This question comes up often when we’re contacted by home buyers, so I wanted to write this brief article explaining how Alto Home Inspection, LLC handles mold situations. We encounter mold on probably 50% of our home inspections in the Buffalo area, as well as Cattaraugus and Wyoming counties.
What’s the main purpose of a home inspection?
The general home inspection that we conduct for buyers is designed to inform you of the condition of the house, focussing on the issues that carry the highest potential cost to repair. As with all licensed home inspectors, we use the NY Home Inspector Standards of Practice as a guideline. We consider our value to be greater than the minimum performance required by the standards, so we tend to go above and beyond.
Where are the most common places that mold is found?
After inspecting many homes, we’ve found that mold is most often found in basements, attics, garages, bathroom vanities and kitchen sink cabinets. But mold can grow anywhere in a home if the conditions are right for it (and therefore wrong for people…).
What happens when we encounter mold?
As a New York State Certified Mold Assessor and Mold Assessment Contractor we’re qualified by the state to conduct mold inspections and to visually identify mold. When we find mold during the course of a general home inspection, we’ll note it on the report and make sure you as our client understand the risks. We’ll also provide you with information that will help you understand how the homeowner should go about removing the mold, who should remove it and how to prevent new mold from growing.
To answer the original question, we do check for mold during a home inspection!
Who’s on the hook to remove mold that’s found during an inspection?
This one can be tricky. If we’re inspecting a house for the buyer, the advice we offer to our client is to have the seller of the house remove all mold and do what’s necessary to keep it from coming back. The process of having mold removed is invasive to the residence of the house, and buyers don’t want to bear the expense of mold remediation, so definitely have the current homeowners eliminate all mold.
Generally, mold remediation requires at least four visits to the home:
- A certified mold assessor will visit, inspect for mold and assess the scope of the problem
- A mold remediation contractor will visit the home and generate a proposal
- The mold remediator will come back and actually remove the mold and any damaged materials
- The mold assessor will return and perform a clearance inspection, ensuring that the remediator has done their job fully and per the scope of the mold remediation plan
Unfortunately we’ve found that mold remediators don’t always complete the job on their first attempt. We’ve routinely found during mold remediation clearance inspections that obvious mold remains.
Why is a mold assessment required?
After hurricane Sandy, many unethical contractors descended on coastal New York state and sold mold remediation services when they were both unnecessary and way overpriced. This consumer abuse prompted the state legislature to pass regulations that help protect homeowners from this abuse.
As a result of the legislation, two roles were created that essential created a “separation of duties” when it comes to mold in NY state:
- Certified Mold Assessor – The mold assessor inspects a house for mold, determines if it’s there, how much of it there is, how it should be removed and what it might cost. A formal “mold assessment” must be provided to the homeowner, which is meant to serve as a guide to use when the homeowner engages the services of a mold remediator
- Certified Mold Remediator – The mold remediator is licensed to remove mold from a building, and is held to high standards regarding their process.
If less than 10 square feet of mold is present, anyone can remove it and a mold assessment isn’t required.
Mold assessments are an important part of the mold removal process. An expert mold inspector should include helpful information in the assessment that should help you pinpoint the cause of all mold found, and should effectively be a manual on how to remove it.
Is mold testing needed?
NY regulations don’t require mold testing during mold inspections or assessments. Mold inspectors should be trained to identify the presence of mold based on visual cues only. Our average mold assessment doesn’t include anything more than visual identification of mold.
But there are most definitely situations where laboratory analysis of samples is helpful. For example, if mold is found in multiple rooms of a house there may be a broad mold infestation. In this case we would likely recommend that air samples are taken from several locations in the home, and that a lab analysis is undertaken. This sampling can then be used as a baseline prior to remediation.
In other situations, mold surface sampling might be performed. This technique involves collecting a sample of visible mold and having a lab analyse the spores to determine exactly what species they are.
Since mold can be dangerous, such as with toxic black mold, sampling can also be appropriate where health concerns are a problem.
How can you guarantee that your home is mold-free?
No house can actually be 100% free of mold, since mold lives in nature and some of it will inevitably find its way into the structure. But a few tips might help you get most of the way there:
- Don’t allow condensation to form anywhere in the house. This includes the attic, basement and on water piping. Condensation provides moisture for mold, which is an essential part of of the mold infestation recipe
- Make sure the attic is well ventilated. Water vapor naturally travels upward from the interior of a home, into the attic, where it will condense on roof sheathing if ventilation is bad.
- If the foundation isn’t waterproofed, use a dehumidifier in the basement. Foundations from the 1960s on back weren’t generally waterproofed, and they tend to allow small amounts of water to seep through them. These foundation walls are very often found with mold growing on them during home and mold inspections.
- Fix any plumbing leaks. Water leaks are an obvious mold risk factor. If drywall becomes wet, for example, mold will probably grow there.
Alto Home Inspection, LLC is a NY Certified Mold Assessor
If your home in the Buffalo, NY area and you need help with a mold situation, feel free to contact us. We offer expert mold inspection services, including mold testing and mold assessments.