Introducing Mold Inspection and Testing:
When it comes to mold inspection and testing, it’s important to understand how it grows, where it lives, and how to prevent it. It’s not always that simple to go about find the mold, and the process can be costly. Arming yourself with a little knowledge about the nature of mold can be an ideal way to handle it. As mentioned in a previous blog though, the safest way is to actually get a professional to test it. There are a lot of mold types out there. As you may know, some of them can cause serious problems such as the infamous black mold.
There are ways to test and inspect for mold before needing to panic though. It is important to understand the nature of the mold, how it grows and why it has formed. In this blog, I’ll cover how mold grows, where it will most likely found in a house as well as ways of preventing it. Along the way too, I’ll be sharing the ways you can test for mold and also prevent it. You should always get a professional mold inspection done before remediating. These tips are for small mold spots and mold that won’t damage your house.
The Mold Life Cycle
Mold has a very simple life cycle. It’s how mold has survived for far longer than humans have been on this earth. There are four phases of the mold life cycle. The first phase is hyphal growth. In this stage, the mold spores feed and grow into the colonies we see. Next in the process is the spore formation. Spores grow on the ends of the hyphal cells. Once developed, the spores release into the world in a process known as dispersal. Once they’re free of their original colony, the spores will spread. At this point, they seek out ideal circumstances to germinate. The spores themselves are incredibly resilient. They’re capable of lying dormant for years. When the proper conditions are met, the cycle begins again.
Things Mold Needs
According to the Florida Solar Energy Center, based in the University of Central Florida, there are four things needed for mold to grow. These are:
–Mold spores: Of course the most important thing to grow mold is the mold itself! Spores are the tiny pieces of the mold colonies that are sent off into the world. Millions of years of evolution have made them incredibly sturdy, allowing them to survive almost anything. As discussed earlier, there are many kinds of mold and their spores are everywhere as a result. Getting rid of all spores in an environment is impossible, so the best we can do is prevent them from taking root.
–Appropriate temperature: Of course, just like humans, mold doesn’t like to be too hot or too cold. Mold seems to grow best in warmer temperatures, with a range of 77 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, though it can also grow even as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In Florida, our warm, moist weather is what mold loves.
–Moisture: All living things need water to survive. Mold is no exception. It needs a lot of moisture to grow and spread though. Different mold species have different requirements for survival. The rule of thumb is that the more moisture there is, the more likely it is that you’ll find yourself with mold colonies. High humidity levels, such as 70% or more, can often be a warning sign that mold is likely to occur, especially if the need for food and comfortable temperatures are met.
–Food: Any organic substance is fair game for mold to eat. And once there’s a food source for the mold spores, they can take root and spread. Houses can be a literal buffet for them because of wood used for construction, not to mention the abundance of other tasty morsels that we keep around: cloths, insulation, paper, and carpets. Mold can also eat dead skin cells that we drop in the millions. Oh, and have we mentioned the actual food in kitchens? As a result, it’s impossible to remove all food sources for mold.
Finding Mold Yourself
This might all seem like bad news, but each of these are things we can control. You can do your own form of “mold inspection and testing.” For instance, you can check the humidity and moisture levels and find what the building is made of. Keeping an eye on the thermostats can give you an idea too. Another way of testing for it is just your sense of smell. A persistent musty or earthy scent may need a professional look. There are even do-it-yourself testing kits you can buy. A do-it-yourself-kit can help give you an idea of what you may need to do, too. However, without professional eyes, testing kits can give false results or be done improperly. If you’re not sure, you can always hire a professional and know it’s done right.
It’s impossible to completely wipe it out, but we can control it and prevent it from taking root. I’ll cover how in the last section.
Where It Lives
From the knowledge we have of what mold needs to thrive, we can use this to find where it likes to live. If all the above conditions are met, then it’ll start to grow. The most obvious of places that it can grow is food. We’ve all seen an orange left out too long! Or maybe you’re more familiar with a forgotten piece of bread turning green and fuzzy. This is because food is an excellent source for mold to meet three of the four requirements to spread. It will also grow in places with leather since leather is organic and can be a food source for mold.
When it comes to your home, some common places to find mold are walls, crawlspaces, attics, and bathrooms. Each of these can harbor a good bit of moisture. Flooding damage can also be a sure sign that there’s likely to be a mold colony growing soon. There are also a few other places that it can grow that you might not realize. If you have a front-loading washing machine, mold can find the gasket. This is usually out of sight, and collections of dead skin cells are a buffet for mold to latch onto and devour. Combined with moisture and warm operating temperatures, you may find a colony forming. Chimneys can also be a place it can grow unseen. This is due to the bricks collecting moisture and organic material over time. Mold spores can take root and then thrive.
Probably the worst places mold can form are HVAC systems and air conditioners. These infestations can result in a lot of health problems. Lots of organic material gets pulled into these systems by their operation. If mold manages to form, it will have the perfect method to spread, since the air conditioner blows the spores everywhere. The mold can spread, and the spores will be airborne. This can cause major health issues, bad smells, and more remediation issues. If you smell a musty scent coming from vents or your window unit, it’s time to call a professional.
Preventing the Spread and Growth of Mold
With all this knowledge, we now can deal with the mold and prevent it in the first place. You can even keep it from coming back after you have a professional remove it! Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’ve had mold problems or you are looking for a remediation specialist. Small amounts you may be able to clean yourself with our handy guide to mold clean-up. However, you should leave larger colonies to the professionals. Once it’s cleaned up, here are some simple ways to help ensure the chances of it coming back are small.
The CDC lists these quick methods:
-Control the humidity in your home
-Fix leaking roofs and pipes
-Clean thoroughly after any flooring project
-Properly ventilate places that naturally accumulate moisture such as the laundry room, bathroom, and showers.
Simple Preventative Maintenance
When it comes to some of the more specific places, for instance the front-loading washing machine, following the basic cleaning instructions is often enough. Some will say to leave the door open. This will help the chamber dry out and prevent moisture from gathering. You can also do periodic cleaning cycles with an empty chamber and a cup of bleach. If you can get into the gasket, try cleaning that out too to prevent most mold problems with washing machines. However, chimneys can be trickier. In Florida, we don’t used fireplaces often and a combination of moisture and warm temperatures can help mold grow in chimneys easily. As a result, you may need a professional chimney sweeper. This can prevent mold from growing and can also help prevent chimney fires. Replacing the caps and fixing any flashing on the chimney is also a good preventative measure.
You can also prevent mold growth in the HVAC and air conditioners before it becomes an issue. If there is mold in an HVAC system, it will need a professional mold remediation specialist. Preventing mold in the first place, though, is as easy as running the system. When the air circulates, the mold has a hard time finding organic material in the vents. You’ll want to make sure the proper operation and maintenance is done as well. This includes replacing the filters every three months. Simple tasks like these can prevent the need to call a professional to clean the vents.
Putting It All Together
If you find that you’re having trouble with your own mold inspection and testing at your home or business, there are many professionals who are ready to help. Call Sunsation Restoration or another local, licensed mold remediator to get the assistance you need. Knowledge is the first step to great prevention, but sometimes you may need a professional anyways! At the end of the day, there are a lot of different molds out there. They all follow the same growth cycle and all are looking for the same things. With this knowledge, and an idea of where they can thrive, we can prevent mold in the first place. Mold needs a lot of things to survive, and they like a lot of the same things we like. However, we can control our environments. Mold cannot and that is how we can prevent it from growing.