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Should You Ask for a Mold Test?

Mold testing is one of the ancillary services I offer, and most often it is performed in conjunction with a home inspection for a client exercising the inspection clause within their accepted buy offer. Mold samples are obtained either by scraping from a suspected patch of mold into a petri dish with a growth medium or by exposing the growth medium to the atmosphere in areas subject to mold to see if mold spores are present in the air. The mold spores in the air are what actually can cause health issues in some individuals and atmospheric testing may be the most comprehensive way to identify mold issues. These samples are then incubated at room temperature and if mold growth is evident after 3-4 days, the samples are forwarded to a laboratory for analysis. A report of the analysis is returned to me within 10-15 days by email.

Recently, I conducted atmospheric mold testing for a client, testing in three separate locations:

  1. At the heating register furthest from the furnace to sample the HVAC system.

  2. In the partially finished basement, in the same room as the sump pit.

  3. Outside the house. The outdoor sample was taken as a baseline to compare with the samples taken in the house.

There were no visible areas of suspected mold found during the inspection. I collected atmospheric air samples as above. A picture of the Petri dishes from inside the house with the growth medium after three days shows:

mold samples in petri dishes

I did not save a picture of the outdoor sample, but mold spores are everywhere in Kentucky so that sample looked similar to the above. The samples were sent off to the lab and here are the mold spores the lab identified in the three samples:

3 sample reports from mold samples found outside, near sump in basement and near hvac system

So, what is the meaning of these results? How do they potentially impact the client? What actions should I recommend they take in connection with the home purchase or as homeowners?

The laboratory's report not only told me what they found. They also gave me the characteristics of the specific mold spore types. Looking at the chart above, one can see that some types of mold spores were unique by location and some are EVERYWHERE. But what are they and why could these types in the samples?

Of the above mold spore types, CHAETOMIUM, PENICILLIUM, ASPERGILLUS, and PAECILOMYCES are types of mold associated with water damage or damp building materials. Additionally, NIGROSPORA found only in the basement sample, is a mold spore rarely found indoors but is associated with wallboard. The implication of these mold spores found in the house is that there are currently or have in the past been wet building materials such as drywall, plaster, wood framing materials, etc.

The client had been present during the entire inspection, SOMETHING I RECOMMEND TO ALL OF MY CLIENTS, and at that time, we had discussed how the drainage and grading of the site did not appear to keep water away from the foundation of the house on one side. There were indications that previous owners had attempted to correct this. A sheet of water-damaged drywall was lying across two sawhorses in the garage. There was no visible evidence of water damage in the basement's interior. I discussed with the client about the need to get more information from the sellers about these items.

The mold spore testing confirmed what I had suspected: that water from the drainage and grading issues had been entering the basement interior through the foundation. Maybe all had been corrected. Maybe not. I suggested that those questions should be asked of the seller. I recommended that a professional inspect the foundation for water penetration and advise. They should regularly monitor the basement for signs of moisture intrusion. If the client had known allergies to mold, I recommended that the homeowner or a professional inspect and repair or replace mold-contaminated building materials.

Because the client had exercised their option for a home inspection, SOMETHING EVERY HOME BUYER SHOULD DO, they had recourse to negotiate further and at the least, ask the questions that needed to be asked. I don't know the outcome. Very often I don't know how it all turns out.

My job is to inspect, report, and educate clients about their homes. I am confident that I served this client well. My opinion is that the cost of the mold inspection was minuscule in contrast to the value of this information to the client.

To answer the question: "Should I ask for a mold inspection?" Here are the situations I would recommend getting a mold inspection in Kentucky, a place we already know has mold spores EVERYWHERE.

  • There are visible patches of mold-like substance.

  • There are indications of moisture or signs that there has been moisture previously anywhere in the structure of the home.

  • There are noxious odors present and the source is not identified.

  • If the person is very sensitive to mold or has mold allergies that produce debilitating symptoms.

I hope this post has been helpful to you. At the very least, I hope you are convinced that a home inspection is a very good thing to have when buying a home or periodically for the homeowner as a "checkup." I have met many good home inspectors in this area and would like to think I am now one of them. Call one of us and do yourself a favor. You will get your money's worth!

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