If you have a suspicion that your home has mold issues but are not exactly sure where the problem is coming from or whether or not there is a problem at all, mold testing can definitely help you. It can also be beneficial if you need proof of a problem; in the middle of a landlord-tenant dispute for example. Also if you have already hired a restoration company to complete the mold removal, mold tests can confirm that job has been completed correctly.
For the most accurate test results, you should consult a certified mold inspector who does not take part in the mold removal process, otherwise known as a “test only” company. An inspector will collect samples from around your home and their experience will be an invaluable asset in determining where to take these samples to gather the necessary information.
These tests are taken with an air pump and spore trap. Vacuum pulls air into the spore trap which is basically a cassette with a slide on it with glue. Microscopic mold spores stick to the slide as the air passes through. These are eventually analyzed at an independent lab to see both the species of mold present and quantity.
The most common starting point is an inside vs. outside air comparison. Outside levels should be slightly higher than inside. Higher inside levels or the presence of certain species of mold indicate a problem with indoor growth that may call for mold remediation. At the minimum the air sample should be taken at the main area of concern. Additional samples can be helpful in determining the source of an issue or seeing if a problem has spread.
In-wall cavity air tests is another type that can be performed. This is done by making a small punch in the wall or by entering through a pre-existing cavity like electrical outlet if closes enough to the potential problem. These tests are recommended when you have a wall that is holding moisture but not yet showing visible growth. The ultimate goal here is to either confirm the source of an indoor air quality found in the initial test or find a mold issue within that wall that has not gone into the air as of yet.
Another type of sample that can be collected is a surface test that is taken either with a swab or tape lift when potential visible growth is seen. These are recommended because not all mold is easily airborne including Stachybotrys. It is very similar goal to that of the in wall tests in that we are trying to confirm a source or find a problem not seen in a general air sample.
DIY Test Kits
If you have been doing some research on mold, there is a good chance that you have come across Do It Yourself mold test kits. Unfortunately these are not recommended as they are extremely limited in the information they provide. Essentially what you do is place a petri dish in an area and see if mold grows. Since there is mold all around us, it is likely that something will grow. The biggest downfall of the test is that it offers no quantity on the species of mold. Many of our clients spend money on getting this test done only to realize it does provide the information they expect and they end up having to hire a professional as well.
# of Samples Collected
Every situation is unique in terms of how many samples that should be taken. Obviously a mold inspector could benefit from being able to take the unlimited amount of samples from each location. However, each of these tests cost money so the consumer and inspector will typically discuss the ROI for each scenario. Sometimes this means that 8 tests are taken and other times the minimum of 2. When a sample might offer new information it must be suggested. The reason for this is if the inspection report must be used for a litigation down the road, the inspector has to be able to say every test offering new evidence was suggested in order to avoid looking incompetent. The final determination in how many tests are collected and sent in to a lab is made by the consumer.
Forming A Plan
If your mold testing results indicate you have elevated indoor conditions, a professional will also provide you with a plan otherwise known as a protocol for mold removal. Each step of a professional restoration process cost money and it adds up to be quite expensive. Having a third party lay out exactly what needs to happen ensures the consumer is not paying for unnecessary work. There are sometimes to go directly into the mold removal process but most people can save the same amount or more they spend on mold testing in the long run.