Photograph: mold hidden behind basement wall paneling How to Find and Test for Mold on or Behind Wall Paneling
     

  • HIDDEN MOLD in PANELING - CONTENTS: how to find hidden mold contamination on or behind building wall paneling; When is it appropriate to pull off wall paneling to look for hidden mold?; Moldy wall paneling may look clean on the room side but be very moldy on the hidden wall-cavity side.
  • HIDDEN MOLD, HOW TO FIND - home
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about visible & hidden mold growth on wood paneling in buildings: where it is found, how to spot it, how harmful it might be
  • REFERENCES

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The fact that mold is "hidden" in buildings does not mean one cannot find it. We look by context: where do we see leak stains, or where do we see building practices most likely to have produced a hidden leak or moisture problem? Ice dam leaks in walls, hidden plumbing leaks, roof spillage by the foundation, are all common clues that often track to a wet building wall or ceiling cavity and from there to a hidden mold problem which may need to be addressed.

This document describes how to find mold and test for mold in buildings, including how and where to collect mold samples using adhesive tape - an easy, inexpensive, low-tech but very effective mold testing method. This procedure helps identify the presence of or locate the probable sources of mold reservoirs in buildings, and helps decide which of these need more invasive, exhaustive inspection and testing.

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Hidden Mold Behind Paneling in Bathrooms and Basements

Photograph: mold hidden behinid paneling appears on the drywall surface and paneling back side -  © Daniel Friedman

While we do not recommend wholesale demolition of rooms where there is no visible external mold, if an area has been wet by leaks or flooding, and where paneling covers walls (or ceilings) it is common to find problematic mold growth behind paneling even if it looks quite clean on the exposed or room side.

Some careful removal of sample panels in the most-suspect areas (most exposed to moisture or leaks) can disclose a hidden mold problem in a building.

If initial exploration for hidden mold shows what may be a large area of mold, say 30 sq .ft. or more of moldy surface, work should stop for professional evaluation and to avoid spreading moldy dust throughout the building.

All mold investigation work, demolition, and cleaning should be performed using the appropriate protective equipment.

Hidden mold example: removed bathroom paneling to expose hidden mold:

The photo above shows an extensive mold colony found growing on the face of drywall which had been covered by wainscot paneling in a bathroom. More mold growth was on the hidden side of the paneling itself.

None of this mold was visible on the exposed bath surfaces before I pulled off this panel.

Why did I pull it down? There was evidence of a history of prior leaks in building walls and wet floors in this area.

Superficial cleaning and a "cover up" installing new paneling was all that the building manager thought was required. Unfortunately it led to a greater cost later to properly demolish and clean this area.

Photograph: mold hidden behind basement wall paneling

 

Remove basement paneling to expose hidden mold: In this photo of me pulling open the edge of basement paneling more than 20 years ago, we found that a large mold colony had been generated on the drywall surface hidden behind the wood paneling.

Forty years previously, and 20 years before this inspection photo was taken, a single event basement flood had occurred. The owners had pumped out water and dried the basement within a few hours of the event.

There was almost no discernable clue on the exposed side of the paneling itself. Yet because the wall cavities themselves were not opened at the time of the flood, hidden surfaces and materials stayed wet long enough to initiate a large fungal colony.

It appears that once the mold colony was established, periodic elevations in basement humidity were enough to keep the mold colony happily growing along.

One of the home's occupants who grew up in this home developed severe asthma. She told me that if she simply stood at the top of the basement stairs above this room she would have an asthma attack.

Warning notice

Guidelines defining what's a "large amount" of mold and what's reasonable for a homeowner to handle have been published by several states including New York and California. Links to some key documents describing mold cleanup and mold remediation procedures are at InspectAPedia.com/mold/Mold_Action_Plan.htm#clean.

People who are allergic, asthmatic, infant, elderly, immune-impaired, etc., should not disturb mold and should not be in the area where mold remediation is being performed. Consult with your doctor, health department or other professional before tackling this job yourself.

Also see MOLD in BUILDINGS and see MOLD GROWTH on SURFACES for an index of what mold genera/species are frequently found on various building surfaces and materials, and see MOLD RELATED ILLNESS SYMPTOMS

For an atlas of building molds and for more microphotographs of building mold samples observed in our laboratory, see MOLD ATLAS & PARTICLES INDEX.

MOLD by MICROSCOPE shows what mold looks like under the microscope.

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