Mold is the common word for any Fungus that grows on food or damp building materials. It often looks like a stain and comes in a variety of colours. In some cases, however, mold may not be visible but may have a musty odour. If it is allowed to grow, mould can contribute to poor indoor air quality.
Washing, cooking, air humidifiers, condensation and leaks from the outside all produce the kind of indoor moisture that mold needs to grow. Also, poor ventilation contributes to higher humidity levels and leads to condensation, which also allows mold to grow.
Mold can damage a home structurally and also compromise the health of its inhabitants. Some mold is unavoidable – and some mold also accumulates in dry, dusty environments, too. But home buyers should check during their home inspection (and periodically after purchase) that their home isn’t excessively moldy.
In order to reproduce, molds release small “spores” into the air and these spores are small enough that people can actually breathe them in. Mold spores are always present outdoors. So, when mould grows indoors, the number of mold spores and fragments is usually higher indoors than it is outdoors.
Health impacts of mold
The health impacts of mold vary from mild allergic reactions to serious side-effects. Exposure to mold can lead to irritated nose, eyes, throat or skin, as well as rashes, lack of concentration, digestive problems, headaches, flu-like symptoms, respiratory illnesses, learning disabilities and, more rarely, immune system problems that make the body vulnerable to fatal illnesses such as cancer.
Where mold accumulates
Mold is often visible in the form of small black circles or white thread-like objects which accumulate in moist environments. Mold most often results where moisture is present – in damp basements, near plumbing, or in improperly ventilated areas of a home. It can also grow in bathrooms and kitchens if the steam that occurs during showers or cooking isn’t properly vented, and it can spread from those rooms to attics or other parts of the home. New construction isn’t immune to mold either: Building materials exposed to rain or damp weather can harbor dormant mold spores that later manifests as mold, especially in moist weather conditions such as rain. Even seemingly non-damp materials – wood, drywall, and insulation – can harbor dormant mold spores and mould.
Mold can kill a house too!
Apart from, in greater concentrations, being a health hazard to humans and pets, Mold left untreated can literally destroy a house! Luckily, the type of mold that can do this is rare, and requires plenty of water, it is called Poria Incrassata and is one of the most devastating molds with respect to home maintenance. In fact, unlike other Fungii which only destroy around 6″-8″ diameter of wood at a time, Poria Incrassata literally eats the wood in the house, turning it into mush.
Other molds are no so, completely, devastating, but if you imagine mould damaging 6″-8″ of a structural piece of lumber, then the damage caused by the mold can be just as devastating.
Examples of Mold and the damage it can do
In the picture on the left you can see the tell-tale signs of mold. In this case it is a white powdery mold that covers the surface of the wood. This gradually dissolves the fibres that hold the wood together until the wood resembles a sponge. Eventually the wood will disintegrate into what will resemble saw-dust.
Once the wood has deteriorated to the point of rotting, there is no cure that will recover the structural integrity of the wood, and it will have to be replaced.
As with all diseases, early detection, treatment and corrective action to stop it reoccurring need to be put in place. Mould spores require both organic material (wood, cloth, paper etc.) plus moisture to get itself established. removing any one of those items or providing fungicidal treatments will inhibit the growth of the Fungi spores into a full mold attack.
Other molds can form into full fungal growth that resemble mushrooms, or tree fungus. This is not surprising in wooded areas that may have a large population of tree fungus molds and therefore offer a huge spawning ground for molds such as these.
In the picture to the right, you may be able to see small growths on the edges of the wood, and the complete breakdown of the fibre on the lower part of the beams.
These beams were structural to a flat roof deck, which needless to say had to be completely demolished and rebuilt with new timber to repair the damage.
What should have been a simple ongoing maintenance job, requiring monitoring, ventilation and moisture control turns into a major reconstruction job because of only 4-5 years lack of responsible maintenance.
Close up, the fungus looked like a cross between a hard mushroom, and wood itself.
Unfortunately, the wooden beams were too far gone for remediation and had to be completely replaced.
How inspectors conduct a mold inspection screening
Many home inspection companies are not qualified to conduct a mold screening as part of the home inspection process, but FPPI inspectors have been trained to conduct mold investigations by the International Association of Certified Indoor Air Consultants (IAC2) and EMSL labs.
FPPI offers mold inspections as an additional service during a regular home inspection or as a standalone service, and we are totally independent from Mold remediators.. Inspectors can examine a specific area of the home for signs of mold, or conduct a more thorough investigation.
During a mold inspection, inspectors will look for visual clues of mold in the attic, basement or crawl space, heating and cooling system, and around all visually accessible plumbing or appliances that create moisture. Inspectors will look for signs of leaks, moisture stains, defective caulking, and indications of water penetration. Inspectors may also take samples of carpet surfaces or air which are sent to a certified independent laboratory for an evaluation by qualified professionals who can detect whether mould contamination is occurring. They can also take swab samples from visibly moldy areas to determine the type of mold present.
Major types of mold
There are several types of mold, but generally molds fall into one of three categories: allergenic, pathogenic, or toxic molds. All of these molds may produce physical side-effects, but allergenic and toxic molds produce the most serious symptoms and a home with toxic mold may be deemed dangerous to inhabit. A screening can assess the type and degree of mold in your home and how to address it.
Curious about mold?
*Services may only be available through specific FPPI home inspectors.