To locate hidden molds in our household we first have to understand what we are looking out for. Typically there are five species of toxigenic mold commonly referred to as “black mold”, these molds are Cladosporium, Penicilium, Fusarium, Aspergillus, and Stachybotrys. To get the exact species of mold we are dealing with would require professional sampling done by an IEP (Indoor Environmental Professional). It is always helpful to have some sampling done but in this case we are going to assume that is not an option.
When sampling is not available, we do have a couple more options. Toxic molds (toxigenic) are commonly found in water-damaged environments. By finding water-damaged areas, you could infer that they are most likely associated with at least one of the five toxigenic mold species. If we are making this discovery, you and your family could adequately judge the situation and call in the help of professionals.
Now that we got some underlying factors, lets get into some investigation information. I would always recommend calling a professional to come take a look if you have any suspicions. Most inspections done by remediation companies are completely free, don’t hesitate to contact a professional. An inspection can be very educating and helpful, take advantage of it as much as possible.
What items would help to find mold? There are not many items out there to help find mold specifically. But, there are plenty of resources to find moisture which is important for the growth of mold. When checking your home, the goal is to locate moisture areas.
Moisture areas are places in the house that have a potential for moisture. Such as windows, ceilings/roof, HVAC, water heater, sinks, showers, just to name a few. These are common areas susceptible to moisture which can invoke mold growth. Really break down each area of your house and think about possible moisture or water activity that can impact your indoor environment.
Windows can be a common spot for moisture, so what do we look for? You always want to check the bottom of the wall near a window, you can typically see signs of water damage. Look out for staining, bubbling, discoloration, softness, etc. You will also want to check around the window sill and the exterior of the window as well. Check the exterior for any cracks or opening that could allow moisture inside.
Roof leaks are another cause of water intrusion resulting in mold growth. We will talk about the interior signs, if you have an exterior concern I would definitely call a professional. Walk throughout your entire home inspecting every inch of the ceiling with a high power flashlight. Keep a look out for water damage, the signs are listed previously.
HVAC leaks can be a completely different story. There is typically a lot more involved with inspecting a system for mold. I would generally leave this to a professional but you can make easy visual assessments of areas around HVAC components. There are many risks of homeowners tampering with their HVAC system so please, call a professional.
Water heater leaks are typically easy to diagnose. They usually sit on a plenum or extremely close to walls. This allows there to be obvious staining if there is a leak. Visually inspect the plenum or walls surrounding for any water based damage. You can also see if there is any build up of calcium or discoloration of pipes/fittings indicating unwanted water.
Sinks are one of the most common reasons for intrusive water/moisture. Check all around the cabinet areas holding your sink, this is a huge indicator. Cabinets are extremely obvious for water staining and damage. Also check for areas of the cabinet that look inflated or puffy due to water intrusion.
Showers, what do we look for? Another tip that could apply to every area, look at the walls that back up to water sources. Sometimes you can see an indication of water damage from another room that backs up to it. Also, take a look for any cracks in the grout lines or anywhere that moisture could get in.
There are of course many other areas that could have potential for water damage and mold growth. Many of these tips can be applied throughout a home to locate possible issues. I would recommend doing a walk through of your home inspecting every inch from time to time. A high power light helps bring out possible damage and makes it visually stand out.
Now that we got into some free actionable steps a homeowner can take, lets discuss paid options. Some remediation companies have paid inspections which result in the use of advanced technology along with an entire house inspection. Another option would be using an IEP for inspections or for their sampling techniques.
Remediation companies use a couple tools to help in this process. Such as moisture meters, hygrometers, thermal cameras, borescopes, etc. A number of these items can be used to find moisture, which is the goal for locating mold. A borescope is a small camera that can fit in wall cavities to inspect for mold if there is a concern.
IEPs have a couple more options. They typically have everything a remediator would have but more. They have the ability to test your home with a variety of sampling techniques. They also list protocol for a remediation company to follow during remediation. They are not necessary in every instance but can be helpful in some. IEPs are usually the most expensive option, in small areas of concern their usage is generally not needed.
Once again, If you have any concerns or findings throughout your home, it is highly recommended to call in a professional. Artistic Restoration is one of the leading companies in the Tucson and surrounding areas for mold remediation. We offer free inspections and would love to share our knowledge to create a healthier environment for you and your family.