It might be difficult to decide if you need to hire a mold inspector if you have mold or suspect mold. Below are some tips on when to consider hiring a mold inspector, questions to ask before hiring one, and the mold inspection process.
Do you need a mold inspection?
Some experts claim that if there is visible mold, you simply need to remove it and that there is no need for an inspection. Others feel that even if there is visible mold, there are convincing reasons to do an inspection. Almost all mold experts agree that if you suspect mold but do not have a visual confirmation, a mold inspection is always a good idea.
Consider scheduling a mold inspection when:
- visible mold is not present, but the smell of mold is. A mold inspection and mold test can reveal whether there is indeed elevated mold, and where it is located.
- there have been plumbing leaks or water issues and there is a suspicion that elevated mold may exist in the air and/or behind walls.
- when someone has a health issue that they cannot pinpoint the cause of and/or mold related illness symptoms are present.
- there are real estate transactions for the protection of Buyers and Sellers.
- there are Landlord/Tenant disputes regarding mold.
- you think you see or smell mold but are not sure.
- you are interested in a general indoor air quality test.
How to find a mold inspector
Finding a reputable mold inspector can be a bit intimidating. Check the internet for local mold inspectors, including Yelp or Angie’s list. Ask your friends and family if they can refer someone. Check on your local neighborhood NextDoor app if you have it. Your plumber may even know of someone. Referrals are usually better than choosing someone you have never heard of before.
Questions to ask a mold inspector:
- Do you consider mold to be a health hazard?
- Do not hire the inspector if they answer “no”. A mold inspector should understand the health conditions associated with toxic mold exposure and not downplay their severity.
- What mold tests do you use?
- Different tests can be used in different situations. Try to avoid those who rely heavily on air sampling. This only gives you a small snapshot of what might be in the air. A quality mold inspector will use thermo imaging, take moisture readings, do an in depth visual inspection, and take a sample of any visible mold.
- Do you take pictures as you make the inspection?
- A quality mold inspector will document their inspection, making it a point to take photos of any areas with visible mold, water damage, or areas that look suspect.
- How do you analyze the samples?
- Your inspector may in fact be trained to analyze samples, however, the only way to know for sure if the test is truly authentic is by an having the samples sent to an accredited independent, third party lab to analyze and confirm the results of the test.
- What types of reports will you provide?
- You may just get a verbal report if the inspection does not lead to any issues of concern. However, full investigations should be followed up with a verbal and written report. Almost all mold inspectors use software programs to generate their reports. They should provide an action plan and remediation recommendations.
- Do you also provide mold remediation or cleaning services?
- It is a conflict of interest to perform both the initial investigation/testing AND profit from the cleaning/remediation of mold. Your mold inspector should not profit from the discovery of mold. If you decide to ask the mold inspector for a recommendation for a mold remediation company, they can provide that but must disclose if they receive any sort of financial incentive for doing so.
- Are you certified and do you do any continuing education?
- You want to hire a mold inspector who has credentials and went through extensive coursework and field training. Continuing education is usually only required if the inspector must be licensed and not all states require licensing.
- Do you carry Professional Liability Insurance (Errors and Omissions insurance, commonly called E&O insurance)?
- Most quality companies carry general liability (GL) insurance. However, E&O insurance is expensive and cost prohibitive for most mold inspection firms. Most mold inspectors do not carry this form of insurance that provides you with a higher level of protection.
How to Prepare for A Mold Inspection
Prep work usually is not needed for a mold inspection, but there are a few things you can do to make things easier:
- Make sure that all areas of your home are accessible. Many people have their attic access inside closets. It is helpful to have the closet entry clear before the inspector arrives.
- Try to move items away from the exterior of the home so the inspector can get a good visual.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your home. A good mold inspector will want to gather information about the history of your home including leaks, flooding, or other water intrusions.
- If you have pets, please inform the mold inspector ahead of time if you have pets. Mold inspectors may choose to wear protective gear. They also carry equipment that may startle a pet.
Questions the Inspector May Ask You
- What year was the property built?
- How long have you owned and or lived, worked in, or been renting the house or building?
- Does the house have a sump pump?
- Have you ever had any leaks and if so, where, and how quickly were they caught and repaired?
- Have there been previous floods or sewer backups such as toilet overflows?
- Do the windows leak or sweat? Do they develop condensation during certain times of the year?
- Are the windows original?
- What year was the roof last replaced? For a shingled roof, was it completely replaced or was an overlay used?
- Is the furnace high efficiency and is there a HRV heat recovery ventilation system in place?
- Do the bathrooms have exhaust fans and do you use them?
- Are the fans vented to the outside environment or just into the attic?
- Is the dryer vented outside?
- Have any upgrades to the exterior been done within the past ten years?
- Have there been any major upgrades to the interior?
The Mold Inspection Process
First, the mold inspector wants to identify the cause of the mold problem (if there is one). Second, the inspector wants to evaluate the extent of the mold problem and possibly identity the exact type of mold growing. This will allow the mold inspector to outline a remediation plan.
The mold inspection process begins with a visual inspection. A visual inspection checks for mold throughout your house, including hidden areas like the HVAC system. The inspection also includes the exterior of the building and surrounding landscape. A mold inspector will not only look with their eyes but will also use tools such as a moisture meter, humidity meter, and thermal imaging device. Some of the things an inspector looks for during the visual inspection include:
- Integrity of seals around doors and windows
- Current condition of visible plumbing components
- Water damage
- Are there areas of high humidity or condensation?
- Exhaust fans
- Temperature and relative humidity inside the home
- Visible mold growth
- Active leaks or areas with water intrusion
- Condition of the HVAC and ductwork
- Are there unusual odors?
- Does the house sit high or low regarding drainage?
- Is there a slope towards or away from the home?
- Is there a lot of organic debris around the perimeter of the home?
- Are there a lot of bushes or trees next to the home?
- What is the roof composed of and condition?
- Are there cracks in the exterior of the foundation?
- How many stories is the home?
After inspection, the sources of moisture intrusion and/or relative humidity sources are identified and noted for the report.
The next process is optional and determined by the homeowner. This is mold testing or fungal sampling. You can learn more about the types of mold tests but typically a mold inspector will take air samples, core samples, and surface samples using the tape lift method. The inspector will take as many samples from as many areas as you would like. The mold inspector will send these samples to an accredited lab for processing.
The final step is the detailed written report. The report will outline findings from both the visual inspection and any mold testing as well as provide specific recommendations to remediate problem areas and prevent future occurrences of mold growth. A standard mold inspection report includes findings on:
- Moisture intrusion
- Water damage
- Musty odors or odors that might be associated with mold
- Apparent mold growth
- Conditions conducive to mold growth
- The results of a laboratory analysis of all mold samplings taken at the building
- Any system or component listed in the Standards of Practice that was not visually examined, and the reasons they were not inspected
- Detailed remediation plan
Generally, 1-2 hours are needed for a complete mold inspection based on an average size house of 2,000 square feet.
How Much Does A Mold Inspection Cost?
A mold inspection costs about the same as a regular home inspection. A mold inspection costs $300 to $400 for small to medium-sized houses (below 4,000 square feet) on average. The cost increases to the $700 to $900 range for houses above 4,000 square feet.