How to Read Your Mold Report
There are many indications that mold may be growing in a home or building. People may start to experience health-related reactions, such as allergies, difficulty breathing, headaches, or dizziness upon entering. A musty odor and damp feeling in the air can also be a tell-tale sign – but the only way to know for sure is with a certified mold inspection.
But figuring out how to read a mold report after the inspection and test can be quite confusing. Mold reports are full of numbers and terms that most people will not understand. And it’s certainly no wonder – certified mold inspectors have to complete up to 90 hours of training along with additional annual courses for their job.
Knowing how to read a mold report is important for the property owner so they can determine the next steps for removal and remediation. This report includes key details and answers key questions like:
- Is there mold or other allergens/contaminants growing in the building?
- If there is mold growth, where is it growing, and how severe is the issue?
- What is the level of risk for inhabitants of the property?
- What is the extent of the mold remediation and removal that is needed based on the lab results?
If you need help with mold testing and air quality lab results interpretation, you’ve come to the right place. Our team of environmental experts specializes in mold testing, inspections, and air quality assessments – and we’ve handled quite a few mold reports in our day.
Here are some useful tips to explain how to read a mold report, what the results mean, and what next steps to take after receiving your lab results.
1. How Do You Get a Mold Report?
A mold report will be issued by a mold inspection and testing provider after their initial investigation. A certified mold inspector will arrive at the property to look for any visual signs of mold growth and collect evidence for their report.
They may take pictures or videos of visible mold spots to add to their report. The inspector will also collect mold spores samples, surface swipes, and air samples to send back to the lab for further testing.
The inspector may ask the property owner for additional information to help them investigate further. Any history of previous mold growth, removal, or inspections could be relevant to the investigation. You should also alert the inspector if there has been any significant water damage, moisture intrusion, or flooding in and around the property. These areas will need to be thoroughly tested, as they have a high probability of mold growth.
It typically takes about 3 business days to receive your mold report after the initial inspection. Your mold inspector will give you access to this report directly with a physical printout or an online/digital copy.
Now, your certified mold inspector will go over the mold report with you to let you know if and where any mold was detected. Nearly every home in America has at least a small amount of mold growing – so the chances are that the report will come back positive. But understanding the type of mold growing and the severity of the issue is important to guide in the next steps.
2. Types of Mold Test Results
As mentioned before, the certified mold inspector will likely gather air, surface, and material samples from the property for lab testing. Each of the samples will be included in the mold report, so it’s important to understand what these samples can measure.
Can mold live in the air? Technically no, but the spores from the mold are light enough to be suspended in the air. This is how mold can quickly spread from one room to another. So, air samples will be gathered from various spaces to see if mold spores are present.
These tests will also determine the level of additional contaminants to measure the air quality of the property. Poor indoor air quality can also contribute to numerous health issues, such as asthma attacks, headaches, allergic reactions, and even severe symptoms like liver damage, heart issues, and seizures.
An air quality test will measure the levels of common pollutants like:
- VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
- Carbon monoxide
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Biological contaminants
- Chemical vapors
- Nitrogen dioxide
Even low amounts of these contaminants can lead to poor indoor air quality. So, this is a crucial part of your mold report to pay attention to.
Air samples are gathered with special equipment that vacuums in the sample to an airtight container. It may also be gathered with a Petri Dish contraption that is set out for a set period of time for air sample collection.
The certified mold inspector will collect surface samples from visible or potential mold spots on the premises. This will collect spores that can be tested to determine the species of mold and conclude its toxicity levels.
These are usually gathered by using a piece of tape or a swipe from a cotton swab. The locations of each sample are carefully recorded, so you will know exactly which type of mold is growing where.
In some cases, a bulk sample of the material the mold is growing on will need to be sent to the lab. This is a bit more invasive, as a small piece of the contaminated area will need to be removed. This could be a sample of the flooring or drywall, a scrap of fabric from a piece of furniture, or an entire item.
This is usually gathered if the inspector suspects toxic mold growth. These materials must be handled with extreme caution, as inhaling any spores can be incredibly dangerous.
3. Terms to Know When Reading a Mold Report
Most mold reports will be quite a few pages long – some are even up to 50! It’s pretty much impossible to read through the entire report and grasp all of the information unless you are a certified mold inspector yourself. To read through the mold report and understand the results best, you need to familiarize yourself with a few terms:
Mold Counts – This is the base measurement of mold spores from an air or surface sample. It will include the number of spores per the measured sample amount, such as a cubic square foot of air or square inch of surface.
Mold Types – The type of mold will be listed, but usually, no further information will be given in the mold report. It is best to use online resources to learn more about the mold types and if they are dangerous to people.
Raw Count – This number states the number of spores included in the lab sample.
Count/M3 – This is the estimated calculation of the number of mold spores that would be present in one cubic meter of air based on the Raw Count number.
% of the total – The percentage of a singular type of mold compared to all of the mold samples collected from the property.
4. Understanding the Type and Scope of Contamination
Mold reports will usually list the results in several columns, which state the mold type, the Raw Count, Count/M3, and the Mold Score column.
This column indicates whether the spores most likely originate from an external source or an internal. For example, lower Mold Score ratings between 100 to 200 are likely growing outside, whereas scores ranging from 200 to 300 are likely from an interior source.
The mold count numbers will appear to be quite high. It is common for thousands of mold spores to be collected in a single air sample, as spores are microscopic. But if there are any indications of elevated numbers, especially for certain species of mold, it could be a cause for concern.
These are the most common types of mold found growing in homes, office buildings, and schools:
Penicillium/Aspergillus – This is by far the most common type of mold. Most of these species can create allergic reactions, but only a few are considered toxic. This type of mold grows best in humid areas and is often found in bathrooms, kitchens, and basements.
Basidiospores – This type of mold is most commonly found outdoors, but it will form inside in water-damaged wood. It is an indicator of wood rot or decay and often pops up after flooding or heavy rain.
Cladosporium – Another common mold type found in most homes, Cladosporium will grow quickly in spaces with limited airflow and higher moisture levels.
Curvulari – This mold is often the culprit for allergic reactions.
Chaetomium – You will find this mold growing often on walls and indicates a high water content in the air.
Stachybotrys – This is a very common toxic mold, and even low levels should raise concern. This will grow on many types of paper materials as well as furniture.
Memnoniella – Another extremely toxic mold type that must be carefully removed if found in even small concentrations.
To be considered “clean” or mold-free, the count for Penicillium and Aspergillus must be under 700 per 2,000 cubic meters. These are the most common mold types in buildings. Any mold count of about 5,000 for these species would indicate that indoor mold growth is present. So, a mold count of 700 is extremely low and quite uncommon.
5. What Do You Do After Reading a Mold Test?
Once you receive your mold test back and review the contents, you will want to discuss the results with the mold testing service. The inspector should go over the results and alert you of any concerning findings, such as toxic mold or high levels of growth.
Based on the results, the inspector may recommend that you contact a mold removal and remediation service. While you can kill small amounts of the household mold with bleach and water, this is not enough to remove a large amount, especially not toxic species.
Professional mold removal services use specific chemicals to kill mold spores. Depending on the severity of the growth, they may also remove drywall, flooring, carpeting, and items from the building that are unrepairable.
There are specific guidelines for mold remediation in schools and commercial buildings set by the EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency). While there are no set guidelines for acceptable mold counts, these properties must follow the appropriate steps to investigate, evaluate, and remediate any moisture and mold problems.
Does Your New Jersey Property Need a Mold Inspection Test?
If you suspect that your property has mold growing, you will want to schedule an inspection and test right away. Mold is not a problem that will go away on its own – if anything, the issue will only get worse if you leave it be!
The key to knowing how to read a mold report is hiring a helpful, trustworthy, and accurate testing inspector. Here at Paul Sakson Environmental, we have established a reputation over the past 25 years as the premier environmental consulting firm for mold inspections.
We specialize particularly in child care centers, but we provide testing services for residential and commercial properties. Our environmental experts will meet with you to guide you through the inspection steps, so you’ll know what to expect at every turn.
Once you get the mold report back, our certified inspectors will go over the results with you and answer any questions you have. We also offer consultation services towards the next steps and provide referrals to mold remediation contractors in the area.
If you’d like to schedule a mold test and inspection for your home, business, or childcare center, please reach out to Paul Sakson Environmental today. Simply fill out our online form, and one of our team members will reach out to provide you with estimates and schedule an inspection.