If you see signs of mold in your home you need to have a mold inspection performed.
There are two goals of a mold inspection. The first is to find any mold growing in your home. The second is to find the moisture problem which caused the mold to grow.
Why You Should Have a Mold Inspection
When it comes to mold problems in the home, the earlier you can detect them the better. The longer mold is left the more it will grow and the harder it will be to remove. This is why it's best to have a mold inspection performed at the first sign of mold in your home.
One of the main reasons to have a mold inspection is if you smell moldy odors in your home but you can't find any mold growth.
If you've had water problems, such as flooding or leaks, or if you notice signs of water damage it can also be a good idea to have a mold inspection. In these, and other, cases a mold inspection should be performed to find any hidden mold that might be growing.
Even if you've already been able to find some mold growth in your home it is often a good idea to still do a mold inspection. This is because finding mold can often mean there is more mold hiding somewhere else. For example, mold growth on a wall, floor or ceiling can mean there is a mold colony on the other side of the material which has grown through.
Even if there are no signs of mold in your home there can still be good reasons to have a mold inspection. If you're selling your house, for example, a thorough mold inspection could save you a lot of trouble in the long run. By finding any mold problems you can remove them before you sell your home, avoiding a potentially bigger problem later on.
Hiring a Professional Mold Inspector
If at all possible you should hire a professional mold inspector to inspect your home. Professional mold inspectors know the best places to look for mold. They can also immediately recognize subtle signs of mold growth and signs of water problems.
Professional mold inspectors are not only experienced but they also use sophisticated equipment. This equipment is very effective at finding hidden mold with minimal impact to your home. Some of the tools and techniques professional mold inspector use are infra-red inspection, borescopes (fiber optics), moisture meters and hygrometers.
Many professional mold inspectors also have a developed sense of smell for mold or they use mold sniffer dogs to quickly sniff out hidden mold. By hiring a professional mold inspector you can be sure that if there is any mold in your home it will be found.
Equipment for Mold Inspection
Moisture meters are used by many professional mold inspectors. Moisture meters have a narrow probe which can be used to test moisture levels by inserting it into, or pressing it against materials such as carpets, drywall, bricks, wood or concrete. By finding damp areas the mold inspector can work out places in your home where mold is most likely to be growing.
Another piece of equipment used in mold inspections is a borescope. Borescopes are useful for finding hidden mold behind walls and other surfaces. First a small hole is drilled in the surface and then the borescope, which is a fiber optics probe, is inserted to look for mold on the other side. This way borescopes can find hidden mold while minimizing the damage to the wall or other surface.
Mold is more likely to be growing in areas of your home with high humidity. Hygrometers can measure the humidity of the air, giving the mold inspector a better idea of where mold might be growing.
If it's not practical to hire a professional mold inspector and you have to perform the inspection yourself you won't have access to the above equipment. In this case your most valuable tools when it comes to finding mold will be your eyes and your nose to see and smell mold in your home.
History of Water Problems
Even the most experienced mold inspector cannot perfectly spot signs of every single past water problem in your home. This is why you should think of a list of any past water problems, such as leaks and floods, including how much water was released and how long before the water was removed. You should let the mold inspector know this information before they begin the mold inspection process.
Finding and Fixing Water Problems During the Mold Inspection
If you have mold in your home then it must have had a moisture source to grow in the first place. Make sure you've fixed any existing water problems you know about. After that you should look for new causes of moisture problems. Look out for things like leaks, humidity problems, condensation or floodwater.
Finding moisture can also lead you to find new mold growth. And, vice versa, finding mold can lead you to the moisture problem that caused it.
It is important that you find and fix the water problems which caused the mold to grow in your home before you begin the mold removal process. After all, you do not want to spend time and money removing mold only to have it return because there's still a water problem.
Next it's time to find the mold. If you are performing the mold inspection yourself you should begin by thoroughly searching every room in the house. Carefully look for visible signs of mold growth and remember to pay attention to any damp or moldy odors.
If you are suffering allergic symptoms take notice of which rooms upset your allergies more. You may already have an idea of which rooms your allergies have been worst in in the past. If so then there is a good chance that mold is lurking in these areas.
Also look carefully in places where water flows, such as near pipes and sinks, or places which you know have had leaks or flooding in the past. Check spots where moisture accumulates such as surfaces with condensation, humid areas or any other places where you often see moisture. Rooms where surfaces are regularly wet such as the bathroom, laundry and kitchen are common locations for mold growth too.
You also need to look for signs of water damage. Water damaged materials usually have abnormal surfaces such as warping or bulging. Discoloration, stains, and cracked or peeling paint are also signs. Small dots of mold growth can be a clue there's a larger mold colony nearby.
The materials most suited to mold growth are ones high in cellulose, like drywall. And finally, mold often grows in air ducts so check them out as well.
If you do find mold make sure not to disturb it. Large mold colonies should not be removed without properly sealing off the room first and following best practice removal methods.
Inspecting for Hidden Mold
Most people have a mold inspection because they have hidden mold in their home. The above signs can help with finding visible mold, but they also help to narrow down where hidden mold is probably growing. If you think you have worked out a location where hidden mold is probably growing you will then have to use invasive inspection techniques to look into the area.
Invasive inspection techniques usually involve removing parts of surfaces to look behind them for hidden mold, for example: a hole drilled in a wall to insert a borescope to look for mold in the wall cavity.
This is where it's a big advantage to hire a professional mold inspector since they can check for hidden mold with minimal damage to your home. You might also want to turn to mold testing to make certain you have hidden mold before you begin invasive inspection.
If you are doing invasive inspection yourself you should wear protective equipment. This is because there is a good chance you could trigger the release of large amounts of mold spores into the air.
Invasively inspecting for hidden mold also includes lifting carpet to check for mold underneath, looking behind paneling, looking behind ceiling tiles, looking under wallpaper, looking inside air ducts and moving furniture or insulation to check behind.
Your house could have hidden mold if you've had flooding or leaks. Leaks in pipes which run behind walls are an especially common cause of hidden mold. Another sign of hidden mold is if you can smell mold or you have allergic symptoms but you can't see any mold growth.
After the Mold Inspection
After the mold inspection you have the option of either having mold testing performed or moving on to the mold removal.
There are a few reasons you might want to have mold testing done after a mold inspection. One reason is if you could not find any mold - or you found some mold but suspect there is more. In this case mold testing can confirm whether you have mold in your home and help you locate it.
Secondly, if you found what looks like a toxic species of mold then you need to have it tested by an expert to identify it. Removing toxic mold is dangerous and should only be handled by professionals. This is why you need to know for sure if the mold is toxic before you begin removing it.
Lastly, sometimes you might not be sure if what you've found is actually mold. For example, soot or dirt can sometimes look like mold. You might want to test what you have found to be sure.
Mold Removal and Remediation
Once you have found all the mold growth in your home you can start to plan for mold removal.
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