Mold inspection or mold investigation?

In our last post, we explained why it’s best to have mold inspections performed by an abatement company, rather than an inspector who’ll take a fee just for assessing the situation and making a referral. Allow us to use this week’s inspection to back ourselves up!

Yesterday we were called to a home to perform a mold inspection. Upon arrival, we asked the homeowner several questions to dig into the problem.

What had she observed in the home that led her to call us? How long had the problem existed? Had there been recent changes or updates to the home?

The Problem

The mold in suspect was on the bathroom ceiling along a seam in the drywall where the joint compound had cracked and tape had come loose. The entire roof had been recently replaced and the roofer did not find any leaks that could have led to the issue in the bathroom.

Further questioning revealed that the homeowner rarely used the ventilation/exhaust fan in the bathroom. And although we observed water stains on the ceiling near the walls, they did not correlate with the mold on the drywall in the middle of the room. This is where a typical mold inspection might end.

The inspector might also collect samples and send them to a lab to identify the specific type of mold present, possibly for an additional fee. S/he would then likely refer the homeowner to an abatement contractor to remove and replace the molded drywall. But this would only be a temporary fix, and the problem would eventually return because the root cause would not have been resolved, or even addressed.

The Source

We climbed into the attic and then onto the roof before identifying the offending culprit. The attic insulation was pressed tightly against the roof sheathing and there were no baffles to allow the outside air to enter through the soffit vents and exit through the ridge vents and the newly installed powered attic fan.


Upon further inspection, we found that the soffit vents had been painted over and were nearly 50% blocked. The attic fan had a thermostat and humidistat so that it would run if the temperature or humidity was too high in the attic. The humidistat was set on 85%, effectively rendering it useless, as mold will grow at or above 60% humidity. The lack of airflow in this portion of the attic was resulting in elevated attic and ceiling temperatures in the bathroom, which already had a high, peaked ceiling.

The elevated temperatures caused the drywall joint compound to crack and release the tape along the seam. The single HVAC vent in the bathroom was directed at the point in the ceiling where the crack had developed. Elevated moisture levels in the bathroom due to non-use of the exhaust fan resulted in mold growth on the now exposed drywall. We also discovered mold growth on the ceiling and walls of the closet accessed from the bathroom.

The Solution

Our mold inspection identified the root cause of the mold rather than simply identifying that the homeowner had a mold problem, referring her to an abatement contractor, collecting our fee, and leaving.

We explained to her how to clean the mold in the bathroom and closet, that the soffit vents needed to be cleaned or replaced, and that the attic insulation needed to be pulled back and baffles inserted. We recommended that the humidistat on the attic fan be set to 55% or below and that a drywall person repair the seam in the ceiling.

Finally, we suggested that an HVAC vent or a door vent be installed in the closet and identified that the “bubbling” on some of the walls was due to wallpaper that had been painted over now separating from the walls.

We provided photos of the problem areas with the suggestions on how to correct them. We did not try to sell the homeowner an abatement since most of the work could be performed by the homeowner and someone with drywall experience.

Branch Environmental offers much more than a typical mold inspection… shoot, it’s a true mold INVESTIGATION!