How To Do-It-Yourself Mold Assessment of your Home
Why Do a Mold Assessment?
Mold is a frequent contributor to health problems in the home. The May Clinic reports that 93% of chronic sinus infections are related to mold. ABC Primetime did an episode a while ago titled 'Air of Mystery: Hemosiderosis.' They published a DVD version of it in 2007. In this episode, they documented an outbreak of infant children in Cleveland, Ohio bleeding from the lungs. This was in 1994. The episode also documents the investigation that took place that led to the discovery that black mold (stachybotrys chartarum) was the root cause of the problem and that the epidemic stemmed from whole neighborhoods being infested with black mold. I have known people who have experienced prolonged ongoing chronic health issues as a result of exposure to large doses of black mold in their homes. It is a real health concern and that is why every household should have a strategic mold prevention plan in place. That starts with identifying the risk areas in your home for a mold problem.
Tools for Conducting a Proper Mold Assessment
Conducting a mold assessment is not only about identifying whether mold exists in the home. Every home has some mold. Its virtually impossible to completely get rid of mold. The assessment seeks to identify conditions that would give rise to a serious infestation of mold (in particular stachybotrys chartarum), and identify the quantity of high risks molds and types of molds present in the home. To do this you need:
- A Mold Test Kit (that you can use to take samples and send to a certified laboratory)
- A Moisture Meter
- A visual interior and exterior survey checklist
- Face Mask (to protect yourself from inhaling mold while doing the assessment)
Conducting the Visual Exterior and Interior Survey
The visual survey of the home helps you to identify the higher risk areas that you will want to focus on after the survey is complete. Here are some basic steps you should take as part of the survey:
- Walk around the outside of the house. Look for possible water leaks and design flaws that can allow water to get into the home. See if the home is being ventilated through the basement or from the upper levels of the home.
- Do a room by room visual inspection of the interior of the home. Look for obvious signs of water damage and/or visible mold growth. Check the vents to see if they are dirty and if you can see mold or water damage in the vent crawl space.
- Do a visual inspection of the crawl space to see if you have visible mold growth in your crawl space
- Take note of all areas where you observe possible water damage and/or visible mold growth.
Conducting the Mold Test
Ideally you want to take 4-5 samples from different parts of the house. In a pinch, you can probably get away with 2-3 samples. As stated before, you need a test kit that you can send in to a laboratory. There are a lot of instant result kits on the market that simply will not be effective for this purpose. Simply knowing that there is mold in the house does not help you. You need to know if there is an infestation and how far it has spread. This is determined in part by the concentration of mold in a sampling size, whether its dead or alive, and whether it is multiple places in a home. This can only be determined by taking multiple samples and sending them to a lab. Some of the easiest mold samplers are swabs. You can take 3-4 different samples from different parts of the house, one for each swab, label them, and send them to the lab for testing.
Be sure to swab the following areas:
- the area you think the mold problem exists in
- at least one vent from the air flow system
- two other areas of concern in the home
Send these swabs to the lab. In the meantime, take the moisture meter and put it against the wall, walls, or floor you suspect of containing water damage. If the moisture reading on the meter is about 15%, that part of the wall is going to need remediation. Remediation means that the areas of the wall that are wet will need to be completely replaced.
Getting the Results from the Mold Test Back
When you get the results from the mold test back, it will list the types of molds present and the quantities found. The lab provides a guide for interpreting how significant the presence of the mold is. It will give you a clear idea of the problem areas that need fixing in your home. A good mold prevention plan will take care of all leaks and water damage issues in the home first. It will remove any visible mold growth. Do this with an effective mold remover (bleach does not remove or kill mold, it only turns it invisible). It will also include a PCO air purifier that will kill any mold spores exposed to the air so that you never breath them in. A good mold prevention plan is a serious investment in good health. If you are tempted to skimp, watch the ABC Primetime: "Air of Mystery: Hemosiderosis"