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Free Encyclopedia of Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, Repair
ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS - INSPECT, TEST, REMEDY
MOLD: A COMPLETE GUIDE to TEST CLEAN PREVENT
ACCEPTABLE MOLD LEVEL
ACCURACY OF VARIOUS MOLD TEST METHODS
ACCURACY vs PRECISION of MEASUREMENTS
ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT INDOOR MOLD
ACTIVITY of MOLD in BUILDINGS
AGE of MOLD - Old is the Mold?
AIR CLEANER PURIFIER TYPES
AIR FILTERS for HVAC SYSTEMS
AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR
AIR TEST FOR MOLD: ACCURACY
AIR TEST SAMPLING CASSETTE STUDY
AIRBORNE MOLD COUNT NUMBER GUIDE
AIRBORNE PARTICLE ANALYSIS METHODS
ALLERGEN TESTS for BUILDINGS
ALLERGENS in BUILDINGS, RECOGNIZING
ALLERGY & MOLD IAQ PRODUCTS
ALLERGY TESTS for PEOPLE
ALLERGY TEST ACCURACY
ATTORNEYS and EXPERT WITNESSES
BASEMENT MOLD WATER IMPACT
BROWN HAIRY BATHROOM MOLD
BIBLIOGAPHY for ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH, MOLD, IAQ
BOD WASTEWATER TEST
BLACK MOLD, HARMLESS COSMETIC
BLACK MOLD, TOXIC & ALLERGENIC
BLEACHING MOLD, Advice about
BLUE vs YELLOW COMBUSTION FLAMES
BOOK MOLD, Moldy Book Cleaning
BOOKSTORE - ENVIRONMENTAL
CACTUS FUNGI / MOLD
CAR MOLD CONTAMINATION
CARPET DUST IDENTIFICATION
CARPET MOLD CONTAMINATION
CARPET PADDING ASBESTOS, MOLD, ODORS
CARPET FUNGICIDAL SPRAY
CARPET STAIN DIAGNOSIS
CARPET & other STAIN TESTS
CARPET TEST PROCEDURE
CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY
CHAIN OF CUSTODY - TEST SAMPLE
CLEARANCE INSPECTIONS - MOLD CLEANUP
DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS
DIRT FLOOR MOLD CONTAMINATION
Disinfecting Buildings with Bleach
DO-IT-YOURSELF MOLD CLEANUP WARNINGS
DUCT SYSTEM & DUCT DEFECTS
DUST ANALYSIS for FIBERGLASS
DUST, HVAC CONTAMINATION STUDY
DUST SAMPLING PROCEDURE
EFFLORESCENCE, Salts & White / Brown Deposits
EMERGENCY RESPONSE, IAQ, GAS, MOLD
FEAR of MOLD - MYCOPHOBIA
Fiberboard Insulation Sheathing Mold
FIBERGLASS INSULATION MOLD
FIBERGLASS PARTICLE CONTAMINATION TEST
FIELD INVESTIGATION SERVICE
FIND MOLD, ESSENTIAL STEPS
FIND MOLD in BUILDINGS, HOW TO
FIRE DAMAGE vs MOLD DAMAGE
FLOOD DAMAGE ASSESSMENT, SAFETY & CLEANUP
FLOODS IN BUILDINGS-mold
FLOORING MATERIALS, Age, Types
FOXING STAINS on books & papers
FUNGICIDAL SPRAY & SEALANT USE GUIDE
GAS DETECTION INSTRUMENTS
GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC
GAS EXPOSURE LIMITS & STANDARDS
GAS TEST PROCEDURES
HOUSE DUST ANALYSIS
HOUSEWRAP AIR & VAPOR BARRIERS
HIDDEN MOLD, HOW TO FIND
HUMIDITY CONTROL & TARGETS INDOORS
INDOOR AIR HAZARDS TABLE
INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS
INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE
LAB PROCEDURES MICROSCOPE TECHNIQUES
LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE
Legionella Legionnaires' Disease
Legionella BACTERIA & HVAC Equipment
LIGHT, GUIDE to FORENSIC USE
LP & Natural Gas Safety Hazards
MEDIA BLASTING for MOLD REMOVAL
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MICROSCOPE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
MEDIA BLASTING for MOLD REMOVAL
METHANE GAS SOURCES
MICROSCOPE DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY
MILDEW in BUILDINGS ?
MILDEW ERRORS - MOLD PHOTOS
MILDEW REMOVAL & PREVENTION
MOISTURE CONTROL in BUILDINGS
MOLD: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO MOLD
MOLD ACTION GUIDE - WHAT TO DO ABOUT MOLD
MOLD APPEARANCE - WHAT MOLD LOOKS LIKE
MOLD CLEANERS - WHAT TO USE
MOLD CLEANUP GUIDE- HOW TO GET RID OF MOLD
MOLD CLEARANCE INSPECTIONS
MOLD COUNT NUMBER GUIDE
MOLD CONSULTANTS / INSPECTORS
MOLD CULTURE TEST KIT VALIDITY
MOLD DETECTION & INSPECTION GUIDE
MOLD or INDOOR AIR EMERGENCY RESPONSE
MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE
MOLD LEVEL IN AIR, VALIDITY
MOLD ODORS, MUSTY SMELLS
MOLD PREVENTION GUIDE
MOLD RELATED ILLNESS GUIDE
MOLD SAFETY WARNINGS
MOLD SPRAYS, SEALANTS, PAINTS
MOLD TEST KITS
MOLD TESTING METHOD VALIDITY
MSDS Material Safety Data Sheets
MVOCs & MOLDY MUSTY ODORS
MYCOPHOBIA, STAINS MISTAKEN for MOLD
MYCOTOXIN EFFECTS of MOLD EXPOSURE
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
OZONE for MOLD OR ODORS
PAINTS & COATINGS ODORS IN BUILDINGS
PARTICLE SIZES & IAQ
Particulates & Allergens Indoors
Pesticide Exposure Hazards
PET ALLERGEN REMEDIES
PLASTIC CONTAINERS, TANKS, TYPES
PLASTIC HEATER VENT
PLASTIC ODORS-SCREENS, SIDING
PLUMBING SYSTEM ODORS
RENTERS GUIDE TO MOLD & IAQ
ROBIGUS & Wheat Rust Fungus
ROT RESISTANT LUMBER
ROT, TIMBER FRAME
ROT, TIMBER ASSESSMENT
SLIDE PREPARATION, MICROSCOPE
SMELL PATCH TEST to Track Down Odors
SOUND CONTROL in BUILDINGS
STAIN & BIODETERIORATION AGENT CATALOG
STAINS on & in BUILDINGS, CAUSES & CURES
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING EXTERIORS
STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS
STAINS on INDOOR SURFACES: PHOTO GUIDE
STAINS & Thermal Tracking
TECHNICAL & LAB PROCEDURES
TEST KITS for DUST, MOLD, PARTICLE TESTS
Thermal Expansion Cracking of Brick
THERMAL EXPANSION of HOT WATER
THERMAL EXPANSION of MATERIALS
THERMAL IMAGING, THERMOGRAPHY
THERMAL IMAGING MOLD SCANS
THERMAL MASS in BUILDINGS
THERMAL TRACKING & THERMAL BRIDGING
TRAPPED MOLD BETWEEN WOOD SURFACES
TRIM, INTERIOR INSTALLATION
TRAPPED MOLD BETWEEN WOOD SURFACES
TRUSS UPLIFT, ROOF
TRUSSES, Floor & Roof
Urea Formaldehyde Foam Insulation UFFI
URETHANE FOAM Deterioration, Outgassing
UV LIGHT BLACK LIGHT USES
VAPOR BARRIERS & CONDENSATION in BUILDINGS
VENTILATION in BUILDINGS
VINYL CHLORIDE HEALTH INFO
VINYL Siding or PLASTIC Window ODORS
Volatile Organic Compounds VOCs
WALL SIDING TRIM & FINISHES
WALL FINISHES INTERIOR
WALL CONSTRUCTION BARRIER vs CAVITY
WATER BARRIERS, EXTERIOR BUILDING
WATER ENTRY in buildings
WATER ODORS, CAUSE CURE
This article can help you determine whether or not a mold, odor, or other indoor air quality emergency exists, and by using five simple "rules of thumb" this information can help you decide when a mold problem in a building merits hiring a professional to investigate or clean up mold or other allergens.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2013 InspectAPedia.com, All Rights Reserved. Author Daniel Friedman.
Watch out: because individual health risks and site conditions vary widely, no publication can always identify nor solve all problems caused by indoor air contamination. But here we provide assistance that will help in identifying an emergency and more assistance that will help determine when you need to hire a professional. Even a non-emergency situation may require expert professional advice on diagnosis of problem causes and procedures to clean up mold or to remedy other IAQ issues.
The US EPA identifies five conditions that require immediate or "emergency" response [we have added a few items]: 
Here are five reasons to consider a more extensive on-site investigation for toxic or allergenic mold
Five Rules of Thumb for Deciding When to Hire a Professional to Inspect for Mold & Prepare a Mold Remediation Plan
How to avoid conflicts of interest during a mold remediation project: the person who evaluates your property to tell you what (possibly costly) cleanup work
is needed certainly should not be the same person who is going to perform that work.
Similarly, after a mold cleanup has been completed, the person who inspects and tests to certify that the work has been done properly should have no connection with the company who performed the cleaning.
In the photo the author is examining a very moldy basement. He will find the extent of cleanup needed, perform appropriate testing in this and other building areas, and will assist the homeowner in evaluating the results of the cleaning effort.
But it would be unethical and a conflict of interest for the investigator who is going to specify what mold remediation cleanup work is needed in a building to also offer to perform the cleanup work itself.
IF these conditions are present in a building being evaluated for mold contamination risk
THEN mold may be a problem in the building. -- N. Carlson, U. Minnesota [Comments added by DF]
How does one find an independent mold consultant? - Mary Robinson
I just had my pest control company look in my attic for mice. When they came downstairs they told me there is 'wood fungus' on the attic beams. They offered to spray it to kill it for almost $800. From what I've read, this doesn't sound like a good idea. Would you suggest hiring an investigator? - D. Falk
Mary: If your emphasis is on "independent" you need to interview the consultant and make sure that s/he only inspects, diagnoses, tests, and writes the remediation and repair plan - that is, s/he does not perform the actual cleaning or repair work, and s/he has absolutely no financial nor business relationship with the company that does perform that work.
If your emphasis is on how to find a mold or indoor air person, my goodness, we're drowning in them - by using the EXPERTS DIRECTORY link at page top you will see lists of directories of inspectors various expertises; on line web search, yellow pages, inside of matchbook covers.
But unfortunately some such "experts" just collect samples and send them to a lab - not a very helpful process if a diagnostic inspection and interview and consulting are not included in the fee. And other "mold experts" are more interested in performing the clean-up job too - an innate conflict of interest that exposes everyone, you, the consultant, the cleanup crew, to an actual or potential charge that the advice you received was not un-biased.
D. Falk: Your PCO may be well intended and certainly they have found it profitable to jump on the mold bandwagon, but their approach is incompetent. Spraying as a "cure" for mold is inadequate. Proper procedure is more work - if there is a problem mold reservoir the mold is physically cleaned (removed) and its cause has to be corrected.
Daniel, I hired a 'professional' vent cleaning service to clean a rental home's ducts yesterday, against my better judgment, but to appease a difficult tenant.
As expected, they tried to 'upsell' the job, INCLUDING 'testing for mold', stating there were a few spots in vents that looked like mold. Upper level of home tested negative, Lower level tested positive. I've been told by a licensed HVAC contractor that it's common for a little mold to be present in many areas of a home, but highly unlikely for this to be problematic, given that we live in Albuquerque NM: high desert. The home is cooled by an evaporative cooler (vs refrigerated air).
Can you recommend how to best test this alleged mold? Also, when I was able to get the Vent Cleaner alone & 'thank' him for alarming the tenant w/ his mold comments, he stated that some simple, over the counter sprays from Lowe's or Home Depot could probably fix the problem (vs me paying him another $160 to do so) - L.W.
A competent onsite inspection by an expert, a real one, not an HVAC company trying to sell more duct cleaning services, can often finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem, or that indicate that there is no evidence of a larger mold reservoir that justifies costly cleaning.
That said, it's true that often we find small patches of mold in HVAC systems and that an expert can find at least some mold in just about any building. Often a small Cladosporium colony is seen on HVAC ductwork just downstream from the blower fan in the ductwork. While Cladosporium sp. (the largest group of molds) contains some members that can be harmful to people, small immobile colonies of even a square foot or two are unlikely to be detectable in the building air.
Watch out: if the conditions that produced mold growth that you see anywhere in the building have also produced a larger but less obvious mold colony, say more than 30 sq.ft., and say of highly-mobile problem molds such as Aspergillus sp., the little, probably harmless mold you saw may not be the issue but it might be a pointer to a less obvious problem.
The article above is intended to help decide if an expert inspection and tests for mold are really justified and appropriate at a property. If the rules of thumb we describe above all fail to indicate that further inspection and testing are needed then it's unlikely that it is appropriate nor cost justified to perform more mold testing at your building as well.
The comment by your HVAC guy recommending a mold cure by applying sprays suggests to me that the person is not properly informed about mold.
Sprays alone are not a "mold cure" and in some cases can even be a health problem themselves. There is a place for sealants and disinfectants but not as a "mold cure" see MOLD SPRAYS, SEALANTS, PAINTS.
And furthermore, if there really were a mold problem, in the ductwork or elsewhere in the building, finding and fixing the cause of the mold growth is an essential part of a mold remediation plan. Otherwise the time, trouble, and money spent on the "mold cleanup" is simply wasted when the mold-growing conditions remain and a problem returns at the same spot or others in the building.
If legal or health complaints justify a check of the building for mold, I would be certain it's performed by an expert. You don't want to be in the position of asserting that there is "no problem" if in fact there is one, since someone could get sick and you could bear liability for it.
On the other hand, as we discuss in MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE the article above, in the absence of good reason, a thorough inspection and testing for mold are not justified, and superficial tests (air tests, cultures, etc.) used alone, without an accompanying careful inspection would be unreliable.\
My husband, 5-month old son, and I recently moved into a water-front basement apartment (about two weeks ago) and immediately noticed our allergies flair up. My husband and I are both allergic to mold, but we can't find more than small amounts on the floor boards. In the closet of our bedroom, there is a boarded up septic pump that smells terrible and might be contributing to our problem. Our landlord is not terribly concerned at the moment. What can we do to test the area? We have all developed colds and wake up each morning with terrible congestion, drainage, and headaches. - Rosi B.
There are a few things an experienced investigator hears that trigger a sort of "red flag" or prejudiced expectation of trouble, including basement+apartment+waterfront. The worry-o-meter points up a bit more for "mold allergies"
and more for "septic odors".
You are describing at least two possible problem areas: mold and sewage pathogens/sewer gas. And there could be serious health risks. Notify the landlord in writing of your concerns immediately. You can hire an experienced environmental investigator (search our website for "Mold and Allergen Inspectors & Testing Consultants" for a directory that might be helpful. Discuss the inspector's experience, and the extent of actual inspection, not just "testing" before hiring someone. Tests performed without an expert inspection are not worth much.
I feel as though my management and landlord are pressuring me to just do a paint job and don't want to admit there is mold because of their liability and costs, and I don't know that I can trust expert advice if I call in mold specialists (as you articulate in your amazing guide to mold). I also do not have the money to call in experts and seek advice, as I am currently a student and in a great deal of debt.
I understand that you cannot give me exact advice based on a photograph, but I am at least hoping that you can just give me an opinion as to whether I should call in an expert for the problem.
I live on the 10th floor of a fairly nice apartment complex, and this mold has appeared in my bedroom. The room is not ventilated with open windows, but it has the sole convector that is both the AC and heat in my building. It appears like it originated from upstairs, or for the convector (which is just under the visible window in the picture). The mold grew rather quickly and spread fast, and I believe it may be irritating my mild asthma. I live in Washington DC, which is a very humid place.
My concern is this: I do not want to have to rip out walls as I am in the middle of a school semester and that would not be ideal since I would have to relocate; meanwhile, I don't want to bleach and paint over it, only to have this problem arise again. I understand that you may not be able to give me expert advice through a simple photo, but in case you can tell me whether this problem looks serious or not, I thought to email. Because of my asthma, I understand that you may be obliged to recommend an expert, but if that was not a concern and a paint job will suffice, that would be ideal for my school work.
I know this may be unreasonable, but I am hoping you can get back to me tomorrow as my landlord is coming to see the unit and I want to be able to make a good argument and uphold my right to have a livable apartment. However, your advice would be much appreciated whenever you can give it, whether tomorrow or weeks or months from now.
Thank you so very much, and more specifically, thank you for your guide - it was the most helpful thing on the internet! - S.M., D.C.
My opinions below are based on your email, your photograph, and my own field and lab experience in building mold contamination diagnosis and remediation. Naturally a competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem and that would permit recommending the proper steps to correct these conditions. That said, here are some things to consider:
Extent of Visible Mold:
Your photo shows heavy black material on a ceiling that from your description sounds and looks as if it is almost certainly mold. It would be unusual for only one mold genera/species to be present under these conditions, so it would be an error to assume that the black mold you see is the only mold there nor even that it is the largest mold reservoir nor that the black mold is the most harmful mold present.
For example, if the mold growth was caused by leaks into the ceiling cavity from above, there could be a larger reservoir of mold in that space.
The mold growth pattern suggests that it is following a previous paint pattern, though there could be other explanations. More significantly, there is almost certainly more than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous moldy surface in this area. In your photo it looks as if mold growth is extending down the building walls from the ceiling area.
Health Risks of Occupants
Your concern for irritation of asthma is a very reasonable one. In my experience both chronic exposure and short term high level exposure to at least some molds can increase mold sensitivity and even induce severe allergic or asthmatic reactions in some people. The longer you are exposed the greater the risk.
Conclusions: hire a mold expert
Under these conditions, and as we discuss at MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE it is very apparent that professional inspection and diagnosis of the location and extent of mold growth and the steps necessary to not only remove it but stop future mold growth in the area are what's needed.
My conclusion is that the problem looks serious and that you need a competent onsite professional to confirm the extent of mold growth, its cause, and the steps needed to correct the condition. As you are renting this apartment you will want to determine who is responsible for fixing this apartment mold problem, and even if you bear none of the responsibility you'll want to assure that it is handled correctly. See RENTERS & TENANTS GUIDE TO MOLD & INDOOR HAZARDS
Warnings about Mold "Tests" and "Treatments"
I don't mean just "mold testing" - which would not be helpful.
In addition, because of the amount of moldy surface, it's likely that dust containment, negative air, and steps to protect your own belongings as well as the apartment contents will be needed during demolition and cleaning of the surfaces.
Simply painting, spraying, or surface treating these areas would be an inappropriate approach. YOu'd be leaving mold-contaminated ceiling materials in place, perhaps a significant problem in the ceiling cavity, and almost certainly the cause would by that approach remain un repaired. When there is moldy drywall the proper repair is to remove that material - it cannot be reliably cleaned and the hidden side would remain un inspected and untouched as would any mold in the cavity above.
Does it Make Sense to Try an Emergency Seal-Off of the Moldy Area?
While I do not recommend it in this case, in an emergency in which an occupant simply cannot move out of an area to permit necessary mold cleanup work, it might make sense to install a continuous 6-mil poly plastic temporary mold barrier covering over all of the contaminated surfaces as a short term stop-gap measure.
The problem with this approach is that no one has adequately determined the extent of mold contamination: the barrier may be incomplete or inadequate. Also the barrier, by trapping moisture, is likely to increase the mold growth problem, and finally, because the cause of growth has not been determined I'd have little confidence that it would not appear soon outside the barrier.
Need to Move Out of a Moldy Apartment? Protect or Clean Items to be Moved
I am sorry to say that in the case that you describe the problem room needs to be isolated from the rest of the apartment. If this cannot be achieved then indeed you may need to move elsewhere during the remediation. That question will be answered by a professional inspection and by the mold premeditation company. Watch out: if your apartment contents become contaminated with mold growth, or more likely in this case, moldy dust, they may need cleaning before you move them to the new residence.
I had energy efficient windows installed in my townhouse over a year ago. This past spring one of the master bedroom windows leaked after a rain storm because the caulking failed. The company immediately came out and re caulked the window and it hasn't leaked since. My concern is that I now have a water stain under the window on the drywall, and since I have a mold allergy, I'm wondering if there might be mold on the inside of the drywall.
I read your article on testing the dry wall but as mentioned in the article would rather not cut into it unless it's necessary. I looked at other articles but didn't see one with a picture resembling the water stain I'm concerned about. What would you recommend? By the way, this is a very helpful website. I was considering using ozone for any possible mold in my place but see from your article that's not a good idea. Thank you. - G.N.
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with mold, hidden mold, and with tracking down just how much water leaked into the building and where it went. Indeed a basic axiom in deciding the level of risk of an actionable hidden mold reservoir is to identify places where water has leaked into the building, asking how much water leaked where for how long and just where did it go in the building? Follow the water.
That said, here are some things to consider:
First, how disappointing that your new windows leaked - certainly a wet wall below a leaky window is not particularly energy efficient, and indeed it could become a mold reservoir.
Second, the risk of a mold problem that you can't see but that is significant enough to merit removal is not something I nor anyone should guess at by email with so little information. In the article above at MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE we give some suggestions on how to decide if it's justified and appropriate to hire someone to perform a more competent mold inspection at your building. Testing alone is not reliable.
Third, I would not rely on "mold tests" alone to decide if further investigation is needed. A "mold test", especially an air test for airborne mold, performed without an expert diagnostic inspection of the building is just not reliable in cases where the result is "negative".
We moved into a basement apt last nov and both scott and myself have been on and off sick ever since we moved in, we had management come to investigate the problem and so now they are going to replace the windows, my question is this, by replacing the windows, which were the main causes of mold in our apt, i know its in the carpet and in the walls, we both suffer from hiv and we want to move out of this place, how do we go about getting out of our lease without getting taken advantage of? our lease is up oct 31 and we cant stay that long, we have already applied for a new apt in a different area and got accepted and plan to move out on sept 10th,our lease agreement states that if we break our lease we will have to pay 1 and a half times our rent which is about $1500 and we just cant do that, what advise can you give us before we go and give our notice? please advise, thank you
clay and scott
I would NOT assume that your windows were the main cause of a mold problem, though certainly leaky windows or lots of condensate running into walls could be significant. Often a basement apartment has a history of leaks into walls, sometimes prior floods or water entry, and thus there is a risk of larger hidden problem mold reservoirs that can be found by an expert who combines visual inspection, history taking, and strategic testing, perhaps even some careful looks into wall or ceiling cavities in highly suspect areas.
As tenants you may have trouble with the cost of a competent inspection (about as much as your rent) and with the need for invasive measures. If you've notified the landlord in writing and no one will act, and you want to move, you need to consult a real estate attorney. Typically the combination of actual credible evidence of a habitability issue that the landlord won't or can't address is enough to justify breaking a lease.
Beware: if your apt is really moldy your possessions may need to be cleaned before importing them to a new home.
Thank you for your excellent site! I am in a quandry about mold testing & remediation. We live in a relatively new home (about 10 years). Because I suffer from allergies & sensitivities, we had this house thoroughly inspected when we purchased it 7 1/2 years ago, by both structural inspectors & an environmental inspector (for mold & radon); both inspections were passed easily, and the environmental inspector's report called our home "one of the cleanest" he had ever tested. But I am now (and for some time) smelling mold. Nobody else does, but everyone knows that my nose knows. We have had several inspections done by various professionals, and so far we have found and corrected 2 small leaks and small mold problems ... but I still smell mold.
The only possible source I can imagine is the cathedral ceiling, which we cannot inspect properly because there is no attic there. The attics on the sides of the houses have been inspected & seem clean, and the roof has been inspected and declared good, no leaks. One friend has suggested that perhaps there is simply inadequate air circulation in the cathedral ceiling which allows some mold growth in the insulation. We have had an infrared camera inspection, and no obvious leaks/cold spots were found (but some vaguely cloudy areas that the operator could not interpret). I have called more mold inspectors, who want to do very costly sample testing. I don't see the point: I smell the mold, I want to know WHERE it is and get rid of it; I don't really care what kind it is.
So, my question: Can we simply seal the attic/ceiling to prevent air infiltration and avoid ripping out the entire ceiling of our home? If not, what can we do to reliably verify if this is the source of the smell, or where else there could possibly be mold, other that ripping out our ceiling? Thank you! (And apologies for the long & disjointed letter)
Lisa, if you smell mold, there is probably a mold contamination source to be found and remedied. It may be possible to home in on the problem if your "expert" really is one - someone with both training and experience in finding building mold. We use a combination of case history, occupant complaints, and a thorough visual inspection of the building for history of leaks, likely moisture problems, and similar clues to identify the "most likely" areas of hidden problems that justify further investigation - often by a small test cut into a cathedral ceiling to use your example.
Your description of your "experts" makes me wonder about the services you received: I wouldn't expect an experienced professional to "pass" or "fail" a building. Those terms are simply too much of an over simplification; most experienced inspectors speak with more caution, and will tell you whether or not they were able to find evidence of a problem that merits further investigation or not.
I would not just "seal" the ceiling as a mold "cure" without first finding out where the problem mold is, how large the mold reservoir is, and what caused it. Why?
So first let's find out if there is a mold problem that needs removal and find out if there is a roof leak that needs repair.
I have a mold kit that someone gave me but it does not have an address where to send it for results. I work in a school that I understand is infested with mold but they have yet to do anything about it. I have been in & out of doctors offices & the hospital with symptoms that are believed to be from the mold, & the only mold I am exposed to is here at my school. I have always been extremely healthy, but now suffer with asthma & allergies due to mold. In fact, I have to go to an ENT for weekly injections for mold. I don't mind paying for the test, even though my school should be ultimately responsible. Can you help me? Please!!! - Anon., Tulsa
A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem with building indoor air, with visible or hidden mold or other contaminants, and with the cause and remedy that should be understood and acted upon - not things you can decide from a mold test kit. That said, here are some things to consider:
You can send your mold test kit to any mold test lab - most of them anyway - will accept it and charge you an analysis fee. But you should realize, especially as you express health concerns, that "test kits" for mold are basically unreliable when used in the absence of an expert onsite inspection, occupant interview, case history. Only about 10% of molds will grow on any culture whatsoever, so you're about 90% wrong when you open the box. Details are at Mold Culture Plate Test Errors.
Therefore if you or others have reason for serious concern about mold and indoor air quality in your workplace, it seems to me smarter to be sure that a competent expert is engaged to help assess the situation. To avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, having given the advice in this note, that is not a service that we would provide.
Above beginning at MOLD EXPERT, WHEN TO HIRE we provide advice that can help you decide if hiring a mold expert to inspect, interview, and perhaps conduct some testing is appropriate.
I recently had a air quality sample done of our house. Asp/Pen outside was 920, on the first floor it was 644 and in the basement it was 2850. There are no visible signs of mold. Should I be concerned and do I need a mold remediation specialist? It's a finished basement.
thanks! - John G. 10/7/2011
John, my best advice on deciding if you need to hire a mold investigator or mold specialist is summarized in the article above. There you'll see that we list a variety of factors one would consider in making a decision to go further or not. Depending on various factors such as occupant health risks, building complaints, visual observation of water or leak history, etc., even a small visible mold colony could prompt further investigation.
Your high indoor Pen/Asp count is roughly 3x the outdoor count (and of course the outdoor count might not even be the same mold spores as found indoors) and your basement count is highest, suggesting that if there is a substantial problem mold reservoir that's where to start looking. That alone might be enough to prompt further inquiry.
Did you ask the expert you paid to perform mold tests for an interpretation of the rest results? If not, you're not getting what you paid for.
I was wondering I could email you a few photos of my basement rafters (I can not figure out how to attach the photos to this comment). The area is below my living room (no overhead water source) and this mold-like staining is on several rafters intermittently, as there are rafters between the stained ones that have no visible mold. There has been no water intrusion and the rafters have been dry. In the room is our HVAC and other mechanicals. I have reviewed your articles and it seems like it may be the cosmetic variety that is harmless. However I do notice a moldy odor in the basement during the rainy/humid seasons. I am getting conflicting ideas based on your articles about mold odor meaning there is definitely mold that should be dealt with and cosmetic mold. - Anon 12/26/11
Mold on basement rafters?
We would be glad to take a look at photographs that help explain a question you pose to InspectAPedia experts. Use the CONTACT links found at the top or bottom of our web pages. While examining a photograph is never a substitute for an expert on-site inspection, and while often an expert will find important conditions that a layperson may have not noticed, photographs do provide excellent information that can often allow us to make useful comment.
I and my kids have been sick constantly for the past 4 months with respiratory issues. My husband thinks it's just because my son started preschool but I was concerned so I hired a professional to do a mold inspection and test. The inspector found no visible sources of mold, water damage, etc. He thought our house was pretty clean.
But then the air samples he took came back from the lab with around 300 count of Penicillium/Aspergillus mold spores in the bedrooms where the samples were taken. The final report called for $2000 of professional remediation cleaning of the bedrooms using HEPA vacuuming, etc from their company to solve the problem solely based on the air samples taken because the inspection otherwise found nothing.
At this point, I"m not sure what to do. I'm not sure whether I should move forward with this costly remediation when there isn't a source of mold found. I'm not sure this remediation of cleaning out the rooms with even make a difference overall. And I'm not convinced we have a problem with an Aspergillus/Penicillium spore count of 300 in the air. If I was convinced then I would spend the money but it's a lot of money for us. I'm not sure what to do. - Felicia 5/29/2012
To clarify a bit further. The outdoor asp/pen count was 90. So the inside count was 3x the amount as outside at 300. But I did read in another inspectapedia article that clean building counts ranged from 250-600ish. I read the article above but am still not sure what to do. Thank you for your help. - Felicia
Felicia the report and advice you received sound very questionable to me; if there is a high indoor Pen/Asp count then one needs to look for and find the source of that material. Just surface cleaning of exposed areas is premature and a waste of money - it's treating the symptom without finding and fixing the cause.
An expert inspector examines the entire building, inside and out, and when there is no visible mold of consequence, but testing and case history and other observations suggest a mold problem, then s/he looks for and investigates further into the most likely locations of a hidden problem, often by looking at the building leak history or design that points to most likely locations for hidden leaks or moisture traps.
Watch out: For an article with many examples of how one might interpret various mold inspection or mold test results with different "spore counts" take a look at MOLD STANDARDS. But keep in mind that very trivial changes in how a "test" is conducted can result in several orders of magnitude difference in the "count" number obtained, and worse, some tests that detect mold are detecting the mold that liked a culture not the mold that is a problem in the building.
1. Comparing indoor to outdoor mold spore counts, while a common practice, is highly unreliable as it's often comparing apples and oranges. For example outdoor Pen/Asp could be a completely different genera/species than the indoor mold, thus making their comparison irrelevant;
Also even very low spore counts can indicate an indoor mold reservoir in certain cases, such as finding Pen/Asp spores in connected spore chains.
2. Please take a further look at the article above, including the FAQs section, intended to give you some criteria to help decide when it is justified to dig further into this question for an individual building. Then let me know what questions remain.
Questions & answers or comments about how to decide if a mold inspection and testing are needed, justified, appropriate at a building
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