If you have a mold problem, you’re probably asking yourself two questions:
Do I need to pay a professional for expensive mold testing?
Do I need the help of an expensive professional to get rid of the mold?
Read on to find out.
Do you really need a mold inspection or testing?
We are going to tell you something right away about mold inspections and mold testing that is going to make almost every other mold company and mold inspector squirm. Most other mold companies will not reveal the following, but we have been doing so for years because it is our mission to get good factual information about mold out there to combat all the misinformation and fiction that dominates our industry. Ready?
If you see mold, testing is usually unnecessary and a waste of money.
If you already see obvious, visible mold, you usually do NOT need a mold inspection or mold testing — you simply need to remove it following industry standard guidelines as we discuss below.
There are many cases where a mold inspection and mold testing IS a good idea, and we discuss these below. We also discuss why home mold tests that you can buy at hardware stores are a waste of money.
Many consumers who call us (and presumably other mold companies) already see visible mold and think they therefore need to get it tested to determine what type of mold it is, whether it’s toxic, and other characteristics.
Do you think most companies who inspect for mold care to reveal that testing is often unnecessary when they have an easy $350-$1000 mold inspection on the table from a worried customer who is misinformed? Obviously not. Of course, there are some companies and individuals who are truthful, and we commend them, but they are sadly few and far between and drowned out by the others.
Why is a mold inspection almost always unnecessary if there is visible mold?
Don’t you need to know what kind of mold it is so you can determine whether its toxic? No. For starters, so called “Black Mold” is a term that is badly misused and misunderstood as we already discussed in our other industry shakeup article on toxic black mold.
Secondly, once you already see obvious, visible mold, knowing what type it is is usually irrelevant because at this point, you or a mold professional simply need to get rid of the mold following proper Mold Remediation and Mold Removal Principles.
Doesn’t the type of mold matter in determining the right way to properly remove the mold? No. In fact, once visible mold is present, the same Mold Remediation Principles referenced above are followed to remove it regardless of the color, species, etc.
If this all sounds too hard to believe, especially coming from a mold company, don’t take our word for it. Here is what the Environmental Protection Agency says verbatim:
Is sampling for mold needed? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building’s compliance with federal mold standards. Surface sampling may be useful to determine if an area has been adequately cleaned or remediated. Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations. (Source: EPA)
Notice the EPA says that not only is mold testing usually unnecessary when visible mold is present, but they also tell you that there are no federal guidelines for determining the amount of mold spores that is safe or dangerous. This is also something we tell our clients all the time, and by now you can probably guess is a rather important fact that most other companies will of course not bother to reveal! (Although no federal guidelines exist on mold spore counts, we can compare the number of indoor mold spores to the number of outdoor mold spores, for example, to get a relative idea of the levels of mold present in the tested environment. Thus, when a mold inspection and test is needed, knowing the indoor and outdoor spore counts is essential.)
The EPA paragraph did give an indication that mold testing can be useful in certain circumstances, though. We will expand on this point further, and answer the question:
When should a mold inspection and mold testing be considered?
When visible mold is not present, but the smell of mold is. Here a mold inspection and mold test can reveal whether there is indeed elevated mold, and where it is located.
There have been plumbing leaks or water issues and there is a suspicion that elevated mold may exist in the air and/or behind walls.
Post Mold Removal Clearance Testing to ensure that the previous mold issue has been resolved and mold counts have returned to levels found in normal environments of the same type.
Health Concerns: In some cases, a doctor or the patient has a health issue that they cannot pinpoint the cause but seems to be related to mold symptoms (coughing, sneezing, headaches, etc). Here, a mold inspection and test may help to confirm whether the doctor’s or patient’s suspicions that a mold problem exists.
For real estate transactions for the protection of Buyers and Sellers.
Landlord/Tenant disputes as to whether there is a mold problem.
Someone thinks they see or smell mold but are not sure.
Someone is interested in a general Indoor Air Quality test of their environment.
Why Over-The-Counter Home Mold Tests Kits Are a Rip-off:
Can’t I just go to my local home improvement store and buy a home mold test kit to test the mold myself? Here’s why that’s a bad idea.
Mold test results from DIY home mold tests are often misleading or simply wrong (i.e. due to sampling error). It’s best to have professional take the test and interpret the results.
Home Mold Test Kits don’t include a visual inspection conducted by a mold professional … very important! A professional mold inspection includes not only sampling, but a comprehensive visual inspection to detect issues and problems related to mold that are not apparent to most people without training in building sciences and mold inspections.
Mold is everywhere. Yes, all homes have small amounts of mold. Therefore, when a petri dish from a home mold test tells you that you have mold, it is not telling you anything particularly useful since every home has mold!
If you suspect a mold problem but do not actually see it or smell it, these test kits do little to help you locate the problem or tell you how serious it is.
Don’t take our word for it. Here is what the U.S. Government EPA says, verbatim:
“Sampling for mold should be conducted by professionals who have specific experience in designing mold sampling protocols, sampling methods, and interpreting results. Sample analysis should follow analytical methods recommended by the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), or other professional organizations.”
Just remember our simple rule: If you can already see mold, you need to remove it. Testing is usually unnecessary at this point.
Do I need a mold remediation professional?
The answer to this question depends on a lot of factors, such as how big the mold problem is, what surface the mold is growing on, and how handy you are. But, in general, the answer is that the smaller the mold problem, the less likely you are to need a professional.
Mold problems go hand in hand with water problems, so when you’ve got a water leak or flooding that isn’t taken care of quickly, mold is usually soon to follow. But it doesn’t just take a catastrophic water event to bring on mold. For example, almost every home I have been to has some mold growing in the bathroom.
Now, I’m no doctor, but I’d stake my reputation on stating that common bathroom mold in your tub or shower isn’t going to kill you. But let’s face it – it’s gross, it’s unattractive, and it doesn’t give you a feeling of cleanliness. The reason it’s so prominent in homes is because the bathroom is a high humidity environment, and most people don’t take the time to properly ventilate it and dry it out.
But do you need to spend a lot of money on a mold professional to get rid of bathroom mold in your tub or shower? No! It is completely unnecessary. Any moderately handy person can buy some over the counter mold cleaner and clean their tile and grout and replace their caulking – all for the grand total price of under $10! Just make sure to ventilate your bathroom going forward, so all your hard work won’t be wasted.
In fact, we wrote a DIY mold removal eBook, to help people take care of most mold problems themselves.
What about mold on drywall, you ask? Well, drywall is tougher. But if it’s a small portion of drywall, like less than 10 square feet, most handy people can replace it themselves, or hire a common handyman to do it. Just be cautious on how the moldy drywall is handled. The work area should be closed off from the rest of the house (i.e. section it off with plastic sheeting or at the very least close the door) and ventilated to the outside (i.e. open up some windows). The affected area should be carefully sprayed and wiped down with some mold-killing solution. The drywall should be carefully removed, bagged, sealed and disposed of. The underlying 2×4 framework should then be scrubbed with some of that same over-the-counter mold killer. The area should be left to thoroughly dry. And finally, the drywall should be replaced and the work area thoroughly cleaned and vacuumed (HEPA filters are best). We also recommend wearing mask/respirator, gloves, and goggles as well for most mold jobs, including those that require drywall replacement.
Now, for mold issues that are bigger than 10 square feet or are located in challenging areas such as attics or crawlspaces, we do recommend hiring a professional. But the majority of mold problems are small ones that could be handled by a handy homeowner. Of course, many people prefer to hire a mold professional anyway, for the sake of their own peace of mind that it was done properly. And that’s OK. We get it.
But hopefully this article has shed some light on when you should hire a professional, and when you could avoid it and save yourself some money. As the old saying goes: “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Good luck!