Unpleasant musty smells and visible mold growth are signs that a building has significant moisture problems. Mold colonies that grow in concealed areas can remain undetected until the problem has impacted the health of residents, office workers or weakened important structural supports. Fortunately, state-of-the-art infrared cameras used during a Houston commercial property inspection can detect hidden mold and moisture problems.
Thermal imaging gives building owners and inspectors an accurate picture of heat, water damage and temperature variations that are invisible to the human eye or are concealed behind a wall or ceiling. By locating the source of moisture problems, building owners can correct the underlying cause and remediate the mold growth more effectively. A fast response can protect your real estate investment, improve indoor air quality and create a healthier environment for occupants.
Causes of Indoor Mold Growth
Mold can grow in any indoor environment as long as the spores and multicellular colonies have access to water, oxygen and organic substrates. In nature, mold and fungi break down decaying vegetation. In buildings, mold attacks wooden furniture or beams, books and paper products, leather, carpet, clothing, drywall and floors. Unfortunately, mold colonies can form behind walls, under floors and in inaccessible locations. Hidden leaks in a roof, pipe or HVAC system can support mold colonies in the deep recesses of a building. Because mold does not require sunlight, colonies are often found in dark, damp concealed spaces where humidity remains high due to the lack of ventilation.
Common causes of indoor mold growth include the following.
- Condensation that develops on cool surfaces, such as pipes, air ducts or windows
- High relative indoor humidity due to an over-sized HVAC system or leak
- Unvented showers, kitchen appliances and dryers
- Water damage that was not corrected within 48 hours of a flood or burst pipe
- Water leaks concealed in walls, cabinets and attics
- Foundation grading that does not direct water away from the building
- Leaks from a roof, chimney or clogged gutter
Frequently, Houston mold inspection services are only scheduled after owners or investors believe there is a problem or a building is being purchased. Occupants of affected buildings often report smelling musty odors and seeing slimy or powdery mold colonies. Physical symptoms are reported less frequently. Of the 1,000 mold species found in North America, only a few produce irritating mycotoxins. Stachybotrys chartarum, also called black mold, is one of the best-known toxic mold species. The genera Cladosporium, Penicillium, Aspergillus and Alternaria are also commonly found indoors. While most molds do not produce irritating mycotoxins, they do emit odor-causing microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs).
The most common allergic responses to mycotoxins are sneezing, eye irritation, respiratory discomfort and skin rashes. Mycotoxins can also trigger asthma attacks. Due to the dangerous nature of the toxins and the biocides needed to clean affected materials, remediation experts must wear protective clothing, gloves and respiratory masks.
Testing for Mold
According to the EPA and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, specialized testing of mold samples collected from the air and affected surfaces is not typically necessary. With infrared cameras, it is much easier to locate the root of the problem and find out what needs to be done to correct it.
In the past, multiple samples were taken from different parts of the building to determine which areas were most affected and to see how the spores and toxins were being carried through the air. Now, leaks and moisture problems can be identified instantly.
Professional assessments are recommended when purchasing a home or when there are signs of a mold problem. Although a Houston residential property inspection may not cover mold, you can request this service specifically.