How to Check for Mold in a House You’re Buying (+ Printable List!)

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how to check for mold in a house you're buying

If you’re in the market to buy a house, congratulations! This is an exciting time. But are you worried about hidden mold in any of the homes you’re looking at? Wishing you could know how to check yourself, instead of just trusting someone else’s word? We’ve got you covered. We’re Cleaner Guys, a professional mold inspection and removal company, and we’re here to empower you with the knowledge of what mold looks like, how to spot it, and where to check for it!

Table of Contents

Should You Check for Mold in Houses You’re Looking At?

Yes! You should definitely check for mold in any house you’re looking at! Most responsible home sellers will have checked their home for mold before putting it on the market. But often, a home may be vacant and on the market for weeks or months, and during that time, mold could grow. We here at Cleaner Guys have had realtors call us because potential buyers found mold in the attic of a home they were interested in, that had been vacant for some time. It happens!

Is Mold in a House Dangerous?

Yes and no. No mold species is good for your health, but only a couple of species of molds are truly dangerous. Most molds are allergenic, meaning they can cause allergy-like symptoms, often called “mold sickness”. This can happen to those with mold allergies and those without. Mold sickness symptoms can look like persistent coughing, sneezing, and congestion, itchy or watery eyes, headaches, and many other potential symptoms (which you should read about here).

There are a few species of mold that are toxic and dangerous. By far the most common is Stachybotrys Chartarum, commonly known as “toxic black mold”. Some less common species of Aspergillus mold or Fusarium mold can also be “toxic”. These rare mold species release mycotoxins, chemical byproducts that are dangerous to humans. Prolonged exposure to Stachybotrys Chartarum mycotoxins with no PPE can cause nausea, vomiting, bleeding in the lungs, neurotoxic effects, and even internal or external hemorrhaging.

How Do You Get Rid of Mold in a House You Might Buy?

If you find mold in a house you want to buy, you should always leave its removal to professional mold removers. You can’t know if the mold is a toxic and dangerous species or just an allergenic one. Furthermore, proper mold removal that prevents the mold from returning requires special chemicals and equipment that only professional mold removers have.

What Does Mold Look Like? What are Signs of Mold?

Mold is a fungus that can grow on any surface where there is excess moisture. All mold needs to grow is moisture, oxygen, and organic material to feed on. Molds are typically black, green, gray, white or brown in color (though some species can be red or pink). They look like clusters of small spots or patches, and are usually fuzzy or slimy to the touch.

You can also recognize mold by its distinctive smell. Mold has a strong, pungent odor that can be described as musty, rotten, damp, or just like old socks. If you smell this kind of odor in certain areas of the home you’re looking at, but you can’t see any mold, call a mold inspector right away.

How to Check for Mold in a House You’re Buying – Top 10 Places to Look

I just recently went through the process of looking for and purchasing a home, and since I’ve worked for Cleaner Guys for years, I knew exactly what areas of each prospective house to check for mold. These are all the places a professional mold expert would check — and where you should, too.

Top 10 Places to Check for Mold in a House

  • The attic. This is the most common place for mold to grow, but it’s one of the least commonly checked.
  • Inside all cupboards, especially ones under sinks. Mold is extremely common in sink cupboards because the plumbing can leak quietly for a long time and no one will notice.
  • Behind the refrigerator. There is not always a refrigerator in a home for sale, but when there is, pull it out and check the wall and floor under it. It’s another extremely common spot for mold.
  • The laundry room. If there’s still a washing machine, pull it out. Leakage — and therefore mold — is common here.
  • The closets. Check every corner thoroughly; mold loves dark, warm spaces full of textiles to consume.
  • The crawlspace. If you don’t want to get in there and check, get someone who will. Mold is all too common in crawlspaces, and because no one goes in there, it can spread for a long time.
  • The basement. Basements are notoriously damp, which is ideal for mold.
  • Inside ventilation and AC ducting. Pull the vent covers off and shine a flashlight in there. Mold often isn’t noticed inside ducting for a long time, and may be pervasive.
  • Windows and windowsills. Is there a lot of condensation on the windows? Black stuff in the window track or the seams and cracks? The windows may not be sealed well, letting in moisture that’s perfect for mold.
  • Baseboard trim. This one is definitely for after you’ve purchased the house! Mold can grow behind the baseboard, so if you want to be really thorough about checking for mold, pull off a few pieces to check behind them. Be sure you can put them back on though!

Click here for a printable checklist of these 10 places, to take with you to house showings!

Should I Get the House I’m Looking at Inspected for Mold?

Yes, it’s a good idea to get the home you want to buy inspected for mold. Many home inspectors will do this for you, often with infrared cameras, but if they don’t, getting a professional mold inspection can be a wise extra step. Another extremely common place mold can grow is inside the walls, and you can’t check there! Only a professional mold inspection company has the technology to. This is especially prudent if you live in a very wet or humid area, where mold is extra common. Cleaner Guys’ home of Washington State is like that.

Is Mold a Deal Breaker When Buying a House?

Finding mold when buying a house should be a great concern, but it does not have to be a deal breaker. Mold is usually a strong sign of some sort of past or present water damage, which will need to be fully inspected, removed, and restored. However, you as the potential home buyer have the upper hand, because you have the opportunity to say to tell the seller that you’re interested in buying the home, IF they fix the damage first. Many sellers will do so!

When my husband and I bought our house recently, there was some water damage in the master shower, but the seller was very motivated to sell the house, and was willing to have the water damage taken care of at their expense. This will not always be the case, and you should discuss with your realtor whether it is a smart option for you. But mold and water damage do not have to be a deal breaker on a home.

If You’re Worried About Mold in Western Washington State…

If you’re looking at homes in Western Washington State, and want a trustworthy company on call in case of mold inspection or mold removal, save Cleaner Guys’ number! We’re the only company in the area with award-winning customer service, and we pride ourselves on our honest, low prices and high-quality workmanship. Save the number (360)757-4300.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No part of this article is medical or legal advice, and may not be used as such. For all serious medical matters, consult your doctor. For all serious legal matters, consult your legal advisor. This article contains Cleaner Guys’ experience and opinions only.

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