Is It Time to Test for Mold?
It happens to all of us, we begin sneezing, our noses get stuffy, maybe even a headache. Then you begin to see the tell-tale signs. Fuzzy black spots in your bathroom, maybe your kitchen. Or, worse yet, maybe you do not see anything at all. Maybe it is just the allergies that just will not go away after allergy season has set in. Whatever the reasons may be, you begin asking around and finally, someone recommends you test for mold in your home.
Of course, you go through all the questions every homeowner goes through, and you did not see any of those fuzzy spores. You cannot possibly have mold in your home, you keep a clean home, you ensure everything is spotless. However, that does not mean that there cannot be mold in your home, and it is something you should test for. The quality of the air in your home may be compromised, and it is polluting your indoor air far more than you may be aware of.
Where Does Mold Come From, Where Does It Hide?
If you have or have ever been in an unfinished basement then you are familiar with that slightly musty smell is. It is not strong, but it is present, and the unfinished basement is just the best example of that musty smell. However, you may have smelled it in a bathroom, which is another prime location for mold growth. These damp areas are the prime breeding ground for mildew and mold, and even though these are natural elements and serve a purpose in our ecosystem, they do not belong in your home.
Often, this musty smell can be associated with those fuzzy black spots in a bathroom. Or maybe there are discolored spots on walls or floors. However, this is not always the case and that is why it may be time for you to test for mold in your home. Mold can be caused by a leaky pipe in the walls, or condensation that has built up over time in an enclosed space; many homes have a water heater that is enclosed which releases water into that enclosed space causing mold growth.
However, many homeowners do not know where to start when testing for mold in their homes. Calling in a mold company can be effective, but costly, and you may be saddled with the cost of having hired a company and no mold is found. The best first step can be to simply purchase a mold detector, or testing kit, and determine if you need a professional brought in or not. After mold removal, it will also be important to run a post-mold removal mold detector test.
You do have the option of choosing to do a mold inspection before using a mold detector to test for mold in your home or office. A professional will come out and perform a mold inspection, typically this is a very thorough visual inspection for mold and depending on the inspection it can a few hours to be completed. If you choose to go with this method of Mold detection and nothing is turned up you can still perform a mold detector test if you feel that the mold is hidden somewhere within your home or office.
When it comes to determining the best type of mold detector for you to use it may be best to know that there are only four confirmed forms of testing. Mold detectors are not immediate and require taking a sample from within your home or office and sending that sample off to a lab to be tested. The results of these tests will be sent to you based on the instructions of the mold detector you choose to purchase, but usually, it will take about a week from the time you send your samples off to get your results.
There are a variety of mold detectors from various retailers such as Lowes, Home Depot, Walmart, and even Amazon. These mold detectors can range in cost from $10 to $100, and there are several different types of mold detectors. Mold detectors, or mold test kits, test for mold using different methods. There is Air Testing for mold, Surface Testing for Mold, Culture Testing for Mold, and Bulk Testing for mold, each has its strengths and weaknesses.
- Air Testing for Mold: Air sample testing for mold test for the concentration of mold spores in your home’s air. The test takes samples from the air which is sent off to a lab and exampled under a microscope by a professional.
Air sample testing for mold can tell you if there is a mold problem even if you cannot visibly see mold in your home. However, it is important to note, that the amount of mold within the air can change throughout the day, which may mean you need to do several tests to get a clear answer.
- Surface Testing for Mold: Surface testing for mold tests mold by taking a sample from surface areas around your home to determine if there is any mold growth or mold spores deposited in your home. There are a couple of methods to collect the sample, either swabbing or tape lifting off of the surface. The sample is then sent off to a laboratory to be examined by a professional.
Surface Mold testing does suffer from the same drawback as Air sample testing for mold. The number of spores in your home may fluctuate throughout the day, or they may not be evenly spread across the surfaces in your home. However, an important note is that Surface Testing for mold cannot determine the exact concentration of mold spores that may be circulating within your home.
- Culture Testing for Mold: Culture testing for mold is where mold is taken from your home and then grown into a larger mold colony, using this method the lab can determine the type of mold within your home.
However, one drawback is that labs can only use mold particles that are still alive to be grown. Just because the mold in your home is dead though does not mean it is not capable of causing allergies or health problems. Some tests can determine if the mold in your home is dead or alive.
- Bulk Testing for Mold: Bulk testing for mold is a fairly simple idea, you take material from your home and send it in to a laboratory to be tested. Bulk testing for mold can determine the concentration of mold in your home, unlike surface testing for mold.
Bulk Testing for Mold can also determine the location of mold withing your home or office, helping you determine which removal process will be best for your situation. A high concentration within one area will or several areas will be the best indicator of where mold is at within your home.
All of these testing types use a lab to send the samples off to, some may come with a cost to have the lab test the sample while others may have the cost of the lab inspection included when you purchase the kit. After your sample is sent off to the lab it will take a couple of days for it to be tested and you to receive your results.
Testing for Species
There are a vast number of mold species that grow within the home, some are harmless or at worse cause mild symptoms such as allergies. However, some are known to be toxic, such as black mold. So, should you best purchasing a black mold detector, and where do you find one? You should be testing for species if your previous tests determine you have a mold problem. Because if you do not test for the species before removing, you may be trying to remove a toxic mold that can cause serious harm to you or your family.
Just because mold is black, does not mean it is toxic black mold, in fact identifying toxic black mold can be difficult based on a visual inspection alone. There are two species of toxic mold are Stachybotrys and Aspergillus. Stachybotrys is commonly known as toxic black mold, where Aspergillus can come in different colors depending on the species, and there are over 200 species of Aspergillus.
This makes the Culture Test for Mold very important before the mold removal process begins. After you complete the Culture Test and it is sent off to the lab to be analyzed, you will know what type of protective equipment you will need for your mold removal process, or if a professional will need to be called in to handle the mold in your home.
You may already know if you have toxic mold in your home if you or your family is already experiencing toxic black mold symptoms. If you are experiencing these more severe symptoms of mold exposure, you may want to consider calling a professional in. Some of these symptoms are as follows:
- Stachybotrys (Toxic Black Mold)
- Immune System Suppression
- Mental impairment
- Damage to internal organs
- Irritation of mucous membranes
- Skin inflammation
- Difficulty breathing
- Symptoms of asthma
- Coughing up blood
- Coughing up mucus
- Loss of appetite
- An extended exposure can cause lung damage (fibrosis)
Locating Mold in Your Home
Often mold can be difficult to locate if the obvious signs are not there, such as spots on walls, strong odors in specific rooms or areas, or present growth of mold. Often mold is hidden behind walls, or in between floors, one of the added benefits of using a mold detector is being able to locate where mold is growing within your home or office space.
Mold detectors can determine the amount of mold present in the home, as well as where the highest concentrations of mold are. This will help you to narrow down the location of the mold in your home to begin the mold removal process. It is not exact, but does narrow down to the room and sometimes even which section of the room that mold is growing in.
Why Test for Indoor Air Quality
If you have performed a Surface Area Mold test, or a Bulk Mold Test and have received negative results but are still experiencing symptoms of mold you may want to conduct an Indoor Air Mold test. An Indoor Air will tell you the number of mold spores that you have in your home. This is important because you may be experiencing these symptoms. After all, mold is being blown into your home from the outside.
Mold being blown into your home can find places to latch onto and begin the growth process within your home. If you have a higher concentration of mold in your air, you may have mold being blown into your home; possibly from your air conditioning unit(s). This may require filters on your air conditioning system, or a professional to come out and inspect systems for mold within the units themselves.
Mold Testing After Removal
You have just removed mold from your home or office, or had a professional come out and remove mold from your home or office. Now it is time to relax and enjoy your clean indoor air and watch your allergies ease up. Not just yet, there is still one step left for you to complete, test again after removal using one of the tests listed above.
Why would you want to test after removal, you know you got it all, or the professional you hired guaranteed you that it was all removed from your home. Well, mold is a micro-organism, and it can take hold anywhere in your home or office. You will want to at least perform an Air Test for mold, this test will help you determine if there is any mold within the air of your home or office. The Air Test for mold does not have to be done immediately afterward, but about a week should be a good time.
If you choose to go further with a Surface Test for Mold, this test will tell you if the surface that the mold was found on was properly cleaned of all mold. The Surface Test for mold would be most effective if it was completed immediately after the cleanup process or most 24 hours. By ensuring the area was properly cleaned and mold was properly removed you can feel comfortable in your home or office.