The easy answer to whether or not you have mold in your home is, yes. There are thousands of different types of mold in the world, and all homes naturally have some mold and spores in the dust and air. Most types in small amounts will not cause severe problems with your health or affect your home adversely, but certain conditions can cause molds to grow and flourish to an unhealthy level. Here are some signs that you may have a high level of mold and/or a type of mold (like Black mold) that could be detrimental to your health and home.
You have areas of high moisture in your home. Mold needs water in order to grow. If your home is particularly humid, or you see lots of condensation around windows, conditions are optimal for a mold problem. Many areas in the southern states or by large bodies of water are particularly prone to high humidity and deserve extra vigilance. Air conditioning window units in particular can be a big source of extra moisture that can lead to mold infestations.
You have an unaddressed leak. A chronic leak in your plumbing, roof, or windows can lead not only to rot, but encourages the growth of mold. Timely repairs can prevent growth, but leaving a leak for more than a couple of days can be all you need to encourage mold to flourish.
Your home smells musty or earthy. Molds are living things that grow on organic based food sources like paper, wood and leaves. Think of how a forest floor or an old pile of leaves smells; if that's familiar, you may want to get your home inspected. Mold can hide within walls, in ductwork, or between the ceiling and roof, so visual evidence may not be available. Your sense of smell can be invaluable when it comes to mold detection.
You see strange specks in odd places. When mold grows it generally begins as spots in varying colors. Mold can be white, brown, black, green, and even orange. If you see specks of color around your air vents, on furniture, on walls, in the cabinet under the sink, etc. there could be a problem.
You or household members have chronic mold allergy symptoms. Respiratory problems, sinus problems, coughing, dry itchy eyes, skin irritation, and headaches are just a few symptoms of sensitivity to mold. Infants and children, the elderly, those with immune system issues, people with allergies, and pregnant women all have an increased susceptibility to molds. Black mold (Strachybotrys atra), a greenish gray mold, is responsible for over 100 kinds of respiratory problems, some so severe they have resulted in disability and even death.
If you are suspicious that you may have a mold problem in your home, it is important to have it tested. While there are kits available, it is a good idea to have a professional come in to do your testing. Some licensed home inspectors are also licensed mold assessors, able to test for mold with state-of-the-art equipment. An assessor will test your air, visually inspect your home, and can even use moisture meters and infrared thermography if a more thorough inspection is necessary. Once it is determined that you have a mold infestation, they can also give advice on remediation and prevention of future growths.
Knowing how to recognize a mold infestation early on can help you keep your family healthy and save money on costly remediation. The presence of mold can be an indicator of an even bigger problem like leaks or insufficient ventilation that can cost even more in home repairs. If you see the signs of mold in your home, don't hesitate to call a professional in order to determine the best path to protect your family and home.