Black mold is found in 16% of all air-tested samples. It’s highly allergenic and particularly hazardous to those with respiratory ailments and skin disorders. Exposure might even have a role in causing lung disease. The cause of those sniffles is usually a strain of fungus called stachybotrys chartarum, but there are three less hazardous household molds that can lead to wood rot and unsightly stains.

It’s easy to mistake everyday marks for mold, but that doesn’t make an accurate diagnosis any less important. Unlike dusty watermarks, mold emits spores that travel invisibly through the air to create a property-wide infestation. Mold remediation needs to be handled with the utmost care. Anything less will encourage spores to spread to other parts of your building, triggering an entirely new infestation. Let’s put on our Sherlock Holmes hats and find out if you need to worry over that black stain.

Why You Need to Know as an Industrial Properties Maintenance Professional

Mold is famous for its dark, ugly, hue. It eats into the structure of your property, staining everything in its path. Once it’s taken a foothold, it creates its own moist ecosystem, carrying water and warmth all the way into your wooden structures. Rot is always swift to follow. It’ll travel into your ductwork, hold tea parties in your wiring, and attach to your plumbing. Your metal components might corrode and your wires might short. Put simply, it’s an industrial properties maintenance nightmare. 

If that’s not enough, it’ll make your gleaming, clean warehouse smell like a crawlspace. Mold has a musty, earthy scent that’s often compared to wet socks. Nobody likes a room that smells like old laundry, Frank, especially not your new beau.

Mold is also a common cause of sneezes and asthma. If you have lingering flu-like symptoms or a triggered allergy that you can’t explain, the odds are good that a mold family has made a new home in your building. The easiest way to find out if it’s mold flu or man flu is to spend a few days away from your workspace. You’ve been waiting for an excuse to go on vacation, and you’ve found it. Bon voyage!

Is it Mold?

Mold leaves a distinctive, pockmarked stain that becomes fuzzier the older it becomes, just like you. It might be deep green, red, or black and is easily confused with dirt. Unlike mildew, it isn’t powdery and rarely lies flat against its surface for long. Its inherent moisture can look like a dirty water stain, so don’t be too quick to blame the upstairs tenants.

Mold is made from identical nuclei that grow in patches. Some strains are fuzzy and others slimy:

  • Alternaria has a downy texture that’s brown, black, and grey. It tends to proliferate in water-damaged areas and can lead to allergic reactions.
  • Aspergillus grows in a veritable rainbow of colors and is usually found on walls, insulation, and wallpaper. It causes lung inflammation in those with weak immune systems.
  • Cladosporium is black or olive green. You’ll find it on wooden surfaces and drapes in the cooler parts of your building.
  • Penicillium is a fast-spreading species that’s green or blue. It loves hanging out on wallpaper and carpeting that have been exposed to water.
  • Stachybotrys chartarum is most commonly known as black mold. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, its color is? Yes, black. Well done. It proliferates in environments that are exposed to condensation. That usually means your vents and bathrooms. If your staff are suffering from breathing problems, fatigue, sinusitis, or asthma, black mold could be to blame.

You can now consider yourself a Doctor of Mold Identification. Congratulations. Here’s your certificate.

Where to Look for Mold

Mold identification has as much to do with “what” as it does with “where.” Fungus loves humid, dark environments, so the first places to look are your crawlspace and basement. Search your joists, girders, and sill plates before heading into your bathrooms. Check the ceilings as well as areas over your vents. It also makes sense to have your ductwork, wiring, and plumbing inspected if you’re suspicious.

Deeper Inspections

If you’ve spotted a water-marked stain, but you’re still not sure if it’s mold, our handy questionnaire will help.

-1) Are these conditions suited to mold growth? Mold can only grow in warm, damp environments. Leaks, high humidity levels, and steam can all create those conditions. If your stain isn’t exposed to moisture, it probably isn’t mold. Awesome. Now you can throw a party. 

-2) Is there surface damage? Mold will destroy your surfaces in no time, so look for peeling, curling, and water stains.

-3) Does it look like mold close-up? It’s time to haul out your magnifying glass, Inspector Clouseau. Mold grows in fluffy colonies and develops hair-like filaments that are visible with a magnifier. Fruiting structures are a sign of an active mold infestation. If you press duct tape against the surface and it comes back black, you might be dealing with dead mold. If that’s the case, your infestation will be dry and powdery.

-4) Is it efflorescence? When minerals leach out of concrete surfaces, they leave a powdery white stain. You can tell if it’s efflorescence rather than mold with a drop of water. If your white surface dissolves into the droplet, it’s crystallized minerals, not a fungus.

Why it Matters in Industrial Properties Maintenance

If you manage an industrial building, you probably don’t place the aesthetics of your workspace at the top of your priority list. Mold isn’t benign, though. It will destroy your indoor air quality, causing headaches, skin irritations, and headaches. Your worker productivity will grow sluggish, and your manufacturing processes will suffer.

Mold produces microbial volatile organic compounds that could introduce hydrocarbons, alcohols, and terpenes into your products. At this point, you can safely declare your industrial properties maintenance work an abject failure. Mold and regulatory compliance don’t mix, so if inspectors don’t condemn your building, they could require product recalls. This is a potentially expensive pursuit that could even cost you your brand value, and we haven’t even factored employee compensation into your rising bills.

Sick building syndrome lawsuits are as common as paint on walls. Some businesses have had to pay out multi-million dollar compensations. The United States Toxic Mold Protection Act will make sure of it. If your building is exposed to vapor and humidity, you might want to hire an air quality investigator, particularly if your employees are complaining about respiratory symptoms.

Some say mold is the new asbestos. Its reputation is as black as a stachybotrys chartarum colony, but now you know how to spot it. Identification is the first step. The second is to obliterate your building’s new residents one remediated spore at a time.