August 8, 2012

How to perform a do-it-yourself mold inspection

As a mold inspector I often get asked about the do-it-yourself mold testing kits. Do they work? I usually say, “No”, though they do have their purpose. Keep in mind a petri dish alone will not help you solve the problems in your home. Nothing replaces a thorough physical inspection by a trained professional. What these tests may be helpful for is to know some of the airborne mold spores in your home that could be causing you illness.

When using this type of test you have to be patient (about 2 weeks) and also recognize that there may be molds in your home that do not land and culture on this dish. In comparison the air samples professionals take require about 5 minutes of sampling time and can be processed with results in as little as 24 hours. Air sampling cassettes have also been known to capture more types of mold and are better at determining the actual levels in the air then a do-it-yourself dish.

So if you are patient, you can purchase one of these tests at your local hardware store and follow the directions for how to sample. After the sampling period, you send the dish off to a lab with some additional money for shipping and processing. You will receive the results back within a couple weeks depending on shipping and processing time. If that nasty Stachybotrys (black mold) comes up on the sample, then you probably have an issue. Also say you are allergic to some types of molds like Penicillium, and then the presence of that on the sample may be something of importance to you.   In most cases you will receive a report with a few types of mold that you have never heard of before, without any explanation of whether they are the cause of your illness, and lastly with no idea of whether this indicates an issue in your home. So for most cases, these do-it-yourself testing kits will not provide the information you are looking for.

Even though a professional is your best resource; how would you know to call them? You would need a smell or stain, some evidence that would cause you to believe you may have an issue. Evidence is typically available if you know where to look. Identifying the problem before you get into a sensitive home sale or cover up an issue with a new remodel can save you and your customers thousands of dollars. Mold growth is typically a long term problem that gets worse and more expensive to remedy as time goes on. So be proactive and save yourself and your customer’s money and aggravation. And if you do discover an issue, call us for a free estimate before disturbing the growth.

Tip of the month
Where to look for mold
  • Basements or cellars that have been flooded
  • Underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Underneath or behind refrigerators
  • Behind walls that also house plumbing
  • Stacks of damp or wet newspaper or cardboard boxes
  • Around air-conditioning units
  • Wallboard or around windows that leak
  • Under carpeting that may have become wet
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P.O. Box 5187, Tahoe City, CA 96145
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