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Mold and Air Quality Tests

Black Mold can be a scary phrase to some people involved in real estate transactions, but did you know that “black mold” is not a specific type of mold?

Mold is neither an animal nor a plant; you probably remember that from biology class in high school. Instead, mold belongs to the fungi kingdom. Many types of fungi are invisible to the naked eye, and many are floating around in your house right now! Yeast, for example, is a type of fungi that is present inside your home whether you realize it or not.

While having mold in your home is not inherently dangerous, some types of mold can produce mycotoxins that are harmful to people. People with a strong immune system may not notice the effects of small amounts of mycotoxins, but some groups of people - infants, elderly, immunocompromised - may have adverse effects. The most common effects of mold mycotoxins are allergies, respiratory issues, and inflammation.

Fungi can grow in a surprising array of environments, including some extreme areas. Mold can usually be found growing on organic surfaces, such as walls, ceilings, food, etc., but mold can also be found on concrete, steel, and other non-organic surfaces if there is enough moisture and food. Moisture is the easiest way to control mold in a home, because moisture is required for mold to live. Mold spores can survive outside of moisture for a long period of time, but will eventually die or fail to reproduce without enough moisture.

Central heat & air conditioning systems (HVAC) are designed to not only warm and cool the home’s air, but they also keep the humidity at comfortable levels. Homes should typically be between 20% and 40% relative humidity (RH) during winter, and between 30% and 50% RH the rest of the year. Any home that regularly goes above 60% RH may be at risk of developing mold. Several factors may raise a home’s RH levels, such as frequently watering indoor plants, excessively long showers, cooking, line-drying laundry indoors, and more.

Mold can also grow and spread very quickly. It is possible for a new mold infestation to become established and start producing spores within 24 hours of a water or moisture issue. If a new roof leak or other moisture intrusion is found, it should be corrected as soon as possible. Make sure the area is completely dried out and cleaned once the source of the moisture is fixed.

One thing I frequently see during home inspections in the Southern Oklahoma area is bathroom vents that terminate in the attic instead of to the exterior of the structure. Occasionally, I also find dryer vents that terminate under the house instead of to the exterior. Both vents move a lot of moisture, which is why they should terminate all the way outside of the building envelope. If an improperly vented bathroom vent is run often with steamy showers, there is a higher chance of mold developing in the attic and spreading into the living space. Similarly, a bathroom with no ventilation will have more opportunity to develop mold.

Mold is not necessarily always an issue, but it can be a sign of a moisture issue and it can occasionally lead to allergy issues in the occupants. A mold test is not always needed if the moisture can be controlled and the suspected mold can be appropriately cleaned. Keep in mind that dead mold is also an allergen, so it needs to be completely cleaned rather than simply sprayed and left in place.

Mold is not the only thing floating through your home's air, though. Pollen, dust, pet dander, and more can cause allergies and breathing issues. We are proud to be certified by the International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants (IAC2). This qualifies us to do mold tests and air quality reports. We are currently using Sporecyte tests and labs for the reports. A sample report is linked below.

If you see something that looks like black mold in a property, don't panic. Don’t let a harmless fungal growth, or just some dust that looks like mold, ruin a real estate transaction or stop you from buying your dream home. Our tests are quick, non-invasive, and easy to understand. We can add a mold and air quality test to a scheduled home inspection or we can come out and do a standalone mold test as needed. Give us a call to discuss at (580) 504-0464.


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