Top Ten Steps to Finding Mold in the Basement

1. Follow the smell. Living mold gives off an odor (musty smell) as it digests the wet material it is growing on.

2. Turn all the basement lights on and bring a flashlight. Do not adjust any airflow. Leave windows, fans, and blowers in their normal, everyday positions.

3. Measure the length and width of the basement and, using bits of tape or paper, divide off approximately six equal areas on a floor. Make a sketch on a piece of paper of these six areas and mark them 1- 6.

4. Stand in each of the six areas and smell and look at the nearest wall and ceiling for dark blotches and stains. Record your smells and sightings.

5. Walk to the nearest wall and look closely at discolorations. Look at any stored goods for any signs of staining, blotches, or fuzzy-dusty looking surfaces, especially on cardboard boxes or leather or furniture.

6. If the wall is bare block or cement and has white powdery patches on it. This is not mold. This is almost always mineral salts leached out of the cement due to moisture in the wall. This is the same type of white powder you occasionally see staining red brick fireplace chimneys.

7. If the walls are finished with wallboard, plasterboard, or sheetrock, stick the probes of any moisture meter looking for damper wet spots. The meter will light up if it’s wet. Check all the walls top to bottom.

8. If the meter lights up, draw an outline of the total size of the damp spot. Then, using a regular, flat screwdriver, press it against the damp walls gently, then firmly. Nothing should happen if the wall is just slightly damp due to high humidity. If the wall is excessively wet, the tip of the screwdriver will sink into the wall.

9. If the moisture meter lights up and/or the tip of the screwdriver sinks into the wall, you have found a problem location. Mold is most likely growing on the back of the sheetrock inside the wall.

10. Using a utility knife, carefully cut a piece of the wet/ damp sheetrock. The easiest test hole is cutting out a triangle which is four inches on each side. Gently remove the triangle piece and examine the back side for mold. Using a flashlight, you can look into the wall and look for mold.

Conclusion: If there is mold growing on the inside or outside of the wall, the wet portion of the sheetrock wall must be removed and the moisture problem repaired.

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