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Mold Detection

Mold detection is a fairly new concern in home ownership. Until the 1980s, the idea of "sick" buildings and specificaly mold as a contaminant were virtually unkown. Now we understand how important household air quality is to our health. Mold detection is a primary element of air quality. But keep in mind that mold detection alone does not give your house a clean bill of health for total air quality.

Molds are fungi -- microorganisms that are vital to our environment. They live on the surface of oganic matter. Their primary function is to degrade (break down) the things they come in contact with. Molds gain nourishment by producing enzymes that allow it to decompose the things they are attached to. Penicillin is a mold.

Molds (fungi) are everywhere. They number in the tens of thousands. We cannot eradicate molds. But they grow only in the presence of water. That's why mold detection focuses on the intrusion and/or presence of moisture in your house. Molds may not only compromise our health, they also damage the structure of our houses. They can grow on virtually any surface.

Molds can cause allergic reactions and, in the worst cases, respitory infections, disease, and poisoning (mycotoxins). Even dead mold can cause allergic reactions in some people. Children and the elderly are most vulnerable, as are people with asthma, allegies and compromised immunity. Repeated exposure to mold can make anybody more sensitive to mold, resulting in allergic reactions. Officially, there is no definitive proof that mold in bulidings can compromise human health. More research is needed.

Molds can grow quite rapidly -- almost immediately -- once moisture has been introduced into a home. This is why floods are so devastating because by the time the flood waters have subsided, every wet house has blossomed with rapid mold growths.

There are no established levels of mold contamination to prove that mold will harm your health. But the presence of mold in a house is unacceptable. At the very least, it damages buildings and compromises the quality of life of the home's inhabitants by creating foul odors and discoloring (and decomposing) building materials.

Inspection Services

In accordance with the standards of practice of the International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants, I inspect for the following:

Areas of inspection include: primary building and attached parking structure; roof; roof drainage, roof penetrations; flashing; exterior and grounds, especially grading; building cladding, doors, wwindows; basement, foundation, and crawlspaces; air conditioners, HVAC system and reperesentative number of registers; plumbing (all fixtures), drains, waste lines, vent pipes; attic (ventilation and insulation), kitchen, bathrooms, laundry room; dehumidifiers; sump pumps; drainage channels; fire sprinkler systems; and combustion appliances.

Keep in mind that this is not a house inspection. A house inspection is designed to give you an overview of all issues in your house, of which moisture/mold is just one concern. A mold inspection a time-intensive, thorough examination of all elements related to prospective moisture intrusion (which causes mold growth) in your house.

I offer two levels of inspection for mold:

Basic (Visual) Mold Inspection:

This is a thorough, full-house inspection for the five points mentioned above. This is a "basic" mold inspection because it involves no lab testing. It is designed for houses or buildings that have no apparent mold issues but offers the home owner some peace of mind with regard to those issues that may cause or promote mold.

$350. for houses 3,500 square feet or less.
$400 for houses 4,000 to 6,000 square feet.

NOTE: when pricing businesses that offer "mold testing," be clear that you want more than a "test" -- you need a full-house inspection for mold. The test is simply confirmation that there is mold. Also, be sure to ask what the test covers: how many samples? what kind of samples? See testing fees below.

Advanced Mold Inspection:

If the visual inspection finds an area that looks especially suspicious, then you will probably want to proceed with one or more lab tests

Baseline test = 2 air samples: $125. (You must start with two for comparison.)
single subsequent air samples: $60.
single surface sample: $60
single swab sample: $60

Note: The International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants recommends a minimum of 3 air tests and one surface test for a complete mold inspection.

Limits of Inspection

In accordance with professional standards, I am not allowed to enter any areas that may be hazardous; this includes walking on a roof or entering a crawlspace that may be dangerous. I am not allowed to turn on anything that has been turned off (like a water spigot) or moving objects or belongings that are blocking access to inspection areas (this is a liability issue).

This inspection is a non-invasive examination of your property -- of all visible, readily accessible, and installed systems and components of a building listed in the IAC2 Mold Inspections Standards of Practice. There will be no drilling or dismantling or removal of materials in your home.

A mold inspection is an inspection only. It is not an abatement of any mold issues that may be found. Abatement must be handled by a contractor who specializes in mold abatement.

A mold inspection cannot take place if the house is occupied by someone who is currently under a physician's care for exposure (or possible exposure) to mold. This is a liability issue. Simliarly, a mold inspection cannot take place if there is litigation pending about the possible presence of mold in the building.

Mold is not an indication of serious consequences. That is, it doesn't mean your property should be condemned or that your health is in jeopardy. The discovery of mold in your property means one thing: water/moisture is getting into your house and that water/moisture is encouraging mold growth.

As a home inspector certified to make mold inspections, I am not qualified to make medical recommendations with regard to mold. That said, there is much scientific literature that makes connections between mold and adverse effecs on human health. You would do well to do some reserach on household fungi (mold). You should know that there is no definitive level of mold to qualify a building as "contaminated." The best we can do is establish that there is an "elevated" level of mold in your home. This determination is possible only when we take samples outside your home in order to make comparisons with a sample inside your house. The IAC2 recommends two external samples to compare with one interior sample.

A mold inspection is accurate only for the time at which inspection took place. This is simply a scientific reality. Your mold inspection is a snapshot of your house for that point in time. Otherwise, there are too many variables -- in weather, interior conditions, living habits, etc. -- that change from day to day and, as a result, prevent an inspection report from predicting conditions on other days. re dynamic environments affected by geographic location, season, weather conditions, HVAC system design and operation, moisture intrusion, pest colonization, and human activities.

Questions for the homeowner:
  1. Are you aware of any current water instrusion -- leakage, puddling, drips, etc. -- in your house?
  2. Have there ever been water issues in the house?
  3. Are you aware of any possible mold in the building?
  4. Has the property ever been inspected or tested for mold?
  5. Have any occupants of the building experienced asthma, breathing difficulty, allergies, or ailments they associate with mold growth?
  6. Are any occupants of the building under a physician's care for the adverse effects attributed to mold exposure?
  7. Is there any litigation being considered -- or in progress -- relating to mold in the building?

Results of Inspection

You will receive the following upon completion of the inspection:
A detailed, written report of the inspection immediately after the examination, which will target a) water intrustion, b) water damage, b) musty odors, c) apparent mold growth, and d) conditions conducive to mold growth. The report will include recommendations about remediation, if needed. Written test results (from the lab) within four days, Opitional: photographs of problem areas, if needed. Follow-up: I will be available, via phone or email, to answer questions and clarify any issues that my report may raise.

If you have requested air tests, the report will itemize the major kinds of mold found and describe the nature of these molds (i.e., are they problematic?). More importantly, the lab will note whether or not your house has elevated levels ("unusual levels") of mold spores. This finding is determined by comparing the test of your household air to the test of the air outside your house. Tests of surfaces will indicate if indeed the sample was mold and, if so, what kind of mold. The lab report/s will make no recommendaions.

Based on the lab results and my visual inspection, I can make recommendations but keep in mind I am not a physician nor am I a biologist. My recommendations will focus on the structure of your house and how to make sure it is sound enough to withstand water intrusion. That is the primary aim of a mold inspection: to identify defects in the structure of your house (and to recommend repair of those defects) so that no moisture can penetrate your home and cause mold growth. The issue of mold growth is secondary until those defects are repaired. AFter those repairs are made, you then should undertake abatement, if needed.

Finally, I will leave you with a tip sheet and maintenance manual that will help you keep your house dry and safe.

You can read more about mold on the resource page.

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