Back in November 2014, I accidentally discovered the answer to years worth of horrible health issues. Toxic mold. My cat actually discovered just one teeny portion of the issue. Unbeknownst to me I had a super feline mold inspector under my own roof. Without him, I may have never discovered the issue as we had NO visible mold.
I hired several “mold inspector” type people to help determine what exactly was going on in my house. While they all used different methods, the conclusion was the same. My house was killing me and I needed to walk away from it.
If you have mold or suspect mold, it might be difficult to decide if you need to hire a mold inspector. Today, I will give you some tips on when to consider hiring a mold inspector, questions to ask before hiring one, the mold inspection process, titles mold inspectors go by, as well as a list of trusted professionals that came highly recommended by the world renowned toxicologist I hired.
Do I Need A Mold Inspection?
There are a few schools of thought related to the necessity of a mold inspection. Some “mold experts” claim that if there is visible mold, you simply need to remove it and that there is no need for an inspection. Others feel that even if there is visible mold, there are compelling reasons to move forward with an inspection. Almost all mold experts agree that if you suspect mold but do not have a visual confirmation, a mold inspection is always warranted.
When IS it time to call in a professional mold inspector then?
Ideally before mold has really gotten out of control. Yes, this means when you see mold growing no matter how small the area is. The exception to this could be toilet mold or shower mold as those are typically isolated to those areas and easy to remove before a larger mold problem arises. But other mold growth? Don’t chance it. A little visible mold usually means a lot of hidden mold.
When you have that first inkling that something is amiss, make the call to schedule a mold inspection. Beyond that, you may need a mold inspection:
- When visible mold is not present, but the smell of mold is. Here a mold inspection and mold test can reveal whether there is indeed elevated mold, and where it is located.
- There have been plumbing leaks or water issues and there is a suspicion that elevated mold may exist in the air and/or behind walls.
- Post Mold Removal Clearance Testing to ensure that the previous mold issue has been resolved and mold counts have returned to levels found in normal environments of the same type.
- Health Concerns: when someone has a health issue that they cannot pinpoint the cause of and/or mold related illness symptoms are present.
- For real estate transactions for the protection of Buyers and Sellers.
- Landlord/Tenant disputes as to whether there is a mold problem.
- Someone thinks they see or smell mold but are not sure.
- Someone is interested in a general Indoor Air Quality test of their environment.
How Do You Find A Mold Inspector?
Finding a reputable mold inspector can be a bit daunting. You could check the internet for local mold inspectors. You can look at Yelp or Angie’s list. You can ask your friends and family if they know of someone. You can even check on your local neighborhood NextDoor app. If you have a trusted plumber, they may know of someone. Referrals are usually better than a blind hire.
Some of the very best mold inspectors I know offer remote inspection services and consultations. I personally offer some limited remote service options. While not a replacement for an in-person mold inspection, a remote inspection may be suitable for some situations.
No matter how you find a short list of mold inspectors to contact, you will ALWAYS want to ask them a series of questions to determine if they are the right fit for you.
Questions To Ask A Mold Inspector Before Hiring Them
Do you consider mold to be a health hazard?
If the inspector answers “no” or is on the fence about it, do not hire this person. A mold inspector should understand the health conditions associated with toxic mold exposure and not downplay their severity.
What types of mold testing do you perform?
There isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer here. Different tests can be used in different situations. I would caution you to avoid anyone who relies heavily on air sampling. This only gives you a 5 minute snapshot of what might be circulating in their air. This isn’t a full picture of what might be happening throughout your entire home. A quality mold inspector will use thermo imaging, take moisture readings, do an in depth visual inspector, and then take sample of any visible mold. Sampling may be done through core sampling, dust sampling, or tape lift sampling.
Do you take pictures as you make the inspection?
A quality mold inspector will document his or her journey through your home making it a point to take photos of any areas with visible mold, water damage, or areas that look suspect.
How are the samples analyzed?
Some mold inspectors will claim to verify samples immediately through their own testing procedures (in a van or home lab). Your inspector may in fact be trained to analyze samples under a microscope, however, the only way to know for sure if the test is truly authentic is by an having the samples sent to an accredited independent, third party lab to analyze and confirm the results of the test.
Find out about the lab the inspector uses.
You should inquire about what types of testing the lab does, how long they have been in business, what their qualifications are and how many locations they have.
If any lab testing was completed, you should find out how long it will take for you to get the results.
The typical turn around time for lab reports is three to five business days. If you need the results within one day, it is not unusual to pay an expensive rush charge. The larger and more established labs will usually be able to get the sample(s) completed and back within a reasonable time frame.
Ask the inspector what type of report(s) will be provided.
It is not unusual to get a verbal report only if the inspection does not lead to any issues of concern. However, full investigations should be followed up with a verbal and written report. Almost all mold inspectors use software programs to generate their reports. It is best if they have a summary section detailing any significant issues, followed up by an action plan and recommendations with regards to remediation as needed. Good reports are detailed, with photos for reference.
Do you also provide mold remediation or cleaning services?
It is a conflict of interest to perform both the initial investigation/testing AND profit from the cleaning/remediation of mold. It is in your best interest to use an unbiased and neutral third-party for your initial investigation and testing. The bottom line is that your mold inspector should not profit from the discovery of mold. If you decide to ask the mold inspector for a recommendation for a mold remediation company, they are allowed to provide that but must disclose if they receive any sort of financial incentive for doing so.
Does the inspector have any certifications and do they do any continuing education?
I am a certified mold inspector through the International Association Of Certified Home Inspectors. You absolutely want to hire a mold inspector who has credentials and went through extensive coursework and field training. Continuing education is usually only required if the inspector has to be licensed and not all states require licensing.
And finally, do you carry Professional Liability Insurance (Errors and Omissions insurance, commonly called E&O insurance)?
Most quality companies carry general liability (GL) insurance. However, E&O insurance is expensive and cost prohibitive for most mold inspection firms. The vast majority of mold inspectors do not carry this form of insurance that provides you with a higher level of protection.
How Do I Prepare For A Mold Inspection?
While there isn’t really any prep work needed for a mold inspection, there are a few things you can do to make things easier for the mold inspector.
- Make sure that all areas of your home are accessible. A lot of people have their attic access inside closets. It is helpful to have the closet entry clear before the inspector arrives.
- Since the mold inspection process in both an interior and exterior inspection, try to move items away from the exterior of the home so the inspector can get a good visual.
- Be prepared to answer questions about your home. A good mold inspector will want to gather information about the history of your home including leaks, flooding, or other water intrusions.
- If you have pets, please inform the mold inspector ahead of time and let them know if they need to make sure the cat doesn’t get out or if the dog is leery of strangers. Mold inspectors may choose to wear protective gear. They also carry equipment that may startle a pet.
Let’s take a look at the questions a certified mold inspector is likely to ask the homeowner or occupant.
These questions can help them confirm what they might be seeing as part of the visual inspection. In addition, the responses can give the mold inspector a better idea of where they might need to focus any mold testing.
- What year was the property built?
- How long have you owned and or lived, worked in or been renting the house or building?
- Does the house have a sump pump?
- Have you ever had any leaks and if so, where and how quickly were they caught and repaired?
- Have there been previous floods or sewer backups such as toilet overflows?
- Do the windows leak or sweat? Do they develop condensation during certain times of the year?
- Are the windows original?
- What year was the roof last replaced? For a shingled roof, was it completely replaced or was an overlay used?
- Is the furnace high efficiency and is there a HRV heat recovery ventilation system in place?
- Do the bathrooms have exhaust fans and do you use them?
- Are the fans vented to the outside environment or just into the attic?
- Is the dryer vented outside?
- Have any upgrades to the exterior been done within the past ten years?
- Have there been any major upgrades to the interior?
What Is The Mold Inspection Process?
The goal of the mold inspector during the mold inspection process is two-fold. First, the mold inspector wants to identify the cause of the mold problem (if there is one). Second, the inspector wants to evaluate the extent of the mold problem and possibly identity the exact type of mold growing. This will allow the mold inspector to outline a remediation plan.
The mold inspection process begins with a visual inspection. A visual mold inspection checks for mold throughout your house, including hidden areas like the HVAC system. That inspection is not limited to just the inside of your home. The inspection also includes the exterior of the building and surrounding landscape.
Some of the things an inspector looks for during the visual inspection include:
- Integrity of seals around doors and windows
- Current condition of visible plumbing components
- Water damage
- Are there areas of high humidity or condensation?
- Exhaust fans
- Temperature and relative humidity inside the home
- Visible mold growth
- Active leaks or areas with water intrusion
- Condition of the HVAC and ductwork
- Are there an unusual odors?
- Does the house sit high or low in regards to drainage?
- Is there a slope towards or away from the home?
- Is there a lot of organic debris around the perimeter of the home?
- Are there a lot of bushes or trees next to the home?
- What is the roof composed of and condition?
- Are there cracks in the exterior of the foundation?
- How many stories is the home?
The second part of the mold inspection process is the actual diagnosis. After inspection, the sources of moisture intrusion and/or relative humidity sources are identified and noted for the report.
The third part of the process is optional and determined by the homeowner. This is mold testing or fungal sampling. You can learn more about the types of mold tests but typically a mold inspector will take air samples, core samples, and surface samples using the tape lift method. The inspector will take as many samples from as many areas as you would like. The mold inspector will send these samples to an accredited lab for processing.
The final step in the mold inspection process is the detailed written report. The report will outline findings from both the visual inspection and any mold testing as well as provide specific recommendations to remediate problem areas and prevent future occurrences of mold growth.
A standard mold inspection report includes findings on:
- Moisture intrusion
- Water damage
- Musty odors or odors that might be associated with mold
- Apparent mold growth
- Conditions conducive to mold growth
- The results of a laboratory analysis of all mold samplings taken at the building
- Any system or component listed in the Standards of Practice that was not visually examined, and the reasons they were not inspected
- Detailed remediation plan
Any photos taken or infrared images are typically included in the report as are the actual lab reports for any mold tests completed.
Generally, 1-2 hours are needed for a complete mold inspection based on an average size house of 2000 square feet. I have noticed that some websites say that a mold inspection should only take 20 minutes if the mold inspector is good. This scares me. A mold inspection of an entire home will always take more than 20 minutes.
How Much Does A Mold Inspection Cost?
As a rough guideline, a mold inspection costs about the same as a regular home inspection. On average, a mold inspection costs $300 to $400 for small to medium-sized houses (below 4,000 square feet). Above 4,000 square feet, the cost increases to the $700 to $900 range. Keep in mind that these costs are for inspection only and do not necessarily include mold testing.
Does A Home Inspector Check For Mold?
A typical home inspection does not include mold testing although much like a mold inspection, a certified home inspection will make note of any visible mold as well as areas that have been previously water damaged or have an active leak. A detailed remediation plan will not be included in the home inspection report. Moisture testing may or may not be performed as well.
Typically a home inspector does not offer specific mold inspection services although some are licensed to do so. The key here is to find out if they have a mold certification and if so, have they kept up with continued education.
Other Titles Mold Inspectors Go By
- Industrial hygienists
- Indoor Air Quality Specialists
- Mold and Construction Professional
- Mold Assessor
- Indoor Environmental Advisor
- Contaminated Drywall Assessor
- Certified Mold Worker
Trusted Mold Inspectors In The United States
These are listed by State.
Phone: (520) 290-6653
Offers remove services
Kevin Riley, CIH
Phone: (800) 550-7806
Woodland Hills, California
David Harris, CMI
Los Angeles, California
Phone: (310) 384-7011
Brian Carr and Corey Levy
Los Angeles, CA
Palm Desert, CA
Phone: (707) 769-2289
San Diego, CA
Archie Yu, CIH, CSP
Phone: (808) 383-5511
American Mold Experts
Phone: (317) 837- 6665
Connie Morbach, M.S.,CHMM, ASCS, CIE
Phone: (248) 435-2088
Rocky River, OH
If you have used a mold inspector and were pleased with their services, please forward their information to me so I can reach out to them.