Signs of Mold: What To Look For When Buying a House
Buying a house can likely be the single biggest purchase expense of your lifetime, and when not properly assessed, it all too often can become a costly nightmare. In most cases, buyers will hire the services of a home inspector to perform a visual, non-invasive assessment of the homes condition. But what about potential issues that aren’t visible with the naked eye?
In most cases, costly mold contaminations, or mold issues are hidden in areas that we can’t find with a visual inspection alone, so it’s important we take extra effort to look out for signs of mold growth in the homes we are looking to purchase, and we know what to look for when buying a house.
Home inspectors offer a great and valuable service, one that definitely shouldn’t be skipped, but they are not professional mold and environmental specialists and simply do not have the expertise needed to source and identify mold that might be hiding in areas we can’t see. They can be a great help in looking for signs of mold and moisture intrusion, but most home inspections do not have the science or engineering background needed to perform proper and thorough scientific based testing and they don’t carry the knowledge needed to effectively interpret the results. That being said, when a home inspector uncovers visible mold or moisture intrusion during their inspection, that is a sure fire indicator that you need to dig a little deeper and look towards hiring the services of a specialized indoor air quality and environmental testing company!
Here are some clues to watch out for when walking through your potential new home that are a great indication that a professional mold investigation with air testing should be considered before a final offer is made. In order to avoid the possibility of purchasing a costly mold remediation nightmare, look for the signs of mold below, and use the items as a checklist of what to look for when buying a house:
Breathing Issues While Inside
Those of us with sensitivities to mold, or pre-existing allergies, asthma or respiratory weakness may have breathing difficulties in homes with a mold contamination, and breathe better when we leave the space. This may also be a sign of toxic home syndrome. Wheezing, coughing, sinus pain or sneezing can be a sign that further investigation is needed to determine if mold, or another type of sensitivity is the culprit.
Watch out for musty or earthy smells within a home, they may be sign of a mold problem. Any foul odor should actually be a trigger for further investigation as they could be being produced by Microbial VOC’s. Also watch out for homes that are using artificial home fragrances, synthetic air fresheners or moth balls that put specific scents into the air….they could be trying to cover up other odors that may be lurking in the environment. Vapor intrusion issues can also cause a stink so all smells should be properly assessed.
What’s On The Windows?
Any visible mold growth on walls or windows should immediately be cause for concern. Often, when mold is visually observered, it is an indication that there may be a high level of mold spores in the air; possibly from a hidden and larger contamination in an area we can’t see. Also, watch out for condensation as well as any signs of previous water damage or moisture intrusion. Any evidence of water issues within a home should immediately lead to thorough mold testing because if these issues were not immediately address or properly dealt with, a serious contamination may have developed.
Always check out the bathrooms for proper fans….and ask if they are venting into the attic or properly to the building exterior. Make sure this is on your home inspector’s checklist. The bathroom is often an area of very high moisture, and when we shower we add even more moisture in. If the area is not properly vented, this could be a recipe for mold growth.
Does the air feel different in the basement? Does it feel cold and damp? Did you know that a leaky foundation or leaky basement can actually lead to mold issues spreading throughout the entire home, so this is one area that always need special attention? Look for peeling or buckling drywall or any visible sign of water pooling or leaks. Check the area around the water heater for leaks and in in homes with sump pump, always check for signs of flooding (water staining, effervescence or damaged baseboards).
Is the roof older? Are the shingles curling or are many missing? Does the soffeting look damaged or are gutters blocked with debris? These could all lead to moisture intrusion in the attic. The rule of thumb is…wherever there is moisture, there could be mold! So look carefully at the roof, and if it’s been replaced recently, make sure your home inspector looks for signs of old leaks in the attic.
Keeping in mind that professional mold remediation can be very costly, and a contamination can significantly increase your home buying budget if mistakes are made, as well as pose a serious threat to a family’s health and well-being, the best choice is to perform both a home inspection as well as a complete mold assessment with air testing for mold spores. Above all, make sure you look for the signs of mold above, and use this checklist of what to look for when buying a house in order to protect your investment, and prevent you from unexpectedly purchasing a moldy mess!