Does My Home Have Mold?
According to the WHO, dampness is found in around 20-50% of homes worldwide and mold growth is present in about 30% of homes. Despite how common it is, the major problem with mold is that it’s often concealed in spaces that are not visible, meaning it can continue to grow unchecked.
Mold is most typically found in ceiling tiles and drywall. Unless these materials are removed and inspected, the mold problem will go unnoticed.
One method for determining if mold is present without removing any building materials, is mold testing. There are a wide variety of testing methods including DIY testing kits and robust professional mold testing.
How to Test Your Home for Mold
If you suspect your home has mold, testing for it can help you take action to keep your family safe. Doing a mold test determines not only the type of mold growth but the extent of it within your home.
There may be a few reasons why you suspect your home has mold, such as:
- Visually seeing mold growth
- Smelling a musty odor
- Increase in allergic reaction and respiratory symptoms in family members
- Past history of mold growth
Even if you have confirmed mold is present, you might not know which type of mold it is. There are several different types of mold, each with unique properties that determine where and how it grows, as well as how to get rid of it.
A few common mold types tend to grow indoors, and a mold test can help you figure out which one has invaded your home:
- Mildew: A white-colored surface mold, mildew doesn’t penetrate building materials like some other types of mold. If a mold test has determined mildew is present in your home, rest assured it’s an easy fungus to clean and eradicate.
- Pink mold: A pervasive indoor home, pink mold typically grows on bathroom tiles and grout or in kitchens where moisture collects, such as under sinks. Pink mold is often a recurring problem that homeowners face and may involve needing to replace building materials.
- Aspergillus mold: The most common type of mold, Aspergillus grows in filaments (microscopic strings of cells) that grow deep into the material’s surface, making it more difficult to remove. Aspergillus is attracted to porous materials like wood cabinetry, ceramic tiles and upholstery.
- Black mold: Stachybotrys chartarum, also known as black mold, is the most dangerous as it releases mycotoxins known to cause respiratory illness, asthma and allergic reactions. Black mold doesn’t discriminate, and often grows in basements, along window sills or underneath bathroom and kitchen cabinets.
Determining which type of mold is present is important because it lets you know which species you’re dealing with, and therefore, the appropriate measures to take to get rid of it. It also lets you know how dangerous the type of mold is.
A lab analysis of mold samples will determine whether the type of mold in your home is:
- Allergenic — A category of fungus that causes allergic reactions to humans and pets; for example, Aspergillus mold
- Pathogenic — A category of fungus that causes infections in humans and pets; for example, Penicillium mold.
- Toxigenic — A category of fungus that produces toxic chemicals; for example, black mold.
To test for mold and determine the mold type, you have two primary options—home mold testing kits and professional mold testing.
Home Mold Testing Kits 2020
If you’re interested in taking the more affordable DIY approach, home mold testing kits allow you to safely collect and analyze mold samples.
There are two types of home mold testing kits:
- Air sample: Some mold testing kits determine whether there are mold spores in the air. The air sample is taken, then later examined by a lab. Though air samples are easy to take, they only show one snapshot of mold spore concentration, at one time and in one location. Because of this limitation, air samples aren’t necessarily representative of mold growth in your home.
- Surface testing: Surface swab mold testing involves scraping or swabbing visible mold found around your home and then sending it away to be tested in a laboratory. Surface mold testing can determine the type of mold, but that is assuming the mold location has already been discovered. If you can’t see or access the mold, then surface testing kits won’t be useful.
The majority of DIY mold tests on the market use both air and surface scraping/swabbing methods and require samples to be sent off for lab analysis. They range in cost from $10-$395 and some require an additional fee for lab processing.
According to toptenreviews.com, the best mold testing kit in 2020 is the Pro-Lab Mold Test Kit.
Professional Mold Testing
Typically, professional mold testing is only required if a moldy smell is present but no mold is visible. This is because the mold remediation process for all types of mold is essentially the same, according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The main reason to hire a professional mold testing service is if a family member is experiencing respiratory or allergy issues not due to the typical allergen sources, such as seasonal or pet allergies.
While DIY mold testing kits are convenient and affordable, they’re not as accurate as professional mold testing and inspection services. Mold testing companies know exactly what to look for, including the most common indicators that mold is present. They will be able to identify species of mold and know which techniques and products will remove it quickly and effectively.
Hiring a professional mold inspection service is especially important when buying an older home, as most older homes have some mold present, especially in the bathrooms. Identifying the presence of mold can not only ensure the house is mold free when you move in, but can also be used to negotiate a lower price for the home.
Professional mold testing and home inspection services will typically cost between $200-$1000. The most difficult part of mold detection isn’t determining if there is mold, but determining the extent of the growth.
Once mold is discovered, either in the air or on a material’s surface, the surrounding area must be inspected thoroughly. Homeowners can expect to pay more for a mold inspection service, should they have to search a large, inaccessible area.
What to Do if Your Home Has Tested Positive for Mold
If your home has tested positive for mold either by a DIY test kit or a professional mold removal service, then the source of moisture (such as water damage) must be stopped and the mold must be removed.
It’s important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible if mold is discovered to ensure they cover the remediation costs.
DIY Mold Removal
Mold removal can be performed by homeowners themselves if the affected area is small and the homeowner has the right skillset. When taking the DIY mold removal approach, it’s imperative that you wear personal protective equipment, as the mold removal process tends to disturb mold spores which can become airborne and easily breathed in.
Professional Mold Removal
Because of the risks involved in DIY mold removal, it’s much safer and more effective to hire a professional mold remediation company. Once the mold is removed and any potential water damage has been repaired, it’s important to ensure the source of the water is stopped to prevent moisture abatement.
Moisture abatement can involve improving ventilation to the space where mold has been found by installing HVAC systems or exhaust fans. It’s also a good idea to routinely monitor indoor air quality to ensure the presence of toxic black mold or other types of mold doesn’t return. This can give the homeowner peace of mind in knowing they are avoiding potential health problems.
Mold Testing Costs 2020
DIY mold testing kits range in price from $5-$395 with some including additional processing fees for professional lab results. DIY mold testing is a good idea if you smell mold, but cannot locate the source of it. You might also choose the DIY testing approach to be proactive and give you peace of mind that your home doesn’t have any mold issues.
Professional mold testing services range in cost from $200-$1000 and are the preferred method for determining the location, type and severity of the mold problem. The higher costs of professional mold testing services can be expected when mold is discovered in large or inaccessible areas.
Home insurance will cover mold testing and remediation if the mold was caused by sources such as:
- Fire suppression
- Flooding or snowmelt
- Accidental overflow from plumbing, HVAC or sprinkler systems
Homeowner’s insurance will not cover the cost of mold testing and remediation if the homeowner did not take appropriate steps to prevent the mold. This usually occurs in cases such as clogged eaves troughs causing water to run into your attic or a pipe bursting in your basement.
Get Help From Mold Remediation Services
The first thing to do if you smell or discover mold is to call a professional water damage and mold remediation company. Begin taking pictures and notes that describe the damage, its cause and what action was taken to solve the problem. Next, contact your home insurance company and keep them updated on the actions being taken to fix the mold damage.
DIY mold testing kits are convenient, but are no comparison for a professional mold remediation company. Their expertise in determining both the type of mold and the extent of damage is well worth the costs. Mold and the materials it has damaged must be removed in a way that it does not spread to other areas of your home or damage the environment.
In addition, proper personal protective equipment, such as respirators, gloves, goggles and clean suits must be worn to prevent respiratory illnesses and contamination.