Some people see mold all the time and never know that's what they're looking at. There's various types of mold, and it doesn't all look the same. In general, if you see dark spots, splotches, or other discoloration, there's the possibility of mold. Discoloration can occur for any number of reasons. Here's how you can tell it's mold you're looking at.
Is Seeing Believing?
Mold inspectors can pull out a magnifying glass and look at the actual structure of the stain to tell if it's mold or not. You don't have to go that far, unless you want to give it a try. In general, you can take note of other signs that will point out if it's mold or not.
Ask if Mold Would Grow There
If you suspect the discoloration may represent mold, look for signs that mold would actually grow in that particular place. Four elements must exist for mold growth to occur.
Mold spores – Mold spores exist everywhere, and it's impossible to completely clear a space of them.
A lot of moisture – Mold requires not just moisture, but a constant supply of it to grow. If there's a moisture source anywhere close to where you see the discoloration, there's a good chance you're looking at mold.
The right temperatures – Mold can survive and thrive in most of the same temperatures that humans enjoy. Whether cold or hot, it's possible for mold to grow. However, high humidity or temperatures that serve to keep something moist will contribute greatly to mold growth. If the discoloration you see is in an area that remains humid, steamy, or muggy, then that increases the chances that you're looking at mold.
Food for the mold – Once mold takes hold, it needs to eat. Mold can feed off just about any organic substance. If the discoloration is on something like wood, and some of the other elements exist, then it's likely mold.
Remember that even if you see mold on inorganic surfaces, you'll have to consider what other things come in contact with that surface that can feed mold. For example, your bathroom tile is inorganic. However, soap scum, oils, and other organic substances build on those tiles, and that can feed the mold.
If You're Still Not Sure
Whether you're buying a home, selling a home, or already living in a house, it's important to make sure that you find and eliminate mold wherever it may turn up. An inspection can help you identify what you see and find hidden patches of mold that you may never lay eyes on.