Should I do Mold Testing myself or not?
So, you suspect that you may have mold, but you are not certain. You have a musty odor and/or you see an area that looks like mold on your walls or ceilings. While beginning to panic, you look online and see that there are Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Mold Test Kits. Since this seems much more cost-effective than hiring a professional (which can cost around $350.00 for mold testing), you head to the nearest store to pick one up!
At the store, you see various brands and the costs are even more reasonable than you initially thought - generally between $10 and $30. Once you get the kit home, you open it to find a petri dish and sticky solution which you place in the room that you believe may have mold. You carefully follow the instructions and after the allotted 24-48 hours, determine that you indeed have some type of mold growth. To find out exactly what type of mold you have, you now send your sample off to the company for "lab testing" (there are over 1,000 kinds of mold typically found indoors). Approximately a week later, the results come back and they tell you indeed have mold and the exact type of mold you have.
However, there are a few issues with your results. First, most of the mold test companies tell you to send in 2 samples. One from the room you believe is infected and the other from outside. This is because there are mold spores everywhere and they need to compare the difference between inside and outside to determine if there is a problem. Unfortunately, the test sample from outside is difficult to get accurate results for due to weather conditions, placement, sun exposure, etc. Since they want 2 samples to compare, you have now doubled your initial expense for the kits.
The next concern about DIY test kits is the petri dish sampling. While this can be an effective method, it is important to remember that mold will grow on almost any surface if the conditions are right. If a mold spore hits the surface in the petri dish (which can easily have come in on your clothes or through an open window), it will grow, but may not be because of mold growth in that particular room.
As well, molds grow at different rates. So, your "lab results" that tell you the types of mold present in your home can be inaccurate. A particular mold may be more prominent in your results simply because it grows faster than the other molds and choked them out in the petri dish during incubation. Furthermore, these tests always come with the disclaimer that False Negatives and False Positives are a possibility due to the fact that the purchaser/user are not mold professionals and could have made errors during the testing.
However, the most frustrating issue with the DIY testing kits is the money. While it seemed like such a good price, the lab fees are extra. And since they recommend 2 kits, that is double that amount to get results that may or may not be very accurate! In addition, many of the "lab results" come back with a recommendation of hiring a mold testing company to confirm their findings. That means that you spent between $100 to $150 for the DIY testing and now they want you to hire the professionals for the additional cost! When all is said and done, this process really only cost you more money than you would have spent hiring the professional in the first place!
The bottom line is that Do It Yourself Mold Testing Kits, while seeming inexpensive, don't create accurate useable and useful information to lead to understanding the mold problem you actually have. It also doesn't guide you on correct mold treatments that should be used, or whether it is wise to do the clean-up yourself or hire a Certified Mold Remediation Contractor. While these kits seem good in theory, with you and your family's health at stake, it is advisable to have a professional evaluate this serious situation.