Once you’ve determined you might have a mold problem, a proper mold test should be done to tell you what species and how many mold spores you have in your air. This accuracy will also serve the purpose of identifying HIDDEN MOLD that a visual inspection may not find in your home or office.
To do the testing, you have a choice of doing it yourself with an inexpensive, store bought kit or hiring a professional mold inspector to conduct a visual inspection and take samples for lab testing. DIY kits are going to give very limited information and can often give false negatives, which is why a professional mold testing is often worth the additional cost.
The Three Categories of Mold Testing
Before you choose to do mold testing yourself or hire a professional, you’ll need to decide which type of testing is necessary for your home or office. There are three categories of mold testing available:
1. Air Mold Test
Air tests sample the contents of the air for a given amount of time. This test should be able to pinpoint the species of mold, how many spores are present per unit of air, and how the spore counts inside compare to the air outside your home or office. This is the Badger’s favorite mold test since it can also tell what parts of your house have the highest spore count and allows you to quantify the progress made from a remediation.
2. Surface Mold Test
Surface tests are obtained by swabbing a surface, usually with visible mold growth, and then swabbing a petri dish and sending to a lab for analysis. Other good surfaces to sample are air filters and dust on furniture. A surface mold test can tell you the species of mold, but nothing else. Because mold is present everywhere and this test doesn’t offer spore counts or comparisons, this is a somewhat inefficient test for health or remediation purposes. Most home mold test kits fall under this category.
3. Culture Mold Test
The basis of a culture test is a petri dish, the same used in surface testing and home mold test kits. Instead of a direct swab, many culture tests are placed in a room for a set amount of time before being sent to the lab for analysis. It is good for identifying a specific species of mold, but does not give any actionable information beyond that, much like the surface mold test.
DIY MOLD TESTING
If you’ve determined a simple DIY test is the best solution for you initially, you can find mold testing kits on Amazon, Lowe’s and Home Depot. Kits are usually around $10, with another $40 or so hidden for laboratory testing costs. These home mold test kits are great for the direct sampling of visible mold to identify the particular species of already visible mold growth, but will not help to determine spore count or whether you have a true mold problem.
Why can’t a DIY test tell you if you have a mold problem? As mentioned in our MOLD 101 article, mold spores are everywhere. These DIY kits contain a petri dish. You swab the suspected mold source and rub the swab on the petri dish, called a surface test, or leave the petri dish open in a room and allow dust to settle on the dish, a culture test. Because mold is everywhere, either option is going to see mold growth, just without being able to quantify spore counts, like air tests could. This is called a false positive.
The DIY surface or culture tests confirm what we already know, which is that mold is everywhere. But they don’t answer the valuable questions of how the spore counts in your home or office compare to the air outside or whether you have areas with abnormal mold growth that needs to be remediated.
If you have visible mold growth and you are only interested in knowing the type of mold, these DIY kits can be used to identify dangerous varieties such as Stachybotrys Atra, Stachybotrys Chartarum, Aspergillus, Chaetomium, or Penicillium. However, keep in mind that everyone has a spore or two of these in their house. Whether they are present in normal or dangerous levels is something DIY mold tests are not able to answer.
Professional Black Mold Testing
To have a specialist come and inspect your home and take multiple samples generally runs $300-600. This may expensive, but a professional mold testing company can save you a money when it comes time to do the remediation work. They do this by discovering the true scope of your problem and being able to create a remediation plan and get quotes from licensed, mold trained remediation contractors BEFORE you start opening up walls.
A professional mold test also serves the purpose of documenting the problem by a licensed professional which is crucial for legal proceedings or dealing with your insurance company.
A legitimate mold testing company will take air samples, do a visual inspection, and should be able to tell you:
- Number of mold spores in your house/office compared to the amount outside your house/office
- Species of spores that are abnormal in your building. You can use this information to further compare your health symptoms to those of that species and your physician can use this information to help treat your symptoms and provide detox relief.
- Hot spots: Combining a total house inspection and specialized collection methods will allow them to pinpoint which specific areas need to be remediated.
Before hiring a professional mold testing company, read Questions for your Mold Professional.