If you are considering buying a home, it is important to know there are a few significant issues that are not necessarily covered under a standard home inspection. Mold is one such hazard that a standard home inspector may not check for, but it is almost always a good idea to schedule a specialized home inspection to test for its presence.

Mold can be very difficult to detect and can cause mild to severe health issues. Before closing on a home, buyers should be fully aware of any presence of mold or a history of water damage that could lead to mold growth in the future.

What is mold and where does it grow?

Molds are a fungi and can be found almost anywhere. To reproduce, they create spores which drift through the air. When an environment is moist, the spores will settle down, and mold will begin to grow. Spores are everywhere. The live both inside and outside and cannot be eliminated from the air inside your home. What can be eliminated are the moist environments that create breeding grounds for them to grow. 

There are over 100,000 different types of mold. One type that is especially dangerous is referred to by experts as Black Mold. The San Francisco Chronicle explained that Black Mold does not refer to any mold that is black in color, but rather to a specific type of mold called Stachybotrys chartarum. 

The thing is, it doesn't really matter what kind of mold you spot in your house. All mold has the potential to pose some sort of health risk, as people have vastly different susceptibilities to mold-related illnesses. The presence of any mold is a risk, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is really unnecessary to pay for the expensive tests that determine what kind of mold is growing in your home. If you spot any mold it must be removed as soon as possible, and testing it could be a waste of time and money. 

Common places mold grows, according to legal advice website NOLO, are in and around walls, floors, ceilings, pipes and the attic and basement. Essentially, anywhere in a home that is vulnerable to water damage is also vulnerable to mold. While a home inspection does not include actively checking for mold growth, your inspector does inspect these areas thoroughly. You can still ask him if he has spotted signs of mold or water damage.  

Signs of mold growth in a home 
DoItYourself.com listed a few signs of mold growth:

  • The presence of stains on pipes, floors, ceilings, walls or around doors and windows  
  • Walls that are cracked, swollen or soft 
  • Wet carpets 
  • Water or dampness in the basement or attic
  • Corrosion around pipes 
  • Deteriorated caulking around fixtures in the bathroom
  • Floors that are bending or caving in 
  • Damaged or missing shingles on the roof
  • The presence of standing water around the home's exterior - could indicate poor drainage, leaky gutters or faulty gutter spouts
  • A nasty odor 

Health risks associated with mold 

The CDC explained that mold affects everyone differently. Some people will have no reaction at all, while others could have mild or severe allergies. Mild mold allergies cause stuffy noses, wheezing and irritated eyes or skin. Severe allergies could cause fever and difficulty breathing. Those who already have a a lung-related illness could be at risk of a mold infection in their lungs. 

How to remove mold  

In general, it is best to call in a professional - and fast. Mold should be removed from a home as soon as possible after it's detected. Even more, the Environmental Protection Agency said the water damage that caused the mold to grow needs to be fixed right away. Otherwise, the mold will probably grow back. 

If the mold growth is caused by sewage, contaminated water or covers an area greater than 10 square feet, you should call in an expert to remove it. The CDC said an area of 10 square feet or less can be cleaned by yourself with a solution made up of 1 gallon of water and a maximum of 1 cup of laundry bleach. When working with bleach, make sure to open windows and wear non porous gloves and protective eyewear. In addition, never mix bleach with household cleaners, especially those that contain ammonia. Doing so could create toxic fumes. 

If you are not sure whether it is dangerous to attempt removing the mold in your home, it is best not to hire a trusted professional.

How to prevent mold 

The EPA offered a few tips to avoid the growth of mold in the first place. The best way to keep mold from growing is to dry any areas of the home damaged by water within 24-48 hours. To control a home's moisture levels, make sure to keep your gutters, drain lines and air conditioning plans clean. You should also keep the relative humidity level low inside your home, ideally between 30 and 50 percent. You can purchase a humidity meter at most hardware stores.

It is also important to keep your home well-ventilated to reduce the presence of moisture. Foundation maintenance is another key preventive measure. The ground around your home should slope away from it. Otherwise, water could seep into the foundation. 

The CDC also suggested leaving basements and bathrooms uncarpeted and applying mold inhibitors to any paint before you use it in your home. 

NOLO urged homebuyers to be on the lookout for the presence of mold. If mold is detected during a home inspection or any other time before you close, you will want to carefully consider whether the costs of removing it and preventing it from happening again are going to be too large of a financial burden. Some states have laws that require home sellers to tell potential buyers about issues in the home related to water, but even if there are no laws in your state, you should ask the seller if the home has a history of mold or water damage.