After suffering the stress and hassle that a flood in your property can cause, it’s understandable that you may now be concerned about mold growth. Mold and mildew growth are a genuine concern due to high moisture levels after flooding. So, you are right to want to test to see if it has begun growing. Luckily there are a few simple steps you can take.
Check for mold after water damage with a visual inspection. Look for discoloration or visible growth. Use a hygrometer to assess the current humidity within the room, as anything over 55% is conducive to growth. Professional inspection can also be utilized in difficult areas such as crawl spaces.
Read on to get detailed instructions on how to check for mold, as well as further tips and useful information.
Here are the 6 simple ways to check for mold growth after water damage
To keep things simple, here is a quick summary of the simple steps you can use to check for mold growth or the potential for growth after water damage.
|How to check for mold after water damage|
|Use your sense of smell||1. Purchase a moisture meter for the type of material that you will be testing. If your basement was flooded for example and is lined with concrete, you would choose a concrete-specific meter.|
2. Calibrate the unit using the manufacturer’s instructions.
3. Insert the probes into the material that you are testing (or use nondestructive mode if you do not want to further damage any of the material).
4. Take several readings across various affected points of the material to get an overall reading.
5. Wait for several seconds for the meter to stabilize and give accurate readings.
6. Record the readings and record them
|Use your sense of smell||1. Upon entering the affected room, see if you notice any immediate musty scents.|
2. Identify the most heavily affected areas and see if the scents are stronger in that location.
3. Smell in hard-to-reach areas such as crawl spaces and around floor joists.
|Use a hygrometer to check overall humidity levels||1. Calibrate the hygrometer to ensure accurate readings.|
2. Take a measurement outside of the affected area to get a baseline reading for your property.
3. Place the hygrometer in the most heavily affected area of the property.
4. Monitor the room’s humidity levels (anything over 55% can harbor mold).
|Check for visible signs of growth||1. Before starting any kind of inspection, remember to wear a breathing mask, goggles, and rubber gloves for protection.|
2. Look for warped materials, stains, discoloration, or any visible patches of growth.
3. Check areas most commonly affected by mold, such as corners, ceilings, and areas near pipes or water sources.
4. Use a flashlight to look for signs of growth in hard-to-reach areas such as crawl spaces or between joists.
5. Take photos of any growth spotted, as this can be useful for professionals and may be useful if insurance claims are to be made.
6. Be on the lookout for small clusters of either white, black, or brown dots in the early days after a flood, and small patches of irregularly shaped growth several weeks after it has occurred.
|Use testing kits||1. Read the instructions on the testing kit you have purchased.|
2. Clear any debris or dust away from the area you want to test.
3. Using the tools provided in the kit, collect your samples from the most heavily affected area.
4. Clearly label the sample with the location collected to avoid confusion.
5. Seal the package and send it to the manufacturer for testing.
|Hire professionals||If it is not possible (or safe) for you to conduct the above tests yourself, consider hiring mold remediation experts, as they will be able to quickly identify any growth and make suggestions on how to rectify the issue.|
How to check for mold
After water damage, it’s important you dry the area completely and remove any items that cannot be saved. After this, you should inspect the affected areas for any signs of growth, or potential growth by using the following tips.
Use a moisture meter to check for mold
Moisture meters are an excellent way of determining the amount of residual moisture left after water damage has occurred.
- Purchase a moisture meter for the type of material that you will be testing. If your basement was flooded for example and is lined with concrete, you would choose a concrete-specific meter.
- Calibrate the unit using the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Insert the probes into the material that you are testing (or use nondestructive mode if you do not want to further damage any of the material).
- Take several readings across various affected points of the material to get an overall reading.
- Wait for several seconds for the meter to stabilize and give accurate readings.
- Record the readings and record them
As an example, moisture readings within new concrete between 4.5% are considered dry, so any reading higher than this may indicate a high level of moisture that could eventually result in mold and mildew growth if left untreated.
Use your sense of smell to check for mold
Your sense of smell is almost certainly one of the best ways to determine whether or not you are dealing with mold growth after water damage.
- Upon entering the affected room, see if you notice any immediate musty scent, (mold is often compared to smelling like a pair of old socks).
- Identify the most heavily affected areas and see if the scents are stronger in that location.
- Smell in hard-to-reach areas such as crawl spaces and around floor joists.
It can be difficult to identify mold and mildew growth from smell alone, but if it is growing in large enough patches, it will be fairly obvious. It must be stated, that if you are aware that you have any allergies to mold, using other methods of testing is recommended, as inhaling even small numbers of spores can induce symptoms in those who are susceptible.
Check overall humidity levels to check for mold
A moisture meter is great at determining the moisture levels within materials, but a hygrometer is fantastic at measuring overall moisture levels within the air, and therefore, calculating the humidity.
- Calibrate the hygrometer to ensure accurate readings.
- Take a measurement outside of the affected area to get a baseline reading for your property.
- Place the hygrometer in the most heavily affected area of the property.
- Monitor the room’s humidity levels (anything over 60% can harbor mold).
If you notice that the levels are frequently reading above 60%, then the room will need further drying, and improvements to the room’s airflow may be required.
Check for visible signs of growth to check for mold
Of course one of the most simple ways to test for mold is to go on a hunt for it.
- Before starting any kind of inspection, remember to wear a breathing mask, goggles, and rubber gloves for protection.
- Look for warped materials, stains, discoloration, or any visible patches of growth.
- Check areas most commonly affected by mold, such as corners, ceilings, and areas near pipes or water sources.
- Use a flashlight to look for signs of growth in hard-to-reach areas such as crawl spaces or between joists.
- Take photos of any growth spotted, as this can be useful for professionals and may be useful if insurance claims are to be made.
- Be on the lookout for small clusters of either white, black, or brown dots in the early days after a flood, and small patches of irregularly shaped growth several weeks after it has occurred.
In short, the most important thing to notice here is the actual patches of growth, but these can take several days to even a few weeks to become visible to the naked eye.
Use testing kits to check for mold
Use mold testing kits in areas that you suspect may have begun to grow fungi (indicated by discoloration or smell).
- Read the instructions on the testing kit you have purchased.
- Clear any debris or dust away from the area you want to test.
- Using the tools provided in the kit, collect your samples from the most heavily affected area.
- Clearly label the sample with the location collected to avoid confusion.
- Seal the package and send it to the manufacturer for testing.
As you will be getting close to the area you suspect could have mold, remember to wear protective equipment.
Hire professionals to check for mold
Whilst being able to detect fungal growth may be simple in certain circumstances, in many cases, it can be extremely difficult to locate. This is where professional help may be required, as they have highly accurate testing methods, and will not only be able to thoroughly check the area for growth but will also be able to locate the source and make recommendations as to how to correct the issue.
How long does it take for mold to appear after water damage?
Normally mold can begin to grow within 24-48 hours after the damage has occurred. However, the amount of light the room receives as well as the temperature are two major factors in determining the speed at which mold growth can occur.
The amount of light
Damp thrives in dark and damp areas, light inhibits growth as it creates an unfavorable environment. Sunlight is made up of Ultraviolet light (UV), which in large doses is powerful enough to kill both mold and mildew, especially strains that are particularly sensitive to its effects. Additionally, large amounts of light will evaporate surface water, reducing moisture levels and removing the fungi’s key components to survival.
Mold thrives in temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit, between this temperature range, it can rapidly reproduce and spread. This is due to the speeding up or slowing down of the mold’s metabolism, the warmer the temperature, the faster the metabolism, so it can process nutrients faster and therefore increase its growth rate. When temperatures are much cooler (below 60 Fahrenheit), the growth and spreading of mold will slow due to a decrease in its metabolic rate, making it harder to complete the basic functions of life.
Temperature fluctuations can also impact the rate at which it can grow, as fungi prefer a consistent climate, any rapid changes in temperature can stress the organism, slowing down its rate of growth.
So, under warm, stable temperatures between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit with a consistent humidity level greater than 60%, visible growth would begin to appear within several days. If not dealt with swiftly, after one week, extensive covering of the affected materials would be seen.
Can mold cause health issues?
Yes, fungal growth has the potential to cause many symptoms in both humans and animals. Their severity depends on whether or not the person exposed to the mold or its spores has any allergies or has a suppressed immune system, but even in otherwise healthy individuals, symptoms can be seen.
Some types of fungus have the ability to produce mycotoxins as a defense system whenever they feel threatened, and ingestion of these toxins has been shown to cause severe health complaints.
Some of the most common symptoms associated with the inhalation of fungal spores include:
- Runny nose
- Skin irritation
- Watery eyes
Inhalation of toxic mold creates symptoms similar to the list above, whereas ingestion of mycotoxins is more serious, and can include symptoms such as:
- Abdominal pain
- Liver conditions (in rare cases)
It is for these reasons that if you discover mold growth after water damage has occurred, it should be removed as quickly as possible.
Which types grow?
The most common strains of mold you re likely to find growing in an areas that has been affected by flood damage include:
- Stachybotrys Chartarum (black mold)
These types of fungi can be difficult to identify without proper testing. Fortunately, the particular strain is not too important, as all growth needs to be removed as soon as it is spotted to prevent the aforementioned health complaints and structural damage from occurring.
If you were to try to determine which types you had growing in a water-damaged area, your best bet would be to look at its color and texture, as this could help you determine its strain, although testing is certainly more accurate.
Common traits of the strains listed above are as follows:
Penicillium – Often grows in bright colors, including blue, blue-green, olive green, yellow, or even brilliant turquoise. Its texture is often said to be fuzzy or powdery.
Aspergillus – Appears most frequently on green, yellow, white, or sometimes even black depending on the conditions it is growing in. It is often said to have a fluffy texture.
Stachybotrys Chartarum – True black mold unsurprisingly grows in very dark shades, including very dark green, browns, and of course black. Its texture is shiny when dry, and slimy when wet.
All three strains have the ability to produce mycotoxins, and so should be treated with additional care whilst inspecting or removing. Appropriate safety equipment such as a breathing mask, goggles, and rubber gloves should be worn at all times whilst working near the fungi.
Can the mold cause structural damage?
Yes, if mold or any kind of fungi are left on materials such as wood for a prolonged time, they can begin to break down and weaken.
This occurs as a result of the enzymes they produce when digesting organic compounds. The enzymes fungi release to break down these compounds are acidic and can cause staining and damage over time.
The growth can also cause moisture retention, which is another factor to consider. As the material holds onto more water, it becomes an ideal habitat for additional fungal growth and rot. This speeds up the rate at which the wood is broken down and becomes softer, reducing its integrity.
Water damage doesn’t always mean that mold growth will occur, but it can create the ideal environment for it. This is why it is important to dry the flooded area as quickly and thoroughly as possible after the damage has occurred. If it has not been possible to dry quickly, and you suspect growth to be occurring, you can use testing kits, your sense of smell, and professional inspection to locate the mold and decide how best to proceed.
Over to you
I hope that this guide has helped you understand the various options you have for testing for mold after you’ve suffered from water damage, but now I’d like to turn it over to you, which of these tips do you think you’ll be using? Are there any tips that you’ve used that I should include? I’d love to help if you have any questions about what you’ve read here today, so if you have, please leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.