Reuben Saltzman

Q&A: “Why do you offer mold testing? I’m not a fan.”

We recently received a frustrated-sounding email from a real estate agent asking us why we offer mold testing.

Hi- I’m an agent and frequently recommend you guys for inspections. I’ve recently seen every client I send your way ask me about MOLD. And for no reason other than they saw it on your website? As in, no visible evidence of mold, no moisture problems, no smells… I’m wondering why this is being pushed and where this has come from?

Now I have a very panicky first-time buyer that just ordered a mold test for no reason whatsoever.

I’m really not a fan of adding this extra layer- it’s good to know you can do it but mold is EVERYWHERE. You cannot test for mold and NOT find mold! It’s airborne!  I’m really confused about what is happening here.

There are two main questions in this email: why are we “pushing” mold testing, and what’s the point of testing when mold is found everywhere? I’ll address both of those today.

Pushing Mold Testing?

I’ll admit, we do try to push sewer inspections, radon testing, and chimney inspections. These are extremely important inspection services to have done when you’re buying a home, and it’s quite unusual for someone who is properly educated to not purchase these services. They’re just that important.

But on the other hand, we never push mold testing. It’s listed on our menu of offerings, but we never try to “sell” people on this service.

Our clients may order a mold inspection along with a home inspection when there is already a known or suspected mold issue, or they might order this as a precautionary measure. When we do a mold inspection as a precautionary measure, it’s usually for clients who have special concerns about mold, especially if there has been a known history of basement water intrusion.

I wish I could tell you that a home inspection alone is enough to uncover any potential mold problems in a home, but it’s not (a$k me how I know). And to be honest, there’s no guarantee that a mold inspection will uncover all hidden mold issues, either. We’d have to conduct extensive air testing throughout an entire home to offer any kind of guarantee, and that starts to get very expensive.

When we conduct mold inspections, we test for mold in the areas most likely to have mold. This is usually in a basement in the darkest corner, but we use our experience, training, and discretion in every case to help make those decisions.

In short, we offer mold inspections but we never push this service.

If mold is everywhere, what’s the point in testing?

To help make my point, let’s talk about water for a minute instead. As a home inspector, I’m very concerned with water in the home. I’m concerned about water in the basement, water in the walls, condensation behind the insulation, moisture in the attic, roof leaks, and the list goes on. I use a moisture meter to help identify problem areas, as well as an infrared camera. Now, someone could certainly make the argument that moisture is found in everything, even the air we breathe, so why bother checking?

Of course, the answer is that we’re simply looking for elevated levels of moisture in the home. We’re looking for abnormally high levels which tell us there’s a problem with the house. And this is exactly how it works for mold testing.

We conduct one mold air test outside of the home to establish a baseline for mold, and the indoor air samples get compared against the outdoor numbers to help figure out if they’re abnormally high. If the numbers do come back high, we don’t simply give a report saying “you’ve got mold!” We provide an in-depth report showing exactly which areas were tested, we explain what the results mean, we discuss the potential causes for the mold, and we give a recommended action plan.