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Mold Testing - The Different Kinds and Why it is Important

When you first encounter mold, you may be a little fearful as most of the narrative surrounding mold involves the dangers and hazards of being exposed to it. While mold can be harmful to one’s health, this greatly differs from person to person. Many can go through life and be unaffected by mold, while others may experience allergy like symptoms from mold exposure. Mold doesn’t only affect an individual’s health but can greatly impact the structural integrity of a building, whether that be a home, office, or other workspace. One of the first steps that should be taken when you encounter mold is to have your building thoroughly inspected and tested.

Why is Mold Testing Important?

Many people do not see the need to get mold tested. “If you see mold, then you know you have a problem, so why bother testing,” is a common mindset amongst many individuals. However, mold testing is a crucial step in any remediation plan.

While mold testing can tell you if you have a mold problem in your home, it can also do much more. Mold tests can help you find hidden mold, measure your indoor air quality, and if illness is a concern, identify what specific species of mold is in your home, commercial, or industrial property. This will provide you the data needed to take to a specialist who deals with patients affected by mold toxicity.

A mold test gives you a snapshot of the number of mold spores in a certain area at the time of inspection. Since mold spores are everywhere, both inside and outside, the only way to determine if the building has a normal fungal ecology is through a thorough visual inspection and moisture testing, thermal imaging etc. A thorough visual inspection allows for a professional mold inspector to set up a valid sampling strategy.  Inspection and testing will garner a more accurate picture of the mold problem in your home, if there is one, and a detailed mold removal strategy to remove the mold and repair the source of any indoor air quality concerns. Testing can provide data regarding cross contamination in other areas of your building. Not particularly mold growth but settled and airborne spore counts.

Types of Tests:

The three main types of mold tests are:

  • Air mold testing
  • Surface mold testing
  • Bulk mold testing

All three types of tests may be included in a sampling strategy.

Mold Air Testing

Mold air sampling tests the concentration of mold spores in the air of a building. Samples are taken from the air and are later examined under a microscope to determine the  concentration of each type of mold spores identified. Air testing requires that a sample be taken both inside and outside the building, so that a comparison/control can be conducted to determine whether the fungal ecology is similar between the samples. If the sample that was taken inside has a higher level than the outside sample, and or indicator mold types like Stachybotrys or Chaetomium etc. are found indoors, the source of the problem must be found and fixed.  

Mold air testing can indicate if you have a mold problem even if you cannot find the mold growth through a mold inspection or with the naked and untrained eye. However, the number of mold spores can change significantly in a small amount of time and give varying results at different times.

Mold Surface Testing

Mold surface testing takes samples from household surfaces to find the amount of mold growth and spores around the home. Mold samples for surface testing are collected by swabbing, tape lifting or  swipe methods. Samples are then examined in a laboratory to determine the types and amount of mold spores and or growth present.

Similar to mold air testing, the results can vary for surface testing because mold growth and spores are not spread evenly across surfaces in the home and can change over a period of time.

Unlike air testing, however, surface testing can’t identify the exact concentration of mold spores.

Bulk Testing

Bulk testing is a sampling method that involves collecting pieces of suspected mold contaminated material from the home, or work building to test for mold. These materials can include, but are not limited to, carpet, drywall, wood, wallpaper, etc. The materials are then sent to a laboratory where any mold particles on the materials can then be carefully examined under a microscope.

When taking a bulk sample for testing, it is important to be cautions of the potential spores that may be released into the air by disturbing the suspected area. That is why an air sample is often also taken, so that a comparison between the bulk sample and the air sample can be conducted to get a more accurate result.  

Bulk mold tests can indicate if you have a mold problem and give you a clear idea of the concentration of mold particles in your home.

Culture Tests

Mold culture testing takes mold particles in a sample from the home and grows those mold particles into larger mold colonies in a lab. Culture tests identify the species of molds in houses through this process.

Only mold particles that are still alive can be grown for culture tests. Dead mold particles in the home still cause allergies and health problems. Other tests can detect both living and nonliving molds in a home, but can’t always identify the species of molds, which makes culture testing an important part of the mold testing process.

Why You Should Test for Mold

  • There are noticeable signs of mold, mold musty smell or mold allergy-like symptoms.
  • Mold can impact health and may lead to illnesses.  
  • Identify species of mold to know what you are dealing with.
  • Find hidden mold growth that may not be visible or easily accessible.  
  • To examine the indoor air quality by measuring the amount of mold spores in the air. If mold is present during air quality testing there may be other issues such as asbestos, radon, or harmful bacteria that also require testing.  
  • To protect the property/building as mold can destroy building materials.  
  • To see if mold in your home has been fully removed after mold remediation or mold removal

Signs of Mold in Your Home

A clear and obvious sign you could have mold in your home is a musty, earthy or urine like mold smell.

If you notice a damp, earthy smell in your home, work or other property, there is a very good chance you could have mold hidden somewhere in the building.

A second sign of the presence of mold in your home are allergic symptoms. If there’s mold hidden in your home there will be mold spores present in the air, which will cause telling allergic symptoms.

When you breathe mold spores in, the body will react with allergic reactions like sneezing, coughing, a runny nose, sore eyes, and feeling tired. If these symptoms persist, and you notice that they’re only relieved when you are no longer in a certain building, then there is a good chance that you have a mold problem.

Mold allergies are a good indicator that mold testing for black mold and other mold species is required to determine the problem.  

Other signs that mold may be present in your home are:

  • Warped walls and bubbling paint.
  • Visible signs of mold spores.
  • Difficulty breathing or other respiratory issues. This is more common for people who are susceptible to mold related illnesses.  
  • There is a history of water damage or flooding in the home.

Identifying Mold Species

Another reason for mold testing is to determine the exact species of mold is in your home.

Identifying the specific mold species is highly important for toxic molds as extra caution needs to be taken to safely remove toxic mold from the home.

A well-known and prevalent toxic mold is the toxic mold Stachybotrys, otherwise known as “Black Mold”.

If you see mold which looks like toxic mold (is grayish, black with a slimy, wet or, soot-like texture) or if you are suffering from toxic mold symptoms (cognitive issues such as brain fog, memory issues, physical pain, unexplained weight fluctuations, etc.), you should have it tested before you try to remove it.

The only way to identify the species of a mold colony for certain is to have a microbiologist look at a sample of it under the microscope.

Mold Testing to Find Mold

Mold testing can tell you if you have a mold problem somewhere in your home, but it can also help you to find it.

Mold often grows hidden away behind walls and other places where moisture exists and cannot be seen.

Mold tests help to narrow down the location of hidden mold growth by indicating the places in a home with the highest amount of mold spores.

Mold Testing for Indoor Air Quality

Mold testing will tell you the amount and types of mold spores in the air.

You can suffer from mold allergy symptoms even if there is no mold presently growing in your home. Mold spores blowing into the home from outdoor mold or previous mold growth in your home can leave behind a build-up of mold spores that will cause mold allergies.

Testing for mold indicates if there is an unhealthy level of mold spores in your house and can determine if any allergies you are experiencing are from mold or another allergy.

Mold Testing after Removing Mold

Mold testing is needed after you’ve had mold removed from your home to determine if the mold remediation was a success or if there are still Indoor Air Quality issues in your home.

Surface sampling will indicate whether an area has been properly cleaned of mold. Air testing sometime after the mold removal confirms mold spores were reduced to a safe level. This should be done after any mold removal project to ensure a successful return to air safety in the building.

Mold Inspection before Testing

Before you turn to mold testing you should first have a professional complete a thorough mold inspection of your home or other building. If the inspection indicates the presence of mold,  testing of adjacent areas will most likely need to be conducted to determine levels of cross contamination, if any. Once all data has been provided and a scope of work “Remediation Action Plan” has been created, you can book a professional mold removal.

If a mold inspection can’t find the mold issue or if you found mold and want to determine if there are any hidden mold issues or that it could be toxic mold, testing should be performed prior to the mold remediation stage.

The Bottom Line

Mold testing is a vital part of any remediation strategy. Using various testing methods to get samples is a great way to ensure that you get the most accurate results to know what kind of mold you are dealing with, where the issues are, and what is the best plan moving forward with remediation. If you come across mold growth in your home, or suspect mold growth, got mold?™ has a team of professionals who are equipped to help you with any mold related issues.  

Contact us today at 1-888-9090-MOLD (6653) to find out more about our services.  

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