Do you smell mold in your home?

Did you recently have your home remediated for mold and or water damage? 

You may notice something in your home that “appears” to be mold, but without testing, there is no way to be 100% certain. 

Mold investigators need take it up a notch by testing the air or physical areas of the home for mold.

mold sampling air pump and cassette

Why testing for mold in your home is important

  • When you smell a musty or moldy odour that cannot be identified
  • After a serious flood or water damage
  • Following a leak lasting more than 24 hours
  • When you have been experiencing long term health conditions similar to mold exposure (Flu or cold like symptoms, rashes, itchy eyes or respiratory problems)
  • To rationalize an insurance claim for mold remediation. Often insurance companies will not proceed with a claim unless the need is substantially justified.
  • To justify a potential health related issue. You experience health problems that could potentially be caused by mold, so you need confirmation.
  • To isolate areas for remediation contractors. They may not begin a job without the verification of a mold test to determine the affected area.
  • To confirm the level of spores inside the home. Knowing the level of exposure will significantly help the remediation company decide how to execute the job.
  • To help establish if there is a “hidden” mold problem. Although there may not be any evidence of visible mold growth, it is possible that an unknown mold issue exists, as noted from a moldy odour. An air quality test for mold will confirm this.
  • Mold testing is necessary to support a legal case. Your client may be called upon to prove or disprove that the presence of mold. A mold test will provide the information you need.
  • To ensure that a remediation job has been completed properly, a “clearance test” will need to be performed. There are many instances when a mold removal company has missed an area, and the home is still infected. In this case the job is not complete until the mold test confirms that the air is clean and safe.

What is involved with indoor air quality (IAQ) testing?

IAQ testing is needed to figure out how many spores are present in the air. This essentially determines whether the air is safe or not.

In order for the air in the home to be accurately assessed, it is necessary to have one sample taken outside the home and at least more samples inside.

The one outside air sample is called the “control” or “base sample”, for which the other inside samples are compared against.

We compare the samples to understand if the mold spore counts outside the home are higher or lower than inside. We also want to see what types of mold are growing inside compared to the outside.

When we get the report back from the lab, we are looking for a few key pieces of data:

  • We want to know if the inside mold spore counts are higher than the ones outside, especially when the mold is the same type. This is a potential cause for concern.
  • We also want to know if the types of mold growing inside are different than the ones outside. This is a problem because we now know that the mold originated inside the home.
  • When the mold spore readings are much higher inside than the ones outside, even if they are of the same type, we know that the air is polluted with mold spores.  

At this point we have a better understanding of how to proceed with the mold removal efforts.

The same air quality test should be performed post mold removal, to ensure that the removal company did an adequate in bringing the home back to a safe and habitable living condition.

What is a clearance test for mold?

After all of the mold and moisture has been removed, and your home is restored, it is time for a mold clearance test. Clearance tests are important because they will either verify whether the mold removal effort has been successful or not.

*It is critical to have this test done by an independent 3rd party mold inspector, rather than the company that performed the removal and clean up. You need to be sure that your mold clearance test is unbiased.

*According to the IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) all mold samples should be sent to an accredited microbial lab, that is set in a controlled environment. So make sure that your mold inspector doesn’t analyze the samples he’s collected.

Although many mold removal companies have their own in-house mold inspectors, it is best to hire an independent or 3rd party mold inspector. By doing so, you avoid a conflict of interest. 

As a point of reference, mold inspectors; especially those who do not work with mold full-time are typically not trained to understand and explain the lab test results.

It is important for the person collecting the mold samples be qualified to interpret the lab results once they are received.  

What is bulk, tape or swab testing?

These are physical samples that can be taken from anywhere you or the inspector believes mold is growing from, such as drywall, baseboards, furniture, carpet, etc.

With a swab test, the inspector takes a lab prepared swab and collects a physical sample of areas they identify as suspected mold.

With a tape test, the inspector presses a piece of clear tape on the suspected mold and sends it off for analysis. 

A bulk sample is actually the best type of physical sample, as it contains an undisturbed area of possible mold that has been physically removed from the home and sent to the lab.

A piece of drywall is a common bulk sample.   

Not all home mold tests are the same

Almost any professional in the mold removal and or inspection business (with the exception of those who sell them) will tell you to avoid home test kits for mold.

I’ll save you some money right now and tell you that all homes will have mold spores in them. What the lab test won’t do is tell you how to deal with it, or even if it needs to be addressed.

Your biggest question after the home mold test will be - now what? You are back at square one, and likely more confused because you don’t know what to do with the data that you just paid for.  

If that’s not convincing enough for you, I will tell you that, without a doubt, your home mold test will never hold up in court.