The first house I bought was pretty moldy!
If your house has mold problems, or you’re considering buying a house with mold, here are some things to consider before paying for a mold assessment.
About Mold Testing
My first house had obvious mold, so I had a professional mold assessment done. When the inspector finished assessing my house, I was provided a lengthy report showing the various mold strains and concentrations. While it was a relief to know I didn’t have the infamous toxic black mold, Stachybotrys chartarum, the conclusion that the house was full of mold came as no surprise.
However, what was valuable was the water assessment. The mold inspector went over the house from top to bottom with a moisture sensor, and he showed me exactly where water was infiltrating the framing of the house and causing mold and rot. It turned out that in addition to a problem with water in the basement, rainwater was seeping in around both chimneys and through some invisible roof leaks.
Be more concerned about foundation seepage than the mold itself.
As we inspected the house together, I was also able to determine that it was structurally sound. Learning that my problem was more about cleanup, than carpentry, helped ease my peace of mind.
Despite how helpful the mold inspection was; if I were doing it again, I think I could skip the expensive assessment. Water damage and mold are pretty easy to spot, if you’re willing to crawl around with a flashlight, so I probably wouldn’t pay for another mold inspection unless:
- I had already repaired everything I could find and there were still problems, such as unexplained allergic reactions.
- I was buying a house that had been remediated for mold and wanted to verify that the job had been done right.
Moldy, water damaged drywall has got to go!
Facts About Mold
Here’s what you need to know about mold in your home:
- Mold Is Mold: While some strains of mold are more toxic than others, none are healthy, and all mold is remediated the same way.
- Moisture Is the Problem: If your house is moldy, the real problem is water infiltration and/or prolonged humidity levels over 60%. Unless you correct the water and humidity problems, you’re never going to get rid of the mold.
- Do More Than Kill Mold: Mold shouldn’t be just killed; it should be removed by scrubbing away the mold growth, replacing wet materials, and fixing moisture problems.
- Repairs Can Be Expensive: Mold growth can point to larger problems such as leaks, poor drainage, or foundation problems. Making the needed repairs is usually more important than the presence of mold.
Mold needs moisture or high humidity to grow.
How to Avoid Mold Inspection Scams
In recent years publicity about “toxic mold” has turned mold inspection and remediation into a massively profitable industry. It’s 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:
- No Mold Inspection License: Currently, there are no official government licenses or certifications for professional mold inspectors, which means there are no legal standards or government regulated credentials. I would suggest, however, that anybody you hire to do remediation work should be licensed as a general contractor.
- Avoid Conflict of Interest: Steer clear of companies offering both testing and mold remediation services. You can bet that if someone’s selling a service, they’re likely to “find” something that scares you into signing up for cleanup.
Mold on foundation wall.
- You Get What You Pay for: Free mold inspections are red flags for scammers. Seek out – and be willing to pay for – separate inspection and remediation services.
- Consider Clearance Testing: After the cleanup work has been completed, you may want to have the original inspector (not the remediator) come back and re-test to make sure the mold is gone.
- Focus on Finding the Problem: You don’t need secondary samples, surface swabs, or testing of your clothing or furnishings. If there’s mold in the air, you can bet it’s on your sofa, too. Concentrate instead on learning where the mold is originating, and exactly what’s needed to fix it. I found the moisture assessment far more useful than air sampling, and I wouldn’t hire a company that didn’t offer it.
- Observe the Inspection: Scam companies may turn up the heat (called “house cooking”), or even shake out rugs or pillows to release more spores into the air and make the results look worse. Prevent this by being present during the inspection.
- Don’t Fall for Gimmicks: Ozone generators, biocides, fumigants, encapsulants, and other mold-killing (or covering) measures can be more toxic than the mold itself; and they don’t actually stop the mold at its source. Remember that mold has to be completely removed, the moisture problem fixed, and the wet materials either dried or replaced. Any other mold killing services are a wasted expense.
EPA Recommendations for Mold Testing
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends a commonsense approach to mold – if you can see visible mold growth, then there’s no need for a mold inspection. Since there are no federal standards for mold levels, there’s no way to “pass” or “fail” an inspection, though after your project is completed, it may be useful to test to find out if you’ve gotten everything cleaned up.