Mold has definitely become a four-letter word that nobody wants to hear over the past several years, what with all the hype about health issues linked to it. But before you mobilize your mold-fighting army, there’s something you need to understand. There IS mold in your home. Mold is all around us, all the time. It’s just not in a form that is particularly harmful. If you are suffering from visible mold growth in your home, colonies are spreading, and/or you’re dealing with the most dangerous species (like the notorious black mold), then you should certainly take steps to address the situation. But don’t go looking for trouble that isn’t there, especially when mold remediation can be so costly. Instead, test for mold in your home to get a baseline. Then continue testing to spot patterns that signal steady increases in mold before you start to panic. Here are just a few tips about mold testing to get you started.
First of all, there are two main ways to test for mold. You can either do it on your own or you can hire professional help. These methods come with different costs, different benefits, and different levels of results. The first, as you might imagine, is far less expensive, although the prices amongst brands vary greatly, as does what you get out of them. For example, you can pick up a Pro-Lab Mold Test Kit for about $10, but the lab fees will cost you $40. The lab test turnaround time is five days and your test kit includes myriad samples from around your home (surface, HVAC, and even outdoors) to help you get a good baseline. Other kits could run as low as about $25 all told, or go up to over $100. But the amount of time they take to analyze and the results you receive will vary.
In most cases, you can order test kits online, complete them as instructed (with swabs, strips, petri dishes, and so on), then mail them in to the corresponding lab for analysis, and simply wait for your results. But there is one major problem with choosing this route: how are you going to read the results when you get them? You can probably do some research online concerning acceptable levels for mold in your home, or what to expect with certain species of mold, but this is the point at which you might wish you had hired a professional.
There are also pros and cons to hiring help when it comes to mold testing. The cost is significantly more, for one thing, and technicians will poke holes in your walls to get comprehensive readings. But when the testing is complete, they’ll not only deliver a report, but they’ll explain it to you and recommend a course of remediation. Of course, you have to keep in mind that there may be something of a conflict of interest when it comes to their recommendations if they’re a company that not only does testing, but also remediation.
As with any service you procure, you need to be smart. HVAC technicians can help you save on air conditioning costs by installing an energy-efficient unit, but you’ll still have to pay for the hardware up front. So take the time to do research, consider a second opinion if necessary, and don’t freak out when you find mold in your home – it’s going to be there. Just start with a baseline and test annually. This will give you a more complete picture of whether or not you need remediation.