What is Mold?
Molds are a form of fungi that grow naturally and play a key role in decomposition outdoors. Molds are typically found in soil, plants, and dead or decaying matter. Molds survive by absorbing whatever material they are growing on. Indoors, however, molds can pose a potential threat to your home or building and your health. Much like a plant spreads its seeds, molds give off spores to reproduce. These spores land on moist areas indoors and outdoors and begin to thrive. Molds have the potential to harm the structures they live on and the persons residing in them. An evaluation of the areas and moisture control, along with proper remediation, is essential to protecting your health and your home.
Where is Mold Commonly Found?
Even if you can’t see it, you may suspect mold by a musty odor. You may also suspect hidden mold if you know there has been a water problem in the building and its occupants are reporting health problems. Mold can grow anywhere when the moisture conditions permit.
Mold can occur due to many types of leaks; leaking roofs, leaking or condensing water pipes, especially pipes inside wall cavities or pipe chases, leaking fire-protection sprinkler systems, landscaping, gutters, and downspouts that direct water into or under a building. High humidity (> 60% relative humidity) can also be a culprit, such as unvented combustion appliances like clothes dryers vented into a garage. Some moisture problems are not easy to see. For example, the inside of the walls where pipes and wires are run are common mold growth sites. Mold is frequently found on walls in cold corners behind furniture where condensation forms. Other possible locations of hidden moisture, resulting in hidden mold growth are: poorly draining condensate drain pans inside air handling units, porous thermal or acoustic liners inside ductwork, roof materials above ceiling tiles, the backside of drywall (also known as gypsum board, wallboard, or sheetrock, paneling and wallpaper and the underside of carpets and pads.
How Can Mold Be Harmful and Dangerous?
Mold can grow on virtually any organic material as long as moisture and oxygen are present. Some molds grow on wood, paper, carpet, food, and insulation. Because mold eats or digests what it is growing on, it can damage a building and its furnishings. If left unchecked, mold eventually can cause structural damage to building materials. All molds have the potential to cause health problems. Once molds begin to grow indoors, a musty odor is observed, followed by various symptoms such as headaches, breathing difficulties, allergic reactions, skin irritation, or elevated asthma. All of these are dependent on the person, the type of mold, and the building itself.
You can prevent damage to buildings and building contents, save money, and avoid potential health problems by controlling moisture and eliminating mold growth.
Inspection & Testing
A mold inspection can be preventative or needed due to a problem, such as a water leak, visual mold findings, or health concerns. Inspection of the affected areas may help locate the mold contamination source, identify some of the mold species present, and differentiate between mold and soot or dirt. Our inspection includes all the laboratory fees for the samples taken, a full report, which includes the visual inspector’s assessment/recommendations to remediate any areas found to have fungal contamination.
Mold testing involves a series of steps for proper handling of the conditions and to inhibit future problems:
- Initial Consultation: The inhabitants’ perspective of the home or building condition is the first step. Most observations start with a musty odor and/or a series of health issues.
- Visual Inspection: The technician will visually survey the home and look for mold growth areas, water stains, water intrusion points. A moisture meter and/or thermal imaging camera may be used here to determine humidity levels.
- Samplings: Once the mold content area is found, an air sample can be taken along with an outdoor control sample. If mold is physically found, then a swab sample can be taken as well.
- Reporting and Recommendation: When lab results are obtained, a report will be generated explaining the specific situation, mold content levels, and recommendations for remediation, the scope of work, and clean up.
- Removal: The highest priority in a remediation is to protect the building occupants’ health and safety. A licensed mold remediation company should complete the removal for proper treatment of the area or areas.
- Final Clearances: Once the problem area is remediated, a clearance inspection is performed using a moisture meter and a thermal imaging camera to ensure that all areas have been dried to industry standards. Also, air samples are typically taken to ensure that the mold was properly removed and that the home is safe for re-occupancy. After remediation, the indoor air quality should be similar to those in the local outdoor air (control). Lab results from final air sampling are the proof and documentation you need to be assured that the infesting mold has been removed properly and completely.
What does the inspection look like?
Our mold inspections consist of evaluating the home’s current conditions and inspecting for possible moisture intrusions where mold amplification is likely to occur. The inspection will include the use of a thermal imaging device, which provides an x-ray type of vision into the wall/ceiling/floor cavities without any damage. Since moisture leaks can often be hidden behind walls, the thermal imaging device is an excellent tool for locating potential leaks that may otherwise be unseen. The inspection will also include the use of moisture meters, which can detect building materials’ moisture levels. An example of what a thermal imaging device can show is to the right.
How do you sample for mold?
There are three types of samples the inspector may recommend to the onsite representative at the inspection time. The total number of samples is determined onsite based on the inspector’s areas of concern and what is authorized to be collected at the time of the inspection. It is impossible to know the exact total number of samples before the inspection.
- Air samples may be taken to test the ambient air quality, helping determine the current air quality. We recommend having at least one interior and one exterior for comparison purposes per state sampling guidelines.
- Swab samples may also be taken for identification from any visible mold growth.
- An air cavity sample can be taken inside a wall, ceiling, or cabinet using a 1/4” round drilled hole to reach the wall gap, which was later sealed with caulking. The cavity sample will be collected for a few minutes with the pump running; this setting is accepted nationally to attain readings.
Whenever possible, samples are collected from inconspicuous areas to minimize any aesthetic impact; if this is not possible, Signature Environmental will confirm with the property owner (or on-site representative of the owner) of an appropriate sampling location to minimize the visibility of the sampling area.
How can I prepare for the mold inspection?
To get an accurate representation of fungal spores present, it is recommended to keep the windows and doors closed as safety permits and air purifiers in the ‘off’ setting for at least 4-12 hours before the inspection. Ensure that all areas that may be wanted to be inspected are accessible such as pulling furniture away from walls or ensuring no doors are locked for the inspector.
When will the report and results be available?
This depends on the turnaround time that was selected by the paying party. Once the laboratory has finished analyzing the samples, a report will be generated explaining any areas of concern, risk assessment, and remediation recommendations if necessary. All documents will be sent via email in PDF format to the client. The report and results will be sent only to the client/paying party unless otherwise indicated. Please do not ask us to distribute this information to other people. The paying party is at liberty to share the information with anyone they wish. This states that if anyone wants to know about your results, they cannot get the information from us without a subpoena. This includes real estate agents, lawyers, sellers, buyers, tenants, property management, etc. Unless we are authorized to release information specific to other individuals on the original agreement, the paying party will be the only recipient of the information.
What Can Happen if Mold isn’t Found?
While most types of mold aren’t toxic, they can still cause health problems if they aren’t taken care of. The most common types of health problems are allergies, allergic reactions (which can be severe), sinus infections, lung inflammation, respiratory infections, asthma attacks and breathing problems.
Black mold and other toxic molds can cause asthma attacks, fatigue, depression, sinus infections and severe breathing issues.
Can I Test for Mold Myself?
The Environmental Protection Agency advises hiring a professional mold inspector, because exposure to molds can be dangerous – especially without the proper equipment.
If you find any molds, you would need to take a sample and send it into a lab for testing to ensure that it wasn’t a toxic mold.
It would be pretty costly to purchase the right equipment and get the lab results. You could also miss a spot that contained mold, and the continuous growth of mold in your home will cause health problems.
How Much Does a Mold Inspection Cost?
Pricing varies depending on size and type of home. We recommend calling us at 888-860-2688 and speak to someone that can gather information about your home and provide you with an accurate quote. Not every situation or home is the same so the more information we have, then more accurate quote we can provide.
We offer various types of sampling and can adjust to the needs of our clients.
- Surface Sampling, which includes swab samples, tape lift, and dust wipe, is commonly used to identify indoor fungi. Surface sampling may be useful in determining if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated.
- Air Sampling is one of the most common methods used to evaluate fungal levels in indoor environments. Air sampling is an adequate representation of airborne spores’ exposure levels since studies show that mold’s health effects are mostly related to the respiratory system.
- Moisture Meters are often used to test humidity levels in suspected areas where mold may be hidden. This device can inform the inspector if unusual humidity levels exist and if some areas are at risk for possible future mold growth.
- An infrared Thermal Imaging Camera is a leading tool used when the source of a mold problem is a water intrusion. This infrared device can detect hidden leaks and water damage behind any material without damaging it in any way. It can also detect water/moisture build-up within walls, floor, or ceiling areas. Infrared thermal imaging tools have proven to be an excellent tool for quickly and reliably providing inspectors and their clients with an accurate analysis for a wide range of property problems. Some of these can be locating areas of poor insulation or structural weakness that are causing limited air retention or looking around the property for areas of concern for moisture and leak detection.
Mold Quick Facts
Mold Grows Quickly:
Mold needs only moisture, temperatures above 40 °F (4 °C), and organic material to survive. Mold can grow in 24-48 hours, preferring areas with no sunlight, limited airflow, and little disruption.
Mold Destroys Your Home:
Because mold eats or digests what it is growing on, it can damage a building, its furnishings, and personal belongings. If left unchecked, mold eventually can cause structural damage to building materials. Molds gradually destroy the things they grow on. You can prevent damage to buildings and building contents, save money, and avoid potential health problems by controlling moisture and eliminating mold growth.
Cleaning Visible Mold is Not Enough:
Mold can grow in fiberglass insulation, on top of ceiling tiles, inside HVAC systems, behind drywall panels, in wall cavities, and behind wallpaper. Even when it’s visible, it’s often impossible to tell the difference between mold, soot, and dirt without testing. The mold you can see is just the beginning, and some of it is extremely hard to find!
Bleach & Detergent Will Not Eliminate Mold:
Bleach and detergent are useful for removing mold on nonporous surfaces. However, materials such as ceiling tiles, carpeting, and wallboard will have deep mold penetration and may need to be replaced. Removed mold will regrow if all sources of moisture and humidity are not eliminated.
Mold Cleaning is Hazardous:
It only takes 3-5 mold spores to cause an allergic reaction, and some molds contain mycotoxins that are carcinogenic or deadly. Cleaning and air movement will cause mold to release their spores — it’s easy to accidentally knock hundreds of thousands of spores loose from a single patch of mold. Because of this, containment procedures using HEPA filtration are necessary to prevent contaminating the entire house or building.
Mold Inspections Require Professional Equipment and Training:
All of our inspections use state-of-the-art thermal imaging cameras, moisture meters, borescope cameras, source sampling, and air sampling to assess the conditions currently in the areas of concern accurately.
An infrared inspection can detect:
- Hidden leaks and water damage
- Standing water and moisture within building cavities
- Areas where poor insulation or structural weakness is causing poor air retention, resulting in increased electrical costs to maintain the air heating or cooling systems