How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
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What should I do if home inspector finds mold?
Sunday, October 21, 2018
If we discover what appears to be a mold-like substance during the course of the home inspection, we will refer you to a mold inspector for further evaluation. Mold inspection is now a separate, licensed occupation in the State of Florida. We will note our finding in the inspection report as a “mold-like substance” because the confirmation of mold is done by a laboratory-examination under a microscope of a sample taken from the area.
We use an infrared camera as part of every home inspection, and will also be looking for hidden moisture in the walls or ceiling that may not be visible yet, because the resultant staining and/or mold growth has not started to develop or is contained within the wall. These areas may require further invasive inspection, such as removal of a section of wallboard to determine what’s going on in the wall.
But what if the suspected area is actually verified as mold? First thing: the seller should remove the source of the moisture that allowed the infestation to begin. A microbiologist will tell you that molds are actually small plant-like life, and they require three things in order to grow: moisture, warmth, and a food source. Remove any one the three elements and the mold cannot survive. Usually, moisture is the easiest to tackle.
Typical sources of moisture are roof leaks, plumbing leaks, and air conditioning duct or condensate line leakage. Once the source of moisture has been identified and removed, and the area dried-up, the next step is to determine the square footage of the problem. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that an area of less than ten square feet can usually be safely remediated—a technical term for “fixed correctly”—by the homeowner. Cleaning of the area with a detergent and water solution or removal or replacement of the moldy material are the two options.
Larger areas require professional remediation and, typically, the mold inspector or an industrial hygienist will specify how the area is to be remediated, and will inspect and sign-off on the job at completion. This can be very expensive but, particularly when there is extensive and/or long-term mold infestation, you will need to know that the seller used a licensed professionals and the completed job has documentation.
Unfortunately, if you are simply told that the problem was “taken care of” and the area is now freshly painted, you may find--after closing--that you were stuck with a handyman-fix of spraying the area with a bleach solution or, even worse, simply painting over it. This does not actually remove or kill the mold and may invite a repeat infestation.
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