How can I test for mold?

Updated: 2013-08-25T02:23:33Z

By Debby Allmon

Special to The Star

My wife has a headache that never seems to go away. She thinks it could be due to mold.

We bought our raised ranch home 27 years ago when it was new. Half of the basement is finished and has a storage area with a furnace and hot water tank.

About 10 years ago, the tank sprang a leak and the Sheetrock next to it got wet and developed black mold on it. I cleaned it all off and repainted it. It never came back.

There are two heating and cooling vents (neither are return vents) and one window in the area that is seldom open.

The basement has never had a leaking problem. Is there a way for me to check for mold in places we cannot see?

Headache is a symptom of “mold sickness” that many people attribute to allergies or other ailments. Your wife could check with her doctor and have a blood test to know for sure.

The clearest sign of mold is the smell. Even if you cannot see it, if you smell it, there is an issue. First, look for any signs of moisture. Mold can grow on any objects or materials made from organic substances, such as walls, wall cavities, wood framing materials, ceiling, flooring, insulation, storage boxes, furniture and ductwork.

Mold testing is your best option to know for sure if it’s present. There are “do it yourself” mold test kits (they can be purchased online or at hardware stores) that allow you to collect samples and send them to a lab for results.

A word of caution: A mold test will report the amount of mold particles in a particular area at a particular time. The number of mold spores fluctuates over time and from area to area. It’s a good idea to test more than one time and in different locations.

I’d suggest hiring a professional for the testing. Both air and surfaces can be tested for mold spores. Testing will also let you know what kind of mold you have. A professional can also discuss remediation of the mold, if you have it.

Debby Allmon is a certified remodeler and vice president of Schloegel Design Remodel in Kansas City.

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