Solving your mold problem may require mold testing. Perhaps you are in the process of purchasing a new home. Or maybe you suspect mold but cannot see it. Mold testing is important as well. “How much does mold testing cost?” you ask.
Well, this depends on the size of your home, the part of the house with suspected contaminated, and the local mold testing cost in your area.
What is mold testing?
Mold is a fungus that grows in moist areas in your home.
Mold produces tiny spores, which spread randomly in the interior of your house.
Asides emitting musty odors, mold can be toxic to human health (worsen asthma and allergies) and can damage properties.
Mold testing is simply identifying what type of mold is in your house as well as the concentration of mold spores in the air.
Testing, which may involve mold inspection, could also include determining the presence of mold as well as defining the extent of its contamination.
Professional mold testing involves taking surface or/and air samples to check for mold spores.
Samples are then analyzed in a microbial lab.
With mold testing, we can determine if your home has unhealthy levels of mold and mold spores.
Cost of professional mold testing
Depending on the size of the home, the extent of the mold contamination, the types of tests done, the number of tests, swabs, and equipment used, the cost of mold testing ranges from $200 to $500.
Note that paperwork and filing of an insurance claim may affect this cost.
For residential homes, the national average cost of mold testing can range from $250 to $350.
Residential mold testing often involves inspection, reports, and two mold tests (one control test and one interior test).
For commercial buildings, the national average cost is $500 or more.
Professional commercial mold testing for one building involves inspection, reports, and two mold tests (one control test and one interior test).
On average visual mold inspection cost about $200—accompanied with mold testing, this cost can rise to $350.
Mold test vs. mold inspection
Mold testing is not the same as mold inspection.
While mold testing is used to determine the type of mold in your home, mold inspection helps determine the presence of mold. Mold testing companies often offer mold inspection services.
Mold inspection does not often require lab analysis.
It is a visual job where the inspector works with a flashlight, a moisture meter (to determine wetness levels) and a scraper to scrape off areas prone to mold contamination.
The inspection involves examining past and current signs of contamination within ceilings, floors, and walls, as well as sources of moisture.
The inspector would ask you questions about areas in your home you suspect to be contaminated and your home’s history of water damage.
The inspection may involve the inspector breaking through walls or flooring (with your permission) if hidden mold is suspected.
If mold is detected, you can then move to the remediation phase, which involves measuring the extent of the mold problem.
Before choosing a mold testing professional
While it’s possible to perform mold testing with DIY kits, you may need the services of a certified mold-testing professional or mold inspector.
Of course, it is more costly, so you have to be certain you’re hiring the right person. Doing your homework is the only way to save money and get quality service.
Start by comparing several inspection companies in your area—checking their price and services. Check referrals and portfolio.
Ensure the company can provide a written evaluation that identifies the areas of the building for inspection, the cause of the mold, the degree of contamination, how the mold issue can be solved, and an estimated cost.
Then ensure the company uses a lab (where mold samples are analyzed) accredited by either the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or American Industrial Hygiene Association.
You can also determine the status of the mold inspection company on the Better Business Bureau to know if they are certified or have lawsuits or/and complaints filed against them.
Also, ensure that the mold inspection company follows analytical procedures recommended by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH), American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), or other professional bodies.
Type of mold testing
Professional mold testing consists of two major types of sampling tests: swab (surface) test and air sampling tests.
One or both of these tests can be used for mold testing.
The process is simple: several samples are collected from different places across the house.
The larger the sample size, the more correct the mold testing results.
Of course, the cost depends on the square footage of the building, the surface area tested as wells as the potential extent of the mold infestation.
Surface testing: Surface testing, which costs about $200 – $300, involves collecting surface samples from a possibly contaminated area and testing it in a laboratory.
During surface testing, samples of the actual mold are collected.
While this test does not give the concentration of spores floating in the air, it does help identify the type of mold in your home.
Surface samples can be collected either by utilizing a sticky tape or a q-tip-like device to get samples. Samples are then enclosed and then analyzed in a laboratory.
Some mold testing professionals believe that swab testing alone is not suitable for mold testing. It needs to be combined with air testing.
Air testing: Air testing, which costs around $250 – $350, involves collecting air samples around your house to determine the concentration of mold spore in the air.
This procedure is just to determine the concentration of mold spores floating in the air.
Traditional air testing (for quick results) is done with a handheld device known as the mold sniffer. Another method is using a cassette device that sucks air into it; the cassette is then sealed and taken to a laboratory for analysis.
Coupled with swab testing, air testing gives a more complete data.
Why you should test for mold
Most times, mold is easy to spot on the walls. Sometimes mold can grow in hidden places like between walls, beneath the floor or in air ducts. In this case, testing is important.
Moreover, if you can smell mold but cannot see it, mold testing can determine the presence of mold.
Maybe you have experienced water damage recently. Testing for mold is necessary if you have plumbing leaks, a leaky roof, or a flooded basement.
If any space in your house stays wet for one day or more, you should test for mold.
Also, if you are buying a new house, which is a major investment, mold testing is vital.
Houses with a history of water damage often have mold problems. Mold testing will help you make the right choice of property.
Another reason to test is if you have left your house unoccupied for a long time, say months or years. Over time, humidity may have built up and allowed for mold contamination.
Mold testing is even important after mold remediation.
To ensure you have eliminated your mold problem after a costly or intensive remediation process, testing is important.
Post-remediation mold testing helps ensure that your mold problem is solved and mold counts have reduced to normal levels.
You can test for mold to be sure it’s actually mold and to determine the extent of contamination around the house.
See some white, blue, green or black stuff growing around your home? The contamination may not be limited to one area.
Testing can be performed to determine indoor air quality. I
f you are allergic, have respiratory problems or having symptoms associated with mold, like wheezing, sneezing, runny nose, asthma attacks, and migraines, mold testing can come in handy.
While these symptoms are not completely restricted to mold infections, you should take precautions.
Whether it’s post- or pre-remediation, mold testing gives you an idea of the severity of the mold problem, shows potential hidden problems within your house, and defines the scope of work needed for remediation.
DIY mold testing
For small mold problems, DIY mold testing can be effective. Note that these DIY test kits have their pros and cons.
For health reasons, you may wish to test the type of mold in your home. Toxic “black mold” (Stachybotrys chartarum), for instance, has been known to cause or worsen respiratory problems.
Early detection of toxic mold using DIY mold testing is not only cost-effective but also helps protect your health.
DIY test kits are often easy to use.
The con of these products is their reliability and accuracy, which you cannot always trust.
Unlike hired mold inspectors, DIY kits won’t provide the concentration of mold in your house; they only identify its presence and its level of harmfulness.
Cost of DIY mold testing
On average, the cost of DIY mold test kits can range from $8 to $45.
First, you can simply start with visual sampling. Visual inspecting the entire house—the basement, refrigerator seals, windowsills, bathtubs, wallpaper, drywall, and every part of the house that is wet or overly humid.
Use a q-tip to collect a swab of visible mold on your wall, floor, or ceiling, seal the sample in a plastic bag, and send it to a lab.
Second, you can perform DIY air testing by taking samples from your home’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Take the sample to a lab.
Lastly, you can place mold-testing Petri dishes (which can be purchased over the counter) around your home to capture floating spores.
When the mold starts growing on the Petri dish, you can send it to a laboratory for analysis—to determine the mold’s type and harmfulness.
Oftentimes, if you can see mold, smell it, or experience health problems associated with mold, then inspection is not necessary.
However, if you’re uncertain about the presence of mold, DIY testing kits are helpful.
Some DIY mold testing kits companies even provide lab analysis and expert consultation (for an additional fee).
If you are further interested in knowing the specific type of mold, you may have to send your samples to the lab for analysis.
Some DIY mold test kits on the market
With a cost of about $50, DIY Mold Test kits contain three tape lift samples used for surface testing. The kit also has a mold inspection booklet you can use. The cost of the product also covers professional lab testing services.
This mold test kit, which costs about $50, promises results in five minutes.
- Pro-Lab MO109 Household Test Kit:
This kit consists of one Petri dish for sample collection. You can place the Petri dish in your HVAC systems, kitchen, living room, bathroom, etc. Costing around $9 to $15, you may have to pay an additional $30 fee to obtain lab results.
- EZ BioResearch Malt Extract Agar (MEA)
This kit contains ten pre-poured agar plates you can place around the house to test for mold. With a price of about $15.
- First Alert Home Mold Test Kit from Wal-Mart
For $12, this kit contains a test strip, sample bags, and instructions. For an additional $12, the manufacturers will provide lab analysis.
- Malt Extract Agar Plates
This kit consists of 10 sterile pre-poured Petri dishes—normally meant for lab use. The medium is malt extract agar, which is perfect for mold detection.
- Mold inspection may not be needed if you can already see the mold growing.
- There are no federal or EPA limits to mold or mold spore concentration; therefore testing cannot be used to know if a building is compliant with federal mold standards. There are no Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) or standards for airborne concentration of mold or mold spores and contaminants.
- To ensure that an area in your home has been completely remediated or cleaned, surface testing will come in handy.
- To get real results, you would need the services of mold inspectors that can design mold-testing protocols, sample methods, and interpret results.