How Much Does Mold Inspection Cost?
Every homeowner’s nightmare: A hint of musty-sock scent in the air, or a creeping sense of dampness. By the time mold makes its presence known, it’s likely that there’s significant growth behind your walls. On average, homeowners can expect $648 to be the cost of mold inspection—far less than the cost of repairs if mold growth goes unchecked.
- Typical Range: $295 to $1,010
- National Average: $648
Any source of moisture in a home can lead to mold growth. Bathrooms, especially those without ventilation fans, are particularly susceptible with their constant steam and dry cycles, but kitchen vents, air ducts, and anywhere a pipe or appliance is slowly leaking are also potential mold locations. In those dark, moist areas, mold can grow quickly—and while some mold is just an annoyance or allergy concern, other mold can quickly become toxic, so at the first suggestion that you have a mold problem beyond a little at the edge of the tub caulk, it’s time to schedule mold inspection and testing. Of particular importance is a black mold test: Black mold can be exceptionally dangerous for those with respiratory conditions and can cause illness quickly. Mold won’t go away on its own, and the longer it grows, the harder and more expensive it will be to abate it.
Mold Inspection vs. Mold Testing vs. Mold Remediation
There are three steps in the process to identify and eradicate mold growing in your home. It’s a good idea to complete each of the three steps rather than jumping ahead; knowing what kind of mold you’re dealing with will make it easier to make decisions about how to get rid of it.
A mold inspection is the best first step to take when a homeowner suspects a mold problem. Why not jump right to a test? There are actually a number of different types of mold that can grow in a home, and quite a few locations where it can grow. Doing whole-house testing for all of the different types of mold spores that could be present would be prohibitively expensive, and it isn’t necessary. A professional mold inspector (also called a certified industrial hygienist) will usually charge a flat fee of between $300 and $500 to complete a whole-house inspection, checking the spots where the mold is likely to be and determining which types of tests need to be run and where. A basic inspection takes about 2 hours, while a detailed inspection of the entire structure can take as long as 6 hours. The inspection may include a quick basic mold test, costing between $75 and $150, which may be included in the overall charge for the inspection. The initial outlay for the inspection will allow the testing that follows to be targeted and will most likely save money in the long run.
Experts at New York Mold Specialists suggest that you should consider a mold inspection “after you have experienced any type of flooding or water issue, if you smell a musty or unpleasant odor, if you are experiencing a leak that has been present for over 24 hours, or you notice stains on your furniture or building materials.”
A basic mold air test may be included in the inspection, but if that test indicates the potential presence of more dangerous types of mold, or if the inspector finds evidence that suggests there is more mold that requires remediation, additional testing may be required. If it’s likely that there’s enough mold to require remediation, detailed testing is likely so that the remediation plan can be tailored to the specific type of mold present. These tests can include scrapings that are cultured in a lab for identification ($50 per culture), more concentrated air tests, and stain testing, where a lab adds a dye to the sample to count the visible spores ($150 per stain sample). There is also a specific test for HVAC mold, which costs an additional $50. If a home requires mold remediation, testing may be repeated after the process to ensure that spore levels in the air have reduced to healthy levels. The cost for mold testing should include several components: two tests (one inside the home and one outside as a control measure), along with printed reports of the results from those tests. Additional samples and follow-up tests may cost extra, so it’s important to know what is included in your contract when you hire a mold inspection and testing professional.
Mold remediation is the process of removing mold and mold spores from a home. Costs for this will vary based on the magnitude of the mold growth, the type of mold, and the size of the home. Remediation can be as simple as cleaning an area with bleach or as complicated as removing chunks of drywall and discarding clothing and home decor fabrics; some molds really like to hang on and can’t be chemically removed.
Mold Inspection Cost: Signs You May Have Mold
Sometimes mold makes its presence known: It helpfully appears in an area where dampness has allowed it to take hold. On other occasions, it’s hidden, and homeowners have to make their best guess based on a series of clues.
Visible Mold Growth
If you can see the mold growth, you may be lucky enough to have caught it early! Mold can appear as a spray of gray dots spreading over a ceiling or wall, brownish football-shaped dots, or a persistent damp or discolored spot on a wall or wallpaper. In addition, the thin line of black or dark gray working its way across a line of grout or tile edge is also an indicator of mold. On the other hand, where there is visible mold—especially if there’s quite a lot—chances are there’s more where you can’t see it, and it’s time to call in some assistance.
Smelling a vaguely musty scent that’s slightly sour and slightly dusty is a good indication that there are more mold spores in the air than normal. Especially in homes with older HVAC systems, this olfactory clue should alert homeowners to the possibility of mold if an obvious source for the smell can’t be located elsewhere. The smell can settle into carpets, upholstery, and curtains, so the source may be an old air conditioning duct, but the growth can be present anywhere the air from that duct touched.
Persistent Cough or Sore Throat
When the residents of a home begin to suffer from chronic allergy symptoms—especially if they’ve never experienced allergies before—a mold inspection is a solid choice. Mold spores can cause irritations and inflammation of the respiratory system, or flourish in the back of the throat, so these symptoms should not be ignored if they are out of pattern for the home’s residents.
Factors in Calculating Mold Inspection Cost
The answer to the question “How much does a mold inspection cost?” isn’t straightforward. Because mold doesn’t usually present itself for easy-access testing, there are several types of tests and other factors that can affect the procedures for and cost of mold testing. Costs can vary by type of testing and the type of mold. When a preliminary test indicates a particular type of mold, further testing is sometimes necessary to determine the extent of the problem before deciding on the best remediation plan. In addition, the accessibility of the mold itself can affect the cost in that more expensive equipment might be necessary, or in some situations, removal of wall panels, tiles, or other building materials may be required. The inspection and testing will actually include several steps: First, the inspector will perform a thorough inspection of the home, poking around in crawl spaces, behind access panels, and peeling back small bits of suspect wallpaper or caulk. Based on the findings of the inspection, it’s possible that no further testing may be necessary; if the inspector has located the mold and can easily remove it, the process may be complete. It is more likely, however, that the inspection will lead to one or more types of sampling that will then be passed on to a laboratory to identify the quantity and type of mold.
Types of Mold Testing
Before mold growth can be remediated, testing is usually necessary to determine how much mold is present and what kind of mold it is. While there are home tests available, more comprehensive and useful results can be garnered from professional testing. There are three primary types of sampling: swab testing, air cell testing, and specialty HVAC testing.
- Swab testing: A technician will collect a surface sample from an area that may have mold growth. This test is limited to the specific areas where mold is actively visible or strongly suspected and can be used to determine the type of mold growing in a particular area, but because it can’t be used to rule out mold growth in other areas of the home, it is often used in conjunction with air cell testing. The cost for swab testing is usually between $200 and $300.
- Air cell testing: A more complete picture of the mold presence in a home can be acquired through air cell testing. A technician will set up sampling equipment in several areas of the home and allow them to absorb air and spores for a set period of time. Then the air and spore samples are analyzed to average a total number of mold spores present in the home and determine what kind (or kinds) of mold is present to develop a more comprehensive plan. The average cost of air cell testing ranges from $250 to $350.
- HVAC mold testing: Mold that accumulates in the ductwork of a home’s HVAC system is particularly pernicious, because the system forces the spores out of the ductwork at a high velocity, spreading mold through additional ductwork and into the open areas of the house. Itchy eyes, sore throats, and respiratory ailments are common when there is mold in the HVAC system, even among residents who aren’t specifically allergic to mold, so in addition to duct-specific air cell testing, a technician will also use special tape to collect samples from the HVAC filters and inside the ducts. This adds approximately $50 to the cost of the air cell testing.
Type of Mold Lab Testing
Once the samples have been collected, they must be processed at a lab that will assess the type and quantity of mold along with its rate of reproduction. Lab technicians establish these numbers using stain testing and mold cultures.
- Stain testing: After the mold samples are collected from swabs, tape, or air sampling, they are placed in plastic cassettes and treated with specialized stains. The stains make the spores easier to visualize through a microscope and allow technicians to identify the type of mold, the number of spores in the sample, and the patterns of growth. Costing an additional $150 on top of the sample collection, stain testing is critical to determining a remediation plan, as the type of mold will determine the best removal method.
- Mold cultures: This type of testing involves taking the samples collected in the home and placing them in medium that will encourage the spores to grow. This will establish how quickly the mold is growing. If the mold doesn’t grow, the test indicates that the spores that have been collected are dead and there is no actively growing mold in the house. Cultures that grow aggressively indicate that the mold in the home is probably widespread and must be dealt with immediately to prevent further health consequences. Mold culturing rings up at about $50 in addition to the sample collection cost.
Accessibility of Area and Mold Location
If mold is growing in a damp basement or in the attic near an ice dam or roof leak, it’s easy to access the potential mold colony to test. However, mold grows best in dark areas where dampness might be harder to see and testing is more difficult. Bathrooms and kitchens are notorious for mold growth behind walls, between tile and drywall, or in areas behind appliances or fixtures that are difficult to access. In addition, when mold is widespread in a home (which will show up on an air cell test), it can be quite difficult to follow up with swab testing if there’s no visible mold spores on the surfaces in the house. This is when mold testing can get really expensive: Excising pieces of drywall to access the back sides of walls for testing or hunting in the recesses of crawl spaces and moving appliances will add to labor costs, and gathering and testing a multitude of additional samples will drive up the cost as well, potentially in excess of $700.
Property Size and Type
The size of the space to be tested has a direct effect on the overall cost of the testing services for a simple reason: A larger space requires more samples over a longer period of time, and then those samples need to be individually tested. If more than one type of mold turns up in the staining or culture labs, then further testing will be required—and again, a larger space will have more sites to test. Commercial spaces tend to be more expensive to test for mold, but only because the spaces are larger and more varied, so additional sampling is necessary.
While basic inspection and testing is sufficient for most types of mold, there are certain types that are more dangerous than others and require immediate removal. As a result, if the homeowner suspects that these types of mold are present, or if an inspector notes any indicators that they are present, the testing process may be more expensive. This applies to white mold mildew, which is a particular type of surface fungus that is often detected during mold inspections, but most particularly to black mold, which is the most dangerous type of spore to humans: Prolonged exposure can lead to serious illness and, in rare cases, death, so the testing procedures for suspected black mold are specific, expedited, and more costly—an average of $700.
Mold Inspection Cost: Common Mold Types
“Mold” is a catch-all term for a variety of fungi that grow in moist spaces. While a homeowner may suspect that they have mold growing in their home, they may be surprised (and horrified) to discover just how many different species of mold might be present. Determining which specific mold is growing in the house is important in order to decide what type of remediation is necessary and how aggressive the remediation needs to be—some types are mild and inevitable, while others can be quite dangerous.
Proliferating with astounding ease and speed on gypsum board, drywall, fiberboard, and paper, this dreaded mold is commonly referred to as black mold and requires immediate removal. It grows well in areas that have experienced flooding or major leaks, but also in areas that are subjected to high condensation and humidity, as it requires moisture to stay alive. Particularly dangerous to babies and young children, along with those with lung or respiratory problems, black mold can cause infection and even lung hemorrhage with sustained exposure. Once discovered, black mold may require a specialist to complete testing and coordinate removal to avoid spreading the mold to other locations, and will therefore be more expensive than the inspection, testing, and remediation of other molds.
Aspergillus is a class of mold that is made up of approximately 250 species. All aspergillus begins as a white fuzz, but then changes color as it grows (the colors include black, brown, green, and yellow, depending on the species). It can cause a serious respiratory infection called Aspergillosis, so it’s important to remove the mold and treat the infection promptly. Unlike most mold, aspergillus thrives in lower humidity, so it can be harder to find the specific location in doors, walls, or home fabrics, and the inspection or testing may take longer than anticipated, increasing costs.
One of the more pernicious types of mold found in homes, acremonium can cause the same hay-fever response as most molds, but in sensitive individuals can also cause pneumonia along with skin and eye infections that are quite dangerous. While acremonium grows on plant matter outdoors and is inhaled by most people every day, an active growth inside a structure can cause a buildup that makes severe reactions more likely. This type of mold does require significant water to grow and is most likely to occur near water sources or longtime leaks, but it can also occur in and around drains and window seals where moisture collects, and also in HVAC systems. The mold itself grows in hard materials such as drywall, concrete, wood, and fiberglass, so testing can require more digging and sampling.
Alternaria is an outdoor mold that grows best in the spring and summer, creeping inside on unsuspecting residents. It can cause significant damage to trees and plants, and it spreads rapidly in an explosive fashion, latching on to clothing, furniture, shoes, and then houseplants, carpet padding, and behind the walls—and it will continue to grow in homes with high humidity. Reactions can range from none to sneezing, throat irritation, and mild coughs, and in some unusual cases, alternaria has been linked to esophageal cancer. Because it is not difficult to find, it will usually be covered in a standard inspection cost.
This type of mold grows most aggressively in damp basements, bathrooms, and in HVAC systems. While it’s not an irritant to all residents, some may experience allergy symptoms or potentially a severe allergic reaction. Because it grows in areas that are fairly straightforward to access and test, cladosporium shouldn’t incur additional inspection or test fees.
This is a fast-spreading type of mold that is usually visible and identifiable by its blue-green velvet appearance. Penicillium (which was used to create the penicillin family of antibiotics) can cause an allergic reaction in some people, but it does require a substantial amount of water to grow. Therefore, it most frequently occurs in areas where significant water damage has occurred and the homeowner is already looking for mold and is less likely to grow stealthily in moderately damp areas. Easy to find and identify, penicillium shouldn’t add cost to an inspection in progress.
Another mold that grows where significant water damage has occurred, ulocladium is a dark mold that grows on hard surfaces such as paper, paint, and wood, as well as softer textiles. It appears most frequently in basements and kitchens where a prolonged water exposure has occurred or on and around windows that experience regular and extreme condensation. While it is not terribly dangerous in and of itself—some residents may experience a hay fever-like response—the conditions in which it grows are also favorable to the more dangerous black mold, which is similar in appearance, so should be tested promptly.
Mold Inspection Cost: When to Get a Mold Inspection
If just reading the list of mold types and their effects has you ready to schedule a mold inspection, you’re not alone. The fact of the matter is that most homes do have some mold growth, because dampness finds its way into houses, and mold spores are tiny. While an inspection is never a bad idea, there are certain times when it’s necessary in order to protect your home’s residents and its value, because mold remediation is something you want to do sooner rather than later.
Buying and Selling a Home
Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the mold levels in the home. Sellers will want to remediate prior to putting the house on the market; taking care of the problem is a good-faith gesture, and a clean mold report will allow you to honestly answer disclosure questions about mold and will look much better to potential buyers than having a home inspector’s test reveal a problem that then becomes part of negotiations. As a buyer, you’ll want to know so you can decide whether to bargain down the home price to compensate for the remediation you’ll need to do yourself or require the seller to do so to your satisfaction.
After a Flood
Any prolonged contact with water makes it more likely that the structures of the home have developed mold spores or growth. Because mold abatement is easier when the colony is smaller, testing after a flood makes sense to find and eradicate the mold before it even becomes visible.
After Water Damage
A small leak may not seem like a big deal, but if the surrounding areas have been damp or wet for a period of time (possibly even longer than you were aware), a mold inspection is a good plan. It’s better to inspect and treat the area where the leak made mold growth likely then to hunt for a larger outbreak later.
Cracked Paint and Rust
Like mold, rust requires moisture to develop. Its presence suggests that enough moisture has been in the area to cause damage—if the rust can grow, so can mold. An inspection can catch the mold growth before it becomes obvious or spreads.
Warped Ceilings or Walls
Ceilings and walls don’t warp or slump on their own unless they’re structurally unsound, and the most likely cause for failure of drywall is moisture. Wet drywall can resolidify after it dries out, but a misshapen panel is a sure sign that enough moisture has been present to grow mold, so an inspection will identify mold in the wall itself or lurking behind it.
Mold Inspection Cost: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
Do you need to run out and hire a professional mold inspector at the first sighting of a speck of mold in your bathtub? Probably not. A small area of visible mold can often be managed and removed by the homeowner (in fact, some would argue that visible mold doesn’t require an inspection or tests, but just a remediator, as the infestation has been located). There is a wide array of high-quality mold remover products that will successfully allow homeowners to remove mold from shower tiles, grout lines, and window seams. Small areas of drywall with visible mold can also be self-treated if the homeowner is capable of removing the moldy section of drywall, scrubbing down the underlying wood framing with mold remover, and replacing the drywall with new material. And small amounts of mold in a window air conditioner can be removed by carefully cleaning the unit. Larger visible mold growth or growth in confined spaces such as attics and crawl spaces would benefit from the know-how of a professional.
You may have seen mold testing kits on sale at your local home store and been tempted to give one a try, but here’s the thing: Those tests are being conducted by a homeowner who doesn’t know the best places to collect samples and doesn’t really know how to interpret the results. This kind of mold detector cost is probably money better spent elsewhere: If you’re suspicious that there’s enough mold in your home to warrant purchasing a detector, it’s probably worth hiring someone who is trained to look in the right spots for signs of mold growth, test accordingly, and explain the results. The EPA recommends that mold inspection and sampling be conducted by a professional who is trained and familiar with the specifications outlined by the American Industrial Hygiene Association or similar professional organizations. If you’re concerned that there’s mold in your home that you can’t see, it’s best to have someone who knows where to look and how to handle a potential problem rather than to try to manage the issue yourself, miss something, or make the problem worse with an ineffective removal.
Questions to Ask About Mold Inspection Cost
Mold inspectors have their own categories of licensing and certification, most of them conferred by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC). This organization publishes the standards for testing and remediating mold growth, among other things, in a publication called the S520. While mold inspectors are not legally bound to these standards, most reputable professionals will defer to them, so the first step before hiring a professional is to inquire about their knowledge of the S520 and their certifications. This may be especially important if you suspect that the problem may be large enough to involve your homeowner’s insurance. In fact, even if you don’t think this is likely, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance company to ask what their requirements are for contractors who deal with mold remediation: If the problem turns out to be more significant than you expect, you don’t want to find out midway through the process that your insurance company will only cover your costs if the professional you’ve hired has certain certifications that yours doesn’t have.
Some additional questions that will help you choose the right professional include:
- Are you certified as a Water Restoration Technician (WRT) and/or Applied Microbial Remediation Technician (AMRT)? These licenses are offered by the IICRC and require continuing education to maintain, so they are a good indicator that the contractor is up to date on current practices. Both certifications are ideal, but the AMRT is the more important of the two.
- Are you a Certified Indoor Environmentalist (CIE)? This certification often goes hand in hand with the previous qualifications.
- Will you sample and test the mold, or simply remediate it?
- Which testing lab will you use? This is a good way to make sure you’re paying for actual lab testing and not for the professional to buy the same kit at the hardware store that you could have purchased.
- Do you also perform remediation, or would that be a separate professional?
- Will you perform the mold tests again after the remediation to make sure the remediation is successful?
- How can I be sure the mold won’t return after you’ve completed the work? Do you offer a period of warranty?
- Are there other services I need to prevent regrowth?
- What is the cost of the inspection, testing, and remediation?
- What unanticipated costs might crop up? Can you provide an itemized estimate in writing?
Discovering (or suspecting) mold growth can be frightening from a health perspective and overwhelming because the extent of the problem is often unknown at first. As long as the mold inspection, testing, and remediation are handled as quickly as possible, mold growth can be halted and your home made safe. To help you begin to settle on the best way to handle mold in your home, here are some common questions that often come to mind, along with their answers.
Q. Is mold expensive to remove?
The answer to this question depends on the extent of the mold growth. A small growth at the edge of the tub caulking can be taken care of with a bottle of mold cleaner costing $20 to $30. If you have a large growth of black mold, however, or significant spread through drywall, remediation can be significantly more expensive because of additional construction and whole-house cleaning processes that can raise the costs into the thousands of dollars. The cost to remediate that level of mold growth, however, is not a reason to ignore the problem—mold problems only get worse on their own, not better, and the potential health problems that may ensue can be dangerous.
Q. How much does a professional mold test cost?
The average cost for a mold test is about $648, but it can range from $295 to $1,010 depending on the size and complexity of the space. Some mold mitigation companies may offer free testing if you contract to use their services for remediation, which may be worth it if you are pretty certain that you have a problem.
Q. How do I test for mold in my home?
DIY mold testing kits can be purchased at a home improvement store for between $10 and $40, but they won’t necessarily provide useful or accurate results. The best way to test for mold in your home is to contact a professional mold inspector who can more effectively test your home and assess the results of the testing for you.
Q. How much does it cost to treat mold?
If the testing reveals significant mold growth, the average cost of proper remediation will range between $1,100 and $3,400. This is a wide range because the extent of the mold growth and damage; remediation could be as simple as a deep professional cleaning with mold-killing products or as complex as wall and ceiling removal and replacement and plumbing repair.