Not a day goes by where I don’t hear the question, “What is a mold inspection and what does it consist of?”
I have great news for you, after reading this article, you will be able to determine if it is worth it to get a mold inspection in your home or business or if you should save your hard earned money.
You will hear terms in this guide such as Mold Inspection, Mold Assessment, Mold Evaluation, Mold Testing etc.
They are all used interchangeably and mean essentially the same thing.
Ok, I’m going to assume if you landed on this page you already know what mold is, so I won’t get too technical and scientific on you.
So here it is in plain English:
It is a type of fungus that usually grows indoors in humid wet environments.
There are over 365,000 types of mold species, however, only a handful of them are normally found indoors and harmful.
Most mold spores are non-toxic and may not affect humans unless that have a certain type of allergy to that particular mold species.
Mold can be indoors and outdoors, but you don’t care about it being outside.
You want to know how it got in your home, correct?
Yes, you likely have some mold spores in your home.
They could have been brought in when you opened your doors or windows, carried it on your clothes, brought in by pets, or maybe even on some of your food.
Those are perfectly normal situations.
What we are worried about is mold growing on building material throughout your home such as on walls, interior doors, in cabinets etc.
When mold actively colonizes and starts growing is when you really can start having problems whether it be related to health issues or damaged building material.
You need three things for mold to grow:
One other thing which fits this category would be time.
Some mold can generally start growing within 24-48 hours, however, there are certain types of mold spores that can take much longer to grow. Those are usually the more dangerous types of mold aka “black mold”.
Once you have those three present, any mold spores floating around in the air will attach itself to the water damaged building material and start growing.
Here’s an example for you:
A leak has suddenly occurred under your kitchen sink.
It is going behind the sink base so you cannot actually see anything. It’s only dripping a little bit of water at a time so there are no puddles anywhere.
But one day you decide you want to renovate your kitchen…
And you find this:
But why did mold grow here?
You had a leak which provided the moisture.
The area behind the sink does not get any kind of air conditioning and is almost certainly over 60% relative humidity.
And then you have the food source which is organic building material.
BINGO! Perfect conditions for mold to grow.
Mold will only grow on porous surfaces. While it will not actively grow on non-porous surfaces, it will land on there and hang out there.
Remember the three things that you need in order for mold to grow (moisture, humidity, food source)?
Once misconception is that in order for these three things to be present, there must be a leak.
While some sort of water leak can certainly be the cause of mold, there is another issue which is overlooked…
…The air conditioning system (HVAC)
The HVAC system (air conditioning) keeps the home cool. Older air conditioning systems may have something called a humidistat which is where you can control the humidity in the home.
Newer systems do not need humidistats because modern air conditioning systems are built to dehumidify through the HVAC unit itself.
Here’s where the problem comes in:
When the air conditioning unit is not properly dehumidifying but still properly cooling.
Let me explain…
When an HVAC unit is not dehumidifying but still blowing cold air, the mixture of the cold and humid air causes condensation.
Once you have condensation that is landing on a food source, and the environment is already humid, mold can start to grow on porous contents and building material throughout the home.
Another issue is when the thermostat has been left in the “On” position for an extended period of time. This can cause excess cold air into the home which can lead to condensation and eventually mold.
Another issue with the HVAC system is mold within the duct work. This is a little bit of a misunderstood concept. Many people think that duct cleaning is a scam, but it may be necessary.
I am not saying that there aren’t companies out there that are unethically telling you that you need to clean your ducts, but in certain cases, dirty duct work can affect the overall air quality within the home.
Mold does not generally grow on the duct work itself.
What happens is dirt and dust build up in the duct work and mold will grow on that opposed to the actual ductwork.
It’s not just mold that can affect the air quality. All sorts of particles and debris that gets removed when the ducts are cleaned.
Almost every time I am called to a home where the owner suspects mold due to odors, they always refer to it as a “mildewy” type smell.
Here’s the issue with that:
Mildew grows on living plants and not building material.
That stale kind of smell that is referred to as “Mildew” is generally either mold or a home that has not had sufficient air exchange.
98 out of 100 times when a homeowner reports having mildew in their home, they are incorrect.
Mildew is also the title that people give mold to minimize the damage and make it sound like no big deal. Often times during a pre-purchase inspection I hear a realtor refer to mold as mildew and say something along the lines of:
“It’s just mildew, it’s not a big deal…”
When in fact it is mold.
Sometimes it is just surface mold and can be wiped off with a biodegradable solution.
My Point is this:
Don’t be fooled when somebody says a stain is just “Mildew” because in all likelihood it’s not.
If you hear those words come out of a Mold Inspector’s mouth and there are no living plants present, it’s possible, you didn’t pick a good inspector.
This is where you want me to answer plain and simple yes or no, correct?
Well, sorry to let you down, but I will NOT be answering that question for you.
There are many different reasons why you may want to have a mold inspection but it ultimately fits into one of two categories:
If you fall into this category it’s because you know of a leak in your home or you can actually see mold growing on your home.
You may be thinking,
“If I see mold, why do I need to pay for an inspection?”
The simple answer is:
You don’t necessarily have to.
You can easily just go right to the mold remediatior and cut out the Mold Inspector.
But there are a few problems with that:
Most of the time the mold remediation company will just see mold in a certain area and just treat that particular area.
But what happens if the mold spores are airborne?
You won’t know with having the air quality tested (more on this in the section below) in other areas to see if it spread through the HVAC system.
A mold remediation company will generally not test the air quality for mold and also perform the remediation. And if they do, that may be something that should throw up some red flags for you. That brings me to my next point:
Just like anything else in this world, you need checks and balances. When you have a mold remediation company provide you with the scope of the work needing to be completed, you are at their mercy.
If you have another mold professional on your side, it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.
Honest mold remediation companies won’t mind you having your own mold assessor.
Proof For Your Insurance Company
Mold remediation is usually a separate part of your insurance policy. Your insurance company may ask for you to have a mold inspection.
Also, it could go the other way.
Homeowner’s insurance companies are notoriously known for not covering mold on insurance policies, so you may want to have the inspection to prove to them there is indeed mold in the home.
Having a mold inspection done is not always logical and necessary.
If you are looking to get peace of mind to ensure your home does not have a mold problem, it’s your money and you should not let anybody tell you otherwise.
I can’t tell you how many times over the years that I was called into an inspection where one spouse does not think that a mold inspection is necessary, only to find out they have a significant mold problem.
Let’s look at some of the reasons you may need peace of mind:
If you are having a symptom that may be related to mold inhalation or ingestion, it wouldn’t hurt to have the air quality in your home tested.
If you never had any leaks in your home that you know of or any HVAC problems, it’s unlikely that you will have mold growth in your home.
You are not a trained professional, so you could have a hidden leak or issue that a trained professional can identify.
Having a pre-purchase mold inspection is becoming more and more popular. Buying a home is going to be one of the most expensive purchases that you will ever make. It doesn’t hurt to protect your investment.
You may have a general inspection, a roof inspection, a Radon inspection, or an HVAC inspection, why not mold?
A good home inspector may be able to tell you where a leak could be present, but may not be trained to look and test for mold. They have so many tasks to complete during their inspection, it’s hard to focus just on water leaks and mold.
Some home inspectors will take air samples to tell you what kind of mold and how many mold spores are present in the air, but won’t be able to tell you why it’s there.
If you want to know if you have mold in the home you are purchasing, get it done by a mold assessor.
Some people have an allergy to specific species of mold. If you have been tested and want to make sure that spore isn’t in the home, this could be a reason to have mold testing in your home.
It’s important to know that even if you are having some symptoms related to your mold allergy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a mold problem in your home.
Maybe it could be an issue at your place of work?
Also, don’t forget, there is usually more mold spores outdoor compared to inside. During some parts of the year there tends to be more outdoor mold spores.
By now you should have determined your reasoning for wanting a mold evaluation in your home.
But here’s the real question:
What exactly does a mold inspection consist of?
First, you need to identify your goals of the inspection.
Are you looking to:
These types of questions will all determine exactly what will be done and how much the cost will be. For this section, we will assume that you suspect you may have mold somewhere in the home but you aren’t sure and just want to have the home tested.
Here is just a basic step by step of what your inspection will consist of:
Have The Exterior Of The Home Inspected For Any Moisture Intrusion
The licensed mold inspector will walk around the exterior of the home looking for such things as:
The main objective is to ensure the building envelope is completely sealed not allowing moisture into the home.
Survey The Interior Of The Home To Develop A Sampling Plan
Mold sampling is not always necessary in every area of the home, but again your preferences will determine that.
The inspector will survey the house and determine what areas if any will be sampled.
Conduct Moisture Mapping Throughout The Home
This is meat and bones of the inspection. The inspector will generally be armed with at least three tools:
A good inspector can perform a high-quality mold assessment with these three tools.
Moisture mapping involves checking around all doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, HVAC air handlers and any other areas of the home where moisture can be affecting the building materials.
This part of the inspection cannot be skipped. During the moisture mapping, the inspector may identify other areas where sampling is necessary.
By this point during the inspection, the inspector should know exactly where samples should be collected.
The inspector may test both the air quality and any visible staining. A sample will also be taken outdoors to compare how much mold is outdoor compared to inside the home.
The mold inspector may also test the air behind the walls to determine if there is mold present, however, this is considered controversial to some in the industry.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association says this about taking samples within the wall cavity:
Air samples collected from within a wall cavity when the wallboard is aggressively disturbed (e.g., by drilling or pounding) hardly represents normal bioaerosol exposure of room occupants and can result in possible false positive results. Courtesy Of: The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA)
The collection of air samples may be done during the moisture mapping to save time in the home.
Once the samples are collected, they are sent off to a 3rd party laboratory for analysis. If the inspector is a microbiologist, they may be able to examine them themselves.
*** If the inspector is examining the samples themselves, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just keep in mind with what we were discussing about the remediation companies. You don’t want them being the judge, jury, and executioner, well an inspector that examines their own samples can technically be the judge and jury. If you have trust in the inspector, then, by all means, let them analyze the samples. If not, you may want to look into another inspector or ask that the samples be sent off to an accredited laboratory.
Check The Attic
This can technically be part of the moisture mapping process however, this should not be completed until any air samples are taken.
The reason why…
There will generally be more mold in an attic space compared to the living space of the home. Unless you have foam insulation of your roof line, there will generally be open soffits which will allow outside air into the attic.
Also, you may have tons of structural wood that was wet at some point.
Look Bottom Line is This:
The attic doesn’t get inspected until air sampling is completed in the home. Only under special circumstances does the attic be air sampled.
During the attic inspection, the inspector will look for any roof leaks, condensate line leaks, or any other areas that can cause moisture. If there is a known leak, the inspector will look to see if there is any mold present on the backside of the drywall or anywhere else in the attic.
Check The HVAC System
Checking the HVAC system involves both checking the coils and the duct work. Mold generally won’t grow on the ductwork or coils themselves, but the dirt and dust that accumulates on them.
Having mold in your ducts can cause particles in the air when your system is running.
This is the section you have undoubtedly been waiting for. The cost of a mold inspection, of course, varies from inspector to inspector. Without knowing exactly what your goals are and what is being conducted I cannot tell you accurately if the quote you receive is good pricing or not.
But Good News:
I can give you my tips and guide for what pricing structures you may encounter and what a reasonable amount you should be paying.
Ok, great so let’s look at some of the pricing structures that you may see:
Some companies will charge based on the number of samples that they take. The common amount the inspector will charge is usually between $75-125 per sample. When an inspector charges per sample, they generally won’t charge for a visual inspection.
Some companies will charge a flat fee for the inspection ( usually $150-200) and then per sample at a lower rate.
Yes, you can negotiate the price.
Something to keep in mind is that the inspector sends the samples to the lab to get analyzed, so they need to make sure their fee is covered plus, of course, everyone wants to make a profit.
Another model inspection companies will use is based on square footage. The number I have seen a few times. $150 per 700 sq feet. They will usually round the price up, down or add $75 if the square footage is in the middle of the 700 sq feet.
So if for example, your home is 1800 sq feet it would be $375.
This model is the one my business adapts. I personally will give my clients a flat fee based on what their needs are.
By talking to them on the phone, I am able to determine approximately how many samples I take and how long I will be at the house.
My pricing is very straight forward and if I have to take a few extra samples than originally planned, I will let it cut into my profit.
Ah hidden fees, everybody loves those, right?
In the mold inspection industry, mold inspection companies can get you by charging you for more than originally agreed to.
One thing to look out for is the mold remediation protocol. The mold remediation protocol is a play by play guide on how to fix the issue. I have seen inspectors charge anywhere up to $250 to write up the protocol. While I must admit, writing these are a pain, I have never charged that much. As a matter of fact, with my flat fee pricing, I don’t charge at all.
Bottom line is this:
When setting your appointment, ask if the remediation protocol is part of the price quoted for you. If they charge, so be it. At least you will know.
So you now know what a mold inspection consists of and approximately how much it should cost, but what should you expect to find out about your home after your mold inspection is completed?
You would hope if you to know if you have mold in your home, right?
That’s definitely the goal!
Your expectations shouldn’t be to know if there is mold behind every wall of the home. You cannot determine if mold is behind the walls unless you actually sample behind each and every single wall which is not only very costly but also unnecessary (and possibly not effective).
Your expectations should be to determine if you have any present, past or possible future water damage issues that have caused or can lead to mold growth. You should also want to know if there are any mycotoxins present that can be affecting the health of you and your family.
The mold inspector should only be pulling samples to support their hypothesis. In plain English, sampling should only be done to prove a point!
Here’s a real life example for you:
An underground pipe leaked in a home that the occupants only lived in seasonally. The leak went unnoticed for an extended period of time caused water damage to various areas of the living room and kitchen.
When the entertainment center was removed from the wall, this is what was present:
Real yummy right?
Well, long story short, I did take a swab sample on the wall just to prove to insurance that there was mold present, however, if it weren’t for that I would not need to take a sample to prove anything because the mold was already visible.
Where I did find it necessary is to sample other areas that are in the same air conditioning zone as well as the Master Bedroom.
Why did I sample in these areas when the leak was in the living room?
To prove my hypothesis that the mold growth in the living room was airborne and the entire air conditioning zone needed to be treated for mold.
A mold inspection may reveal areas that affected, but in most cases, you won’t actually how much mold is inside the wall cavities or under floor coverings until you actually remove them.
Once the inspection is complete, the mold inspector may have a general idea of the mold conditions of the home but should hold off judgment until they receive results back from their lab (usually anywhere from 24-48 business hours).
Once they have received their results from the lab, they should not only issue you a lab report that may look something like this:
But they should also have a report with their visual findings and hypothesis based on the lab results.
A mold remediation protocol may be present also if necessary, although again, this may be an extra charge.
So you had a mold inspection performed on your home that confirmed you not only have mold growth in your home but its airborne throughout many different areas.
What do you do?
You are going to need Mold Remediation.
Once mold remediation is done correctly you can have your beautiful house back to normal.
A licensed mold remediator, that makes sense right!?
Depending upon who your insurance company is, you may have to use their vendors. If the insurance company gives you a choice, I always recommend finding your own contractor.
Here are some ways to find the proper mold remediator to take care of your home:
Always Get Multiple Estimates
Unfortunately, mold contractors just like any other profession have some not so honest people. That’s why it is always recommended that you get multiple estimates.
Your health may very well be on the line.
Just think of it like getting a couple of different opinions from a doctor.
You have made it through this mold inspection guide and now you are more equipped to handle a mold issue in your home (hopefully you will never have one!)
Have you had a mold inspection in your home?
Tell me about your experience, good or bad!