Home Investigation

How do I tell if I have a mold problem?

Investigate: The most practical way to find a mold problem is by using your eyes to look for mold growth and by using your nose to locate the source of a suspicious odor. If you see mold or if there is an earthy or musty smell, you should assume a mold problem exists. Other clues are signs of excess moisture or the worsening of allergy-like symptoms.

Moisture Intrusion: Mold needs moisture and food to grow and produce spores. Any source of moisture can provide the right conditions for growth. Leaking pipes, Leaking bathtub, Leaking shower, Chimney flashings, Soil stack flashings, Roof vents, Skylights, Water intrusion into the basment from flooding or even negative grade (ground pitched toward the house) can all provide the right conditions for mold growth. Food for mold can be wood, paper, drywall material (which is paper), and dirt (Yes, mold can grow on dirt). Mold growing on metal objects or concrete typically are growing on the dirt attached to the material.

Look for visible mold growth (may appear cottony, velvety, granular, or leathery and have varied colors of white, gray, brown, black, yellow, green and even bright purple). Mold often appears as discoloration, staining, or fuzzy growth on the surface of building materials or furnishings. When mold is visible, Milwaukee Mold Inspector, a division of Honest Home Inspections, recommends testing to determine the type of mold we are dealing with.

We can Test: We will be happy to come out and take a look at your problem. For visible mold we can swab test and determine the type of molds we are dealing with. For the musty odor and/or suspect mold we can provide an air quality test, which will determine the amount of and the type of mold spores that are currently floating in your home.

Why shouldn't I just clean up the surface with bleach and water?

Bottle of BleachBleach is commonly believed to be an effective fungicide (mold-killer). In one situation, it may be effective: on hard, non-porous surfaces such as a countertop or shower stall. On porous surfaces such as walls, floors, ceilings, wood framing, drywall, and cabinets. It is not effective – in fact, it can actually feed the mold and make the problem worse. This is counterintuitive – it goes against the common thought that bleach kills germs. How can bleach feed the mold, when it is supposed to kill it? It has to do with the composition of bleach and the structure of mold.

Chlorine bleach is mostly water. The water in the bleach carries the active chemical ingredient known as chlorine (sodium hypochlorite). Several sources, including bleach-mold-myth, say that the chlorine in bleach remains on the surface of the wood and does not soak down into the wood.

Mold grows in colonies, sending out branches as it grows. Killing one part of the mold will not kill the mold. Instead, the mold comes back. If it has been fed by using bleach or some other household cleaner, it comes back stronger. Be careful, anytime you so much as touch the mold or wave your hand across it you are releasing tens of thousand of spores into the air and often into you lungs, eyes, ears, on your clothing, and any surrounding surfaces like carpet and drywall. The type of mold should be determined before any clean up should take place. After you know what type of Mold you have and if you feel so inclined to clean it up yourself, please use the appropriate gear, a mold respirator, ear plugs, eye shields, etc.  However, professional mold remediation is generally recommended.

How Chlorine Bleach Makes Mold Worse

The active ingredients in chlorine blerach does not typically soak into the porous materials (wood, wallboard, ceiling tiles), but the water in the bleach does. The bleach might kill the mold that is on the surface of the wood, but because the chlorine cannot penetrate the wood, it will not kill the mold structures that are underneath the surface.

The water molecules are smaller than the active ingrediaent molecules in bleach and the water then soaks down into the porous material to where the roots of the mold are leaving the active ingredients at the surface of the problem. Moisture is one of the few requirements mold has. Now that even more of the wood has become moist, thanks to the water in the bleach, the mold can spread into that area and continue its feast by feeding the roots.

Using bleach on mold is like cutting off some of the leaves of a plant while feeding the roots, and thinking that the plant has been killed. The plant will just grow more leaves, and the plant will be stronger because it has been fed.

The Clorox ® Company, OSHA, and the EPA all have determined that bleach should not be used in mold remediation. Bleach is ineffective and unsafe for cleaning up mold or killing mold. It appears to kill the mold, but just the surface mold is affected – the hidden mold underneath the surface is alive and well – now it’s doing even better. The mold says, “Thanks for the food! See you in a few days!” and the surface mold will soon be back.

Should I test for mold?

The Do-It-Yourself kits typically tell you what type of mold you may have but will not tell you how much and if it is a concern, This do-it-yourself process really cannot take the place of a certified and trained technician using lab certified equipment. Instead of testing yourself, you should simply assume there is a problem whenever you see mold or smell mold odors. Testing should never take the place of visual inspection and it should never use up resources that are needed to correct moisture problems and remove all visible growth.

Sometimes, mold growth is hidden and difficult to locate. In such cases, a combination of air (outdoor and indoor air samples) and bulk (material) samples may help determine the extent of contamination and where cleaning is needed. We often use thermal imaging cameras, Psychrometers, Hygrometers, and moisture meters as diagnostic tools.

All Inspectors of Honest Home Inspections are trained in Mold Inspection, Mold Assesment, and Mold testing. Scott LeMarr is trained and certified by Pro-Lab and Enviromental Solutions Association (ESA) in Mold Inspection, Mold Assessment, Mold sampling,and he is a Certified Indoor Air Quality Technician (CIAQT) . He has extensive knowledge of mold, how it grows, spreads, and causes problems. He has been professionally trained to inspect for the presence of mold and on the proper sampling methods required to provide fast and accurate results. In addtion, Scott has reached the Certification of Master Indoor Environmental Specialist. The highest certification ESA provides and is a level I Thermographer trained in the operation and reading of a Thermal Imaging Camera. In addtion Scott has conducted classes teaching other home inspectors about mold.

If testing is performed all mold samples are sent to a third party AIHA accredited laboratory for identification and all of our inspectors have the skills and knowledge required to properly interpret the laboratory results. You will be provided with a Certified Mold Inspection Report detailing the extent of the mold problem, usually by email. Should you need the report for legal proceedings, a Chain of Custody form from the time of collection to the time of processing at the laboratory can be provided. The Chain of Custody procedures are an important element should you find yourself in any legal proceedings as a result of mold complications.

Don't take chances with the health of your family members. If you suspect a mold problem, please give us a call, and let's get it corrected.

Request an inspection today!