigger symptoms in the upper respiratory tract. This can be dangerous to small children as it may lead to them developing asthma early on. 

What Does Mold Look Like?

Mold spores are typically dark in color and are known to grow in moist areas.

Mold spores are typically dark in color and are known to grow in moist areas.

Mold is basically a dark stain that spreads through an area with high moisture, typically one that has seen water damage. You’ll typically see it in bathrooms where tubs and showers are in frequent use. Bear in mind that flooding, damage from water, and poor ventilation systems are common in this area of the house. However, you may also come across mold in other damp spaces such as laundry rooms, kitchens, and basements. Other spots that can harbor mold in the house include drywall and carpets that have been exposed to moisture.

Wooden surfaces near sources of water can be another breeding ground for mold. Since wood is a highly porous material, it facilitates mold to spread on the surface and to grow roots within the pores. A buildup of mold on wood can be especially tricky to get rid of.

Mold naturally spreads in a circular pattern. The round colonies can span a little less than an inch to several inches. Spores growing in a concentric circle pattern are common, too. Depending on the type, however, you may also find patches of mold in irregular forms and inconsistent sizes. The spores will typically have a slimy or even shiny appearance due to the area’s moisture. But once the issue that resulted in the growth has been fixed, the mold will look dry or powdery. Bear in mind that fixing the leak or the ventilation system won’t make the mold disappear. Getting rid of the spores is a task of its own.

In its early phases, mold usually appears in the form of white and fuzzy fibers. However, it’s rare to catch mold at this stage as it tends to be well-hidden and hardly visible. As it grows and starts developing spores, the mold usually takes on a gray, brown, or green appearance with white edges. The spores turn darker once they reach maturity. The earlier you notice the mold, the easier it will be to remove it. This only goes to show how important mold inspection can be, especially if you’re preparing your home for summer — since the humid weather can aggravate the build-up.

Situations That Require a Mold Inspection

Random allergic reactions can indicate the presence of mold.

Random allergic reactions can indicate the presence of mold.

In general, you should check for mold at least once a year if the risk of contamination is low and more frequently if the risk is higher. However, there are several other situations that may warrant a mold inspection.

  • You are having allergic symptoms like a headache, runny nose, itchy throat, and stuffy head, but you’re not quite certain why. 
  • You may have spotted something like mold but you’re not sure what it is.
  • There’s a musty smell but no visible sign of mold.
  • You have been dealing with leaks or other water problems in your home. 
  • As a tenant or landlord, you need proof of whether there’s a mold issue in the house.
  • You are buying or selling a house and require evidence regarding airborne mold levels.
  • You want a general evaluation of the air quality in your living spaces to ensure the air your family is breathing is of high quality. 

How Much Does a Mold Inspection Cost?

Although the cost of mold inspection varies from one region to another, the difference is often small. The average cost you can expect to pay ranges from $300 to $400 on average for houses below 4,000 square feet. As for houses above 4,000 square feet, that average reaches the $700 to $900 price range. Bear in mind that these prices only involve inspection and don't have to do with mold testing or removal. An alternative way to find out if your home has a mold problem is by using a mold detection kit (also known as a mold test kit) which you can find for as little as $20. 

How to Test for Mold?

While inspecting for mold and testing it are two different things, it’s not uncommon for the two terms to be used interchangeably. Keep in mind that the latter refers to identifying the type of mold you have — for instance if you want to find out whether that stuff near your window is black mold or mildew. The testing kits that you can find in stores, however, only reveal whether the indoor air in your home is being affected by the spores.

Using a detection kit (such as a black mold test) is fairly straightforward. Start by closing all windows and doors for 24 hours. Next, prepare the mold testing kit and leave the petri dish open for at least 48 hours, after which you will close the lid and store it in a dark spot. Wait for another two or three days before checking the dish for signs of mold. If you notice a growth, consider taking the dish to a laboratory that will identify the exact type.

Tip: Sending the petri dish for further testing is not really necessary. You can skip this step and move on to getting rid of the mold, or having a professional handle the situation. 

How to Prevent Mold

Placing a dehumidifier in a damp room can help in preventing mold growth.

Placing a dehumidifier in a damp room can help in preventing mold growth.

The best way to avoid having to deal with mold is by taking measures to prevent it from growing in the first place. These include repairing leaks and limiting humidity levels.

  • Repair any leaks on the spot, whether it’s from a rusty pipe or a leaking roof.
  • Don’t hold off on drying up any flooded surfaces in your house. If there’s water where it shouldn’t be, make sure to dry it out within 48 hours.
  • Keep humidity at a moderate level. Overly humid air can result in mold growing in some areas. Consider using a dehumidifier in damp spaces and activate the air conditioning when the weather is humid. Installing vents in bathrooms and kitchens also helps.

Identifying Mold Types

Identifying the different types of mold would help keep you and those around you safe.

Identifying the different types of mold would help keep you and those around you safe.

There are several types of mold that you can find in your home. While inspecting your home for mold is something you can do yourself, mold testing is best done by a pro. Bear in mind that an inspection only reveals the presence of mold whereas testing it shows the specific type. However, it can still be helpful to have an idea of what you’re dealing with. Knowing how to identify the types of mold will allow you to take the appropriate course of action.

Stachybotrys

Also referred to as black mold, Stachybotrys consists of black or dark green spores with a slimy texture. Stachybotrys mostly appear in moist areas with prolonged exposure to considerable amounts of water and humidity. It commonly grows behind wooden walls and ceilings, and its removal requires professional intervention. 

Acremonium

Acremonium normally starts out as a small colony of white, pink, gray, or orange mold. The spores are moist at first but turn powdery over time. Often accompanying black mold, you’ll often find it near leaky windows and in humidifiers, HVAC coils, as well as drain and drip pans. Removing this type of mold warrants a professional.

Trichoderma

Usually appearing as green and white wooly spores, Trichoderma can build up on carpets, fabrics, wallpaper, and other surfaces that have been exposed to moisture. It is also known to form enzymes that are harmful to wood, paper, and textiles. Trichoderma can even damage the foundations of a house. This type of house mold is non-pathogenic and you can eliminate it using safety measures. 

Ulocladium

Ulocladium is naturally black and grows in clumps. This dreadful substance may appear in kitchens, basements, and bathrooms damaged by water. Areas exposed to moisture for prolonged periods of time can also be a breeding ground for ulocladium. Should a mold inspection reveal ulocladium in its early stages, removing it can be easy and may not require professional assistance? 

Alternaria

If the spores are brown or dark green and have a hairy texture, testing for mold will reveal it is most likely Alternaria. This type of mold typically grows near sinks and in bathtubs or shower cabinets. The presence of Alternaria can signify water damage and it is known to spread rather fast. Catching this type of mold early on makes it easier to clean away using household products. 

Aspergillus

Aspergillus mainly consists of gray or green spores that can develop thick layers. There are several species of this mold, each appearing in various colors. Mostly appearing on wooden surfaces, large colonies of aspergillus may warrant the services of a professional to remove them.

Aureobasidium

Aureobasidium typically starts out as pink, brown, or black mold and develops a dark brown color as it matures. A mold inspection can reveal this type of mold in dark and water-damaged places such as behind wallpaper and under carpets. While you can get rid of minor infestations yourself, make sure to wear protective gear during the cleaning process. 

Chaetomium

Typically starting out as white and cotton-like spores, chaetomium develops into a gray, brown, or black color. You can distinguish chaetomium by its musty smell. This form of mold grows under wet carpets and roof shingles, but also in water-damaged areas like drywall and wallpaper.

Cladosporium

Thriving in both cold and warm conditions, Cladosporium has a texture like that of suede and has a brown or olive green color. You can spot this type of house mold on drapes, carpets, upholstery, and beneath floorboards. You can get rid of smaller patches using household products but removing larger ones is best left to the professionals. 

Fusarium

Fusarium usually has a red, pink, or white color and often grows on food. This fast-spreading mold also thrives in carpets, wallpaper, and other materials that have taken water damage. Make sure to take precautions when removing the fusarium.

Mucor

Known to be allergenic, mucor is a fast-growing mold that develops thick, gray patches. This type of mold appears in excessively wet areas with high condensation. These include HVAC ducts, air conditioners, and leaky doors or windows. Small colonies of mucor can be easy to remove but a professional is needed to get rid of larger patches.

Penicillin

Penicillin has a velvet-like texture and is greenish-blue in color. Much like other types of mold, it spreads fast and is easier to remove when found in its early stages — otherwise a professional is required. A mold inspection can uncover penicillin in carpets, mattresses, wallpaper, and HVAC ducts.

DS

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian

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