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 Mold Testing 

  Click here to read the EPA's Guide to Mold

 What is Mold?
Molds are microscopic organisms found virtually everywhere, indoors, and outdoors. Mold spores are tiny, lightweight, and easily detached by airflow, vacuuming, walking on a carpet or sitting on a couch. In indoor environments, they grow in air-conditioning ducts, carpets, pots of household plants, etc. They produce and release millions of spores, which are small enough to stay airborne threatening to invade the human respiratory system. Mold growths can often be seen in the form of discoloration, ranging from white to orange and from green to brown and black. In large quantities, molds can cause allergic symptoms similar to those caused by plant pollen. In order for mold to grow, it needs food sources (such as leaves, wood, paper, or dirt), a source of moisture, and a place to grow. 
 Understanding Types of Mold

Allergenic molds are normally not dangerous in low amounts, but they can cause allergenic or asthmatic symptoms such as wheezing or runny nose. These molds can be abated safely with the assistance of gloves and a disposable particulate-removing respirator.

Mycotoxic molds can cause serious health effects in humans and animals. Health effects range from short-term irritation to immunosuppression to cancer and even death. If any toxic molds are identified, it is suggested that you seek advice from an Industrial Hygienist or other mold professional for guidance. The average homeowner should NOT attempt the abatement of these types of mold. 

Pathogenic molds can cause serious health effects in persons with suppressed immune systems, those taking chemotherapy, those with HIV/AIDS, or autoimmunity disorders. If any pathogenic molds are identified, it is suggested you seed the advice of an Industrial Hygienist or other mold professional for guidance. The average homeowner should NOT attempt the abatement of these types of mold. 

Hyphae & hyphal elements refer to single, unidentifiable fragments of mold. Although they may not be traceable to a specific mold species, the fragments themselves may be responsible for allergic reactions in some people and may indicate previous or current growth event. Smut spores are agricultural spores from outside sources. Ascospores and basidiospores are clusters of spores that may not be easily identified as per specific species, but may still represent f mold problem in the home.
 How do you come in contact with mold?

Mold spores are found in all homes and offices, and grow rapidly from excess humidity. The following are some sources of indoor moisture that may cause mold problems in a home or office: flooding, leaky roofs, humidifiers, damp basements or crawl spaces, constant plumbing leaks, house plants, steam from cooking, shower/bath steam and leaks, wet clothes, bathroom towels, pets, sweaty sneakers indoors, dirty HVAC systems, spilled liquids on carpeted surfaces and clothes dryers vented indoors.  

 What can mold do to you?
Exposure to mold is not healthy for anyone but the following individuals are at a higher risk for adverse health effects: infants, children, elderly, immune compromised patients, pregnant women, and individuals with existing respiratory conditions. When inhaled, even in small amounts, mold can cause a wide range of health problems including respiratory problems (wheezing), nasal and sinus congestion, watery and red eyes, nose and throat irritation, skin irritation, aches and pains, fevers, and in some cases even death.
 Causes of Indoor mold Growth

High moisture is the major contributor to indoor microbiological activity (mold growth) . This is due to nutrients for spore germination and growth being readily available in most household constituents. These household constituents can be dirt, dust, wood, paper, adhesives, acoustical fiber, paint textiles, stored material, carpets, floors, and much more.

 Understanding Testing Procedures
The PRO-LAB Professional Mold Test Kit Administered by S&P Engineering, Inc. (PATENTED) is designed to detect whether toxic mold is present in a home or office. The PRO-LAB Professional Mold Test Kit offers three (3) different types of sampling methods, depending on the application needs of the property being inspected.  

Method 1: Taking a sample from a visual growth area.  

During an inspection, all visual mold growths should be sampled. Meaning that, if you see mold growth behind the wallpaper in a kitchen and also underneath the sink, both should be sampled using individual petri dishes.  

Method 2: Taking a 10-minute grab air sample of the HVAC system.  

If the property has forced air or heating system(s) a minimum of one sample should be taken from each system. This test will determine if any mold is growing inside the system plenum or ductwork.  

Method 3: Taking an air sample using our settling plate technique.  

This method should be used as an alternative to the HVAC grab sample when the property being inspected doesn't have forced air or heating system. The settling plate technique analysis will indicate if airborne mold spores are present.

All three methods will provide detailed information about the mold/fungi type and a complete definition (in laymen's terms) of where the mold is commonly found and the health risks associated.

 Why Test for Mold?
Mold, the hitchhiker, is being aggressively spread throughout the world by humans' traveling and living patterns. We have created millions of square feet of pristine living conditions for molds and we pick up mold spores and bring them home with us every day. All houses will harbor molds and some houses are friendlier to molds than others. All houses need to be monitored for mold growth as part of the maintenance procedures for the house. When any mold or mildew is present, more will come. Only through inspection and testing can it be determined if molds are present and if the subject property is showing signs of mold and mildew friendliness.
 Inspecting for Mold
Allergies and sickness due to indoor air quality issues are increasing dramatically. More than 5% of all construction lumber manufactured each year in the United States is used to replace wood that has decayed in service. Allergies and sickness due to indoor air quality, damage to wood-frame buildings by mildew, mold, staining fungi, and decay fungi is entirely preventable. The first step in prevention is inspection and testing.
 Mold is Here to Stay
Mold is a competitive species for real estate, molds live and prosper in the same environment as we do. The houses we live in are wonderful environments for mold. All houses need regular inspections for mold along with other periodic preventative maintenance inspections. Before fungi can colonize, four requirements must be met: air, livable temperature, moisture, and food. Humidity and water leaks are the cause of most mold infestations. Leaks being the easiest to spot are the first indications that mold may be present, however unusual activities may upset the humidity averages in the house and mechanical spaces and allow mold to establish itself.
Read NABIE's Position Paper "Licensing of Professional Engineers and Architects as Home Inspectors"




In Wheeling S & P Engineering, Inc. In Pittsburgh
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Wheeling WV  26003
Copyright 2001 S&P Engineering, Inc.
17 Bell Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA  15205