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More about mould

By: Charlene Sadler
Monday, January 11, 2010, 11:59 AM

1Mould can be a deal-breaker when it comes to buying a house, but it's even worse if you find mould after you've paid for an inspection and bought the property.

Mould can be difficult to detect and even more difficult to get rid of. And while many inspectors fail to detect mould, or are unable to because it's hidden by gyproc, they also sometimes "detect" mould that isn't there, and then recommend expensive cleaning options.

That was the case with one Toronto homeowner, Antony Anderson, who got worried when he saw what looked like a soft-white coat forming in his basement floor.

Anderson hired a contractor who told him he had a big problem that would cost thousands of dollars to remediate. For a second opinion, Anderson brought in Frank Haverkate, of Haverkate and Assoc., and to his great relief, Haverkate said the white fuzz was actually efflorescence, caused by lime leaching from concrete. It signified a moisture problem but it was harmless.

"It's a big conflict of interest because you're dealing with a client base that has no clue with what is going and believe what you say. So these types of inspectors could go in and point everything out that isn't true, then tell them they need thousands and thousands of dollars worth of clean up," said Haverkate.

"Anybody can say they're certified to inspect mould. All it takes is a one-day course," he said.

Haverkate charges nearly three times as his competitors, roughly $1,500 for an inspection, compared to between $400 and $800. His secret weapon and the reason for his higher costs are his two mould-sniffing dogs, Ranger and Quincy.

Why does he use dogs? Detecting mould is just half the problem. The next step is to find out where it's located. And that's not easy in a finished basement. Very few people want to start punching holes in drywall to see if there's mould on the foundation wall.

A sniffer dog, however, can detect where the mould is located, thus minimizing the amount of damage that needs to be done in the remediation process, said Haverkate.

"The majority of horror stories we're hearing is home inspectors not detecting mould before they buy a house, and some houses can have just as much if not more mould than a house used for a marijuana grow-op. If your basement's flooded, you can have just as much damage from mould as a marijuana grow-op."