Mold behind basement paneling can be easy to find if you follow the water. How to Perform Your Own Mold Inspection & Mold Cleanup

  • - CONTENTS: How to conduct your own mold inspection & cleanup
    • Three steps to dealing with indoor mold: 1. find the visible and hidden mold, 2. remove the problem mold, and 3. fix the causes of indoor mold growth.
    • Health risks for mold investigators
    • When to hire a mold professional to inspect, test-for, or remove toxic or allergenic indoor mold growth
    • Advice for elderly, asthmatic, immune compromised or other people at extra risk who are considering doing their own mold investigation and cleanup
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs on when, where, how & why (or why not) to do your own mold inspection, mold testing, and mold cleanup

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Do it yourself mold inspection & cleanup guide: this article about looking for and dealing with indoor mold gives advice for an owner or occupant of a building who wants to start by doing their own mold investigation.

The steps in this document outline the procedures to find and fix a mold problem and will be sufficient for many building owners who want to do their own mold investigation, mold testing, mold cleanup, and mold prevention in their home or office.

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DO IT YOURSELF: How to Perform Your Own Mold Inspection, and Check for Mold-Causing Conditions

Very mold contaminated floor framing and subfloor (C) D FriedmanThe steps in this document will be sufficient for many building owners who want to do their own mold investigation, mold testing, mold cleanup, and mold prevention in their home or office.

However do-it-yourselfers should pay close attention to what can go wrong. If you haven't already read HIRE A PROFESSIONAL? you should do so now

We encourage healthy, not-at-risk people to handle small mold problems themselves. You don't need to hire an expert to clean up moldy bath tiles or a square foot of moldy drywall. But if you are proceeding on your own, be alert for the discovery that the extent of the problem is large enough that you should stop and bring in a professional.

With these warnings made clear, continue by reviewing the next steps below - by scrolling down or by using the links at the left on any of our web pages.

If you're unsure whether to tackle mold yourself and want to know when to bring in a professional, see HIRE A PROFESSIONAL?

Reduce your exposure to mold: Examine living/working conditions for opportunities to reduce exposure to mold or other allergens.

This means don't move your sick mother into a damp moldy basement while you're painting her bedroom. More generally it means you don't need to prove that a specific mold in a building is making you sick to recognize that a problem mold is present and needs to be cleaned-up.

But if you are sick, finding out what you've been exposed to might be helpful to your doctor. I've had clients with severe mold-related illness which went unrecognized and mistreated. If you're ill, ask your doctor if there is any reason to suspect an environmental factor or if there is reason to be extra careful to avoid exposure to mold or indoor allergens.

The basic steps in dealing with any mold problem include these 3 measures

  1. Find the mold, both visible and hidden mold reservoirs. If large areas of moldy material (more than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous moldy stuff) are present you should use a professional.
  2. Remove the indoor mold by cleaning or disposal of moldy materials
  3. Find and fix the causes of problem mold growth in the building so that you don't have to keep repeating this process.

Here are more details about how to proceed:

Step 1: find the problem mold reservoirs in the building

Find the Mold: Examine living/working conditions to find evidence of any mold or to determine the actual extent of mold problem in the building. Our website includes detailed articles on finding and recognizing mold both on visible surfaces and by invasive methods such as cutting small openings at areas where there is high risk of a hidden mold reservoir (such as where leaks into a wall or ceiling have occurred). See:

Step 2: remove the problem mold in the building

Clean-up the Mold: remove or clean up problem mold reservoirs. But don't be fooled into spending an outlandish sum on removing a "cosmetic" mold. Later below you'll read about stuff that is not mold or is only a cosmetic mold. We provide detailed articles on good procedures to clean up indoor mold. Don't forget that the key word in mold remediation is "remove" - we need to clean off moldy surfaces that can be cleaned and dispose of moldy materials (such as drywall and insulation) that cannot be cleaned. See:

Step 3: Fix the Cause(s) of INdoor Mold Growth

Find and Correct The Causes of the Mold: In addition to looking for reservoirs of existing mold, examine the building for evidence of leaks (current or old) or moisture problems as those often define the most-likely mold reservoirs. If there is mold in your attic, has there been a history of basement flooding?

Even if you don't see mold on exposed building surfaces, finding mold-producing conditions or events, like traces of leaks into a wall or ceiling, can tell you where a mold problem may be hidden.

Key technical articles at this website can help you find and correct the gating-factor that is most often associated with problem mold growth indoors: leaks or high moisture.

See WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS- be sure to check this link for its extensive list of places to look for, find, & fix building water entry or moisture problems

Mold HEALTH RISKS for Building and Home Inspectors

  • Don't disturb mold. Bystanders and occupants have sued careless inspectors who cut openings or otherwise produced a burst of mold activity in a building.

    Risks include contributing to illness of building occupants and contamination of building areas if substantial amounts of toxic mold are present and proper containment methods are not used.

    This does not mean that invasive inspection techniques are prohibited--but methods of inspection need to be chosen based on the situation.
  • If you are in a seriously moldy area, wear a HEPA respirator. Repeated exposure to allergens can cause you to become sensitized even if you have not had problems in the past.
  • If appropriate, keep spectators calm by explaining that you wear the mask because you're entering buildings every day. But keep their noses out of the mold too. People who are at particular risk can get sick from a single exposure. (Examples: elderly, babies, people with compromised immune system.)
  • Other risks may be present, related to the same conditions which caused mold growth: Sewer backups - bacterial hazards; wet areas, damaged electrical or other mechanical components, even shock hazards.


Continue reading at MOLD CLEANUP GUIDE- HOW TO GET RID OF MOLD or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

This is a chapter of our MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD that provides an easy to understand step-by-step guide for dealing with toxic or allergenic indoor mold and other indoor contaminants: what to do about mold.

Extensive, technically detailed in-depth articles about finding and fixing indoor mold problems are organized at MOLD INFORMATION CENTER

More Reading

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