If you are questioning whether what you see or smell in your home
is mold, a good next step (after drying any damp surfaces around
the affected area) is to get a mold inspection by an IAC2-certified
mold inspector. There are two types of mold inspections: a
Complete Mold Inspection and a Limited Mold Inspection. Both
kinds should be done in accordance with the Mold Inspection
Standards of Practice of the International Association of Certified
Indoor Air Consultants.
Complete Mold Inspection vs.
Limited Mold Inspection
- Perform a non-invasive visual examination of the readily accessible areas of the building: they are not required to go through the home and begin opening cabinets, burrowing into the deep recesses of a home, and operating systems to find a problem unless it was mutually agreed upon before they arrive. This is to protect the inspector’s safety and their liability if they break something when attempting to operate it themselves. You may need to be present to operate various systems if you want it inspected by them.
- Measure moisture, temperature, and humidity: these are important factors that can contribute to mold growth that can also indicate if mold growth has already occurred and must be tested by inspectors.
- Take air samples both inside and outside: comparing the mold counts indoors to those outdoors (weather permitting) is a key indicator if there is a mold problem in the home. Believe it or not, mold spore counts right outside the home should match mold spore counts inside the home. If mold spore counts are significantly higher inside, that is a key sign that there is a mold problem.
- Take surface samples on questionable spots: if there is a spot that looks like mold growth could be developing on it, then the inspector may use a variety of tools to take surface samples which will reveal definitively if there is in fact mold growth.
The Limited Mold Inspection differs from the Complete Mold Inspection in that instead of inspecting the entire building, the inspector only examines a specific, limited portion of the building that is predetermined between the client and the inspector before the inspection takes place. Due to the nature of this type of inspection, it is possible that areas outside of the inspection area that are vulnerable to mold growth may be missed.
- Perform a non-invasive visual examination of the building’s readily accessible areas: just as in the Complete Mold Inspection, the inspectors are not required to go dig through a home and move things out of place to search for issues. If something requires moving furniture or appliances, for example, you should have them properly positioned before the inspector arrives.
- Take indoor and outdoor air samples: again measuring mold spore counts both indoors and outdoors can be very helpful in locating a mold problem. If it is snowing, raining, or very windy outdoors the air sampling will need to be postponed as those weather conditions will make it impossible to get accurate results.
- Take surface samples: the surface test is not a guarantee as a part of a mold inspection, but it is always a possibility.
In either type of inspection, the inspector should report:
Any moisture spotted where it
should not be
Any situations that are
vulnerable to future mold
Mold growth that was seen
Lab results of the samplings
taken at the time of inspection
Reasoning for not inspecting
areas that were in the
original scope (if applicable)
Steps of a Mold Inspection
Here are the steps for a proper mold inspection:
- Scheduling the Inspection – Call the inspection company that you have chosen. Talk through your concerns so they can determine the type of inspection and how to prepare and schedule a time.
- Be Prepared – Dig around and make sure you have found the entire extent of the potential mold infestation. If there is anything obstructing the affected area, move it before the inspectors arrive. Also be ready to answer questions like: Do you have a history of moisture problems in this area? Is anyone in the building seeing a doctor due to symptoms of mold exposure? Is this building currently involved in any litigation?
- Inspection Agreement – Take time to read over and understand the inspection agreement provided by the mold inspector. Ask questions and sign it if you agree to the terms.
- Non-Invasive Examination – The inspector will walk around the building and perform a non-invasive, visual inspection of the areas agreed to in your inspection agreement.
- Taking Notes and Mold Samplings – The inspector should be documenting what they see and using various tools to take samplings around the building.
- Sample Review – After the inspection, the inspector should gather the information and samples they collected from the building examination and make sure all results are organized.
- Send Samples to Laboratory – For tests that require a lab analysis, the inspector should ship the materials they collected and await the results.
- Inspection Report – When all the results have come back from the laboratory and the inspector has completed their analysis of the building, they should create and deliver a report that includes a summary of the mold inspection that took place, the testing and laboratory results, any photos taken during the inspection, and information for next steps in the process.
Eyes and Nose
Using your own eyes and nose to detect mold are the most useful tools to have. Noticing mold spots or water collecting in an unusual place are common ways to spot the beginnings of a mold problem. Sometimes before you see any sign of it, you smell a musty odor that will lead you right to it. This makes your nose a vital detection tool.
Proper Protection Equipment (PPE)
Wearing effective PPE is essential to protecting yourself during an inspection. For details on what to wear, go to our page that fully explains Proper Protection Equipment.
Flashlight and/or Headlamp
Mold often grows in dark and hidden areas, which makes the use of a flashlight and/or a headlamp very important.
Two types of cameras work in tandem to provide the best results in an inspection. Digital cameras are needed to record all areas with signs of mold growth. An infrared camera is extremely helpful in detecting water spots that are hard to see with the naked eye.
Since moisture is such an important indicator of mold growth, moisture meters are vital in the inspection process. They measure moisture on a variety of surface types including carpet, wood, drywall, brick, and concrete. A moisture meter can monitor how fast something is drying and it can help locate hidden mold growth.
A building with high relative humidity levels is a key indicator of a mold problem or what will be a future mold problem. A humidity gauge can determine if levels are normal or if further testing is required.
A borescope is used when a simple visual inspection of a wall is not conclusive. Typically this can occur when there is water damage on the wall, but the extent of the mold problem is suspected to be behind the wall within its cavity. The borescope drills one or two small holes into the wall to get a reading of the area. Permission from the property owner must be attained before the use of a borescope.