If there has been a leak or a flood, or there is a “musty smell” emanating from one part of a building, it is worth finding out if it is mold, especially if it is the notorious toxic black mold, Stachybotrys.
Mold testing is an art and science. Many people ask for mold testing. In fact, experts do not always recommend spending money and time on mold testing. But there is a time and a place for strategic sampling plans.
Any qualified industrial hygienist or mold inspector will confirm that a mold inspection is top priority. By using a flashlight, IR camera and moisture meter, two eyes and a nose, a good mold inspector can usually tell you whether mold is present, and often he or she can draw conclusions as to whether it could be toxic mold. Sampling in the absence of a thorough moisture and mold inspection is not recommended, and the data collected from such sampling is missing context and next to meaningless.
Healthy Building Science advocates the following steps:
- Qualified professional provide thorough inspection of building.
- Formulate hypothesis.
- Determine if sampling would add value to the inspection, or not (skip to #6, if not).
- Develop sampling plan to test hypothesis.
- Sample and review data.
- Report on findings from inspection, hypothesis developed, sampling results, and conclusion for next steps.
If your mold inspector doesn’t offer a comprehensive inspection, pushes a lot of testing, or does testing and only shares the lab results without a clear interpretation of their meaning, they are not providing value or helping your cause. Unfortunately, the do-it-yourself petri-dish style testers are equally worthless in the absence of a professional investigation.
Mold testing is useful for:
- Determining relative toxicity of mold species in presence of symptoms or sensitive populations,
- Establishing a baseline prior to remediation,
- Determining the scope of mold contamination,
- Clearance testing after remediation to confirm the area is clean, and, last but not least,
- Peace of mind for those really concerned.
Mold Testing Success Story
A proud owner of a new home smelled a musty smell for several months before troubling the builder with her concern. The builder did some exploration and found, sure enough, that a pipe had not been sealed well and was leaking a small amount of water into a wall cavity in the kitchen. The contractor opened up the wall and found visible mold growth on the lumber and drywall paper within the wall. It was wet – so he put a fan on the area to dry out the building materials. (logical, right?)
There was a sensitive individual living the home who had been suffering respiratory symptoms, and the symptoms really picked up when the wall was opened. We were called in to determine if the mold was particularly toxigenic and if it has been spread around the house. Upon arriving we immediately turned of the fan (aerosolizing microscopic mold spores). After seeing the extent of the water damage that had clearly been there for months, and hearing about the kid’s symptoms, we agreed sampling was called for.
We grabbed a bulk sample from the visibly moldy area, and performed mold air sampling in several rooms throughout the home and collected samples from outdoors for comparison. Sure enough – Stachybotrys was found in the bulk sample and in all the air samples collected throughout the home. We recommended the home be thoroughly cleaned, and the affected area be placed in containment and professionally remediated.
We returned for clearance testing and found visible dust throughout the home AND within containment. That triggered additional sampling and Stachy was again found in air samples within containment. The remediator was called back, on their dime, to reclean the affected area until it passed clearance and no Stachy was found.
After stopping the leak, remediating the affected area, and cleaning the house, the kid’s respiratory symptoms have improved and the family is resting easier knowing the job was done right.
Mold Testing Benefits
When it’s needed, it’s needed. Wether mold tests are for clearance testing, to determine the extent/type of contamination, or simply to provide peace of mind – sometimes it’s the only way to add a level of certainty that is otherwise impossible without official lab analysis.
Water Damage and Mold Inspection Services
We will meet you onsite. We are courteous and considerate of your space and careful not to track in dirt, etc. We are careful not to spread spores and cross-contaminate spaces. For mold and moisture inspections we prefer to inspect the whole building, and we take mold samples only if it adds value for our client. We email or mail our report and follow up with a phone call to answer any outstanding questions.
In some instances HBS writes a Mold Remediation Protocol (MRP) outlining requirements for the safe removal of mold from a building. Mold Remediation Protocols are very detailed instructions that include safety requirements and scope of work for your specific project. Our MRPs are designed in accordance with industry-accepted standards (IICRC S520 Mold Remediation Standard).
Mold Clearance Testing involves mold sampling before and after mold remediation. Pre-mitigation samples quantify mold spore counts, identify any particularly virulent species, and creates a baseline for remediation. The post-mitigation “clearance” samples confirm if mold remediation was performed properly and the space was thoroughly cleaned before containment is taken down.