What is Mold?
Mold can be found almost anywhere; it can grow on virtually any organic substance, as long as moisture and oxygen are present.
Mold can grow on wood, paper, carpet, foods, and insulation. When excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building
materials, mold growth will often occur, particularly if the moisture problem remains undiscovered or unresolved.
Some of the more common indoor molds are Penicillium, Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Alternaria.
Many types of molds exist. All molds have the potential to cause health effects. Molds can produce allergens that can trigger
allergic reactions or even asthma attacks in people allergic to mold. Others are known to produce potent toxins and/or irritants.
Potential health concerns are an important reason to prevent mold growth and to remediate/clean up any existing indoor mold
When do you test for mold?
1. Lawyers/Doctors:There may be some situations where mold testing (air and or surface) may be necessary: for instance, you
are has asked for mold tests or mold investigation,
2. Building Owners: Additional reason your house or office might need mold testing, building health is one of them. Unusually
high mold spore count indicates structural damage or hidden water leak or condensation.In a few cases, mold is strongly
suspected but is not seen and you are not prepared to start taking walls down. The moldy odour may also be occasional and you
are unsure whether mold is a problem. Testing the air may be justified.
3. During an Inspection: There are times when a surface sample is a good idea, such as when the inspector identifies a red
flag, such as stains which may or may not resemble mold and you the buyer, during a home purchase, may need to understand
what your next step will be, such as, provide 3rd party laboratory proof that it is indeed mold to renegotiate, back out of a deal or
arrange to have it remediated (removed).
How do you remove mold?
Depending on the amount/size of infected area, as well, where it's located will determine the type of removal or remediation. Some
more popular ways are as follows:
1. Temporary Encapsulators or Painting - these methods may use chemicals, will they last? Hard to say. Is this method safe in
all locations such as an attic and are there any indoor air quality issues with chemicals? Attics can become very hot in summer
time, will the paint give off gases??
2. Blasting - A method which blasts the mold off of the surface, removing a portion of the surface but may not eliminate all of the
mold and may also blow the mold particles into other areas.
3. Replacing or Removing Areas - Depending on the infected area, such as an attic, you may remove and replace the
sheathing but how about the rafters and insulation?
4. Bleach or some other Chemical - Mold can be found on wood or other porous material - will the use of chemicals clean all
the areas, maybe, but you may only remove the surface areas how about deep down into the material? Also chemicals may not
be the best for indoor air quality.
5. Do It Yourself - In some situations you can attempt to clean the infected area up yourself. Proper Personal Protection should
be considered. For more information I have provided several CMHC (Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation) and EPA
(Environmental Protection Agency) files for your information.
DO NOT attempt to remediate yourself if you have any type of ALLERGIES/INFECTIONS/ASTHMA. Consult with your physician
prior to performing any type of mold remediation.
CMHC - Should You Test For Mold
CMHC - Fighting Mold
CMHC - Tenants Guide To Mold
EPA - Mold Guide
EPA - Mold Remediation
Do you need to test for mold?
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the American Industrial Hygiene
Association (AIHA) do not recommend testing the air for molds in single-family
dwellings and similar buildings as a first step. The recommended first step is
having a trained investigator check your house for mold.
Please understand there are NO EPA or other federal limits which have been set
for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's
compliance with federal mold standards. As well, air sampling can only provide a
snap shot in time where mold levels can vary widely at different times and days.
A thorough investigation based on building-science principles and experience is
more helpful than testing the air. An air sample test does not pinpoint sources of
moisture, tell you why you have a mold problem or suggest ways to fix it. A trained
investigator determines causes and suggests ways to remediate and improve
potential problems. A properly trained investigator who follows a Certified Mold
Investigation Procedure/Guidelines provides you with a written report that
Mold Testing - Viable and Non-Viable
Refers to collecting mold spores using a method that allows the spores to grow. The laboratory analyzes the samples while they
are living and growing, and this allows the laboratory to accurately determine the exact type of species and genus. Generally
used if a doctor needs to understand the family and species or maybe in litigation. It takes longer than non-viable testing, since
seven days of culturing is required. Viable testing may not identify dead mold spores
Non-Viable - Mold inspectors typically use non-viable sampling in their inspections. The most popular and least costly method
A non-viable sample is directly examined under a microscope. The mold spores are identified and counted. Other particulates are
examined and identified based on a sample's physical features, such as fibers, skin cells, and hyphae fragments. The spores
alone cannot identify some molds, such as Aspergillus and Penicillium. These are reported as a group in, for example, the
Aspergillus/Penicillium group or the Periconial/Myxomycetes group. When you just need to know if it's mold.
Asbestos refers to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals that have the ability to resist heat, fire and electricity.
Although asbestos fibers are microscopic in nature, they are extremely durable and resistant to fire and most chemical reactions
and breakdowns. These properties of asbestos supported its use for many years in a number of different commercial and
industrial settings, as well as in a wide range of consumer products. Although its use has diminished in recent decades, there
are still many products that contain asbestos, especially in older homes, schools, and public buildings.
Health Issues related to Asbestos
Asbestos is made up of microscopic fibers that can easily become airborne and inhaled. Because of their shape, the asbestos
particles cling to tissues of the lungs and other areas of the respiratory system. Over time, these tiny fibers can cause
inflammation, causing a number of health problems, the three biggest of which are:
1.Mesothelioma — This aggressive cancer forms in the thin membrane (mesothelium) that protects vital organs in the chest and
abdomen. Exposure to asbestos is the only medically-verified cause of the disease.
2.Lung Cancer — Most commonly associated with factors like smoking and radon, lung cancer is also known to be exacerbated
by exposure to asbestos.
3.Asbestosis — This degenerative respiratory condition results from the formation of scar tissue plaques on the surface of the
pleura (lung linings). It can be a precursor to the onset of mesothelioma.
More information can be found at the Mesothelioma.com website.
Who is at Risk?
Because asbestos was used in thousands of commercial products up until approx 1980's and in some cases until 1990 and in
several industries, exposure to Asbestos was common in a long list of trades and occupations. Exposure may also be of concern
if you happen to work or go to school where asbestos products, especially friable type of asbestos, is still found. Friable is a term
given to a material which can easily be broken up (by hand, or mechanical damage) exposing particles of the material, some of
which may be asbestos.
Where can Asbestos be found?
Some of the more common areas asbestos may be found would be;
Attics - Vermiculite Insulation (Zonolite Attic Insulation) was used in 1970's and 1980's. See picture to the right.
Exterior Building Material - cement siding, cement roof panels, loose fill insulation (Vermiculite)
Floor Finishes - Vinyl asbestos tiles, sheet vinyl flooring, floor leveling compound, linoleum flooring, mastic
Ceiling Structures - lay-in and stick up ceiling tiles, acoustic and stucco sprayed, plaster or drywall jointing material
Walls - plaster or drywall jointing materials, sprayed fireproofing, asbestos transite panels
Mechanical and Fan Rooms - insulation on boiler pipes, vessels, ducts, walls, ceilings, around furnaces and furnace plenums.
Mechanical Pipe Systems - steam and hot water heating supply and return lines, insulated pipes.
Mechanical Heating Systems - Boilers wrapped with insulation and the heating ducts or registers/pipes.
Literally 1000's of products contained Asbestos - Residential and Commercial Construction, the list is extensive:
Click here for a more comprehensive list of products and industries which may contain asbestos
Why should you care?
In Canada there are strict requirements for renovating, remodeling or even demolishing a building constructed prior to 1980 and
in some cases in some building constructed after 1980. You can't just go in and demolish or renovate an older building this may
disturb and release material which may contain asbestos, possibly harming the workers and or employees. Ontario Regulation
278/05 has put into place specific removal guidelines to help protect people. As a building owner/corporation you may be fined.
Why test for Asbestos?
As a home owner you may or may not be subject to the Ontario Regulation 278/05, however understanding what your property
may contain is important for you and your family's health, especially if you intend to renovate or remodel. The contractors you
hire may also need to understand what they are working with. Identifying asbestos containing material is a start, then a
laboratory test should be done to confirm. There are so many variations of material which may or may not contain asbestos, it is
virtually impossible to tell by just looking at it. Testing is the only conclusive way.
When do you test for Asbestos?
Testing for asbestos should be done on homes or buildings built prior to 1980. Also, if you intend to do any remodeling or
renovations. In some cases, if you do not disturbed the material and it is not friable then you may be able to leave it alone and or
encapsulate (sealing the material) it, this should only be determined after it has been examined and tested by a professional.
Who can test for Asbestos?
Sampling for Asbestos may be costly, since multiple samples of the same substance maybe required (refer to the Ontario
regulation 287/05 table 1). Example, Vermiculite Insulation (Zonolite Attic Insulation) in an attic or behind walls may cost $800 or
more to collect samples (min 3 samples in properly identified areas) and have them tested by a qualified laboratory. Can you
collect your own samples and save money? People always ask me this question...I highly recommend you read the Ontario
Regulation 278/05 in it's entirety and decide on your own. Having said that, when dealing with asbestos, I personally recommend
to use a qualified specialist because not only will you most likely need multiple samples, you will need to know where to collect
them and you also need to protect yourself from exposure.
Taking your own Samples?
If you decide to collect your own samples and send them into a laboratory, which I highly discourage. Scroll down to the bottom
and you will find a list of labs in Ontario for testing of Asbestos and or Mold. If you look around the sites they may also provide
|Asbestos - Pipes
|Asbestos - Vermiculite
|Asbestos - Ceiling tiles
4. Attic - Probably one of the most common concerns. Typically, you will observe dark or black stains, discoloration on the inside
of the attic on the wood walls. Mold can come in other colors but black is the most common. This black staining may or may not be
mold. Sometimes it can be dormant which means it was mold at one point when the conditions inside the attic were ideal (high
humidity) but now since it's dry the spores may have died and fallen off. This dormant mold can still become active under the right
conditions (moisture). Understanding the cause and dealing with the damage is important to consider. A licensed specialist should
be consulted to understand your options.
5. Cold Cellars - Another common area - Is the cold cellar properly vented to allow warm moist air to escape? Have you packed
the cold cellar with cellulose type material (boxes, paper, cloths, wood etc.). Does the cold cellar smell musty?. The cold cellar
should have regulation vent holes to allow the warm moist air entering, such as every time you open the door, to circulate to the
6. Basement Foundation Walls - Mold does not usually grow on brick or cement - It can grow if there is dirt and or the cement
is painted. You should make sure the humidity levels in the basement are low and all water leaks are immediately improved.
7. Garages - Inside the garage on the ceiling. Is there a washroom above the garage or maybe the garage has a roof above.
NOTE: Obviously mold can grow in many other areas of your home or office. High humidity, leaking pipes and water entry into the
property can and most often will lead to mold growth sometimes within 2-3 days. Make sure you deal with it immediately or it will
grow and spread very quickly.
In many cases it may be obvious that the staining or suspect area is mold, especially if all the right conditions are present such as
water entry or high humidity has occurred. Home Inspectors will typically report "further inspection by a licensed professional or
mold specialist". You may decide to have samples taken or you may decide not to...that is your decision.
Also please keep in mind that a conflict of interest may present itself, if the home inspector who identified the issue is also the one
you are paying to have a sample tested. A qualified third party who did not identify the possible issue may be best to actually
collect the sample and have it tested at a licensed lab. This is for mold and or any other issue