Unless the home you’re buying shows signs of significant disrepair—and if it does, then why are you buying it?—inspecting for mold probably isn’t one of your top priorities during the purchase process.
After all, a general home inspection will pick up on any mold problems, right?
A general home inspection can tell you if there are indicators of hidden mold growth, as well as any visible signs, but that’s as far as it will go. A full mold inspection by a specialist is necessary if you think there may be mold in the home. Here’s why.
Mold can create a multitude of hazards
While mold is often the culprit behind mild respiratory symptoms like allergies and frequent colds, it can also cause more severe problems, like asthma and headaches.
A certain strain of black mold, Stachybotrys chartarum, can be particularly dangerous, causing chronic symptoms like fatigue, coughing, wheezing, and chronic headaches.
In addition to health hazards, mold can also cause structural hazards. Because mold breaks down dead organic material, like wood, drywall, and fabric, it can slowly eat away at the structures of a house. This is especially true if there are areas where wood is already rotting or places where air and moisture can seep into the drywall or insulation.
What a general home inspector will look for
During your home inspection, a home inspector will look for signs of potential mold growth, like areas of standing water, water damage to the roof, ceiling, or walls, or areas of high humidity, like an attic or basement. Of course, if there is any visible mold growth, a home inspector will note that as well.
When to get a mold inspection
If you or your general inspector notice any areas of visible mold growth or indicators of potential mold growth, it’s a good idea to schedule a specialized mold inspection.
When choosing a mold inspection company, you’ll want to ensure that they hold IICRC (Institute of Inspection Certification and Restoration Certification) credentials. The company should also carry environmental insurance coverage—this provides liability insurance in case contamination occurs during the mold remediation process. If the seller is the one facilitating the inspection, be sure to get assurance that the inspection is being carried out by a company with these credentials.
What happens if mold is discovered?
If mold growth is discovered, you, of course, have a couple of options. If the growth is extremely significant—this is more likely in homes that have been foreclosed or vacant for a long period of time—you may decide to back out of the sale.
If the growth is manageable, however, the mold inspector will start the mold remediation process. This entails disposal of any moldy, porous material that cannot be saved, like drywall or insulation, and then spraying the infected area with a chemical called an encapsulant to trap any existing mold spores. Carpets and floors will be disinfected and cleaned. The company will also clean the air with a HEPA air scrubber, and finally vacuum to remove any lingering mold spores.
Ideally, the home you’re buying will have no mold problems at all, and you won’t have to worry about any of this! However, if there is mold present—even if it’s just a small area—it’s far better to know about it before you close. That way, you avoid a costly, and potentially dangerous, surprise.