Sterling Property Inspections Mold Investigations
Education and Safety: More Than Just Testing for Mold
Sterling Property Inspections (SPI) offers quality service along with competitive rates to provide our clients with the best possible service. Our goal is to educate and inform you, our client, about mold so that you can make informed decisions based on need. SPI offers non-intrusive mold investigation and testing options to fit your needs.
Whether you see mold, smell musty odors, have moisture present in your home, office, or building, or simply suspect that there could be mold present, SPI is here to assist you with all of your mold testing needs. Mold growth inside any structure is undesirable. It can lead to a host of health problems in certain individuals, and specific types of mold are toxic and can be the cause of extreme health effects, especially in young children or the elderly. If you suspect mold growth or contamination in your home or building, it is highly recommended to test for the presence of elevated mold spore counts. Even if there is no mold present, the peace of mind you will have is well worth the money you spend on mold testing. Testing may even save you money if you are buying or selling a property.
Reasons To Get A Mold Inspection
You See Something Suspicious
By far the most common reason that we are called out is that people see water staining and black or colored staining on surfaces. This can indicate possible mold growth on building materials, furniture, or other personal belongings. Unfortunately, seeing mold growth indicates an underlying moisture or water problem that likely has been active for some time. At the same time, sometimes what people think is toxic mold can be harmless or not mold at all.
You Smell Something Suspicious
In order for mold to grow and colonize indoors, it needs a reliable source of water, moisture or even elevated humidity in a closed off area. These changes can be accompanied by a distinctive odor. A typical description of this odor would be musty or damp.
Someone Is Consistently Sick
Another common reason that people pursue a mold investigation is that they are having persistent and undiagnosed health problems such as: Cough, Nausea, Headaches, Respiratory Problems, Severe Allergies, Runny or Bloody Nose, Congestion, and Flu-like Symptoms. Runny nose, itchy eyes, and sneezing are all common side effects that can result from mold contamination in a living or work space. Take notice that these symptoms are also consistent with those associated with allergies. Not all people are equally sensitive to mold issues, so you may have people living or working in the same indoor environment and only one person is suffering due to mold exposure.
Real Estate Transaction
When making a commitment like buying a piece of property or signing a lease, you want to ensure you are not exposed to pre-existing and/or ongoing mold contamination issues in the building. Unfortunately, it is fairly easy to cover up serious mold issues for a short period of time by cleaning or painting affected areas. Fortunately for our customers, air borne mold spores cannot be masked and our air testing methodology is designed to discover elevated mold spores and contamination.
A New Baby
Having a new baby in the home causes people to be cautious and they want to make sure that they do everything to create the best environment for the baby to live in. These concerns are warranted as infants are much more reactive to mold spores and getting sick as a result of exposure to mold. Studies have shown that indoor air quality problems can have a greater effect on the very young. Studies also suggest that mold exposure at an early age could be responsible for developing asthma later in life.
Recent Water Damage
In order for mold to grow it needs water, moisture or elevated humidity in a closed space. So when you experience water damage in their structure due to a flood, exterior water intrusion or a plumbing leak, we always recommend a mold inspection and air clearance testing after any water restoration work has been completed. This will ensure that the water restoration or mold remediation company that you hired properly completed the work per industry standards and properly restored the damaged area.
Unfortunately, suspected mold or a water event during a real estate transaction can suddenly find you deep in the legal process. If you are involved in a legal action with a landlord, tenant, a home or commercial building sales transaction or insurance company, it is extremely important to get a mold inspection. Our certified lab test results offer the evidence you need to back up your claims of mold contamination in the indoor environment – or lack thereof. Without lab results it is simply your word vs. theirs.
Asthma or other Chronic Respiratory Illnesses
People who suffer from a chronic respiratory illness like asthma can be experiencing increased discomfort and want to ensure that indoor mold contamination isn’t worsening their health issues. Ruling out mold contamination in the indoor environment can be a great help to your doctor in treating your symptoms.
Peace of Mind
You read or hear about a mold problem in the news. You may know of someone that hired a professional to perform a mold investigation on their home or business, and now you are curious about the health of your indoor environment. Even if no mold contamination is found, a Sterling Property Inspections mold investigation of your property will pay for itself. Our comprehensive inspection of your structure will invariably find reportable conditions that, when remedied, can help prevent future water events that lead to mold growth.
Our 6-point mold investigation of your property
Our inspection and mold investigation of your structure is much more than a just a cursory walk through. Here are some of the most important aspects of our investigation:
- Inspection of exterior surfaces, including potential points of water entry at doors and windows, poor grading and drainage, and sprinklers spraying or leaking against the building
- Thorough inspection of all visible and accessible interior surfaces. Signs of water staining or water intrusion are investigated.
- Extensive use of moisture meters and Infrared Camera technology to determine if active leaks are present within the structure
- Plumbing fixtures are inspected for leaks
- Musty odors and/or elevated humidity levels at the interior are investigated
- Air sampling utilizing the most comprehensive and accurate industry standard mold spore trap methodology and certified laboratory analysis is conducted to rule out mold contamination – or to determine the level of indoor mold contamination
For more information about mold investigations, mold testing and price quotes, please call Sterling Property Inspections at: (800) 279-1950
Introduction to Molds
Molds are forms of fungi that are found and produced year round both in the indoor and outdoor environment. Outdoors, molds live in dead, decaying plant and other organic matter, as well as in soil. Mold growth requires moisture or elevated humidity and generally thrives in warmer temperatures, although it can grow in colder weather. Ideal conditions for mold growth are damp, dark, poorly ventilated environments.
How does mold enter the structure?
Molds produce microscopic spores. These spores are continually carried on the air, both indoors and out. When air-born mold spores land on a damp, indoor surface they can begin growing on and digesting the very surface they are living on in order to survive. Molds can grow on wood, paper, carpet, leather, clothing – on virtually any surface if the right conditions exist.
Most molds produce microscopic cells called “spores.” Live spores are seed-like, forming new colonies under the right conditions. We are all exposed to mold spores daily in the air that we breath, and the vast majority of us suffer no ill health effects. There is no practical way to eliminate all mold and mold spores in the indoor environment; the way to control indoor mold growth is to control moisture.
How to prevent mold growth
Common sources of indoor moisture include: plumbing leaks, failure and leakage around tub/shower surfaces, and/or poor caulking at these surfaces, lack of proper ventilation in wet environments such as bathrooms, exterior landscape irrigation sprinklers spraying the structure, un-insulated air conditioning plumbing lines in the attic that drip onto ceiling drywall, and roof leaks.
Finding and fixing any leak source or moisture intrusion is critical. Cleaning and drying any damp or wet building materials and furnishings within 24-48 hours of a known leak to prevent mold growth is equally important. Absorbent materials such as drywall or ceiling tiles that are moldy most often need to be removed and replaced with new material. Wash mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water and dry completely.
Some molds produce toxic substances called mycotoxins. Airborne mycotoxins have not been shown to conclusively cause health problems for most occupants in residential or commercial buildings. The health effects of breathing mycotoxins are not well understood and are currently under study. In some cases, high or ongoing human exposure to airborne mycotoxins have been known to adversely affect those with certain illnesses.
What is black mold?
Black mold is a generic term often used by the news media that is usually associated with Stachybotrys chartarum, a greenish-black mold that most often grows in conditions of significant water saturation of components. Not all “black mold” is Stacybotrys. Any known health affects of Stacybotrys have not been proven to be more significant than other strains of mold.
How concerned should I be if I find mold in my home?
No mold should be allowed to grow or thrive in the home. Finding and fixing any source of moisture intrusion or plumbing leak in the home is job one. Larger quantities of mold growth can be odorous – and may cause adverse health problems for some occupants. Additionally, mold can damage structural building components, finished surfaces and furnishings.
How does mold affect people?
Most people have no adverse health reaction when exposed to molds growing on indoor surfaces. For those people sensitive to molds, allergic reactions can be common. Skin rash, eye irritation, flu-like symptoms and aggravation of asthma are typical reactions. Severe reactions may include fever and shortness of breath. For those people with serious immune disease, fungal infections from mold exposure are possible in rare cases. Most symptoms are temporary and dissipate when the mold is corrected.
Who is affected by mold exposure?
People with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions may be more sensitive to mold. People with compromised immunes systems (such as cancer patients in chemotherapy, those with HIV and those receiving an organ transplant) are more susceptible to mold exposure and infections. Anyone experiencing health problems after exposure to mold should contact their doctor or health care provider.
Safely preventing mold growth after a water event
Porous components in the home absorb water and can remain a source of mold growth if not properly cleaned and dried – or removed entirely from the structure if necessary. These items can include carpet and padding, upholstery, wallpaper, drywall, floor and ceiling tiles, insulation material, clothing, leather, paper and wood.
Once the source of the water intrusion is found and repaired, a qualified, certified company should be contacted to assess the extent of the water damage and determine the steps it will take to completely dry out and treat the affected areas of the building in order to prevent future mold growth. Consulting with your insurance carrier may be part of this process as well.
All mold growth on surfaces should be removed from the indoor environment. If mold is growing in porous materials like drywall for example, all affected material should be removed.
Qualified mold remediators are trained to contain any molds while safely removing them from the home, then cleaning and drying the remaining surfaces.
Asthma and Mold
Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma. People with asthma should avoid contact with or exposure to molds. EPA’s Asthma web site
EPA’s Asthma Brochure
EPA’s Mold page from Asthma web site
Allergy & Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics (AAN/MA): (800) 878-4403; www.aanma.org
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI): www.aaaai.org
American Lung Association: 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872); www.lungusa.org
Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America: (800) 7ASTHMA; www.aafa.org
Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation fact sheets on mold – www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/burema/gesein/abhose/abhose_50.cfm
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: www.niaid.nih.gov
National Jewish Medical and Research Center: (800) 222-LUNG (5864); www.njc.org
Health and Mold
EPA’s publication, Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals , assists health professionals (especially the primary care physician) in diagnosis of patient symptoms that could be related to an indoor air pollution problem. It addresses the health problems that may be caused by contaminants encountered daily in the home and office. Organized according to pollutant or pollutant groups such as environmental tobacco smoke, VOCs, biological pollutants, and sick building syndrome, this booklet lists key signs and symptoms from exposure to these pollutants, provides a diagnostic checklist and quick reference summary, and includes suggestions for remedial action. Also includes references for information contained in each section. This booklet was developed by the American Lung Association, the American Medical Association, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the EPA. EPA Document Reference Number 402-R-94-007, 1994.
Allergic Reactions – excerpted from Indoor Air Pollution: An Introduction for Health Professionals section on: Animal Dander, Molds, Dust Mites, Other Biologicals . “A significant concern associated with exposure to biological pollutants is allergic reactions, which range from rhinitis, nasal congestion, conjunctival inflammation, and urticaria to asthma. Notable triggers for these diseases are allergens derived from house dust mites; other arthropods, including cockroaches; pets (cats, dogs, birds, rodents); molds; and protein-containing furnishings, including feathers, kapok, etc. In occupational settings, more unusual allergens (e.g., bacterial enzymes, algae) have caused asthma epidemics. Probably most proteins of non-human origin can cause asthma in a subset of any appropriately exposed population.”
Consult the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website
CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) has a toll-free telephone number for information and FAXs, including a list of publications: NCEH Health Line 1-888-232-6789.
CDC’s “Molds in the Environment” Factsheet
Stachybotrys or Stachybotrys atra (chartarum) and health effects
CDC’s “Questions and Answers on Stachybotrys chartarum and other molds
Homes and Molds
The EPA publication, “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture, and Your Home” , is available here in HTML and PDF formats. This Guide provides information and guidance for homeowners and renters on how to clean up residential mold problems and how to prevent mold growth. A printed version will be available soon. Biological Pollutants in Your Home – This document explains indoor biological pollution, health effects of biological pollutants, and how to control their growth and buildup. One third to one half of all structures have damp conditions that may encourage development of pollutants such as molds and bacteria, which can cause allergic reactions — including asthma — and spread infectious diseases. Describes corrective measures for achieving moisture control and cleanliness. This brochure was prepared by the American Lung Association and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. EPA Document Reference Number 402-F-90-102, January 1990. Moisture control is the key to mold control, the Moisture Control Section from Biological Pollutants in Your Home follows:
Water in your home can come from many sources. Showers or even cooking can add moisture to the air in your home. The amount of moisture that the air in your home can hold depends on the temperature of the air. As the temperature goes down, the air is able to hold less moisture. This is why, in cold weather, moisture condenses on cold surfaces (for example, drops of water form on the inside of a window). This moisture can encourage biological pollutants to grow. There are many ways to control moisture in your home:
Fix leaks and seepage. If water is entering the house from the outside, your options range from simple landscaping to extensive excavation and waterproofing. (The ground should slope away from the house.) Water in the crawlspace or slab foundation can result from the lack of gutters or a water flow toward the house. Water leaks in pipes or around tubs and sinks can provide a place for biological pollutants to grow. Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove moisture to the outside (not into the attic). Vent your clothes dryer to the outside.
Turn off certain appliances (such as humidifiers) if you notice moisture on windows and other surfaces.
Use dehumidifiers and air conditioners, especially in hot, humid climates, to reduce moisture in the air, but be sure that the appliances themselves don’t become sources of biological pollutants.
Open doors between rooms (especially doors to closets which may be colder than the rooms) to increase circulation.
Circulation carries heat to the cold surfaces. Increase air circulation by using fans and by moving furniture from wall corners to promote air and heat circulation. Be sure that your house has a source of fresh air and can expel excessive moisture from the home.
Pay special attention to carpet on concrete floors. Carpet can absorb moisture and serve as a place for biological pollutants to grow. Use area rugs which can be taken up and washed often.
Moisture problems and their solutions differ from one climate to another. The Northeast is cold and wet; the Southwest is hot and dry; the South is hot and wet; and the Western Mountain states are cold and dry. All of these regions can have moisture problems. For example, evaporative coolers used in the Southwest can encourage the growth of biological pollutants. In other hot regions, the use of air conditioners which cool the air too quickly may prevent the air conditioners from running long enough to remove excess moisture from the air. The types of construction and weatherization for the different climates can lead to different problems and solutions.
Moisture On Windows
Lack of ventilation is the culprit if excessive moisture collects on windows and other cold surfaces. Excess humidity for a prolonged time can damage walls especially when outdoor air temperatures are very low. Excess moisture condenses on window glass because the glass is cold. Other sources of excess moisture besides overuse of a humidifier may be long showers, running water for other uses, boiling or steaming in cooking, plants, and drying clothes indoors.
A tight, energy efficient house holds more moisture inside; you may need to run a kitchen or bath ventilating fan sometimes, or open a window briefly.
Double-pane windows and caulking around windows keep the interior glass warmer and reduce condensation of moisture there.
Humidifiers are not recommended for use in buildings without proper vapor barriers because of potential damage from moisture buildup. Consult a building contractor to determine the adequacy of the vapor barrier in your house. Use a humidity indicator to measure the relative humidity in your house. The American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends these maximum indoor humidity levels. Outdoor Recommended Indoor Temperature Relative Humidity
+20 F. 35%
+10 F. 30%
0 F. 25%
-10 F. 20%
-20 F. 15% Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus, with reference from the Association for Home Appliance Manufacturers (www.aham.org ).
Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned? – excerpt on duct cleaning and mold follows, please review the entire document for additional information on duct cleaning and mold. You should consider having the air ducts in your home cleaned if: There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system. There are several important points to understand concerning mold detection in heating and cooling systems:
Many sections of your heating and cooling system may not be accessible for a visible inspection, so ask the service provider to show you any mold they say exists.
You should be aware that although a substance may look like mold, a positive determination of whether it is mold or not can be made only by an expert and may require laboratory analysis for final confirmation.
If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced. If the conditions causing the mold growth in the first place are not corrected, mold growth will recur.