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Arizona Home Inspection - Asbestos, Mold and Water Damage
Published on February 17, 2012  

Your Home Inspection Found Mold, Asbestos or Water Damage—Now What?

Mold, asbestos and/or water damage have got to be the three most dreaded findings on any home inspection report. Together, they’re the trifecta of bad news for homebuyers and sellers alike. Only further investigation can determine whether the alarm bells need to be sounded or it is a controllable, treatable or non-threatening issue.

Asbestos is a mineral fiber that was added to a variety of products to strengthen them, provide insulation and improve fire resistance. There are several types of asbestos fibers and they can only be positively identified as such with a specialized microscope. Even if it looks, acts and seems like asbestos, it may not be asbestos.

Exposure to asbestos has been linked to severe health problems including cancer. It’s normal that your first reaction to an asbestos finding might be to panic. Don’t. Contrary to the natural urge to eliminate it, sometimes it is safer to leave intact any asbestos material in good condition.

Health is endangered only when asbestos fibers are released into the air and inhaled. If the material is in good condition, there is no danger. It will need to be checked (without touching it) occasionally for wear and exposure. If asbestos is more than slightly damaged, or remodeling is in the future that may disturb it, professional repair or removal is needed.

Mold is everywhere and constantly drifts through indoor and outdoor air. Those with mold allergies, asthma or other respiratory conditions can spot it in concentration anywhere. In homes, it can be harder to find if it is hidden behind walls, under carpet and flooring or in the framing and sills. Wherever excessive moisture accumulates, mold can grow and reproduce. Since mold is naturally occurring, there’s no way to eliminate it entirely, but it can be managed through moisture control. Reduce humidity, be vigilant about checking for leaks, and don’t install carpet in high-moisture areas. Left untreated, mold can and will eventually destroy a home, rendering it uninhabitable.

Where there is water damage, most likely there will be mold. The tell tale signs of water damage are standing water, buckled floors, discolored, stained or crumbling drywall, stains around windows, doors or anywhere on the ceiling. To inhibit mold growth, the source must be found and steps taken to correct it. Signs of water damage can indicate anything from a minor leak to a serious failure in the plumbing system, window flashing or roof. Until the source and the amount of the damage are determined, don’t be overly concerned. If the source was corrected in a timely manner, quite possibly, mold was deterred. However, only an air sample and lab test can determine for certain.

As a home inspector with many years in the profession, I know that it is certainly a concern if I find evidence of mold, asbestos or water damage. But it is not necessarily detrimental to your health or reason to jump the gun on cancelling the purchase contract.

Duane Smith, owner of Integrity Inspections of Arizona, is certified by the State of Arizona and the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) and belongs to the American Society of Home Inspectors and the Southeast Valley Regional Association of Realtors (SEVRAR).

© 2012 Integrity Inspections of Arizona. REALTORS®: Please feel free to print and distribute this to your clients.

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