Many do-it-yourselfers think that using an at-home mold testing kit will let them know whether they have to worry about that musty odor in the basement or discolored area after a leak. They are wrong. These kits generally contain a fungal growth medium in a Petri dish or some other type of container. The object is to expose this medium to viable spores, which then grow to form mold colonies. Unfortunately, the kits are unreliable and cause many DIYers to make bad decisions.
Here are some of the major flaws and challenges of home mold testing kits:
- Home mold test kits that use ‘settle plate applications’ (set the dish out for 24 – 48 hours and spores are supposed to fall into the dish) generally do not measure airborne particles accurately. Spores vary in size, shape, and weight, so they grow at different rates. Also, every environment contains some amount of mold, and it’s difficult to determine whether the mold spores you collect are from a dangerous indoor colony or just part of the outside environment.
- DIY mold kits cannot reach areas that are not visible to the eye. You may have mold behind your walls, which is the most dangerous place for it to be. It can spread quickly and infest a whole house before you realize the mold is there.
- Even though you may be able to grow mold, you likely won’t be able to identify what type it is. There are over 100,000 different types of mold, and some are much more dangerous than others. If you don’t know what you are dealing with, your health could be at risk.
- False negatives and false positives are a common problem with do-it-yourself mold test kits.
Same problem as above. Your HVAC system circulates air and spores are most likely in this air. Unless you have advanced filtering (i.e. HEPA-rated), you should expect to have mold spores being circulated as well. Even with advanced filtering, most HVAC systems suffer from filter by-pass problems, cabinet and duct leakage, etc. Like the settle plate test, if a gazillion colonies form, you may have an HVAC problem, but then again, maybe not. There are certain locations within an HVAC system where mold growth can be a problem. Remember, the main factors that are needed for mold growth are food and moisture so those are the areas to focus on. Mold won’t arbitrarily grow in your ductwork unless there is a significant problem.
Tip: Have the HVAC system inspected by someone who knows where the problem areas are located.
The bottom line is if you think you may have mold, contact a professional. Your decision can make all the difference between potential health problems for you and your family, and a very messy and expensive cleanup, or a job handled professionally, properly and quickly.