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© Cheryl Ciecko, 2017

Cheryl Ciecko, AIA, ALA, LEED AP is a licensed architect who improves the health of people by helping them avoid toxin exposure in their buildings.  Cheryl also shares information on a variety of other potential toxin impacts affecting health, including food, products, water quality, and air quality.  Individual consulting is available upon request.


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Can’t Find Mold… Cut Holes?

February 8, 2017


When you cannot find any mold through testing or visual inspection these are the next steps:

  1. Check humidity levels – room by room.  Look for anomalies and variations. 


    Check another blog post for more on this topic.  Click HERE.

    The normal levels are listed below.

    • Cooling Season Level:  Less than 60%

    • Heating Season Level:  Less than 40%

  2. Hire someone to do a scan with a thermal camera looking for temperature variations.

  3. Hire someone to use penetrating probe type moisture meters. (several inches minimum)

  4. Hire someone to air test inside of wall cavities

  5. Get second/third opinions from other specialists.  For how to find specialists Click HERE.

  6. Do NOT cut holes or otherwise disturb the structure looking for mold without proper precautions!


Last Resort Solutions -

Cutting Holes and Proper Precautions


If you determine you sense mold in a certain area or other indications suggest water damage, it often makes sense to cut open a surface to look further.  



Proper protections MUST be in place when doing ANY destructive testing, as it is possible you will find mold.  The act of cutting and removing or other disrupting any building materials can cause additional mold spores to be released into the air, often in very large quantities.  Health compromised individuals can become much sicker if exposed to newly release mold spores.  Even those with no previous sensitivities can have significant reactions and become hyper-sensitive when they were not previously.




Proper Precautions include the following:



  1.  Provide a sealed plastic enclosure with vestibule/air lock for entry and exiting.  A ‘zipper door’ is commonly used for access.   No air should be shared between inside and outside of the enclosure.

  2. Block off all heating and cooling vent openings and seal tightly.  Make sure to turn off other HVAC system while work is being done and for several hours afterwards.   NOTE:  Make sure there is enough intake air provided before turning the HVAC back on. (Contact the furnace manufacturer when in doubt.)

  3. Creation of negative air pressure – Blow air out of the space using a HEPA quality air scrubber VENTED OUT through a window or door inside in the enclosure. NEVER EXHAUST Air scubbers into another part of the living space!!!Hire someone to do a scan with a thermal camera looking for temperature variations.


  4. Plan for contaminated materials removal safely. A second window or door access to the outside is ideal.  Otherwise, double bag materials inside the enclosure to be removed by handing to a unexposed person outside of the enclosure, who can bag the items again.  A clean drop cloth covered path should be provided for exiting the structure.

  5. Workers should be wearing removable protective suits and respirators that they can remove and bag in the vestibule before exiting through a living space.

  6. Plan for how (route, bagged materials, removal through windows or doors) contaminated materials, equipment and people working will enter and exit the space safely.




What to Remove?

Remove a large enough area to view completely the entire assembly.  This also often means removal of insulation that may be covering mold but appear unaffected.  Concealed mold is often found on exterior wall sheathing, behind the insulation.  Sixteen inches square or more may be considered.  Make cuts with ease of repair in mind.  Often bigger is better and not more expensive.


Where to cut a hole?


Make your best guess to open an area where any smells, color or texture changes are evident

Consider locations below any exterior wall penetrations, including windows, doors, balconies or decks, porch roof overhangs, vent outlets, hose bibs etc.


Remember - WATER TRAVELS and mold may not be at the original leak source.






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© 2017 by Cheryl Ciecko, Inc.



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