If there’s one thing we’ve got lots of in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, it’s snow. Lots of it. And any mold inspector can tell you that means two big red flags for respiratory health in the UP:

  1. Lots of time spent indoors. Our long UP winters force most Yoopers to hole up inside.  Unless you’re a serious winter athlete-in-training your time outside will be limited.  Indoor air in an Upper Peninsula home can easily become stale, stuffy, and full of unwanted particles in winter—from mold spores to animal dander and more.  
  2. Moisture issues. Cold, snowy conditions can lead to ice damming and drainage problems in a home. These in turn can pave the way for water infiltration into your house—prime conditions for mold growth.

Needless to say, conditions such as these can seriously affect indoor air quality in Upper Peninsula homes. And there’s lots of hard evidence to prove that indoor air is more likely to be polluted than outdoor air, even in places where outdoor air pollution is a concern:  

Putting your health at risk is no laughing matter. So, what’s a coughing, wheezing, stuck-inside-all-winter Yooper to do?

If you think your indoor air is causing respiratory problems in your household, the first thing to do is find out what’s really going on.

7 Common Types of Indoor Air Pollution

Your first step is to narrow down what might be causing your discomfort, so you know who to call to find out for sure. For most households, mold and particulate testing is all you’ll need. However, there are other things that can affect indoor air quality. Let’s take a look at the different types of air pollution and when you might want to test for each.

While not exhaustive, here are some of the main air quality issues often found and tested for in homes, and the issues they can cause:

As you can see, many of these issues have similar symptoms. Sometimes you may have good reason to suspect a particular cause of your health problems. For instance, if anyone in your household smokes or you have a wood stove and you are experiencing respiratory distress, smoke inhalation is a likely cause.

But more often, it’s a matter of sleuthing out what might be the problem amongst many possibilities.

What We Do and Don’t Test For

  • At this time, our services are limited to mold testing, with the option to add airborne particulate sampling. This is because these are by far the primary causes of household respiratory illness.
  • We also offer radon testing in portions of the central Upper Peninsula; contact us to find out if you live within our service area for radon.  However, if you are experiencing health issues and have lived in your home for less than 10 years, it’s unlikely radon is the cause. Radon illness usually happens over time, so testing for radon is really more for prevention rather than a diagnostic test.
  • Most of the time, you will know if you’re experiencing smoke or natural gas infiltration in your home, so there is no need for us to test for it. If these are causing problems for you, you are best off contacting an HVAC or wood stove professional to discuss how to improve your indoor air flow and quality.
  • Carbon monoxide can be easily detected using a home carbon monoxide detector in most cases. We highly suggest installing these inexpensive units near any gas appliance; they are easily found in most hardware stores.
  • We currently do not offer asbestos testing. If you suspect you may have asbestos in your home, contact a contractor  certified to test for asbestos in your area.
  • Mold and particulates are far more likely to be present in the typical UP home than VOC’s. However, if you have good reason to suspect that volatile chemicals may be an issue for you, or if mold/particulate testing does not reveal a problem, you will want to contact a VOC testing professional in your area.

Think You’ve Got Mold? Our UP Mold Inspector to the Rescue

Think you may be dealing with mold or particulate matter? That’s where UP Home Inspection comes in!

In just an hour or two (plus a couple days for lab results), our mold inspector can inspect your home, test for the presence of mold and/or particulates in your indoor air, and let you know whether mold or particulates are contributing to your problems.

If it’s just mold you want to test for, ask for our basic test. But mold isn’t the only allergen that causes asthma or other respiratory problems. Adding the particulate test option will help us to identify in far greater detail what’s in the air.

What to Expect From Your Mold Inspection and/or Airborne Particulate Test

Mold inspector Rich Beasley of UP Home Inspection takes an outdoor mold sample at a home in L’anse. (His shoes are off to protect the carpet inside.)

Mold testing doesn’t technically have to include inspection, but we do always include a visual inspection of the home at no extra cost.

To be clear, this is not a full blown home inspection. Rather, it is a visual mold inspection where our mold inspector walks through the house looking for water related issues and anything else that can contribute to mold, as well as actual visible surface mold. (Don’t worry – this is a visual inspection only. We won’t be drilling holes in walls or tearing up your carpet!)

Many times, however, mold is hiding somewhere out of sight. That’s why testing for mold is so important. We typically take three samples from various parts of your home (or two interior and one exterior sample in the summer months) and send them to a certified lab for analysis.

In addition to detecting the presence of mold, the most important thing a mold inspector can do for you is determine whether the mold is active or not. Because virtually every house has traces of dead, inactive mold in it. You’ll have an area that got wet at one time and dried up; there’s no moisture so the mold is not active. Dried, dormant mold does not generally cause problems. It’s active, elevated mold counts we’re looking for.  When we see a higher concentration of mold spores in a house we know we have active mold.

Mold Inspector Do’s and Don’ts: When to Call Us Vs. Someone Else

As a mold inspector, normally once we’ve delivered your test results our part of the job is done. But it’s just the beginning of solving your issue. So here are a few thoughts to help you tackle your next steps in clearing the air:

If you’re not sure what the issue is, call us and tell us what you’re dealing with. If we think we can help, we’ll suggests scheduling a mold test and/or particulate test. If we suspect it’s something else such as VOC’s, we may refer you to another company.

Once you’ve had your air tested, there’s little more a mold inspector can do to help (although we’re always here to answer your questions). Particulate and mold testing helps you to identify exactly what’s in the air. Then once you know there’s an issue, your next step is to try to identify the source of the problem. Mold could be in a wall, it could be in a ceiling, in a cavity, in the carpet, maybe all those things. So you start playing detective.

Some things are pretty obvious. For example, if you have a leaky roof with rot you’ll likely find mold in the ceilings. Then you know you have to fix the roof or get a contractor to come in and scrub down the rafters, remove the insulation and scrub everything down, install new drywall, seal it up and you’re good to go.

Same thing with these particulates in the air.  But sometimes, especially with particulates, there’s more nuance in figuring out the problem. What is causing the particulates?  You start running through the scenarios. You start eliminating potential causes until you find the source of the problem.

Remediation: Fixing the Root Cause of Your Air Quality Problem

Will a HEPA filter take care of the problem? In some cases it may be that you can’t get rid of particulates in the air, but you could put one heck of an air filtration system in there and solve it that way. Unless you are very experienced in construction, at this stage of the game you are best off finding an appropriate contractor to help you resolve the issue.

There are companies that specialize in mold mitigation, radon mitigation, HVAC, general construction, and more. Once you have an idea what you’re dealing with, it’s time to call in one or more of these pros and have them give you a quote!

But first things first: let’s find out if there’s really an issue with mold in your home. If you think there may be, schedule a visit from our mold inspector today!