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Buying a home is a long drawn process, and one of the most important parts of that process is the home inspection. Home inspections tend to throw up any red flags in the property in question, be they systemic problems, structural weaknesses, health hazards, pest infestations, or any other safety concerns.
One of the most common red flags home inspectors throw up during these inspections is the presence of mold in the attic. How much of a concern should that be to potential home buyers? Is it a make-or-break issue? Let’s find out.
Get it tested
While a lot of home inspection companies may have mold inspectors on their rolls, it is unlikely that the home inspector who noticed what might be mold is a specialist. This is why home inspector reports will generally mention the presence of an organic mold-like substance, only hiring a mold inspector will actually confirm if the home you’re looking at actually has a mold infection and tell you the extent of the damage.
Mold inspectors collect samples and send them to labs to confirm the presence of mold. It is important to keep in mind that there are different kinds of mold and that they affect people differently.
Once the inspection reports confirm the presence of mold in the attic as well as what kind of mold it is, a mold assessor will review the extent of the spread and tell you what needs to be done to remediate the situation.
Is mold dangerous?
Unlike what is commonly believed, mold is unlikely to cause respiratory infections or cause depletion in the indoor air quality of the home. This is because warm air tends to rise from the lower floors of the home up towards the attic, in what is called a stack effect, and not the other way around. This makes it impossible for mold spores to travel against the flow of the air and affect air quality.
Mold is caused by increased exposure to moisture or high levels of humidity. Left unchecked, mold can spread very quickly, and over a period of time, damage the structural integrity of the attic or crawl space and roofing elements.
Also, the longer a mold infestation is left unattended, the more repairs are likely to cost.
What causes mold in attics?
While we know that mold is caused by increased exposure to high humidity or high levels of moisture, finding out exactly why mold is present in the attic is the first step towards a mold-free home.
- If the soffit vents, roof vents, and other vents in your attic are stuffed with insulation and blocked, it could lead to moisture problems in your attic. Sometimes, these blockages can happen due to wasp nests and other pests as well.
- Kitchen and bathroom vent fans that discharge into the attic instead of outside the home can also lead to humidity and moisture build-up.
- Leaking roofs, be it through chimneys, skylights, or plumbing vents can cause mold to grow in the attic.
- Attics that lack sufficient ventilation are likely to have mold growth.
Should you buy a house with mold in the attic?
There is no definite way to answer that question. Small mold infestations, of around 10 square feet or less, can be easily cleaned. Mold can appear as quickly as 24 hours after a high moisture event. So if visible mold is noticed and dealt with quickly, there should be problems.
Larger mold infestations will need a lot more work and will cost more to repair. In some cases, entire parts of the roofing or attic, such as mold-stained sheetrock, are replaced completely.
Since, in most cases, the buyer pays for the house inspection, the seller needs to pay for mold removal if it is found during the inspection. Even if the seller isn’t legally obligated to pay for mold removal in some states, it still opens up price negotiations between the buyers and sellers, mostly in favor of the buyers. It is in these situations that the services of experienced real estate agents are invaluable.
The amount of mold present and the type of mold can sometimes negatively affect the appraisal value of the home. This could make lenders back away from lending buyers money to purchase the property. So if you’re really interested in buying a house with mold, be ready to check with multiple lenders before you close on a deal.
Mold prevention tips
While the home you buy might not have mold, knowing how to keep a home mold-free is as important as knowing how to deal with mold problems.
- Check your attic periodically for air leaks between the attic and your home. Places to check should include recessed lighting fixtures, plumbing vents, and intervals between walls.
These leaks allow warm, moist air into your attic and encourage the growth of mold. One telltale sign of an air leak in the attic is if you notice discoloration in the attic insulation.
An easy fix to these leaks is to caulk the gaps.
- Make sure your kitchen and bathroom exhaust vents are functioning properly. A simple way to test this is to hold up a piece of toilet paper to the vent. If the toilet paper sticks to the vent, it means the vent is working fine.
- Consider adding an attic ventilation fan to your attic. These large fans are usually controlled by a thermostat and run at low speeds to avoid noise.
- Paint your attic using tan-colored mildewcide paint. Not only will the paint hinder the growth of mold and mildew, white or black mold will both be easily visible on the tan color.
- Make sure your home has enough ventilation and remains well ventilated throughout the day.