By Edward Sobek, PhD
Home inspectors are on the front lines in the battle against mold in residential properties. Mold testing services have been around many years. Many inspectors avoid it while others dive in and tackle it, offering mold testing as an add-on service. On the other end of the spectrum, there are inspectors who have switched to inspecting for mold full time. Is testing right for you at this time? We think for many, the answer is yes.
Training and Testing
Providing complete mold/environmental inspection services can be extremely lucrative but requires additional training both on and off the job. However, inspectors can offer a simplified mold testing service without having to become a certified mold inspector. That solution is to provide a “Mold Screening Service,” that is designed to issue a black and white answer to the question of whether a residential property has a mold issue or not. It’s a relatively simple, high-profit add-on service that many buyers take advantage of when it is offered.
By now, the majority of inspectors have some general idea about mold, even if they have a disclaimer in their contract that excludes mold from the home inspection. There is no denying that that colorful fuzzy material in the crawlspace is mold. Still, many inspectors think it’s too risky to report it. One inspector told me that mold is like a landmine that is best to avoid, rather than risk a litigation “explosion” that could damage his company and livelihood. That is hard to argue with but that is exactly what I am going to do, because the risk of not reporting mold is more dangerous than any landmine. It’s more like a powder keg with a short fuse attached to a smoldering cigar—like in an old spaghetti western. That keg is going to blow and you have no way of knowing when or where or how much collateral damage is going to occur. So the best answer is to take control.
If you have more than 50 home inspections under your belt, you already have developed some intuition about mold. Simple things come to mind, especially related to water. Mold needs water or moisture to germinate and colonize indoor substrates. A house with a leaky roof, window, hot water heater, shower, etc. is going to have a mold problem; the extent of the problem depends on how large of an area the water intrusion is affecting and how long it has been going on. Larger and longer equals more mold, while a small area and shorter duration will equate to little or no mold. You’ve all spent time in dank basements and nasty crawlspaces where the humidity is out of check and that musky, moldy funk saturates your olfactory cells. You have seen the fuzzy surface mold in those areas that produce that odor. You’ve seen green, black and yellow blotches on drywall behind washers with leaky hoses. You’ve seen leather shoes in closets with a nice blue fuzzy covering that you know has nothing to do with fashion. You already have enough innate knowledge of mold to start screening.