Mold is common in the air we breathe outside. Most of the time, the exposure is minimal and does not cause ill effects. When mold grows indoors, the exposure can become much more severe and cause health problems for some people.
What causes mold?
Household mold is caused by excessive moisture in the home. Some common causes of moisture and mold growth are leaky plumbing, flooding, malfunctioning air-conditioning and/or heating units, improper or absent venting in bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens, and leaky roofs, doors and windows.
Mold and fungus require 4 elements to survive; a food source (wood), the proper temperature (approximately 68 - 97 degrees F), oxygen, and water. Eliminate any one of these and mold & fungus cannot survive.
How can I recognize mold?
You can usually see mold, it often looks like black, gray, or green spots though it can be a variety of colors, depending on the species. You may be able to smell it as most molds have a distinct musty smell. It is possible to have mold and not know it. This is particularly true when mold results from a plumbing leak inside a wall or other hidden area. Peeling paint, bulging wallboards, and/or discolored wallpaper may indicate the presence of mold. If you suspect hidden mold, hire an experienced professional to perform an inspection.
Is mold dangerous to your health?
Some people experience nasal problems, respiratory problems, and eye or skin irritations due to mold. People who are sensitive to mold often have more severe reactions. From a scientific perspective, there is still a lot to learn about mold and its effect on human health, so it's best to error on the side of caution. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that if you see or smell mold, remove it. If you suspect that mold is causing a health problem, contact your doctor. You can also refer to the Environmental Protection Agency's Mold Resource page for more about mold and health.
How do I get rid of mold?
If you are not qualified to deal with the mold issue, you may want to hire a professional to address the issue causing the moisture and then remediate the mold growth. If you are determined to remove the mold yourself, make sure to wear the appropriate personal protective equipment. Gloves, safety glasses and an N95 respirator should be used at a minimum. It is suggested that you refer to guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Center for Disease Control when handling mold yourself. Note that painting or caulking over mold does not kill it or remove it.
Do-it-yourself mold test kits
There are do-it-yourself test kits available online or at home improvement stores. The costs range is about $5 to $100. The process with a do-it-yourself kit is to take a sample, place it in a container and wait 48 hours to see if mold grows. To learn exactly what types of molds are present you have to mail the kit to a lab, which adds shipping costs plus testing fees of $30 -$150 per sample, depending on the level of identification and the type of report and consultation provided. As it is common for do-it-yourself test kits to become contaminated before use, ConsumerReports.org does NOT recommend the kits be evaluated.
A professional mold inspection
If you are not sure what to do, you might decide to hire a professional mold inspector. The costs to inspect for mold and provide samples to a mold test facility range from $200 to $600 for a typical 1 family home. The cost for larger homes, 5,000 sqft and larger can range from $600 to $900. A full mold inspection of a typical home takes about 2-5 hours. The inspector will visually evaluate the structure and in extreme cases, and with the home ownerâ€™s permission, cut open the walls, floor, or ceiling for what is known as an invasive inspection. Some mold inspection companies offer both mold inspection and mold remediation, but most experts recommend using different contractors for these services.