If you suspect mold growth in your home, you can test for the mold by yourself first without having to call a mold professional immediately.

To confirm whether or not mold is present, you are going to need a mold test kit. However, there are some early detection methods you can employ before the kit arrives.

Although a mold test kit helps you identify mold presence in the area, it cannot recognize the type of mold your home has. Once the test kit has confirmed mold in your home, call a mold professional for additional tests.

Here are some ways you can find mold in your home without a testing kit. Mold grows anywhere there is moisture and no sunlight.

1. Odor

There might be mold in your home if you notice a musty smell sticking around. The odor will be particularly strong when you are around the area where it is.

Different mold species have different smells, and one cannot simply tell what kind it is or if it is mold in the first place.

However, it will be worth investigating when the odor you have detected is new or something you are not used to.

The odor of hidden mold is one of the first things you will observe. They may not be visible, but they have that damp, moldy smell that will not go unnoticed.

2. Water damage or leakage

If your home has a history of flooding or has recently experienced water damage, then there is a possibility that mold might have already started growing.

Mold is a pretty common side effect of water damage or leakages.

For mold to grow, it needs moisture, so if your home has experienced a flood or water leak, make sure to get the affected area repaired or treated immediately.

There might be hidden mold in the underlying leakage as well. If you want to inspect mold in your home, look for leaks in your plumbing.

Mold is most likely to come back when water damages are not addressed right away.

3. Physical damage

Hidden mold may also cause physical, and structural damage to your home. Because mold survives through moisture, you may find your walls or ceilings to be soft or soggy.

A rise in moisture level in the materials of your house indicates that there might be a mold issue. Cracks, watermarks, bulges, and/or soggy, soft spots in your home are common signs of mold damage.

Physical damage in the ceilings or walls may be hard to assess because in some cases, there isn’t any obvious mold growth yet. To be sure, it is advised to contact a mold assessor and have your home inspected.

Mold does not get better over time. If you see any physical damage in your home caused by moisture, have a professional take a look at it or repair it right away to prevent mold growth.

How accurate are air mold tests

There are three types of mold testing – direct sampling, bulk sampling, and air sampling. The most common mold test used in indoor assessment is air sampling.

While other mold tests are also accurate, what makes air sampling the most common test used first by mold experts is its accuracy in determining exposure.

Direct sampling

Direct sampling can correctly identify mold growth or presence on a certain surface, but only an air mold test can determine whether or not the presence of mold has affected the indoor air quality.

It samples the air of a room, reading the level of mold infestation in the air. It gives mold experts a great start in finding the main area of the house where mold is strongly present and ultimately, its source.

Air sampling

Sampling the air for elevated levels of infestation is the best way to know if the occupants are exposed to mold in their own homes. With this, negative health effects due to mold may be avoided.

There are two types of air sampling for mold: non-viable image and viable image.

Both of these samples work by running air through an impactor device. The air is pulled into the device and hits a sticky substance. As the air impacts the surface of the substance and distributes around the sides, the mold spores stick in it.

For air sampling, most mold professionals use the impaction sampler and the cassette sampler, both of which collect the mold spores on test plates or culture dishes, ready for lab assessment.

How to test for mold inside walls

If you have noticed discoloration, stains, peeling wallpaper, odor, and surface changes or deterioration on your walls, it is most likely that you have mold inside your walls.

Here are steps on how you can test for mold inside the walls of your house:

  1. Check for moisture. It can be apparent when your walls have dampened, but there are also times when moisture in the walls is not so obvious.
  2. You can use a moisture meter to identify moisture presence or a thermal-imaging device that can tell the changing temperatures inside your wall.
  3. Check for plumbing leaks and badly insulated ductwork as they are one of the most common causes of moisture in your walls.
  4. Probe the area. Poke around specific areas of your wall and check if it has become soft. Walls that are easily crumbled are most likely affected by mold and have started to rot.
  5. Use your mold test screening test plate or your mold test kit. Instructions are ready in these kits. What you have to do is to put the test plates in the areas where mold is suspected to be.

Label them carefully with the areas where they come from so you’d know the specific spots the mold has affected. Wrap the test plates in aluminum foil and place them in a room temperature area for 5 days.

If any mold has developed after the observation period, then it is highly likely that there is mold in your walls. Although these tests are not 100% accurate, they can still help lead you in the right direction.

Hire a mold professional. Let a mold expert assess your walls. They are far more accurate in testing mold in your homes. If mold is found in your home, then you can have mold remediation as recommended.

How to test for black mold in the house

If you are doing a DIY black mold inspection, here are common areas of the house you can examine where black mold may grow:

  • Areas near pipes
  • Basements
  • Bathrooms
  • Below sinks
  • Behind the refrigerator
  • Behind the drywall
  • Ceilings that have water leakage
  • Crawlspaces
  • Coils of HVAC air handlers or ductwork
  • Underneath carpets and rugs in damp areas
  • Walls around leaking windows

There are three ways to test for black mold in the house, especially in these areas. If you are suspecting mold growth in these parts of your home, here is how you can confirm that:

1. DIY mold testing kit

DIY mold testing kits can be purchased in hardware stores or through online retailers. If you want a cheaper and faster option, this is the way to do it.

Many DIY kits can show results in just 48 hours. Just make sure to follow the instructions carefully and correctly.

Although a DIY mold testing kit is not 100% conclusive, it can still help you determine mold presence. This means to say that even though there may not have been mold detected, it still does not mean you are in the clear.

Some DIY test kits, however, include an optional lab analysis that can deliver more accurate findings. This is also useful when you find it challenging to perform the test by yourself.

The test includes three tapes that collect samples from the surfaces you wish to test. Simply apply the tape to the spot and lift it off. A guide will be provided to you regarding the whole process.

Make sure that before you use the mold testing kit, you are wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment: long sleeves and pants, shoes, gloves, goggles without vent holes, and an N95 respirator.

Should the results show that mold is found within these areas, it is up to you to decide whether you want to remove it by yourself or you hire a professional.

2. Air sampling kit

You can also use an air sampling kit when testing for black mold in your home. This is what most people use first before collecting samples from walls, ceilings, or mold-affected surfaces.

Like the DIY mold testing kit, the collected samples gathered by the air sampling kit are also up for laboratory analysis.

This kit operates with an air pump and containers for the collected air which may or may not have mold spores.

An advantage of using an air sampling kit is that it can identify mold that is not visible to the occupants’ vision. There is hidden mold that can even be identified by its type during the lab analysis.

However, air sampling, like DIY mold tests, is also not enough to confirm mold presence. To attain more accurate results, it needs to be accompanied by visual inspection and surface sampling.

3. Professional mold testing

Home mold tests, albeit cheaper and show quick results, are not always accurate. Because of this, many opt for hiring professionals to perform mold tests in their homes.

Mold inspection is a type of service most mold remediation companies offer. However, there are companies as well that only offer mold inspection.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), mold inspectors don’t have certification programs, but you can ask them about their qualifications, experience, training, equipment, and cost.

Professional mold inspectors have equipment that you cannot just find in DIY mold test kits. They can deliver the most accurate results that your home mold tests cannot.

However, you should be careful regarding fraud in the industry. There are unfortunate circumstances where some contractors claim you have a mold issue when there isn’t.

Beware of fraudsters!

This scenario mostly happens when you hire from a mold remediation company since they mostly earn from mold remediation and not from a mold inspection.

What you can do is hire a professional from a mold inspection company or you can get a second opinion from another company to make sure if you need mold remediation.

You must look for companies with good reputations and reviews.

As soon as mold is found in your home, genuine professionals will explain the best course of action regarding the problem and promote transparency during the whole process.

Benjamin McInerny
Author: Benjamin McInerny - is a qualified arborist and a DIY Home Improvement enthusiast. Ben has a extensive experience on renovation projects including, mold removal, painting, fence installation and more. Ben shares his skills with DIY and gardening enthusiasts.