When dealing with mold illness, the thought of moving and finding a safe home is a daunting task. Those coping with CIRS must face the pressure of checking all boxes to ensure their house doesn’t pose a risk while simultaneously balancing the financial commitment that home-hunting entails. It’s not as much fun as it once was before dealing with CIRS.
However, knowledge is indeed power! The more you know, the better you can do, and we’d like to assure you that with due diligence, it is possible to find a safe home for you. In this spirit, we hope to arm you with information as you look for your next home. We recently posted Is It Better to Buy an Old Home or New Home When Considering Mold Avoidance? that shares the pros and cons of old homes versus new ones, which can help you decide whether you would feel safer in a new-build or an older home. Additionally, “The Benefits of Annual Home Inspections” has many tips on issues to look for in any home and how to maintain your safe home once you find it.
With the list below and our previous articles, we intend to help you rule out homes that may not be a good fit for those with mold sickness and hypersensitivity to mold. However, these checklists do not replace the expertise of a qualified mold inspection professional, home inspector, or even structural engineer when going through the process of buying a home.
The Exterior of the Home
Defending your home from water intrusion begins outside. Assessing the house’s exterior is a reasonable first step in preventing water intrusion and, therefore, mold growth.
- Start by looking at the grading of the yard. Does the yard slope toward the home or away from the house? If the ground slopes toward the home, this can indicate that water pools too close to the foundation. Over time this can erode the building envelope leading to water intrusion inside the house.
- Assess the gutters and downspout drainage. Is there an adequate amount of gutters and downspout drainage? Are they properly installed? Does the water drain away from the foundation?
- The siding, stucco, or brick should not have any cracks, gaps, vine growth, or bubbling as these are pathways for water intrusion. Even small holes can allow a lot of water to enter. Also, for stucco, there should be adequate drying time between the installation of each layer. Is the thickness the same around the entire home? Do you see uneven shadows on parts of the house? This is one way to check for the proper thickness of stucco.
- Is there heavy staining on the exterior walls? Heavy staining can indicate that severe amounts of water have pooled next to the foundation for an extended time. •
- Landscaping, especially large trees, should not be close to the home as they can cause foundation damage over time.
- We do not recommend purchasing a home with a flat roof.
The Interior of the Home
Use all your senses when viewing the interior of the home. Open doors and check all areas within reach.
7. What does the interior smell like?
8. Do you observe bubbling of the drywall or the paint?
9. Do you see any staining on the drywall or the ceilings?
10. Can you see any staining or apparent water damage to bathroom vanity cabinets or kitchen cabinetry beneath the sink?
11. Do any floorboards appear warped, loose, or stained?
12. Is there a gap, crack, or swelling of any size between the baseboards and the wall (could indicate trapped moisture in the building material)?
13. Are there cracks in the grout or tile of the shower enclosure?
14. Do you see any visible mold growth in the grout lines of the shower or tub?
15. Wallpaper can act as a moisture barrier that will initiate mold growth.
16. Is the home carpeted? As little carpet as possible is ideal. Fibers in carpets can harbor mold and other contaminants for an extended period. Tile flooring is ideal whenever possible.
17. Do you observe excessive dust? Dust can harbor mold, mycotoxins, and other pathogens.
Underneath the Home (Crawlspaces and Basements)
Basements and crawl spaces are common sources of moisture and water intrusion. The air quality underneath the home can affect the entire home in what is known as the stack effect.
18. In unfinished areas, steer clear of sub-grade regions with dirt floors and plastic vapor barriers on floors and walls.
19. Check the insulation for heavy dust, debris, dirt, or discoloration.
20. Check walls, floor, and ceilings for cracks, patches, evidence of water intrusion, or visible fungal growth in finished areas.
21. Avoid basement areas with carpet, which can lead to trapped moisture, creating mold growth conditions.
A healthy HVAC system is essential to a healthy home. The HVAC provides air to the entire house. Contamination of the ductwork is a common reason for cross-contamination and for spreading spores throughout the entire building.
22. Check the filters, returns, and vents for excessive dirt, dust, or debris. If not properly maintained, this can signify that the rest of the machine is likely impacted.
23. If the air handler is in a closet, no water damage, suspicious staining, or heavy dust should be present.
24. Check the supply plenum above the unit for condensation or mold growth evidence.
If you view a property and find one or more issues mentioned above, it may be necessary to consider a different property. At the very least, reach out to a qualified mold inspection company to help with this critical personal and financial decision (Remember, Air Testing is not enough!). It may take a little longer than the average person, but it is possible to find a home that can contribute to a healthy future for you and your family.
For more tips, or if you are interested in learning how to face life’s challenges with CIRS, please follow us on Instagram and Facebook. Also, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them in the comments below or on our social media.
And of course, please book your inspection today! While we are always sorry to hear of anyone who has a mold issue, we do look forward to sharing our experience, insight, and resources with you!