Updated: Mar 2, 2022
First, What Is Mold?
Mold is a term used to describe a category of fungi, which is neither plant nor animal, but rather a special kingdom unto itself. Mold is a type of fungi found both on the outdoors and indoors, that produces spores that migrate through the air. These spores are smaller than the width of a human hair. When they land in the right environment they grow rapidly.
Many of the things that we take for granted are the result of mold, such as decaying leaves, composting of materials for our gardens, and the development of antibodies, such as penicillin.
The problem, however, is that while some molds are helpful, many molds are toxic and can be harmful to our health and to our housing environment.
What Causes Mold?
Microbiological problems caused by mold can be traced to the increased efforts of making our homes more energy efficient by adding more and more insulation and making our homes nice and tight. The environment that is created by preventing the movement of air in buildings in turn promotes the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Additionally, water entry into buildings that is left unchecked is the 2nd factor in the development of mold growths. If there has been flooding into basements, roof leaks or ice dam leaks, leaks from hot water tanks or washing machines, leaks from radiators, leaks from plumbing pipes or drains - then there is a possibility of either visible mold growths, or worse - hidden undetected mold growths concealed in ceilings, walls and floors!
Attics are prime locations for mold to develop and propagate into a major wasteland of ebony plywood roof sheathing, such as seen in the following picture.
What Are The End Results Of Mold?
Left to its own devices and untreated mold can eat its way through porous building materials such as drywall, and in particular ceiling tiles, carpeting, upholstered furniture are especially susceptible.
Over time unbounded mold can cause severe structural damage to a building.
During my home inspections I often find basement drywalls blacken by this insidious fungus, as well as in attics where we find malignant blacken mold impregnated roof plywood sheathing.
The following picture is what I found during a recent inspection of a basement.
In bathrooms I often find ceilings covered with a black carpet of mold growths and under bathroom and kitchen sinks there often are pockmarked areas of mold growths, such as seen in the 2 following pictures.
All of which must be professionally surgically removed from the premises.
Of worse consequences are the toll that exposure to high levels of toxic and allergenic mold can have on our health. Many of these fungi can produce harmful potent mycotoxins.
Everyone is affected differently from their contact with mold. Depending upon their proximity to the mold some people are not affected at all, some may have mild symptoms, while others may be severely affected, and homes may become uninhabitable.
There are thousands of possible mold allergens that can trigger allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory complaints, irritation to the eyes, throat and skin infections, fatigue, cough and flu-like symptoms.
The good news is that a persons health improves once the exposure to mold is removed.
What To Look For?
As a home inspector I always look for evidence of past water intrusion into basements, attics and the living areas. Water stains, water related damage-plaster cracks. musty odors, and visible discolored areas are all red flags and tell-tale signs of a potential for mold growths.
You don't need clues for mold when you have the following in the living areas of a home.
In addition, I pay very special attention to HVAC (hot air - cooling) systems.
I find that these air systems are generally poorly maintained and are notorious for creating a setting conducive for all sorts of nasty things, including an environment for mold to grow and thrive.
It is more likely than not that during my inspections I will find HVAC systems that have very dirty air filters, poorly installed air filters and even missing air filters all of which contribute to dirt entering the duct system and air registers
What To Do?
As a home owner:
Have your HVAC system serviced annually.
Change air filters regularly - monthly is ideal.
Install a basement dehumidifier to control humidity levels
Avoid using a humidifier.
Keep roof drains extended away from the property
Keep roof/attic well ventilated.
Make sure your roof is not leaking.
If flooding occurs - have the basement dried out as fast as possible.
As a prospective home buyer:
(When 1st viewing a prospective home purchase)
Sniff around for musty odors - dead give away for potential mold.
Be on the lookout for evidence of past water intrusions (stains).
Look for evidence of water related damage.
Look for discolored areas (ceilings-walls) that may be mold growths.
FINALLY, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY!
HIRE A TRAINED AND EXPERIENCE LICENSED HOME INSPECTOR WHO ONLY HAS YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART!
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