At some point you may find yourself wondering if you have mold in your walls. Perhaps you have been through a flood or identified a leak in your home that has been there for awhile. Now, as you start the cleanup, you may wonder what the least destructive (and least expensive) method is for determining the extent of the damage and if there is indeed mold in your walls.
Obviously, the sooner you identify any mold in your walls, the easier and more effective the remediation will be. You can, of course, rip out your drywall and replace it as the most conservative option. But there are some less drastic methods of determining the necessity of such actions.
Are your walls wet?
If your home has been through a flood or been exposed such that you can see or feel moisture, then it is merely a matter of time until mold takes hold in your walls. Therefore, the drywall does need to be removed and replaced as soon as possible in order to remove the potential for mold in your walls. Because moisture tends to wick up the drywall, you should always remove enough dry material above the water line to ensure you remove ALL moisture. There are several varying opinions on how much wall to remove. When my house flooded in Hurricane Harvey this year, the contractors removed a full foot above the water line. Of course, this is easily measured when there is a clear water line.
If it isn’t as obvious whether or not you have moisture in your walls or the extent of the moisture, there are moisture meters that can be purchased or rented that can help detect moisture and test kits to test for mold in your walls. You can even take swabs from your walls or cut out a small sample to send them off to be tested for mold. If all of this sounds a little daunting, you may choose to hire a mold remediation company or a mold inspection company to come out and perform a thorough inspection to determine if you have mold in your walls.
Are there visible signs of mold?
Mold leaves behind clues, especially if there is enough of it. One of the clues is the visibility of mold growth. Mold can discolor your walls and spread quickly. Even if the mold has been painted over, it will often show itself over time. If there are visible signs of mold, the chances are good that the mold is deep in your drywall. Some surface mold can be cleaned, but if the mold is inside the wall, it will need to be replaced. Perform a detailed inspection of your home if you suspect mold in your walls. Be sure to look at walls behind furniture and along baseboards.
Many homeowners are worried about the potential of black mold and spend lots of money testing once visible signs of mold are found. However, much of this testing isn’t necessary. While black mold is well known for the damage it can cause, all types of mold can affect your health and should be dealt with promptly and properly. Therefore, if you see visible signs of mold on your walls, you can skip the testing and simply replace and remediate.
Can you smell mold?
Mold tends to leave behind a distinctive smell. While the particular odor can vary with the type of mold you are dealing with, you probably already know what the general smell is and would be able to identify it rather easily. Here are a few different ways that people have described the smell of mold.
- Have you ever walked through a dense forest? There is a damp and earthy smell that you may recognize when you pass by decaying wood from a tree that has fallen over or a pile of decaying leaves. The smell probably isn’t strong if you keep your distance because you are outdoors. When you smell something similar indoors, the odor will be a lot stronger because there isn’t as much circulation of fresher air.
- Have you ever forgotten to empty your gym bag after a sweaty cardio session? The smell of dirty or sweaty, wet socks is similar to the smell of mold. So, if you haven’t been to the gym lately this smell may signal mold in your walls.
- Have you ever been in a really old building such as a library? There is a certain odor that smells aged and old or damp. If you notice this smell in your home, you may have mold in your walls.
- Some types of mold may smell even worse. They have been described as having a cat urine smell.
If you smell something similar to the above or notice a new smell in your home, you may want to investigate a little further into the potential of mold in your walls. Don’t let your nose become accustomed to the new smell. Be sure to look into it right away.
Hard to Reach Walls
While it may be relatively easy to identify mold in your walls, sometimes it can be rather difficult. There are some walls that are much more difficult to access such as the walls behind your shower or cabinets. If you suspect moisture has reached these walls, it may take a little more work to determine if there is a mold problem or a potential for mold growth. However, if the drywall has been exposed to moisture because of a leak, flood or inadequate ventilation in the room, mold can certainly grow. Because of its hidden location, you may not see or smell it. For these types of location, you will have to get a little more destructive by removing the shower or cabinets for an inspection. Some moisture meters may be able to help pick up the presence of moisture. Unfortunately, oftentimes there aren’t a lot of options outside of removal in these situations.
No one wants to think about sharing a home with mold. Unfortunately, it is a reality for many home owners. Mold loves moisture, and moisture is a part of our daily lives. From leaks to floods to regular old condensation, moisture is everywhere. Mold can start to grow very quickly and become difficult and expensive to remove if left unattended.
If you suspect mold in your home, you have to check for mold in your walls as well. Because mold loves to grow in porous material, mold in your walls is a very common issue. If you can see mold on your walls, there is a good chance it is inside your walls as well. It won’t do you any good to remove the surface mold if there is mold inside.