What is Mold? Mold is a byproduct of the breakdown of organic matter, such as plants, wood, food, and certain beverages.
The key to mold control is moisture control. If you discover mold in the home, clean it up as soon as possible and fix the issue.
Mold growth left unaddressed can quickly spread and result in damage to the structure of a home. More importantly, mold can compromise the respiratory health of susceptible individuals.
What is a mold inspection? It starts as a home inspection, which is a non-invasive, visual examination of the home's interior and exterior, and its various systems and components.
The scope of a mold inspection requires particular knowledge of HVAC systems, roofs, the exterior, and plumbing systems. Musty odors, moisture intrusion via a roof or plumbing leak, or even evidence of suspected mold can warrant a mold inspection.
Mold testing involves two main methods: surface sampling and air sampling. Both types require analysis by a certified laboratory. In some cases, the local health department can test the mold samples. But it's more common for a private lab to perform the analysis and generate the results in a report, and the cost is usually included in the price of the test kit.
Along with the sampling equipment, the tools commonly used by home inspectors for a mold inspection of the home's interior include the following:
moisture meter: This basic tool is used to detect moisture in structural components. There are invasive and non-invasive models available.
humidity gauge: This measures the humidity level inside a room or building.
thermal imaging or infrared (IR) camera: Where visual inspection is not possible, especially for suspected water intrusion that's inside structural components, damp and wet areas can be detected non-invasively with thermal imaging. Problem areas will show up as dark gradients.
borescope: This is a camera that can visualize suspected mold growth and other problems inside plumbing pipes and structural elements through an opening in the component.
rotameter: This device measures the air flow rate, which can be helpful to determine if the home has conducive conditions for mold growth.
Surface sampling is the more common and easiest method for testing for indoor mold.
Here are some methods of surface sampling that can be performed:
tape sample: This is the most common method of sampling visible mold, as it allows the inspector to collect several samples in different parts of the home quickly. Sampling kits are typically sold by the laboratories that test for mold and send back the results of their analysis.
swab sample: A cellulose swab with a liquid preservative is used to collect any suspected mold for laboratory testing.
carpet sample: In rooms where there is carpeting, testing can be performed on vacuumed contents, or even a snip of the carpeting. Typically, carpets that have visible mold or have tested positive for mold should be discarded and replaced, as it's nearly impossible to remove all traces of mold from carpet fibers, where mold will likely continue to grow.
This less-common method is used for homes in areas suspected of having high concentrations of mold spores.
Air sampling is conducted indoors and outdoors using spore traps or canisters. The outdoor samples are used to create a control or baseline to determine the level of contamination, and then the control is compared to the indoor samples. When taking the outdoor sample, the home inspector should be alert to environmental conditions that can affect the results, such as wind, rain, snow, and fluctuating temperatures.
You may also consult your state or local health department.