Check Mold in Your House
You might think that most mold in a house is visible. While this is true, there are two points to consider: 1). There are places you haven’t thought to check for mold in your house where it may exist, and 2). you have to think ‘there may be the presence of mold in my house where I’ll never see’ such as in the air. If you’re searching for ways to check for mold and figure out what type of mold you have inside the house, then read on. Most house molds and their spores are allergens, meaning they cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to indoor mold. The so-called “toxic molds” have been blamed for even more serious health conditions such as memory loss, fatigue, seizures and brain damage. Children growing up where large amounts of mold is indoors, namely schools and homes, have more frequent asthma attacks and higher incidences of wheezing and upper respiratory infections. Even for normal people, reactions range from increased runny nose, eye irritation, or congestion. Children (and many adults) spend most of their time at home, so it’s a no-brainer to learn how to check for mold in your house and find out what type of mold is there.
Before getting too worried though, it’s important to understand that some mold is present in any house. Since it is a natural organism that feeds off of organize materials and thrives when any moisture is available, mold in a house is unavoidable. Where house molds are a problem is when there is excessive moisture for it to live on and reproduce. Checking and testing for house molds begins with identifying places indoors where moisture may exist more than you want. Once you find mold; if you’re concerned,move on to a mold test to find out what you’ve got and if it’s harmful. In all cases, always eliminate any water problems. Ok, here’s where to check for mold indoors (some you might not have thought of): Where to check for mold in your house
- In your HVAC system, mainly duct work. Moisture can get into your ducts in high humidity or in cases of condensation. Over time, leaky duct joints, especially non-insulated ones, can bring regular moisture into placed like attics. This could create a moist environment for mildew. Check in basements, attics, crawlspaces; wherever ductwork runs and especially where it is joined together.
- In places where appliances might leak or overflow. For example, when a washing machine overflows, a water heater leaks or hoses burst and no flood drain is nearby, water may seem to “dry up”, when actually it soaks into carpet, floorboards and drywall. Mold in the house often lives in these places if there are regular leaks.
- In poorly ventilated bathrooms. We’ve all seen the surface mold growing in the tub, shower walls or on the ceilings above showers or sinks. This may look common, but it’s still mold living in your house! Check on the wall inside the cabinet under the sink and also behind toilets and on shower curtains.
- In warm environments, impermeable vinyl wall covering can trap most air inside walls as the air moves from the warm outdoors to the cool interior. This degrades the drywall and the adhesive behind the wall covering. This is hard to check unless you remove the wall covering. If you can, replace with permeable material to allow these areas to dry.
- On drywall when it is used as a tile backer. It quickly degrades when subjected to moisture; house mold speeds this process up. Cement board is a better alternative if possible.
- In crawl spaces where bare earth floors transmit large amounts of moisture constantly. You’ll most likely smell a musty odor here, so sample this air when doing an interior mold check.
- In the condensation pan under the coil of your refrigerated air condition can harbor molds. Keep this pan clean using bleach each year.
- In finished concrete basements that are not adequately waterproofed from the outside can allow moisture to penetrate and become trapped behind vapor barriers, carpet, insulation and drywall. This is a huge source of mold in house that you might not have imagined would be there. Always conduct a moisture test before finishing a basement like this.
- On improperly flashed or caulked windows and doors (and areas with large amounts of window condensation). Check all around framework to locate possible water infiltration. If you suspect problems, remove flashing to inspect for mold.
- Leaky roofs, especially poorly flashed areas, allow rain to infiltrate attics, insulation, eaves and other difficult to inspect areas.
How to check the type of mold in your house
One the best ways you can start the process of finding out what kind of mold lives in your house is through a self mold test kit. Here’s how it works:
- Pick up at least two DIY mold test kits. One of the most highly rated is made by Pro-Lab - Amazon sells them for a little less than Home Depot or Lowes. You’ll want
two so you can place one outside and one inside. More on that below.
- Follow the directions on the package – just pour a small vile of liquid into a petri dish, then let the dish sit out with the lid off for an hour.
- After an hour, put the lid back on and wait for whatever mold it captured to incubate for at least 48 hours.
- If mold has grown in there (which it most likely will), you have the option of sending the petri dish into Pro-Lab. They provide the envelop and postage! A couple weeks later, they send you a report from their analysis of the mold growth in your house.
Some points about testing your house molds
- Since molds live around us all the time (inside and out), your mold testing is more than likely going to pick up spores–plan on seeing growth in your petri dish. (see photo)
- Get two mold test kits! Since mold is going to be present, it’s important to see what’s going on outside AND inside. You want to find out if you have something growing indoors that’s different from outdoors. You do this by sampling the air both outdoors and indoors.
- Test kits like the one mentioned above allows you to do both air sampling (sitting out in open space such as your living room or directly in front of a air vent for testing duct work). It also allows you to scrap off some living mold on surface using a Q-tip and placing it in a petri dish to grow. Both kinds can have an analysis done to determine if the mold in your house is toxic.
- The report you get back will give you detailed names of the house mold identified in your samples. While explanations may tell you all the different types, be prepared that it can also conclude that you may have an abundance of moisture in your house, i.e. if more growth occurred in a sample dish that was used inside.
- Not only will you be surprised by how much mold growth appears in your dish after 48-72 hours. There may be a variety of colors (black mold, orange mold, green mold, fuzzy gray mold and more). Don’t be too alarmed though as even the strangest kinds will be common and harmless to most people in low quantities.
- It is recommended to check for house mold if you a) see growth somewhere in your house, b) smell musty or or mildewy odors, or c) have a situation where you or someone shows signs up allergies indoors, or d) suspect regularly occurring moisture somewhere in your house.
- View an actual mold in house report to see what comes back after you analyze your house mold.