IDENTIFY THE SYMPTOMS
A mold inspector's first step is to gather all the relevant background information related to your issue. This should include data about the building, the occupants and the surrounding environment.
- Approximate age and construction style?
- History of water damage in the home or building?
- Does the home suffer from high humidity?
- Does the home suffer from stale air or poor ventilation?
- Occupants experiencing allergies or other related health issues?
- How long have the occupants lived in the home?
- Home many occupants currently live in the home?
- Is the property especially wet or subject to periodic flooding?
- Is the home subject to abnormal snow, rain or wind?
FIND THE MOLD GROWTH
All areas of mold growth must be identified. While an inspector carries a wide variety of diagnostic equipment, their primary tool for identifying mold growth is simply their eyes. Additionally, a well trained mold inspector knows where mold may hide and can zero in on the problem areas.
During a typical residential mold inspection, the following areas are investigated:
- Crawl space
- Bathrooms, including shower surround, toilet seal and sink.
- Kitchen, including refrigerator, dish washer and sink
- Laundry / utility room
Commercial mold inspections:
- Storage Area
- Mechanical room
- Kitchen / cooking facilities
- File storage area
- Plenum/drop ceiling
- Boiler room
IDENTIFY THE SOURCE OF MOISTURE
Mold cannot grow without sufficient moisture. Because of this attribute, mold inspectors spend a great deal of time identifying areas with elevated moisture. A moisture meter, thermal imaging camera, fiber optic video and a variety of hi-tech tools are employed in this pursuit.
Common moisture problems found in a mold inspection:
- Insufficient or non-existant bathroom fan
- Toilet seal leak
- Supply/waste lines
- Refrigerator water supply line.
- Supply waste lines for sink.
- Disconnected exhaust ducts
- Poorly sealed ceiling
- Roof leak, failed flashing
- Incorrectly ducted dryer vent
- Insufficient heat
- Insufficient fresh air exchange
- Vapor emissions
- Poor ventilation
- Inadequate or missing vapor barrier
DETERMINE EXTENT OF DAMAGE
Next, a mold inspector must determine the extent of the saturation and mold damage.
Common questions a mold inspection tries to answer:
- What materials are currently saturated?
- What materials were saturated in the past?
- Are the materials in question resilient in high moisture situations?
- Has structural damage occurred?
CREATE A SOLUTION
Every inspection must begin with a general hypothesis or set of assumptions. Without one, the cost and scope of the inspection would quickly spiral out of control. Remember, the hypothesis does not always assume a mold problem. Often, potential home buyers hire a mold inspector to ensure a mold problem is not occurring.
Below are a few examples from actual mold inspections:
Problem: Light mold growth occurring on bathroom ceiling.
- Solution: Remove mold growth with mildicide/water solution and increase ventilation (replace or install exhaust fan).
Problem: Moderate mold growth occurring on roof sheathing in attic.
- Solution: Address moisture entering from conditioned space, increase ventilation to exterior, remove mold growth.
Problem: Heavy mold growth noted on upper wall and ceiling in bedroom.
- Solution: Setup containment including HEPA filtration and negative air pressurization. Removal all affected contents, carpeting sheetrock, insulation and cabinetry. After mold damaged materials are removed, HEPA vacuum all remaining surfaces and treat with mildicide. Utilize heat and dehumidification to remove excessive moisture from original leak. Perform clearance air testing to ensure success of mold remediation efforts.
Problem: Refrigerator supply line leaked for several weaks, leading to water damage and mold growth.
- Solution: Collect 2 spore trap samples at the beginning of the project to determine salvageability of carpeting and other contents. Setup full containment with HEPA filtration and negative air pressure. Remove damaged sheetrock, trim, insulation, cabinetry and flooring. Clean and treat all remaining materials with HEPA vacuuming and mildicide application.
Check out recent mold inspection case studies.
- A review of studies in 2004 found signs of dampness in at least 20% of buildings (Institute of Medicine, 2004).
- A study of recent construction in Japan found condensation on windows and walls in 41% of the homes (Saijo et al., 2004)
- A study of asthma in the West Bank and Gaza Strip found visible mold growth in 56% of the buildings.
- Dampness tends to occur more often in low-income communities, in some cases at almost double the rate of affluent areas. (Baker, Henderson, 1999)