Let’s consider another situation that I encounter frequently in my work as a mold professional. I go to someones home to look at their mold situation. They have been experiencing health issues in the family or it could just be a sick pet.
They purchased a home mold test kit at a local hardware store. It is basically a petri dish. They follow directions and open it and leave it out overnight and (horror of horrors) the petri dish is full of nasty, ugly mold. Then panic sets in…”Oh my God! We have mold growing in our house! How long do we have to live? We can’t move out, because we could never sell our house, since now, we have to disclose it is full of deadly mold. We are packing and getting ready to move in with Mom and Dad. This explains why we have been so sickly over the winter.”
I’m serious, these overreactions have actually happened. Everybody just needs to step back, take a deep breath, and calm down. This whole petri dish thing could just be a false alarm. Let me explain.
This most popular brand of a home mold test kit can be found at any number of retailers including Home Depot and Lowes. It is very inexpensive to buy.
Right on the front of kit it says, “Optional Lab Analysis Available”. Which means you can send this petri dish to a lab and for a charge they will tell you what kinds of mold are inside the petri dish. If you do not do this you have wasted your money on this test kit.
Why? Because inside every home, there are mold spores floating in the air we breathe. This is normal. If there are mold spores outside (as there is in practically every part of the world, with few exceptions) there will be similar spores inside. Again, this is normal and not unhealthy. So, when you open this home mold test kit and let sit it out overnight, it is quite normal for the mold in the air to start growing in the petri dish. So finding a petri dish full of mold of different colors does not necessarily mean you have a mold problem in your house. Even healthy homes with clean IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) will grow mold in these petri dishes. So no need to panic, yet.
If you send this to the lab and pay the $30 or $40, what does that get you? The lab report will tell you what species of mold are growing in your petri dish. Is this useful? Possibly. If it says you have Stacybautris growing, this is very good to know. This is the black mold you don’t want growing in your house. But that is about the only thing that the lab report can help you with.
You could get a better idea if you left a petri dish outside and one inside. Then mail both petri dishes (and pay for 2 results) to the lab and get 2 reports back that you can compare to each other. Why? because the same molds that are outside should be the only molds inside. If more species of mold are inside than outside, it indicates you could have a problem.
BUT, some crucial data is missing when you use home mold test kits, as opposed to using a professional to come in and take air samples. You really need to know, not just what kinds (species) of mold are inside and outside, but more importantly, you need to know HOW MUCH of each mold is in the air (per cubic meter).
Why is that necessary? Let me use an example: Let’s say you use a petri dish outside and one inside. You send then off and pay $80 for the results. The reports tell you there is Aspergillus/Penicillium outside and there is also Aspergillus/Penicullium inside. Well, that would be normal, right? Maybe. It depends. If the outside count of this mold was 253pcm, but the inside count was 8500pcm, this would be very abnormal. The thing is, Aspergillus/Penicillium is a normal mold found outside and inside that should not be unhealthy in normal counts. BUT when any mold is so off the charts high, it is not a good situation for our health. I actually took these numbers from a recent test I did.
Petri dishes or any home mold test kit for that matter, cannot give you all the numbers you need to know to ascertain whether you have a mold problem in your house.
How is having a mold professional test your home different than a home mold test kit? The mold professional will come in and using his special equipment, he will take specifically calibrated air samples inside your home, and one outside. He will send these samples to a lab and the lab results will not only tell the species of mold inside and outside, but the lab can also give specific numbers of how many mold spores of each mold are in each cubic meter of air in the specific rooms tested. As I mentioned in the example above, this is crucial to finding out if there is a mold issue in the house.
Our company (Mold Experts of Missouri & Kansas) will not only do the testing and get next day results from the lab, but we also do a 52 point visual inspection of the home so we can also show you likely areas (if there are any) of moisture or mold problems. This inspection is at no extra cost. You only pay for the mold test.
Check with more than one mold testing company. Prices vary greatly. Most Mold Testing Companies will charge roughly anywhere from $295 to over $600. Beware, some will have a ‘get in the door’ price and upsell you shamelessly from there to get more tests done in several rooms. As a general rule of thumb, get 1 test done per level of the house (+outside)
So, yes, to have a mold professional come into your home and test will likely cost you a little more than home test kits with the lab fees. But you will not be throwing away your money. The reason you would consider buying a home test kit is for peace of mind in knowing for sure that your home is not making your family sick. A home test kit can only give you, at most, a false peace of mind (or worse, a needless panic attack) Wouldn’t you really want to know for sure, beyond all doubt, that you are living in a safe environment?
So call a few mold testing companies and ask what you get for the money they are charging. How long does it take to get results? Are they a reputable company? Do they belong to the Better Business Bureau?
Your family deserves to live in the safest environment possible. It is really worth the peace of mind, knowing for sure. So don’t freak out or panic unless the mold professional tells you to do so. That is not likely to happen. Even bad mold conditions can be remediated.