Mould Inspection

What is a mould Inspection and should you have one?

mould inspection
The house had been standing empty for some months before my mould inspection. A particularly serious black mould infestation was the result of leaking water supply pipes at the kitchen sink! In this case, besides having the leaks repaired, the sink unit and the units on either side had to be replaced! The wall and floor tiling also had to be treated before new units were installed.

A mould inspection is a different process to a typical home inspection. Besides searching for the mould itself, a mould inspection concentrates of finding damp or wet conditions conducive to mould growth in and around the outside of the house. The secret to controlling mould growth is to eliminate the moisture which allows mould to grow.

There are a few different situations in which you might want a mould inspection. Below you will find out what a mould inspection entails, when to do one, what mould testing proves and the average cost of an inspection.

What is mould?

Mould is a fungus, and like all fungi, it thrives in moist places. Mould spreads by emitting spores, microscopic particles are often as small as a single cell. Spores float around in the air until they land on a surface. Mould spores are everywhere, outdoors as well as inside your house. It would be impossible to remove all mould spores from a house without installing a massive industrial filtration system.

Luckily, mould spores only form mould when they land on a moist surface. If you can keep the interior of your home dry, you can avoid having any problems with mould. You should clean up spills, repair leaks in your roof, plumbing or air-conditioning systems. Also, make sure your kitchen and bathrooms are properly ventilated to keep moisture out of the house.

Removing any mould in your house will prevent the surface it is on from damage and prevent allergies or asthma.

Can mould affect your health?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mould exposure has the potential to cause adverse health effects. If mould is growing in your house, it can release spores that are easily inhaled. Moulds can cause nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation and in some cases, skin irritation. People with mould allergies may have more severe reactions. Immune-compromised people and people with chronic lung illnesses may get serious infections when they are exposed to mould.

Exposure to black mould can lead to a type of toxicosis that is often referred to as black mould poisoning. Black mould releases mycotoxins as a defence mechanism when the growth is disturbed. These mycotoxins travel through the air on tiny mould spores and are easily inhaled. Black mould may cause the symptoms mentioned above and can cause depression, cognitive impairment, sleep difficulties, circulation problems, digestive complaints, fatigue and joint pain.

When to inspect for mould

If you can see it, you have mould in your house. You need to discover the magnitude of the mould infestation! Seeing mould in the cracks and corners of your walls means it is growing and spreading more spores. Mould may also grow in places you cannot see, such as on your ceilings or in your cupboards. It may also form colonies so tiny they escape the eye. A few situations should make you look for any mould problems in your house.

  • Water damage. If your bathroom flooded, the roof leaked, or a broken pipe sprayed water all over the kitchen, you need to inspect for mould. Any place that got wet and was not quickly dried (within 24 hours) could become contaminated by mould.
  • If you are purchasing a pre-owned home there is no way to know what kind of water damage may have happened in the house. The only way to find out if mould is present is to do a mould inspection.
  • After a house has been unoccupied. Houses closed up and unoccupied for a long time, may have humidity built up that could cause mould to grow. This is especially a problem in warmer areas with high humidity.
  • After mould remediation. If you have had a mould problem, have regular mould inspections to ensure it does not reappear.
  • You see some mould. If you notice some green, blue, black or white stuff growing in your house, do a mould inspection to make sure you find it all. It might not be restricted to one location.

A mould inspection vs. mould testing

If you are researching for a mould inspector, you will find different services and costs with mould inspections and mould testing.

Mould inspection

A mould inspection simply confirms the presence of mould and generally defines the extent of the problem. The main purpose of a mould inspection is to identify the source or sources of the moisture that allows the mould to grow! The second most important purpose is to recommend solutions to eradicate the sources of the moisture!  

Mould testing

Mould testing attempts to identify what specific type of mould is in your home and how many mould spores are in the air. However, keep in mind the following:

  1. The carefully controlled conditions required to conduct a proper scientific test of mould are extremely difficult to achieve in a home. Mould testing, especially air testing, is often inaccurate. Air samples at best give a snapshot of the air in one location at one time. The samples do not represent the air conditions unless many air samples are taken over a long period of time. Air sampling typically overestimates or underestimates the amount of mould in the air on average throughout the day.
  2. All indoor spaces have mould spores that drift in from outdoors. Mould tests will generally provide a long list of species, most of which are not growing in your home.
  3. The WHO has set no guidelines for an acceptable amount of mould or mould spores in a house. WHO therefore agrees that mould testing is not always useful for this reason. Instead, they recommend hiring a professional inspector to look for the reasons that the mould is present.
  4. Mould testing is expensive. Any money spent on mould testing will not be available for cleaning up the mould and fixing the water problem that led to the mould. Furthermore, the samples can take days or weeks to be analyzed. This is time that is lost that could better be spent cleaning up the mould and fixing the water problem. No recognized authoritative public agency recommends mould testing as a guide to the cleaning up of mould or the correction of the water problem.

What happens during a mould inspection?

Mould inspection is a visual inspection of a house. Aside from a good flashlight and camera, the specialised equipment needed is a moisture meter, a humidity meter, a temperature meter and possibly an infrared camera. This equipment is useful in determining whether a particular area is wet, humid and warmer than other areas of the home.

mould inspection
On the setting shown on the moisture meter, a normal “dry” wall would have a reading between 8 to 9%!

A typical mould inspection involves finding out about any areas where you have seen mould, where there have been moisture problems or water damage in the past. I inspect the house thoroughly, inside and outside, looking in places known to be prone to mould growth. When I find mould, I try to find the source of the moisture that is causing the mould to grow and suggest a remediation plan.

Mould inspectors must have a mould certification. I am mould inspection certified and experienced in mould inspection and mould remediation.

Factors affecting the cost of a mould inspection

The size of the house being inspected is the main factor affecting the cost of a mould inspection. Quite simply, a large house is going to cost more to inspect because the inspection and the report are going to take longer.

The second factor is the travelling cost! The further away from my office the more it will cost. However, you will find that in my inspection area my prices are substantially less than those of other mould inspectors.

The cost of a mould inspection

As a rough guideline, mould inspection costs about ⅔ the cost of a comprehensive home inspection. On average, mould inspection costs around R1,500 to R2,000 for small to medium-sized houses (up to 250 m²) depending on how far the property is from my office. Above 250 m², the cost increases to the R2000 to R3000 range. Keep in mind that these costs are for inspection only and do not include testing. Skipping unnecessary mould testing can save you a lot of money.

Finding the right mould inspector

Look for an InterNACHI inspector with specific experience and expertise in mould inspections and remediation. Call around your area and get a few quotes. There might be a wide price range, so shopping around could save you a few hundred Rand.

Importantly, you want to make sure you only work with a properly certified inspector.

Remediation after the inspection

If the mould inspection finds or confirms mould in your home, the next step is to make a remediation plan. This always begins with removing the source of the moisture that’s allowing the mould to grow. If you fail to remove the moisture, you can clean up all the mould and it will just grow back again.

Following that, you can scrub and wash hard surfaces with specialised chemical cleaners. Surfaces such as carpets, timber, laminate and similar finishes will have to be cut out or lifted up and replaced. You will then have to treat hard surfaces below these finishes. It is impossible to clean all the mould off of porous surfaces. Furniture, mattresses and built-in units should be discarded.

You need not hire a qualified contractor for mould remediation of smaller areas. However, mould can be dangerous, or at least unpleasant to work with, especially for someone with allergies or asthma. Professionals with the correct safety gear and cleaning equipment are better qualified to deal with large areas.

Preventing mould before it starts

Getting rid of mould in your house can be a major task, and remediation can be expensive if the mould is widespread. The best solution to mould problems is to prevent them from ever happening. Here are some tips on preventing mould:

  • Repair leaks promptly whether it is a leak in your roof, a window or a leaking water pipe. Fix leaks and keep moisture out of your house.
  • Clean and dry things promptly. If your bathroom or laundry floods or condensation from your air-conditioner drips onto a carpet, dry everything out within 24 hours if possible. Mould needs moisture to grow, so prompt drying is vital.
  • Control humidity. Extremely humid air can provide enough moisture for mould to form on some surfaces. Use a dehumidifier in humid and damp areas and run air-conditioning when possible during the summer. Keep windows open or install vents in your kitchen and bathroom windows. This will keep humidity down and keep moisture under control.

Mould is a serious problem, and spotting mould contamination before it grows out of control can save you many thousands of Rands. This makes the cost of a mould inspection well worth a few thousand Rand, especially when you are buying a new house. Mould testing, however, is not worthwhile. The important thing is, if you see mould in your house, you need to get rid of it, and the reason it has formed as soon as possible!

mould inspection
Mould can adversely affect your health. If you suffer a pre-existing respiratory condition such as asthma, mould can aggravate the condition.

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