Photograph of brown mold in a building Brown Mold Growth in the Home
Detection and identification of brown mold or mushroom contamination in buildings

  • BROWN MOLD PHOTOS - CONTENTS: What brown, dark brown, even brown-to-black colored indoor mold looks like when found growing on building surfaces. Photos of brown mold in buildings - how to recognize indoor mold problems. Photos of brown mushrooms or fungal fruiting bodies growing out of building materials or on building surfaces.
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about brown mold in buildings; should you buy a moldy house?

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What does brown mold look like when found growing indoors? Brown mold identification photographs - building mold.

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These mold spores and their photographs and examples of materials sometimes mistaken for mold have been collected in the U.S., Spain, Mexico, France, as well as in other countries where I've studied bioaerosols.

These photos of mold on indoor building surfaces may help you recognize mold in buildings, recognize probably-cosmetic mold, and recognize stuff that is not mold and does not need to be tested.

Photographs to Help Identify Mold in buildings -
What brown or tan mold looks like in a home or other buildings

Photograph of extensive brown mold contamination of roof plywood in an attic
Daniel Friedman 04-11-01Among the 1.5 million mold species, there are a great many that may be found in buildings and that are brown or tan in color. Some of these brown molds, also sometimes appearing black, and commonly found indoors include Aureobasidium pullulans, Taeoniella sp., and even the very common Pithomyces chartarum. Most of these are wood rot causing fungi and they appear where wood framing or building sheathing have been exposed to wet conditions.

Brown mold can be easily seen on building surfaces but it cannot be reliably identified to genera/species without analysis by a qualified aerobiologist/microscopist in a test lab.

See Mold Atlas & Particles List for an atlas of building molds and for more microphotographs of building mold samples observed in our laboratory. See our Atlas of Mold Related Illness Symptoms & Complaints for details about specific mold genera/species and their health effects. Also see Mold spores in the Home - a Photo ID Library for detection and identification of mold allergens on indoor building surfaces.

Identification Photographs of Brown Mold in buildings

Brown mold on plywood roof sheathing in an exposed to leaks or moisture problems is one of the most common molds spotted by home inspectors. In this particular attic a sample was collected using our tape sampling method.

Our lab determined that in the case of the photo shown just above, the brown mold was predominantly Aureobasidium pullulans which is at most, an allergenic, non-toxic mold. (Often in attics we also find Aureobasidium pullulans which looks about the same, or a little darker on plywood or framing.)

Very frequently when we are asked to investigate a building where this condition has been observed, we discover that there is a more serious problem with Aspergillus sp. or Penicillium sp. mold contaminated-insulation - a condition that was missed in the initial investigation.

extensive brown mold contamination of oriented stand board -
Daniel Friedman 04-11-01Inspectors or mold remediators who call for roof replacement in a case where the plywood is not actually damaged (delaminating) from leaks are overreacting to the "toxic black mold" they think they see, and they are failing to identify the more serious problem that may be present.

As you can see in this photo of very dark mold in an attic, in a wet attic these mold groups, which are "brown" in the microscope, can look pretty "black" on the plywood.

As we point out in other comments throughout our website, the public, media, and "mold inspector" focus on "toxic black mold" in buildings is often unfortunate as it fails to address more serious problems.

Brown mold on Oriented Strand Board (OSB) wallboard in a basement exposed to prolonged wet conditions. This mold was, on lab testing, predominantly Cladosporium sphaerospermum which is at most, an allergenic, non-toxic mold.

Small colonies of a few square inches each of other more problematic molds and yeasts were also present.

Remediation included simply discarding this material.

Brown mold growth indoors (C) Daniel Friedman Brown mold growth indoors (C) Daniel Friedman

Our brown mold photo at above left was obtained in a flooded basement where wooden paneling had been quite wet.

Brown Stemonitis sp. growing on oriented strand board (OSB) subflooring in an un-finished bathroom, above right, is one of our more photogenic mold species.

Brown mold growth indoors (C) Daniel Friedman Brown mold growth indoors (C) Daniel Friedman

Brown Stemonitis sp. mold growing on oriented strand board (OSB) subflooring in a condominium subjected to wet conditions over many months is shown in close ups in our two photographs above. More photographs of white and brown Stemonitis sp. fungal growth in bathrooms are shown and discussed at BROWN HAIRY BATHROOM MOLD and also at Rental Apartment Mold Safety Advice.

Stemonitis pipecleaner mold or slime mold - light gray-brown (C) Daniel Friedman

Above and below we include additional photographs of Stemonitis sp. details from our forensic lab. Above is a light gray-brown Stemonitis slime mold or "pipe cleaner" fungus that we collected on tree bark. Though it may occur, we have not found this light gray-brown Stemonitis species in buildings.

At below left is the capillum or "hair net" that holds the Stemonitis spores until the net is ruptured (easily by touch) to release spores.

At below right are Stemonitis sp. mold spores.

Brown mold growth indoors (C) Daniel Friedman Stemonitis mold spores (C) Daniel Friedman

Watch out: some brown molds (or molds of other colors too) may be white at some growth stages or may include white components such as their mycelia. See WHITE MOLD PHOTOS and see Rental Apartment Mold Safety Advice for some examples of the white colored stage of Stemonitis sp.

Brown Mushrooms Growing On or In Buildings & Building Materials

extensive brown mold and mushroom contamination of wall trim and carpeting -
Daniel Friedman 04-11-01 Brown mushroom growing at carpet-trim  floor juncture (C) reader

Brown fungus growing out of carpeting and floor trim combined with green mold on the exposed surface of drywall were conditions easily seen, and under which we assumed that the wall cavities were likely to be mold-contaminated in this area.

If you see mushrooms growing out of a building surface it's a safe bet that conditions have been quite wet and there is high probability of additional and substantial hidden mold growth and perhaps rot (and insect damage) in building cavities and in nearby wood structural members or subflooring.

Typically basidiomycetes or wood-rotting fungi grown on wet wood and can appear rather quickly even indoors in wet conditions. These fungal fruiting bodies may appear in any of many colours, commonly brown, white, red, even blue or very dark, almost black. More examples of mushrooms growing in or on buildings are
at MOLD on DIRT FLOORS - separate article, includes white mold on dirt in crawl spaces & basements

More Examples of Brown Mold Contamination in Buildings

Also see BROWN HAIRY BATHROOM MOLD for a Q&A on the harmfulness of "hairy brown mold" found in a bathroom.

Question: I'm looking at a home with mold damage, should I avoid buying it?

extensive brown mold contamination of oriented stand board -
Daniel Friedman 04-11-01I am thinking about buying a house, but has a brown fluffy mold on most of the floor joists, and it looks like the pictures you have of BROWN MOLD PHOTOS on OSB.

Since taking the joists out will not happen, would it be wise to stay away from this house cost wise? The mold 's brown and fluffy, and I found a few salamanders under there as well. Please help - Skyler

Reply: How to avoid buying a home that ends up under water

A competent onsite inspection by an expert usually finds additional clues that help accurately diagnose a problem. That said, here are some things to consider:

The mold you see may be the tip of an iceberg of bigger mold contamination, leak damage, rot. Finding salamanders in a crawl space or basement are a sure sign that there has been a serious water entry or leak problem. That's why you need a competent, thorough inspection.

I can't say you should or should not buy a house that needs mold remediation or any other repair - but my OPINION is that the relevant questions are?

Does the price of the home reflect the repair work needed?

Will cost of making the house livable price it out of the current marketplace compared with similar homes in the neighborhood?

Do you have the time and energy to manage the work needed, or do you have someone you trust to do it for you ?

If you like the house, its price, and the neighborhood, and if you are willing to handle the repair work needed, you still should not proceed with the purchase before you have a reasonably accurate idea of the extent of repair work that will be needed - that's what can help keep you from getting in over your head and ending up with a house that is "under water".


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