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Mold. That word alone has the ability to strike fear into the heart of any homeowner. Mold can bring so many problems with it. It can make your family sick, it’s not something you want featured in your home if you’re entertaining; it looks terrible and worst of all it can weaken the structure of your home including the walls, ceiling and floor. And if you’re planning on selling your home anytime soon you can forget about it until you have your mold problem taken care of. Not many homebuyers will risk purchasing a home when the word mold pops up in an inspection.

A study conducted by the University of Arizona in 2003 discovered that 100 percent of homes have mold, not all of them are the dangerous kind of mold but in one form or another is something that all homes deal with. So if you are concerned you might have mold in your home what should you do to investigate further?

Test For Mold

This is usually the last thing homeowners want to hear when it comes to looking into potential mold in a home. Testing can be expensive and there are some unpleasant stories out there that can put a home owner off from wanting to test.

One story of Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is one of them. She owns a public relations consulting company in San Diego, California and says she had a “wicked case of mold” in her kitchen. She also said, “I had no idea it was developing until I could smell it.”

The mold she smelled wound up developing due to a slow plumbing leak. By the time the smell appeared the mold had done an extensive amount of damage. She was forced to hire a flood restoration team which gutted her entire kitchen during both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays in order to remove the mold. Then once the mold was removed they needed to rebuild a new kitchen as well. Not including the cost of the rebuild, the removal alone cost $15,000.

Falkenthal said, “My house looked like a hazmat scene,” but looking on the positive side of things also stated: “That’s one way to get a new kitchen.”

I think if most had to choose that’s not the preferred method of getting a new kitchen. If you suspect you have good reason to believe you might have mold in your home it’s likely worth it to find and hire a mold inspection company. According to HomeAdvisor.com the average cost to test(not to remove, only test) is approximately $834. If that’s a lot for you to bite off on, another option is to purchase a home kit for testing mold, they generally cost between $10 and $50. They are significantly more cost effective however, they do have a reputation for being unreliable and you may be better off investing that money into an expert.

If You Do Find Mold

If you do in fact discover you have mold the first thing you’ll need to remember is not to panic, the findings may not be a major problem. As stated previously all homes have some amount of mold and not all types are harmful. If the infected area is less than 10 square feet you could attempt to fix it yourself or hire a handy man to come and clean it. There are various websites like RemoveMoldGuide.com and Good Housekeeping that help to explain the process. This process usually just includes treating affected areas with a mixture of 1 part chlorine bleach and 15 parts water while wearing safety goggles and being certain to have the proper ventilation in the room you’re working in.

If you’re like most though, you may prefer to hire the professionals to deal with your mold problem. Lynn Munroe, the owner of a public relations company in New York City, New York, says that approximately 10 years ago her son who was 8 or 9 years old at the time reported that his asthma was getting increasingly worse and that his stomach was frequently bothering him. After visiting multiple doctors not one could tell her what the root of the problem was.

It turns out her son’s symptoms were due to a humidifier in the basement of their home. The humidifier was attached to pipes in the wall in order to keep the basement dry and these pipes had unfortunately become disconnected from the drain pipe, also behind the wall. This disconnect between the pipes had caused a dripping that had been happening for some time before it had been discovered.

“Next to where it was dripping was a cedar storage closet with my kids’ old clothes that I was saving for my sister’s kids,” Munroe says. “I opened up that door one day and the inside of the closet was filled with black mold. The wall of that closet leaned up against my sons’ playroom – and his TV where he spent countless hours with his brother playing video games. Air tests revealed a really bad mold problem not only in the closet but in the air.”

Munroe says that 24 hours later, “hazmat suits came and demolished my completely finished basement.”

The cost of this clean up and refinishing the demolished basement totaled $40,000. And due to the construction Munroe and her family were required to move for six weeks into her sister’s home. The one good thing to come from the mold discovery was that Munroe reported: “My son’s health condition improved immediately.”

Avoid Scams

When searching for professional help for mold removal you’ll want to be wary of scams which are unfortunately common. After a particularly wet Spring which gave way to continued Summer storms the state of Kentucky reported an increase in residential mold cases. At that time the state asked citizens to be on alert for scam artists who were price-gouging in their mold removal businesses.

The fact that price-gouging is a possibility is disconcerting for any homeowner. Spotting a scam isn’t straight forward, you’d almost have to be a mold expert or a mind reader in order to determine which companies were price-gouging and which ones weren’t.

Sabine Schoenberg of Greenwich, Connecticut is a real estate agent and runs a home improvement website called ThisNewHouse.com She recommends that if you’re going to hire a mold removal company to “always get two bids, so you can get different opinions.” She also adds: “To some extent, I’m a little sympathetic that mold removal companies can’t always give you a hard-and-fast estimate since they don’t always know what type of problem you have until they take a closer look.”

In addition to getting multiple bids to choose from also make sure the company is also licensed, and find out how long they’ve been in business she says.

Be Proactive

Maybe you’re not aware of any mold currently in your home but if you keep an eye out and are proactive in keeping it at bay it can be a much easier issue to address than one that has been in hiding. “A lot of keeping mold away comes down to maintenance,” Schoenberg says. “Anywhere you may have dampness, there can be mold. So look in dark and damp places. And it isn’t always in obvious places. Like your washing machine, the tray where you put your soap, open that up and let that dry out.”

 Here are some tips that will dramatically reduce your chances of having a mold problem from John Bodrozic, the co-founder of HomeZada.com, a home management website:

  1. Caulk around the Water Fixtures – Your kitchen sink, bathroom sink or any sinks or showers throughout the home. “Leaks in and around showers, sinks and bathtubs are a source of mold,” he says.
  • Clean out the Gutters – This is one most people don’t get around to but it will not only prevent flooding, it will also decrease the chances of mold. “Standing water in your gutters due to clogs can lead to water leaking into the eaves, and thus in exterior walls,” Bodrozic says.
  • Caulk Around Your Windows – Do this on the outside of your windows, Bodrozic says. You don’t want any leaking after a big rain.
  • Take Care of Any Roof Leaks – Most people will quickly notice a roof leak into their bedroom but for those that might have an attic or crawl space over their ceiling won’t be as quick to identify a problem. Leaks that develop in these kinds of areas can go unnoticed for years, causing unwanted mold growth.
  • Crawl Space Under the Home? – If your home sits on a crawl space be sure to be proactive and check to make sure there’s no standing water accumulating. Checking a crawl space is not a desirable task but mold issues that lead to structural problems are a much bigger and more expensive affair.

Mold may be a shy visitor in your home but it’s an unwanted visitor none-the-less. Be on the offensive in checking not just the main areas of your home but also the small corners and crevices that don’t get as much attention to make sure you’re doing your best to avoid any large mold problems and future unforeseen renovations.

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