Moldy Oldy Houses
May 6, 2008 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Help. We're about to buy a house with mold in the walls. How can I get a sample analysis by mail?

I've read many of the previous posts on mold but I can't seem to find any information on where or how posters have had an analysis of the their mold done.

This is a very old, 2 story terraced house. We were poking around the walls to figure out some re-plastering/drywalling issues, and when I pulled a piece of old plasterboard off a wall beneath a window, there was mold on the side that faces the cavity. I have it in a plastic bag, and I'd like someone to tell me:

1) If it is going to kill me or not;
2) If I can treat the walls with bleach and water or some other substance to kill it off before we re-drywall.

I live in a mid-sized city in Ireland. I'm pretty sure there is no mold inspector here. I think mail may be my only option, but the only online services I can find also want to sell me products and not just a service. Call me cynical, but I think this ups my chances of getting a "this mold will kill you if you don't buy THIS PRODUCT to treat it" answer back from the service. I would prefer a lab that is just a lab.

Does such a beast exist?
posted by DarlingBri to Home & Garden (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You DO NOT, REPEAT DO NOT want to treat any mold with bleach. Bleach kills it and as it dies it releases toxic fumes and spores. I would strongly advise you to proceed with caution and get a professional remediation firm in there to give you an estimate. This is EXACTLY the time to get an estimate and take the cost of remediation off the purchase price of the home. The other thing that all mold firms will tell you is to make sure to close off the leak before doing anything lease. There is a lot more to this, email's in the profile. BE VERY VERY CAREFUL.
posted by zia at 9:51 AM on May 6, 2008

oops, "else" not "lease"
posted by zia at 9:51 AM on May 6, 2008

You're looking for the phrase "mold test kits" on google. Good luck.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:16 AM on May 6, 2008

I can't offer any advice on lab services, but I will second the call for caution. While uncommon, some molds can do terrible, terrible things to you. My fiancée's stepmom was exposed to some awful mold that got into her workplace's HVAC system. She's had health problems for years as a result. She's been compensated, of course, but no amount of money can buy one's health back.
posted by Nelsormensch at 10:20 AM on May 6, 2008

Are you sure you want to buy this house? Are you completely locked in or can the mold be a deal breaker?
posted by onhazier at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2008

There is a big difference between toxic "black mold" and the fuzz that grows on the grout in showers. There is also a big difference between a few patches of grey fuzz on the drywall versus huge swaths of black and green throughout.

Even if you do find a solution to "get rid" of the mold the underlying CAUSE of the mold needs to be treated. Is it a leaky attic? An improperly vented crawl? Or something else? Make sure you treat the cause and not just the symptoms.

Also, I strongly disagree with the advice upthread about using bleach. That advice sounds like FUD created by mold remediation companies. There are many well-respected "do it yourself" guides (including FEMA) which say to use bleach. See, e.g. this FEMA press release.

When I cleaned mold out of a basement (it was growing in the floor joists following a sump pump leak that went unattended for a few months), I used a basic mask and gloves, but no other fancier personal protective equipment.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 10:51 AM on May 6, 2008

if you are in a large enough city, there is probably a lab that tests for mold. i found one in oklahoma city, by calling a lab that tests for chemicals in soil and water - they didn't do the testing, but they were able to refer me to someone who did. They set me a kit and i mailed it back to them. They also did not do remediation themselves, so i thought that was a bonus for honesty since they didn't stand to gain anything by saying i had killer mold.

Once you find someone who will analyze your results, they can tell you not only what kind of mold but how concentrated it is. I can't remember the unit of measurement they use but they told me how many spores per centimeter or some such thing.

Personally i wouldn't buy the house unless i could cut the molded material out and replace it. also make sure to search for the source of moisture to avoid a repeat attack of the dreaded mold.
posted by domino at 10:58 AM on May 6, 2008

Best answer: Run Awayyy! Mold is a bitch. Certain species of it lead to so many different kinds of health problems with long term exposure. I'm still suffering the effects from a place I don't even live in anymore. Remediation is also difficult. You pay to have a whole room gutted and fixed and only later do you realize it was also in another room, which you have to go after, and pretty soon you've spend crazy amounts of money on remediation. Beeeee careful. I imagine that it might be prevalent in Ireland what with so many older buildings and lots of rain, but you're lucky to have found the mold before you bought.

With that said, I used this place to take a sample at my last place. This describes the kit they can send you. I did that and got my results back fairly quickly. They described the species of mold they found, said whether they were active or dead, and listed the health effects of each, If I remember. The guy is a retired professor of mycology and is all certified and stuff.

Since tape tests only work if you can see the mold and get at it, consider paying the money to get someone to come out and do a fancy air test or bring the mold sniffing dog. Those are expensive (something like $400 in the US if I faintly remember?) but ultimately it's worth it given how much you can screw up your health. Where I am they have some kind of inspector that works for the county, but all they can do is eyeball it. No fancy testing. The good stuff costs money.
posted by kookoobirdz at 11:03 AM on May 6, 2008

Seconding the "run away" advice. If you're not locked into this house, find another place to buy. I'm a pretty easy-going, undemanding guy—our last house had a really weird bathroom and needed roofwork—but mold would be a deal-breaker for me. That stuff's nasty.
posted by languagehat at 11:35 AM on May 6, 2008

Is ther a local agricultural college? They do all sorts of tests on water and soil, perhaps they do mold...
posted by Gungho at 1:05 PM on May 6, 2008

ooh, mold is bad, bad, bad. there are probably mold-removal specialists out there, though--you might bring them by for an estimate before buying the house.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:46 PM on May 6, 2008

Mold is bad. Real bad. In this housing market, your money and peace of mind would be better off with no mold. It would be an absolute deal breaker for me and I would look at my realtor as out to harm me for bringing me this house as a candidate for one of the largest investments of my life.

Anyway, you need to get a hard assed personal house inspector to go over that house with a fine tooth comb. Mold around the window indicates leaks and long term water damage. You maybe looking at ripping out portions of wall to replace with water damage and at minimum pulling plaster to treat the mold in the lath or wood.

Gah, walk away.
posted by jadepearl at 2:18 PM on May 6, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks guys.

Just to be clear, we were not remotely surprised to find mold in this location in the house. It is old, and the house does not have central heating. It has two working fireplaces and that's it. It is damp, because it is Ireland and 90% of older homes have rising damp, just like this one does. Moisture control is the core of the renovation plan anyway.

We were already planning to remove all of the wallboards in the house. Regardless of the mold situation, they're coming down and the stone retaining walls will be washed with 1/10th bleach. We are planning to use breathable insulation, panels, plastering and paint instead of sealing damp into the wall cavities, with appropriate air flow through the house. The house will be dried with industrial de-humidifiers prior to central heating being installed and any re-walling taking place. Windows are being replaced, the chimneys are being capped and flashed, and the moisture levels in the house should go down significantly after all of that.

My point is that a large percentage of the "OMG mold!" stuff that has to happen when you find this crap is going to take place anyway because of the rising damp, so I don't see a need to hit the panic button just yet. Every house we've lived in here has had mold of one kind or another, and any house we'd be looking to buy is likely to have it, too.

We are not locked into the buy. We can get our deposit back and walk away until the day contracts are exchanged. That will be weeks away, so there will be more than enough time to make an informed decision based on the results of the analysis of the tape test.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:24 PM on May 6, 2008

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