300 million results will appear when you Google the word “mold.”
People want to know:
What is mold exactly
How does mold affect them, their health, and their home investment
How to test for mold
What is the cost for mold testing/inspection/remediation
How to get rid of mold.
This blog will provide you with an easy-to-understand guide to all of these concerns.
What is Mold?
According to Instructor, Wendy McDougal at Study.com, mold is a living organism that belongs to the kingdom Fungi. Fungi are unique in that although some appear plant-like, they are neither plant nor animal. Mold is heterotrophic, meaning it cannot make its own food like plants do. Mold must gain nutrients from other organic substances.
Hence the mold you see growing on your food.
In addition, the Connecticut State Department of Health explains that “molds can multiply by producing microscopic spores similar to the seeds produced by plants. Many spores are so small they easily float through the air and can be carried for great distances by even the gentlest breezes.”
Mold plays an important role in our natural environment and is also referred to as fungi or mildew. Molds come in many colors including white.
How Does Mold Affect Me, My Health, and My Home?
We all know that mold in our homes is a bad thing – but exactly how bad is it for your health and your home itself?
Mold is a common issue in homes and although it is not always dangerous to everyone, it can cause structural damage to the house/building and it can negatively impact your health when left untreated.
Mold grows by releasing its spores (reproductive cells) into the air, which are invisible to the naked eye. It can spread and grow anywhere as long as moisture and oxygen are present, but commonly grows on surfaces such as insulation, sheetrock, tile, fabrics, and wood. It can enter your home through windows, vents and doorways or it can attach itself to clothing and pets and be carried inside. It might be a shock to learn that you can have hundreds or even thousands of mold spores in one cubic foot of air in your home. (Building Performance Institute)
According to the CDC, molds are very common in buildings and homes. Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery. The most common indoor molds are Cladosporium, Penicillium, and Aspergillus.
Mold and Your Health
Mold spores that land on a wet or damp spot and begin growing can produce allergens, irritants, and potentially toxic substances. Continuous exposure to a moldy environment can cause or worsen pre-existing health effects.
Seemingly healthy people can also suffer from the following in a home with high levels of mold:
Coughing or wheezing
People who are allergic to mold or who have any pre-existing health issues could get serious infections in their lungs that can spread. Those with asthma could see worsened asthmatic symptoms over time due to exposure to mold spores. Some studies even suggest a potential link of early mold exposure to development of asthma in some children.
Individuals at highest risk:
People with allergies may be more sensitive to molds
People with immune suppression or underlying lung disease are more susceptible to fungal infections
Individuals with chronic respiratory disease (e.g., chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing
Individuals with immune suppression are at increased risk for infection from molds
Currently, there is no blood test for mold. Physicians can test for possible allergies to mold, but no clinically proven tests yet exist that can pinpoint when or where a particular mold exposure took place.
Today with COVID-19, people may mistake symptoms caused by mold with other possible causes. It is imperative that if you or anyone in your family is experiencing any kind of symptoms, visit a qualified medical clinician for diagnosis and treatment.
Mold and Your Home
Mold growth affects not only your family’s health, but also the health and safety of your home. Because it grows where moisture and oxygen exist, mold tends to grow around leaks in your home’s roof, windows, pipes and especially in flooded basements. Showers and even cooking can add moisture to the air and cause a mold issue!
Mold thrives by feeding off its source, so it almost always destroys that source as well. Thus, to get rid of an infestation in a home, you will most likely need to tear out drywall, wood, or other materials that it has penetrated. IT IS VITAL TO REMEMBER THAT MOLD CAN GROW WHERE YOU CANNOT SEE IT!
Protect your investment, whether you live in the home or you are a landlord. It is exponentially less expensive to be proactive than reactive to mold issues. Take the EPA’S INTERACTIVE ROOM-BY-ROOM MOLD HOUSE TOUR to view the common mold issues in a home and learn how to remedy them.
How to Control Mold Growth
While it is impossible to completely get rid of mold spores in the air, you can prevent mold growth by controlling moisture levels in your home. Taking the following basic measures can help you keep your home mold-free:
Keep your indoor humidity level below 60%, ideally between 30 and 50 percent, and open windows to let fresh air in if it isn’t too humid outdoors.
Don’t let water build up anywhere and be sure to ventilate damp rooms.
Be sure to transfer wet clothes in the washing machine to the dryer immediately.
Fix any leaks or seepage in the house as soon as you notice them.
Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners in crawl spaces, basements, and other areas of the house where mold tends to grow.
Consider not using carpet in rooms or areas like bathrooms or basements that may have a lot of moisture.
Inspect your home for evidence of water damage and visible mold as part of routine building maintenance.
How Do You Test for Mold?
The BEST thing to do if you know or suspect that there is mold in your home is to address the problem IMMEDIATELY. Find out if there is mold hiding in your home by having a professional mold test/inspection.
There is certainly no lack of companies to offer mold testing and mold remediation. Do not be fooled by inexpensive testing services. Be prepared to ask questions – if you do not get straight answers, move on to the next company.
The CDC recommends: If you do decide to pay for environmental sampling for molds, before the work starts, you should ask the consultants who will do the work to establish criteria for interpreting the test results. They should tell you in advance what they will do or what recommendations they will make based on the sampling results. The results of samples taken in your unique situation cannot be interpreted without physical inspection of the contaminated area or without considering the building’s characteristics and the factors that led to the present condition.
The Steps Involved in a Mold Inspection
It can be difficult to determine what type of mold you have and exactly how dangerous it is until you have it tested. These are the basic guidelines that an honest company should follow during mold testing/inspection.
A complete and thorough mold test/inspection should include sampling using all methods/instruments:
A hygrometer – an instrument used in meteorological science to measure the humidity, or amount of water vapor in the air.
A swab sample
Air-O-Cell spore trap air samples – A unique sampling cassette specifically designed for the rapid collection and quantitative analysis of a wide range of airborne aerosols. It collects both viable and non-viable particulate such as mold spores, pollen, insect parts, skin cell fragments, fibers (asbestos, fiberglass, cellulose, etc.)
Infrared camera - to pick up temperature differences and where there is moisture the camera will pick up a cooler temperature, which means there may be water intrusion. This allows you to scan areas up high without setting up ladders, etc. In addition, you can scan walls and ceilings etc. to spot possible wet spots real fast then you follow up with moisture meters etc., (hygrometer) swabs and air samples just collect mold spores to send to a lab to determine types of mold spores and quantities , air samples can detect mold spores you can’t see, spores that may have been distributed by the a/c system to other areas of a home and it also tells you the mold is in a hyphal stage which means it is sending spores into the air.
Then, the fun begins!
Upon arrival look for visible signs.
Take small samples of the physical mold using a tape lift or suave method to be submitted to the lab for testing.
Test the air by taking air samples – it is ALWAYS recommended that you test the air – what you see may be different than what is in the air.
Take an outside air sample to use as a control, essentially comparing it to the sample inside the home. This helps gauge the type and amount of spores inside the home. If they are not similar, you will know that there is an issue.
Locate the source – if found, determine if remediation is necessary – the extent of remediation will depend on the lab results.
Once the Lab Results are Returned
If you have been feeling sick, take the lab reports to your doctor immediately.
Based on the lab reports, the company should write a remediation protocol to have you submit to your homeowner’s insurance company.
Mold remediation may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance if the mold is a direct result of a covered loss, i.e.
A leak from a malfunctioning appliance
A broken pipe
A burst by a water heater
Water damage caused by firefighters extinguishing a fire in your home
Other types of covered losses
What is the Cost for Mold Testing/Inspection/Remediation?
The cost for testing for mold can vary greatly. Get quotes from at least three companies, but be sure they are all quoting using all four methods/instruments and have been certified through the Department of Professional Regulation. Do not accept anything less, otherwise you are wasting your money. I know of a client who had a mold test for surface (visible) mold only. Months later, after putting in a new air conditioning unit, she found out that mold was growing in the drywall where the unit was installed and the unit spread mold throughout the entire house!
This is an investment to find out if you have a problem. You need to take this step very seriously, as an accurate result is essential in knowing how to protect your family’s health and your investment in your home.
As mentioned above, mold remediation may be covered by your homeowner’s insurance, however, and that is a BIG however, way more often than not, the insurance company will offer you only a fraction of what the true cost of remediation is.
What if what the insurance settlement isn't enough to cover the costs of the remediation & repairs?
If your insurance company does not cooperate, you will need to work with a public adjuster to help get assistance for you. They will determine the full extent of damages and be sure that you receive every dime to which you are entitled.
A public adjuster is a state-licensed professional who is expertly familiar with industry laws, regulations, and market trends for both the insurance industry and the construction industry.
They negotiate directly with your insurance company to recover the most money possible. On average, a public adjuster can recover up to 3x’s what the insurance company will offer. It is virtually a STRESS-FREE experience on your part.
With no out-of-pocket or up-front costs, they prepare and settle your property damage claim on your behalf for a moderate fee of no more than 20% (regulated by the Florida Division of Insurance Agent and Agency Services) of the additional funds that they recover for your total loss.
Example: If the insurance company offered and you accepted a settlement for $10,000 for your total loss and then the public adjuster recovers an additional $7000 for you, you would pay the public adjuster no more than 20% of the $7000, totaling $1400 ONLY after the insurance company sends the policyholder the claim settlement check for the additional amount.
You must keep in mind that the insurance company DOES NOT work for you. Their job depends on paying out the least amount of money possible on all claims.
How to Get Rid of Mold
Depending on your report results, you may need a mold remediation. You will have to hire a professional company, usually the company that conducted the testing will also conduct the remediation. Depending on each specific situation, a full remediation can be very costly and time consuming. You will want to have a discussion with your contractor. Make sure that you ask everything you can think of and that the steps to the remediation are fully laid out in a contract.
The first issue to address will be where the water is coming from to stop the moisture, which was the cause of the mold growth in the first place. You can read about some general guidelines on how to get mold out of buildings here on the Center for Disease control website and here at the Environmental Protection Agency Mold Cleanup page, both excellent resources.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency is offering this infographic in English and Spanish, The Key to Mold Control is Moisture Control. Click on the version you would like to download and it will take you directly to the URL.
This blog was intended to help educate the reader with an easy-to-understand guide to the concerns on what mold is, how does mold affect them, their health, and their home investment, how to test for mold, what the cost is for mold testing/inspection/remediation, and how to get rid of mold.
With the information overload on the Internet, trying to find easy, simple answers to your mold questions can be overwhelming. It is important that you fully understand the issue, as your family’s health and home investment is at stake. As a consumer, you must be educated about the topic, so that you can make informed decisions. This particular issue can affect your family in two areas most important to your future, your family’s health, and your finances.
This blog was intended to help educate the reader with an easy-to-understand guide to mold. The information offered is for general information and educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any matter and does not create a company-client relationship. Agency and state department information and regulations are subject to change at any time and therefore, the information offered in this article may not reflect the most current information at the time of reading. Environmental Matters Contracting & Consulting, LLC does not take responsibility for any inaccuracy in any information shared on this blog or this website.