Mold. Just the word can strike fear into the hearts of homeowners far and wide. It’s regarded as irritating and dangerous and can indicate a lurking problem inside a home. Mold can indicate water damage and cause breathing problems. How can one little spore cause so much trouble? Here’s what a certified home inspector needs to know.
Where There’s Mold, There’s Probably Water
Mold is everywhere. Chances are, it’s in the air you’re breathing right now. But mold spores need a food source and water to grow. Without moisture, mold can’t reproduce. If there’s evidence of mold along baseboards, crown molding, in the bathroom or anywhere else in the home, you can count on one of two things: either water is present at the time of the inspection or water has been an issue in the past.
Chronically damp conditions, or at least one long-term event such as a flood, encourage mold growth. A splash on a wall or even a minor plumbing leak might not introduce enough water for mold spores to thrive if it’s cleaned up right away. According to Building Science Corporation, it takes about 24-48 hours for mold to start growing.
To make things more complicated, the source of the water problem might not be a leaky pipe at all. Moisture can come in the form of high humidity, condensation or a melting ice dam in winter.
Mold Might Indicate Serious Problems for a Home’s Integrity
Because it takes a while for mold to grow, its presence means water has been an issue for a while. Given enough time, water can rust metal, rot wood, and cause drywall to crumble. Unfortunately, the mold that you see on a wall’s surface might only be a small part of what’s really there. Many more spores might hide underneath.
Mold is nearly always a reason to investigate for structural defects. A flooded basement with concrete block walls can act as a wick, pulling water up into the framing members and slowly breaking them down.
If water is trapped under vinyl flooring, such as in a kitchen or bathroom, damage can spread and grow undetected for weeks or months, perhaps longer. In extreme cases, a wet basement can be the real culprit behind mold in the attic.
Black Mold Might Not be “Black Mold”
Chances are, you’ve seen a TV show or read an article about the terror that is “Black Mold.” The name sounds fairly descriptive, but it’s also misleading. Not all mold that appears black in color is actually the Black Mold of respiratory illnesses and doctor visits. Sometimes, black mold is rather ordinary and just happens to be black. To further complicate matters, not all toxic mold is black. Sometimes, it’s purple or has a green hue.
Moldman says “the color of the mold to the naked eye cannot tell you anything about whether it is toxic or not.” The dangerous mold of medical TV shows produces mycotoxins. That’s the key. And the mere existence of mold that’s black (or purple or green) in color doesn’t mean mycotoxins are in the house.
There’s no real way to determine whether mold is toxic or not using just the naked eye. The safest bet is to have the mold tested and eliminate the water source to halt its growth.
Mold isn’t always a serious health hazard, but it does always indicate one big problem: water. Water can ruin carpets, weaken joists and loosen shower tiles. Where there’s mold, water has been present for a while, so it’s worth your time to probe a little deeper to find its source.
Your work as a certified home inspector will bring you face to face with plenty of hazards, including mold. With ICA School training, you’ll be prepared to handle them. Unlike other educational programs, you won’t pay extra to learn the ins and outs of mold and numerous other home defects. Enroll now and start learning today.