Mold Inspection and Mold Testing
If you are researching mold and considering hiring a professional for mold inspection and testing, you will likely come across many different websites, services being offered, and costs that list both mold inspection and mold testing. A general rule of thumb would be to avoid using the same service for both mold inspection and testing.
Mold inspection simply identifies the presence of mold, should always attempt to identify the cause, and generally defines the size of the problem, usually in square footage. Any mold inspection should be complete and as accurate as possible in both detail and scope of repair. The effects of water damage often result in health complications, mold damage to the structure, and your personnel possessions.
Mold testing attempts to identify what specific type of mold is in your home and how many mold spores are in the air or on the surface being tested. There are many different types of microbial testing available and many examine the DNA structure of the mold spore itself. While vital in determining possible health complications; mold testing or more specifically microbial testing, the costs to identify the mold spores through testing is often high and you should keep the following tips in mind:
- The environment inside your home or business should be carefully regulated both prior to and after any mold testing is performed as the conditions required to conduct a proper scientific test of mold are extremely difficult to achieve in a home, so results will often vary from test to test, regardless of remediation efforts.
- For example, the results of an air test to examine the type and amount of mold spores in each sample can change and may vary from one day to the next. Many of these types of tests greatly depend on the conditions in your outdoor environment as a control sample. If it is raining outside when the mold test is performed, spore counts in that sample may be too low to identify properly.
- Second, all indoor spaces have mold spores that drift in from outdoors, so mold tests will generally provide a long list of species, most of which are not actually growing in your home.
- Lastly, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not set guidelines for an acceptable amount of mold inspection and testing or mold spores in a home or business.
- That is not to say that mold isn’t an allergen or that mold isn’t a dangerous organism. It can be, however organizations like the Columbus Department of Health and the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) agree that mold testing is not always useful for this reason, and instead recommend hiring a professional to look for and identify areas of concern.
Mold Inspection and Testing Services
Serving Columbus, Ohio and surrounding Communities for more than 20 Years.
In providing high quality water damage services, mold inspection and testing has become a necessary part of our focus and an important piece in our goal of being the company you can depend on for any of your emergency service needs, both for your home and your business.
Many properties throughout Central Ohio have suffered from some form of mold, water damage cleanup or moisture related damage. Often these damages are only discovered during a home inspection, made during the process of selling the property.
Qualified home inspectors are careful and diligent in performing visual inspections of the property from attic to basement and most areas in between. Suspect mold and moisture issues will often result in a glaring warning on the final report and that you should seek the services of a professional mold inspection and testing company for follow up.
Much like the home inspector, the mold inspection and testing company should be licensed, properly insured, IICRC certified and experienced. Take caution as mold removal services have long been an area for unethical contractors to take advantage of unsuspecting home and business owners.
Should You Get a Mold Inspection?
Mold requires certain elements for basic life. For mold spores to form, elements such as moisture, relative humidity, and a food source are required. The goal behind any successful mold remediation would be to eliminate identify and remove these basic sources of life for the mold spore.
The residual effects of water damage often result in mold forming on surfaces and organic materials such as dirt, dust, many fabrics. Some spores can survive and thrive in the air.
Water leaks should be repaired, and water damage should be cleaned up and properly dried or restored right away. It is often the best advice to contact an IICRC certified water damage restoration company to ensure that mold and other structural issues do not become a problem if left alone.
Most people do not know there is a problem until they notice an odor. Some molds decay materials faster than others and often there is a smell. Mold could be growing behind your drywall, behind cabinets and in areas that are difficult to assess. Most people don’t know there is a problem until they notice a strong musty odor.
Do I even need a mold inspection and testing?
Not every home, office, and school will need to have a mold inspection.
Here are some situations that may benefit from having a mold inspection:
- Visible mold growth is discovered.
- A musty odor is smelled.
- Building materials have been wet for several days.
- An occupant has been diagnosed with mold allergies and they experience allergies within the space.
- Someone sensitive to mold is moving into a home with a history of mold or moisture problems.
- A home inspector has flagged moisture and mold problems.
- A basement or below-grade floor has flooded or experienced seepage.
If you notice mold in your home or business, it is a good idea to call an IICRC Mold certified professional to perform a mold inspection. Ask of any charges that may be associated with a mold inspection as most often these inspections should be free of charge though larger inspections, or in situations where the source and the amount of damage may be difficult to identify may have a cost.
What Happens During a Mold Inspection?
Mold inspection is, for the most part, a visual inspection of your home or business. Property damage experts suggest that a proper mold inspection be carried out using a flashlight, moisture detecting camera (thermal imaging) and a moisture meter for identifying the moisture content of any damaged materials.
A typical mold inspection involves the inspector talking to the property owner about any areas where they have seen mold, or where there may have been moisture problems or water damage in the past. The inspector will go over the house thoroughly, looking in places known to be prone to mold growth. If there is a chance mold is growing in an inaccessible space, the inspector may have to remove a section of drywall, a portion of flooring, or remove paneling to get a better look.
In some municipalities, mold inspectors must have a license or certification. Always look for a contractor with experience in mold inspection and mold remediation. The International Institute for Certification, Restoration and Cleaning (IICRC) recommends that any professional mold inspection and remediation technician be certified in Advanced Microbial Remediation Technician (AMRT). You can check for those certifications and many others at www.iicrc.org
The Mold Inspection and Testing Process.
These steps form the foundation of any successful mold inspection and testing. Make yourself part of the process and ask questions that ensure that any professional invited into your home or business will be able to provide a mold inspection that is clear and concise.
A visual inspection is a key part of the mold inspection process.
Mold needs moisture to survive. A thorough mold inspection should always start by performing a visual and thermal imaging inspection of desired areas to identify and document past or present moisture damage, mold-like substances, and temperature anomalies.
Most building materials are wet. A moisture meter should be used to accurately gauge the amount of moisture in an affected or damaged building material. These materials vary greatly in the amount of moisture that is naturally found in them. For instance, the hardwood flooring in one home may vary a few percentage points than the flooring in another. Properly identifying the amount of elevated moisture present is vital to discovering and resolving any mold growth.
Timing is critical. Many of the building materials used in the construction of your home or business were created to withstand the effects of moisture and water and can be salvaged if professionally restored in time. Timely restoration and drying can save you thousands in unnecessary expense and repair. Any mold inspection done properly must identify this time and money saving detail in the inspection process.
Inspection reports. Every professional, no matter the industry should provide you with a detailed written estimate of its findings. These reports should always include images, moisture readings of any damaged materials and clear line items that outlines any recommended steps in remediation.
Never accept an oral estimate or make an agreement without having an estimate in writing and provided to you prior to any work being performed in your home or business.
How to Avoid Mold Inspection and Testing Scams.
In recent years publicity about “black mold” has turned mold inspection and remediation into a massively profitable industry. It is also paved the way for plenty of scams designed to scare you into paying top dollar for unnecessary testing or sketchy “remediation” plans.
If you do decide to proceed with a mold inspection, keep these tips in mind:
Currently, there are no official government licenses or certifications for professional mold inspectors, which means there are no legal standards or government regulated credentials.
Steer clear of companies offering both testing and mold remediation services. You would not want the company that performed mold removal to be the same company that certifies that it’s gone and that your home or business is safe for you and your family.
You Get What You Pay for:
If needed, seek out and be willing to pay for separate mold testing, mold inspection and remediation services from licensed, certified professionals. Be leery of ads that proclaim to have a magic fogger or spray that makes all your mold problems disappear. It does not exist.
Ozone generators, biocides, fumigants, encapsulants, and other mold-killing (or covering) measures can be more toxic than the mold itself; and they do not actually stop the mold at its source. Remember that mold must be completely removed, the moisture problem fixed, and the wet materials either dried or replaced. Any other mold killing services are a wasted expense.
Focus on Finding the Problem:
You do not need secondary samples, surface swabs, or testing of your clothing or furnishings. If there’s mold in the air, you can bet it is on your sofa, too. Concentrate instead on learning where the mold is originating, and exactly what is needed to fix it.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends a commonsense approach to mold. As there are no federal standards for mold levels, there is no way to accurately “pass” or “fail” a mold test. Keep in mind that many of these tests simply gauge the mold spore counts as compared to another sample. If the spore counts are elevated at the time of the test, it fails and passes if the counts are low.
Imagine taking a swab sample of the inside of your toilet. Now, thoroughly clean the toilet with Clorox bleach and take another sample. Which one will fail, and which test will pass? However, the toilet test will fail again in a few days as the source of the problem continues to poo. Yuck, right?
*Some states and local municipalities have enacted legislation and law regarding mold inspection and testing regulations. Check with your local government to ensure that any professional that you may hire is following that law in your area.
Testing for Mold.
The basic goals of any mold investigation are always twofold: 1) find the locations of mold growth, and 2) determine the sources of the moisture. If these can be answered by simpler or more cost-effective methods, mold testing is probably not a wise use of resources.
Generally, mold testing is not normally suggested as the first response to indoor air quality concerns or water damage.
There are many testing methods that can detect molds. They can be used to find mold particles suspended in air, in settled dust, or growing on surfaces of building materials and furnishings. Some methods can identify a portion of the types of live (viable) molds in a sampled environment, but these may also miss or undercount those are not live or will not grow well on the nutrients used to incubate the sample.
Other methods are better able to characterize the total amount of molds in a sample (including the non-living portion), but not particularly good for identifying the specific types of molds. Even tests that are done well only give a partial estimate of the amount and types of molds collected in a sample or in the sampled environment.
Again, these test results will vary based on the environment and conditions.
It is vital to appreciate that a test result only gives a “snap-shot” estimate for a single point in time and a single location – how well it represents other locations and times is uncertain since the amounts and types of mold in the environment is always changing. This variability can be especially large for airborne molds, with significant changes occurring over the course of hours or less.
Caution must also be used in interpreting surface testing results since mold growth or deposition may not be uniform over an area and may increase or decrease as time passes. Unless many samples are taken over a period and the mold testing company has been mindful of building operations and activities during the testing, the results might not be very representative of typical conditions.
Despite these limitations, there are situations where mold testing by a licensed mold testing company may be valuable – for example, to “justify” remediation expenses or to document that cleanup has met expectations. In some cases, tests can also provide clues that may help find hidden mold, but the growth still must be found by looking for it so that it can be removed.
Experienced investigators should evaluate whether testing is warranted and if they are ethical, they should advise against testing whenever the problem can be corrected without it. Testing may be useful as part of an investigation, but it is never a substitute for a thorough visual inspection by a certified mold inspection company.
Doing mold testing well is often expensive. You should recognize that if the testing is not needed or it is done poorly, your money is being wasted instead of being used to make repairs necessary to solve the problem.