Do-It-Yourself Mold Inspection Guide for How To Start:
Very toxic mold can be completely concealed. You may not smell it. Some people exposed to toxic mold will feel fine. But the mold is still there and it may be compromising your health or the health of people you care about without event knowing it. Do not completely trust any screening test including ERMI, HERTSMI or air testing results if symptoms or bloodwork is consistent with mold illness and those tests come back negative. I have had very good ERMI and air tests for me and for others in my family, and still found VERY toxic mold concealed. In one case the water damage was exposed and the ERMI still came back great.
So what does one do if they have health issues that might be connected to mold or other environmental factors but there are no outward signs? Here's my list of How to Start:
1. INSPECT the inside of your home or building. Use a flashlight to look for any changes in texture or color on surfaces. The signs may be very subtle. Early signs on that water might be behind drywall include sparkles on the surface, bubbling of paint, peeling of paint, emergence of a white powder substance. Any color changes at all should be noted. The flashlight is key to avoid the natural drop off of light from light fixtures. Be meticulous.
2. INSPECT the outside. Scrutinize during the day on a clear day, but also get outside when it is actually raining. Look for puddles or drainage paths near or towards the structure foundation or against the walls from the roof above. Note any grade slopes with are either level or sloping toward the structure. Neither are good. There should be a noticeable slope away from the structure on all sides. Six inches of slope in 10 feet is a good rule of thumb. Check all downspout connections and make sure you have extensions moving water well away from the structure. Make sure gutters are draining properly and not overflowing in locations and dumping lots of water on your walls or window
3. INSPECT your systems. HVAC systems are the cause of possibly 50% of mold problems in buildings. Check coils and condensate drains. Check all vents to make sure they are unobstructed and drawing air well. This includes cooking vents, dryer vents, and bathroom vents. These vents should NEVER exhaust in the basement, crawl space, attic or from the underside of soffits If you don't have working bathroom exhaust fans in rooms where showers produce moisture, there is likely to be a problem as the humidity alone over time will collect.
4. CHECK humidity levels in each room. Invest in a humidity monitor or even several. Humidity monitors cost between $9-$12 and are readily available through online stores, Walmart, and home improvement big box stores. There are also monitors that can show the comparison between indoor and outdoor humidity levels which are a bit more expensive but can provide very worthwhile information. Humidity levels higher than 40% in the heating season and higher than 55% in the cooling seasons are a cause for concern. Some mold species will thrive in high humidity alone. Often times, high humidity is a sign of other water damage sources which may be concealed. Check each room separately, and with windows closed and your heating or cooling working. If your humidity levels are high in any one room, or overall, then this is a red flag for more investigation.
5. CHECK inside attic spaces, under crawl spaces, in basements and along the perimeter of slab foundations to look for signs of moisture and mold. Exhaust fans should NEVER be exhausting into enclosed attic spaces, basements or crawl spaces. The humidity and moisture build up from exhausting moist air indoors will always lead to mold growth over time. Exhaust fans should exit the structure through the roof or wall only. Note any staining or discoloration of wood or other surfaces for further review. If mold is seen or suspected...DO NOT disturb it. Contact Cheryl Ciecko or another professional for individual assistance.
For a list of inexpensive tools and links to purchase them for doing your own home inspection see the PRODUCTS tab on this site, or Click PRODUCTS
For List of 10 Common Sources of Mold Click Here.
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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 with affect health, including food, products, water and air quality. Individual consulting available. Click here to schedule your appointment.
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