The purpose of black mold inspection and testing is to identify the location of, and extent to which, black mold is present in an environment. Although black mold is typically found indoors at levels that do not affect most healthy individuals, it is often difficult to determine harmful vs. non-harmful types without proper black mold testing. Because molds can grow on almost any substance where moisture is present, household mold is most often found in damp, dark, or steam-filled areas; therefore, the best places to inspect for black mold are bathrooms, kitchens, basements, plumbing fixtures, and other areas with poor ventilation.
The first step of black mold inspection and testing is to determine if and where black mold is present. Careful visual inspection and recognition of moldy odors should be used to find mold contaminated areas, specifically near places where signs of liquid moisture or water vapor (humidity) are present. Oftentimes more invasive methods are needed to assess the level of mold contamination. Examples include: moving furniture, lifting up carpeting, checking behind wallpaper or paneling, checking ventilation ducts, and opening wall cavities. If black mold is visibly growing, it will help dictate the level of remediation that is necessary. Once actively growing mold is spotted, testing for specific species of mold can begin.
Although it is always recommended to consult a professional mold inspector for black mold inspection and testing, there are two options available should you decide to perform the test yourself. The easiest way to start is by using two common household items you probably already have: Scotch tape and plastic Ziplock bags. Start by cutting a piece of tape approximately 3 inches in length for each area of your home where visible mold is present (e.g. walls, floors, ceilings, attics, crawl spaces, etc.). Press the sticky side of the tape firmly against the black mold growth and peel it off. Next, place the tape into a small plastic bag and label it with the exact location the sample was taken from. Last, submit your samples to a mold laboratory for mold lab analysis and quantification to determine how many colonies of each type of mold species are present.
The second option for black mold inspection and testing is to purchase a basic mold test kit from a home improvement or hardware store. A very cost-efficient option, mold test kits consist of a petri dish that should be placed and opened in the middle of each room you want to test with the exposed side facing up. Leave the petri dish open in the room for at least an hour to ensure you collect a proper air sample before closing and taping the mold test kit. You can also place the opened dish facing the outward air flow from a heating/cooling duct for approximately 10 minutes to collect an air sample to determine if the ductwork is infested with black mold. Again, write the precise mold test location on the top of the kit and submit the mold test kit samples for lab analysis.
If you would prefer not to perform these tests yourself, hiring a professional mold inspector is another option for black mold inspection and testing. Mold inspectors typically use a method called ‘air testing’. This involves drawing air through a machine and transferring it to a testing container before being sent to a lab where the type and severity of black mold can be more accurately determined. Before performing an air test, a reading should be taken from outside of the facility being tested. This will help show what types of mold can be found in the surrounding environment. It is important to note that even professional black mold inspection and testing is not decidedly accurate, as it only shows the mold that was in the area at the time of the inspection. Further, this can change dramatically as seasons change. For example, when you are testing outside in areas with lots of snow, airborne spores will not be very high in numbers. That does not mean that there is no mold around, it is simply not in the air.