Blog Post

All About Mold Series – #7 When and Why to Test for Mold

Posted on: Thursday August 24, 2017 at 3:17 PM
All About Mold Series – #7 When and Why to Test for Mold

A decision has been made: "I have mold in my home!" The first qualifiers that one must consider are…

  • Is it causing a real problem either with one's health?
  • Is it persistent and unsightly?
  • Is it attached to another issue – namely elevated moisture (RH) or chronic water intrusion?

ALL of these are important factors! Can a store-bought "mold kit" be a helpful source OR is it a waste of money? It is largely a waste of money. See why…

RECALL: it is not accurate to say, "I'm allergic to mold" as this statement fails to recognize that there are some 100,000 species of identified mold! So which one is it that is bothering an individual at the moment can ONLY be determined by medical professionals. Knowing what KIND of mold is largely irrelevant UNLESS there are medical-like symptoms other than allergies that persist. If so, two things REALLY NEED to occur: 1.) seek medical attention immediately and 2.) have air-quality sampling performed by a qualified Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP). Call 1st Call Disaster Services for assistance with the latter.

Again, the process and PRIMARY GOAL OF ANY mold remediation project is to capture the spores and bring the structure back to a "condition 1" level defined as "normal fungal ecology". Prior to achieving the goal, we must remedy the moisture source stimulating the growth activity. Finally, there are two types of testing typically performed: the more common is via air-sampling with a device that is regularly calibrated and specifically placed to achieve meaningful/useful results and secondly, surface sampling which is more specifically utilized to isolate specific spores/species that may be causing health issues.

Professional Mold Testing

As has been stated in many of our previous posts – an IEP should be a third party to the remediation company to prevent conflict of interests from occurring. It is not uncommon for remediation companies to self-perform their own air-quality testing post remediation. We at 1st Call Disaster Services see this as the proverbial, "fox in the hen house" – restated: we view it as a potential conflict of interests and opposed the practice. We have all of our mold work requiring post remediation evaluations (PRE) or "clearance tests" performed by an independent third party and suggest that all consumers do the same. It is not out of the ordinary for the remediation company to schedule the event and include it as a part of the final invoice, but it is always advisable to ask them to utilize and independent testing firm. This SHOULD NOT bother them, IF it does then please look elsewhere for the work.

Common Reasons for Testing

  • Odorous indicators: Often people claim to "smell mold"
  • Unexplained allergy-type symptoms
  • To identify the species of mold in your home
  • To help indicate likely locations for growth based upon species found
  • To test indoor air quality
  • A following up to make sure that the mold removal process was completed properly

I "Smell Mold": Are Mildew and Mold the Same?

Mildew is often referred to as a "type of mold".

Air-Quality Testing

If one is unsure of where the suspected mold is growing, a good place to begin is with air-quality sampling whereby a qualified IEP with well maintained devices capture air samples in specific locations to begin isolating the issues at hand. This sample will be sent to an independent lab to discern what species are present and at the highest levels. Can this test alone determine all that needs to be done to eliminate the problem? NO. However, and as an example, the presence of a well known mold which is toxic in nature (stachybotris) OFTEN indicates long-term moisture issues and aids in showing the professional remediator where to begin the search. Air sampling seeks to identify airborne spore counts and levels of contamination that are deemed to be severely elevated therefore an unhealthy mold count.

Surface Testing

This is where an IEP will take samples from household surfaces to find the amount of mold growth and spores deposited in various places in the home. CAUTION: THIS IS A PRIME EXAMPLE OF WHERE HOME INSPECTORS can cause unnecessary alarm. Samples are collected by swabbing, tape lifting or other methods and then sent to a lab AND WILL test "positive" for mold. RECALL: that every structure everywhere has mold. In fact, humans breath in mold spores every minute of every day unless a sterile environment is present. This is precisely why surface testing has a very specific application and should be carefully considered when utilized. Please note that surface testing cannot identify the concentration of airborne mold spores.

Mold Testing After Mold Removal

Mold testing AFTER mold removal can be extremely beneficial: it is NOT always necessary. Post Remediation Evaluations (PRE) or "clearance tests"…

  • Confirm that the mold remediation has been successful
  • Show that the affected area (contained) mold spore counts are either completely eliminated OR have been reduced to a "condition 1" level as defined by the S520 to be an area experiencing "normal fungal ecology…"
  • Help property owners prove success to tenants or potential buyers of the property

Mold Inspection before Testing

Is this ALWAYS necessary? NO. Pre-remediation work can be small enough in nature that testing is not at all necessary. In fact, it may be an issue that professionals can coach one through the process of treatment and/or removal – an this should always be a consideration. It really depends upon the level of contamination, health concerns, whether the property is a home or owner occupied building, tenant occupied or something as simple as, "I would just feel better."

1st Call Disaster Services specializes in eliminating mold issues and providing preventative measures to address areas of moisture intrusion.

A good restoration company can make sure a mold remediation is done right and that you're out of pocket damage liability is kept to a minimum. We've helped numerous home and business owners and they and their insurance company always appreciate our surgical approach to restoration!

All About Mold Series