Is the house you are considering buying mold-free? You should find out as part of the inspection process. While there is no 100% fool-proof way to tell if the house is completely mold-free, there are steps you can take to be reasonably confident that major mold problems are not present.
If you do find indications of mold, we strongly suggest hiring a professional to determine the full scope of the issue and recommendations for remediation, including anticipated costs. Sometimes those costs are minor, sometimes they are not.
- First of all be a little suspicious. Does the house smell? Musty odors normally accompany significant mold growth, and that is your first clue. But also keep in mind that odors can be covered up. If there are perfume or deodorizer smells in the house, they could be covering up other odors that might be less pleasant.
- Water damage is the main cause point of mold growth in a home. Mold growth requires moisture, so the next few items direct you to look for past or current water intrusion.
- Walk the exterior of the house.
Look at the sprinklers – are they directed toward the house? Are there water stains on the exterior of the home? Are the sprinklers very close to the walls of the house? Are there planters attached to the exterior walls? Does there appear to be heavily watered plants in close proximity to the house? Are there “low spots” near the house where it appears water may have pooled up?
If any of the above are present, there may be circumstances that can cause the vapor barrier to break down resulting in water passing into the wall cavity setting up an environment that may foster mold growth.
- Check the slope of the landscape. It should be sloped away from the house. If land is sloped toward the house it can be problematic whether the house is on a slab or has a crawl space. With a slab, water pooling at the edge of the exterior wall can result in water seeping inside. With a crawlspace hard or steady rains can flood under the house that can result in mold and bacterial growth there and raise the humidity inside the structure. If there is a crawlspace and indications of water intrusion, actually crawling under the house might be necessary to determine if there are water or mold problems there. If there are gutters, determine where the downspout empties. Make sure the termination point is well away from the house or is in an area where water naturally flows away. If no gutters, see if it looks like water pools next to the house.
[Need to find a picture of a slope or pooled up water by a house]
- Inspect all around the interior perimeter of the house for evidence of water damage or water intrusion.
Look for anomalies in the painted walls. Swollen baseboards or baseboards pulling slightly away from the wall are significant indications. Outlines of nail heads, generally called "popped nails", are also strong signs of water intrusion. Check for moisture under windows. If you find even a small indication of water intrusion on walls or baseboards and there is carpeting there, lift the carpet and check the bottom side for stains and mold growth.
If you have a moisture meter, the inspection can be more thorough with its use. A moisture meter that is non-invasive, i.e. does not use pins to damage the wall, would be a good investment. Visually inspect while using the moisture meter to check for moisture inside walls. Use it near the bottom of the wall just above the baseboard. While doing that look for indications of water intrusion as noted above.
- In addition of the perimeter, check for moisture on any walls with plumbing facilities in the vicinity. This means behind toilets, bathroom walls and walls shared with bathrooms or kitchens. Always check under bathroom and kitchen sink cabinets. If it requires removing materials stored there to see what needs to be seen, it is worth the trouble.
Keep in mind that walls are not sealed, so mold growth inside walls does not just stay there encapsulated. Air moves in and out of wall cavities. Mold spores will move with the air currents.
The worst place for mold to be present inside wall cavities is probably the bedroom. A lot of time is spent there where the body is to be repaired by proper sleep. If being exposed to contaminants at that time, body repair is likely to be impaired if not reversed.
Even if no moisture is detected there could still be contamination inside a wall, which is why other indications must be watched for.
Being aware of what to look for and taking the time and effort to take the necessary steps can vastly reduce future problems and expenses. Purchasing a house can be quite stressful, so capture a little peace of mind by thoroughly inspecting for moisture and possible mold.