How to Detect Mold
LESLIE: Well, we here at The Money Pit wield a lot of power. In calling Edwina back in Florida we got her out of the pool. Alright, Edwina. Are you freezing?
EDWINA: Oh, no. I’m fine. (Tom chuckles) I’m in sunny Florida (chuckling), so it’s nice and warm.
TOM: (overlapping voices) (chuckling) OK.
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) You are so lucky.
TOM: Brag, brag, brag. How can we help you?
EDWINA: Well, I’m – my question deals with mold.
EDWINA: How does one detect whether or not there is a mold problem? Is there a kit; some product out there? Do you have to start tearing out the walls or what?
TOM: Well, do you have any symptoms? What’s giving you some indication that you may have a mold problem? Because mold is very common in homes but it’s not always a problem.
LESLIE: Especially in high humidity Florida.
EDWINA: Well, we did recently have a plumbing problem where we had water coming up from between the tiles in a bedroom and it happens to be the same bedroom that my mother uses and she has begun having respiratory problems.
LESLIE: Oh, yeah.
TOM: So this is good evidence. Now, if you have a single leak like this and the leak is fixed and the wallboard or the – whatever part of the house framing it was that got wet, if that dried out, then it’s not a mold problem because you need a solid, steady moisture source for the mold to really take hold. However, if it’s remained damp then it’s possible. This area where the leak came out, was this inside of a wall?
EDWINA: You know where we detected the leak was actually from around the rim of the drain; where it had – the drain grid was adhered to the bottom of the tub.
EDWINA: The water was leaking in around and not going down into …
TOM: Was it leaking like through the floor below or what?
EDWINA: Yes. Down into the floor below and then I guess through the wall and into the adjoining bedroom.
TOM: There’s a ceiling there, obviously, below the – below where the tub is.
TOM: Well, listen. If you fixed the problem and it’s not leaking anymore it’s not an issue. If you think it may still be leaking then you’re going to have to open that ceiling up and make the repair for one thing. And then while it’s open you could treat all that surface with a bleach solution and that would kill any mold that’s in there. I wouldn’t tell you to go on a witch hunt for mold unless you knew that you had a problem, but if your mom is having respiratory issues and – you know, an interesting thing to note here is whether those issues continue when she’s out of the house. Because if your home is “sick,” if you have a sick house your issues with respiratory problems happen more so when you’re home than when you’re away.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And you feel markedly better when you’re outside of the house.
TOM: Yes, exactly.
TOM: So those are a couple of things to think about. But if you had a leak and you’re having respiratory problems and you can put those two together then maybe it’s worth opening it up because if nothing else you want to make sure you’ve got that leaked fixed.
EDWINA: Well, say that I did strongly feel that I had some problem, where do I begin to rectify it?
TOM: Well, you’re going to open up the ceiling under where the tub drain is. First of all you’re going to confirm that the tub is not leaking. Most leaks have to be fixed from the bottom, not from the top. So to confirm that it’s not leaking I would open up the ceiling; I would run water full blast from that tub. If it doesn’t leak then I would put the stopper on the tub and I would fill it up to the overflow so now the water’s going through the overflow. Make sure it’s still not leaking. And if it’s not leaking with that test then it’s not going to ever leak.
TOM: That would be the thing to do and then while you have it open you could, of course, see if there’s any decay or apparent mold in there and if that’s the case you could treat it with a bleach solution. And that’s all you need to do.
EDWINA: OK, very good. That answers my question. Thank you very much.
TOM: Terrific. Edwina, thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And we can let Edwina hop back into the pool. (chuckling)