13 Signs of Hidden Mold Damage in Your Home
Mold can hide behind your walls for months without detection.
The longer you ignore mold, the worse it gets – and the less likely insurance will cover mold remediation.
Some insurance policies cover mold damage caused by sudden perils – like a burst pipe or a storm.
However, insurance does not cover mold damage caused by wear and tear or poor maintenance – like a leaking pipe undetected behind your walls for months.
Fortunately, there are easy ways to spot mold damage in and around your home – including obvious and less obvious signs of a mold problem.
Illnesses & Infections
Many people get sick or develop an infection before visible signs of mold appear in a home.
As you breathe in mold spores, you increase the risk of illness, infection, respiratory disease, and other health issues.
Some people can breathe in mold spores without developing a health problem.
However, those with compromised immune systems, asthma, respiratory diseases, or other health conditions could quickly – and repeatedly – become ill in a mold-damaged home.
Some of the illnesses and infections associated with mold damage include:
- Infections like aspergillosis, histoplasmosis, and sporotrichosis
- Allergic reactions
- Memory loss
There’s some controversy over whether or not mold leads to illness and disease. A 2019 study described the connection between mycotoxins and mold injury as a “myth,” for example, finding no specific connection between mycotoxins (the active ingredients in mold) and illness or disease.
Nevertheless, many people have developed repeated illnesses at home, only to discover a mold infection soon after. If you or a pet or family member is suddenly getting sick more often, then it could be a sign of a mold problem.
Unpleasant, Musty, or Damp Odor Around Your Home
One of the first signs of a mold problem is an unpleasant odor.
If you have a damp, musty, or unpleasant odor coming from your floors or walls, it could be a sign of a mold problem.
As mold grows, it releases mold volatile organic compounds (MVOCs). It’s a natural part of the mold life cycle. These chemicals are a normal part of mold growth, but they cause unpleasant odors throughout your home.
White or Black Spots on Clothing
Mold could develop in dark, poorly-ventilated areas of your home – like your closet.
If you have noticed white or black spots on clothing, blankets, or other fabrics stored in your home, then it could be a sign of a mold problem.
There could be a mold problem in your closet. Or, it could be a mold problem all over your house.
Unusual Stains on Carpets & Other Fabrics
If your carpets, furniture, rugs, drapes, and other fabrics develop unusual stains, it could be a sign of a mold problem.
Fabrics shouldn’t develop unusual stains without warning. If you notice unusual spots continue to appear, then contact a mold remediation company or mold inspection service. If you need immediate peace of mind, there are mold detection kits on Amazon and at hardware stores.
Visible Signs Around Water Heaters & Other Appliances
Check your water heaters and other appliances for signs of mold. Water heaters are often located in dark, hard-to-reach parts of the home. A small water heater leak can turn into a larger mold problem over time.
Other appliances could also develop mold because of small water leaks. Dishwashers, air conditioners, and laundry machines, for example, are all common sources of mold problems inside and outside the home.
Mold, Mildew, & Junk in Bathroom or Kitchen Tiles
Do your bathroom and kitchen tiles routinely fill with mold, mildew, and other gunk? This can be a sign of a mold problem.
Check your bathroom for discoloration between tiles, for example. When you spot this discoloration in combination with other symptoms above, it could be a sign of a mold problem.
Coughs, Colds, & Other Respiratory Issues
You don’t need to develop an illness or infection to experience the signs of a mold problem. Many people develop coughs, colds, and other respiratory issues because of their mold problem.
If you notice yourself coughing or sneezing frequently at home, or if your family and pets are developing respiratory issues, then it could be a sign of a mold problem that needs to be addressed.
Do your walls look misshapen? Walls and wallpaper can warp when exposed to moisture, leading to issues with mold.
Bad Smelling Furniture
Mold loves to lodge itself within furniture. Furniture is filled with porous materials where mold can easily thrive.
If you notice a couch – say, a basement or attic couch – has developed an unusual smell, it could be a sign of a mold problem.
Higher-than-Normal Water Bills
Have your water bills increased? Do you have unusually high water consumption? It could be a sign of leaking pipes or other water issues.
If a pipe bursts behind your walls, you might notice water damage immediately. However, if a pipe gradually leaks behind walls, it may take weeks or months to notice the damage.
Check your water bill for higher-than-normal usage over the last few months.
Chronic Fatigue, Headaches, or a General Feeling of Being Unwell
Do you feel mental fog in the morning when you wake up? Do you frequently deal with headaches, coughs, or a general feeling of illness?
The CDC refers to it as “sick building syndrome,” or SBS. It’s been seen with office workers, homeowners, renters, and others.
In many cases, sick building syndrome is caused by mold.
If you have experienced symptoms of sick building syndrome, or if you’re frequently experiencing unexplained headaches and illnesses, then it could be a sign of a mold problem.
Dark Stains on Walls or Ceilings
One of the most obvious signs of a mold problem is a dark stain on a wall or ceiling.
As mold and moisture enters the wall, it causes discoloration. A stain could be just a water stain – or it could be a mold stain.
Some of the differences between ordinary water stains and mold stains include:
- Mold typically looks black or brown, while water stains may look brown, yellow, or lighter-colored.
- Mold is typically soft, slimy, or fuzzy to the touch.
- You can easily smear a mold stain, but you can’t easily smear a water stain.
- Mold responds to bleach. Dab the mold stain with a few drops of diluted bleach. If the stain lightens after a few minutes, it’s likely mold. If not, it could be a water stain.
Regardless of whether it’s a mold stain or water stain, it needs to be addressed. Check your walls and other surfaces for signs of mold or water damage.
Any Unusual Signs After Recent Water Damage
If you notice any of the symptoms above after water damage, then you need to take action immediately.
If your house recently dealt with a water damage insurance claim, a water main break, storm damage, flooding, or other water-related incidents, for example, then you have a much greater risk of a mold problem. Take action immediately to prevent a small problem from turning into a bigger issue.
So You’ve Detected Mold: What’s Next?
You believe your house has a mold problem. What’s the next step?
The next step is to order a mold testing kit or hire a mold testing company:
- Buy a DIY at-home mold test kit. They’re available from major retailers like Walmart or Home Depot. These testing kits can easily detect the presence of indoor or outdoor mold and give you results within 48 hours. You leave the testing kit in place, and it collects any mold in the air over the testing period before delivering the results.
- Hire a mold testing company. Some companies specialize in mold testing. These companies can collect samples around your house, test those samples, and determine whether or not you have a mold problem. Ideally, you’ll choose a company that specializes in mold testing (not mold remediation). A mold remediation company may be tempted to exaggerate or invent a mold problem to create new business.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency recommends hiring professionals before and after mold remediation. First, you can verify the presence of mold. Then, you can verify the mold remediation worked and the process removed all presence of mold from your home.
Does Insurance Cover Mold Damage?
Home insurance does not typically cover mold damage. However, there are some cases where home insurance covers mold damage.
- Home insurance covers mold damage if it’s caused by a covered peril – like a sudden, unexpected incident. If a pipe suddenly burst, for example, and flooded your home, then insurance will cover it.
- Home insurance will not cover mold damage caused by wear and tear, negligence, or poor maintenance. If you ignored a leaking pipe behind your walls for months without fixing it, for example, then insurance is unlikely to cover it.
Check your policy or contact your insurer to ask about mold damage compensation. Depending on your policy, you could receive up to $10,000 in coverage for mold damage and mold remediation.
If you’ve noticed signs of mold damage around your house, then you need to take action.
Mold damage doesn’t get better on its own. It gets worse, affecting your health and home.
Contact a local mold inspection company or mold remediation service to begin the mold removal process. Or, call your insurer to see if your mold damage is covered.