About Marvin Littlepage

Marvin Littlepage has been a member since January 7th 2015, and has created 4 posts from scratch.

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Can There Be Hidden Mold in my House?

I get at least a few phone calls per month, where the person tells me, they are sure they have hidden mold in their home. Particularly inside their walls. Why are they so sure of this?

Because they’re mysteriously sick all the time. When they are away from the house for a period of a few days, they feel much better. Come home, sick again. They have convinced themselves it must be hidden mold inside walls of their home, because there is no visible mold in the house.

So, is it possible for mold to be hidden in the walls of a house without any other signs of visible mold. The simple answer is, yes. It is possible. But it is not very likely.

Can There Be Hidden Mold in my House PIN2First, before I delve more into the why’s and why nots of this, let me talk a little more about these frequent calls I get that I mentioned above. Some of these people could be hypochondriacs. But more of them, I think, really do feel sick at home. Yet, in reality, it could be so many other things causing them to feel bad. It just seems that “toxic mold” gets the blame over other possible causes, by default.

Other possibilities: Lead poisoning, asbestos, cigarette smoke, radon, unhealthy, filthy conditions from many pets in the house (pet urine in carpets, etc). I could go on and on. It does not have to be mold. Do me a favor, if a mold professional comes to your home and does an inspection and even does air sample testing and tells you, you have no mold issues, believe him and move on. Cross mold off your list and check other reasons your home could be making you sick. Yes, I occasionally get someone who will not believe me when I tell them that they have no mold issues in their house. Ok, I’m done with that rant. Back to the subject at hand.

As I said earlier, it is possible for mold to be hidden inside walls, but not likely. Here’s why: Mold needs moisture to start growing. Inside most walls, it is dry, so mold will not just suddenly start growing there. Even if you intentionally planted some black mold spores inside a wall and close it up, mold will not grow. It needs moisture.

I know what you are thinking – What about a basement wall? If a drywall wall is built over the foundation wall, as is the case with most finished basements, then, the foundation leaks, you are going to have mold growing inside that wall. This is true. But if a foundation is leaking, it will become evident very soon from visible signs on the outside of the wall that there is a leak. Mold may grow hidden inside the wall in this case, for a short period of time before the mold is also growing on the outside of the wall and is visible to anyone entering the room where the foundation is leaking. So, technically, in this scenario, yes, the mold will grow hidden inside the wall first, but in just a day or so, there is mold on the inside and outside of the wall.

Bottom line, if you have no moisture issues anywhere in your house, I think you can safely conclude, there is no hidden mold growing inside the walls. But, very often, there can be hidden mold in your house. Not hidden in the walls, but hidden from your view. I find this all the time when I am doing mold inspections. Homeowners may not think they have visible mold, but a closer look can reveal they do have visible mold, once furniture is moved or when looking in a place not ordinarily seen by our eyes. Some examples are pictured below.


 

Hidden Mold Behind Appliances and Cabinets

Can There Be Hidden Mold in my House?
Hidden mold behind appliances and kitchen cabinets:

This previous customer had no idea he had mold until he moved his stove to clean behind it.

The refrigerator line (seen in picture) had been leaking for months.

The kitchen cabinets had to be removed and the moldy walls behind the cabinets had to be remediated and replaced. The cabinets had to be completely remediated.

(More on this situation in my next blog)

 

 

 


 

Find Mold in Attic

Find Mold in Attic
Hidden Mold in the Attic:

This homeowner never knew she had mold in her attic until she wanted to sell her house and a home inspector pointed it out.

This particular attic had very extensive move.

It was hidden mold in her house because she had no idea. Come on, when was the last time you looked around in your attic?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Hidden Mold Behind Furniture

Hidden Mold House
Hidden Mold Behind Furniture:

This older couple never knew mold was on their basement walls, until I pulled all the furniture and boxes away from the walls.

When was the last time you moved some of your heavy furniture away from the walls, particularly in your basement?

Problems can be not so hidden, if you move furniture regularly, well, at least once a year.

 

 

 

 

 


 

Mold Hidden in Home Closets
Mold Hidden in Home Closets

 

Hidden Mold in Closets:
Closets are a very common area for mold to be hidden.

If a closet is filled with storage containers or boxes, one could not realize a serious mold issue could exist.

Another area I commonly find mold is closet ceilings. When was the last time you looked at a closet ceiling?

 


 

Hidden Mold on Basement Ceilings and Crawl Spaces

Capture

Hidden Mold on Basement Ceilings and Crawl Spaces:

No explanation needed.

We don’t normally examine these areas, yet they are the single most common areas of mold contamination in houses old and new.


So, yes, you can have hidden (from your line of sight) mold in your home. But even in these
situations, moisture must be present for mold growth to occur. If you are certain you have a dry basement or crawl space and you have no plumbing or roof leaks, you can be certain, you do not have any mold issues. You can breath easy knowing that.

In my next blog, I will share an experience of a job I had where mold was hidden in the wall and behind kitchen cabinets, unknown to the homeowner, and it was a bad situation that you will want to make sure never happens to you.

“Marvin the Mold Guy”

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Home Mold Test Kits Vs Professional Mold Testing

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.

Home Mold Test Kit
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.

Mold Removal The Right Way

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.

Mold Testing Equipment

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“My House Smells Musty, But I Can’t Find Any Mold”

A few weeks ago I went to do a mold inspection in someone’s house and as soon as she comes to the door, that’s exactly what she told me. “My house smells musty and moldy, but I’ve looked everywhere and can’t find any mold.” She wanted a mold inspection and air sample testing done. But she did not know what she was going to do if the tests came back positive for mold. “What will I have to do, tear all the walls out to find where the mold is?”

She makes a good point. In some situations, there is clearly a “moldy,” musty smell, but no visible evidence can be found of any microbial growth in the house. In this case I did a visual inspection of the house and like she said, there was not visible signs of mold. I took a few air samples in different areas of the house. I told her if they came back positive, we would find the source without tearing all her walls out.

The next day the lab emailed me the results. There was a high count of aspercillius/penicillium (compared to the outside count). But more disturbing, Stacybautris, was also found in the air samples. This is the “black mold” that seems to be the most feared species of mold to most people. Where could it be coming from? A more thorough inspection would be necessary. If the tests came back negative, no further inspection would be needed regarding mold. If you can’t see the mold, and if the air samples come back indicating normal mold counts, there are no mold issues in the house. There might be other explanations for the malodor.

But what does the further inspection involve? I first inspect the attic. It is not uncommon for mold to grow in the attic, even if there is no leak. But in this case, the attic had no mold.

Next, I suited up and checked out the crawl space. These areas are notorious for trapping moisture and creating very humid conditions, then suddenly it becomes a breeding ground for microbial growth.

image
Sure enough, the ground under the house was moist and it was very humid. As I got on my back, using my headlight, I could see mold on the floor joists and the sub floor above me. It covered about 80% of the floor joists and sub floor. Some areas were lightly covered with a white & green mold and other areas were a thick, black mold. This was clearly the source of the musty smell in the house. I pulled my phone out and took several pictures, so I could show the homeowner.

(On a personal note, crawl spaces are no fun. As I was crawling back to the crawl space entry, I passed a couple of dead mice. Spider webs were everywhere and very thick. Many years ago, when I went into my first crawl space, I was very claustrophobic. I did not think I would ever get accustomed to going into these dark places. I imagined I would see snakes and spiders and every kind of creature imaginable under houses. But I really have no exciting stories to tell about wild animals in a crawl space, though I have went into hundreds over the years. I have found dead mice, rats, and snake skins, but not really anything more than that. Except the time I went into a crawl space that had a sewage leak, and though I was in a water proof suit, it still freaked me out that I was crawling in the sewage with maggots. Sometimes I don’t think I get paid enough. Though I never would have imagined it that first time, I have gotten use to going into crawl spaces. But, I digress…)

I went back up and explained to the homeowner how the mold problem in the crawl space could be remediated. But the hard part was over. We found the source of the mold growth and why the house smells musty.

If a mold test confirms there is excessive mold in the air of a house, a thorough investigation will reveal, eventually, where the mold is coming from. What if I did not find mold in the crawl space. What would have been my next move? I would probably begin partially removing baseboards in the house and looking behind them with a flashlight for mold. If none is found, I would tap the partially pulled out baseboard back into place (in some cases, re-caulking might need to be done). Why baseboards? I have found the first place mold growth makes itself visible is between the baseboards and the drywall. If you find mold behind a baseboard, there is moisture getting to this area somehow and it is causing the growth. This area of the wall may need to be cut out to check the backside of the drywall and usually it has even more visible mold growth. Now the source of the problem can begin to be found.

Another option, albeit a bit of an expensive option, is to test every room in the house for mold. The lab results will reveal which room has the highest level of mold, then the room next to it will likely have the next highest level and so on. The room with the highest count is very likely to be the source of the microbial growth and it filters from that room to the other rooms.

So, if you have a strong musty smell in your house, it is usually an indicator that you have mold in your house somewhere. It may take an expert to find out where, but it can be found and remediated. Inhaling musty, damp air over long periods of time can be dangerous to your health. When you factor in that you are also likely breathing in very high counts of mold, it is definitely something you would not want to ignore just because you can’t “see” any mold in your house. So call some professionals in the mold field and get it taken care of.

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Is Mold in Your Home Really A Big Deal Or Are People Just Paranoid?

Skeptical people often say to me –

“People are Paranoid About Mold Today”

I encounter certain statements (like the one above) every week as I go to peoples homes to inspect and test for mold or give estimates for mold removal. The scenario usually plays out like this:

As I enter the house, and greetings are exchanged with the husband and wife, it soon becomes clear which one is very anxious over the potential mold problem in their housejn (usually the wife). The other spouse (usually, but not always, the husband) may roll his eyes or minimize the situation with certain statements that I will address in this blog.

How do I reply to these “non-believers”? By usually agreeing with them to a large extent. I do agree with their sentiment. Before I got into the mold work many years ago, I felt exactly the same way. But after much training and experience over the years, I now feel I have a more educated, yet balanced, view.

I agree that many mold companies play into peoples fears by using terms like “black mold” or “mycotoxins” or “toxic mold” or “deadly mold” frequently in their sales pitch. If a potential customer is already overly stressed about it, they will absolutely spend whatever it takes to take care of what they perceive as a “life threatening” situation, immediately. I think this is wrong and I never play into peoples fears. In fact, I will try to calm such a traumatized person by letting them know (depending on the extent of their mold problem) how this is not a life threatening situation and they do not have to trash all their belongings.

Some people are very paranoid about their potential mold problem. They are literally pulling their hair out, crying, wearing a respirator. I swear, some have literally been experiencing a melt down, they are so worked up over their (sometimes only alleged) mold problem. Just because mold is black, for example, doesn’t mean it is the dreaded “black mold”. The only way to know for sure is not by visible appearance, but by testing.

Even if your home tests positive for stacybautris (the dreaded black mold), does not mean it is “deadly mold”. To a normal person of normal health, there is, in my opinion, no such thing as “deadly mold.” Stacybautris, if there is more than a small area of it, can cause allergy like symptoms in normal people. In older people, or very young children (because of immune system being deteriorated, or not fully developed), it can be more severe than simple allergy symptoms. Ones with respiratory issues should not live in an area with mold problems. Although there is no evidence of serious problems during pregnancy from mold exposure, I would advise pregnant women to avoid extended exposure to mold.

So as you can see, it is hardly, if ever, a “deadly mold” situation. So now that I have calmed the paranoid spouse of his or her worst fears, I have gained the respect of the other spouse who now realizes I will not play into the mates paranoid fears. Then I can address his non-concern over the matter based on his or her objection:

Removing Mold From Your Home Is Serious Business

“Mold Has Been Around Since the Beginning of Man”

True. Mold has been in the air since man was created. We breathe it every day of our lives. So mold comes into our houses quite naturally. But since modern homes are not ventilated with the outside air as they were many years ago, mold can accumulate in the home and if humid or wet conditions exist, mold can proliferate inside and become unhealthy to us.

If the person seems to believe in the Bible, I point out that God’s ancient people at times had mold issues in their homes. If mold growing in peoples homes was a normal thing, God would not have addressed it. But it was considered by God to be such a serious problem that he outlined the process for remediating the mold in Leviticus 14:33-53. (Check out the “Mold in the Bible” page on our website for similarities in mold removal in ancient times and today.) But it is interesting that if the removal process failed in the Bible, the house was to be destroyed. (Lev. 14:44,45)

So apparently God felt that mold in our homes was not a healthy situation or he would not have addressed the issue. So, yes, mold has been around since the beginning of man, but that does not mean it is healthy for us if it is growing in our house.

“I can just wipe it off with bleach, it’s just mold.”

This will work. But only if it is a small, tiny area (maybe 2 sq inches) that does not get bigger and the area dries. Maybe it will not come back. But this does not work on large areas. It may appear to work on the surface, but there is usually mold inside the wall too, and it continues to grow especially if there is humidity or moisture present.

I get calls all the time where I’m told, “I keep spraying bleach on it and it keeps coming back.” The advice of using bleach is often mentioned by non mold people in their blogs as a cheap fix. I can’t believe they give this advice. There are numerous cleaners on the market called “Mold Stain Removers” and they contain bleach. They are simply mold stain removers for nonporous surfaces like cabinet tops or tubs and tile; NOT for wood or drywall.

“I can just have a contractor come in and cut out the mold and replace the sheet rock.”

This is usually the cheapest route. But it will not resolve your issue. Why? If an air sample was done before mold remediation it would show elevated mold numbers because there is visible mold growing in the house. If a contractor comes in and cuts it out and replaces the affected walls and leaves, there should be less mold in the air, right? Yet, almost always, a mold test will reveal there is more mold in the air than there was before the mold removal. Why? Because he stirred the mold up causing all the spores to be put into the air as he removed the drywall. Now the higher mold count is just circulating in the house through your Heating/AC System.

Only mold companies use equipment and techniques to insure mold levels are below normal when they leave. They use containment, negative air, commercial air scrubbers and commercial hepa vacuums to clean the air as they remediate and often leave air scrubbers for days after remediation to clean the air even more.

So please don’t freak out about mold in your house, you will survive. You won’t have to mow your house down, or get rid of everything you own. With professional help, and a balanced view of just how serious your situation is or isn’t, you will realize, this too, will pass.

Mold Experts of Missouri & Kansas will give you free estimates on any mold situation you may have, without all the drama and suspense.

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