The 5 Types of Molds Found In Office Buildings and What Causes Them

If you own or manage an office building, you have a lengthy to-do list for keeping your property in the best shape for your tenants. While much of maintenance involves things we can easily see, hear, and smell, there’s a hidden danger to your investment: mold. This growing problem (no pun intended) has a number of causes. While mold proliferation within a building should be addressed, not all types of mold is created equal.  

Take a look at this list of arguably the five (5) most common molds found in building interiors, modern corporate structures, and see if there’s cause for you to take action. 

Types of mold found in offices today

The type of mold can’t always be identified by color, shape, or texture as many molds look alike to the naked eye. Different types of mold can also grow on the same surface conditions. To really understand the type of mold you encounter, professional testing is key. Here are the molds most likely to be lurking, along with their favorite locations and the issues they cause. 

1. Cladosporium 

While some molds favor warmer temps and damper climates, this type isn’t picky about where it takes up residency. In fact, it’s often found on the gaskets of restaurant coolers and in food storage areas where it can quickly affect the quality of perishables. You can also find it on glass surfaces, such as windows or mirrors, and on ceramic tile and grouted surfaces. It’s not the most dangerous mold to discover, but it is something to address right away. Those sensitive to Cladosporium can experience serious asthma attacks if exposed, and the growths—when visible– are unpleasant to look at.

2. Aspergillus

A highly common mold to be found at apartments, offices, and homes, Aspergillus thrives indoors. Molds found on the cloth bindings of books are usually this type of mold, which can cause sickness in people with weakened immune systems and lung issues. Toxic molds are also hazardous to pets, so keep this in mind if your building hosts pets. Aspergillus also favors artwork, cardboard boxes, pressed wood products, and shelving, as well as leather clothing and shoes.

3. Alternia

When a doctor diagnosis someone with mold allergies, they may be referring to this particular mold, which is commonly a culprit for sneezing, watery eyes, and congestion in those who don’t tolerate the mold well. Primarily an outdoor mold, it gets brought in on clothing, pets, and in the air through open windows and doors. Summer is a particularly difficult time for people with Alternia allergies, since spore count increases in warmer weather.

4. Penicillium

Black molds and brown molds are what we commonly think of when we think of indoor molds, but there are some other colors that make up the spectrum, such as orange or even pink. If you see a green, yellow, or blue mold, the chances are high you may be looking at Penicillium, a toxic mold responsible for food spoilage. It’s also found on a variety of common building surfaces, such as cabinets, ceiling tiles, and drapery. If you have water-damaged drywall, there’s a good chance Penicillium could take advantage and make its home there, too.

(If the name seems familiar, it’s because Penicillium is the mold that the medicinal penicillin antibiotic comes from. While this mold has an incredibly useful purpose, it can cause illness to people when left unchecked in an office building.)  

5. Stachybotrys

Not all black molds are toxic, and none have quite earned the reputation that Stachybotrys has gotten. Known simply as “black mold” to the common person, it easily makes its home in fibrous surfaces such as paper and wood. It can take a long time for this mold to develop, and buildings that may not have had black mold issues in the past may find themselves inhabited. The mold needs constant moisture to continue growing, and the health issues it causes aren’t specific. If you have this mold in your building, it may be making people sick without them knowing. 

What types of mold should I worry about? 

Some molds are more dangerous (i.e., toxic) than others, depending on the individual sensitivity. Thus,  all mold proliferation should be dealt with promptly. High levels of moisture impacting building materials can result from flooding, poor ventilation, condensation, melting ice dams, and leaky plumbing. This moisture, combined with environmental conditions, can contribute to mold growth. Since most mold isn’t identifiable by eyesight alone, don’t try to “diagnose” your mold. Not only does touching or scraping mold for closer inspection cause it to become airborne, but it’s also highly unlikely you can tell what it is without special training and a microscope. 

A mold of any type is an eyesore, can smell, and is a potential lawsuit waiting to happen. Addressing it as soon as you catch it is best. Since mold is often not visible and can develop in places we can’t see (such as behind walls), assume that a small mold sighting may not be all there is to the story. Catching a tiny mold issue now can prevent huge issues (and possible legal actions) down the road. 

Can my building be mold-free?

Mold is ubiquitous and exists naturally outdoors; ridding your building of all mold isn’t likely to be feasible. Every building has some level of mold, whether in the air or as a deposit on surfaces. The concern should be about the type of mold you find (or worse yet, what you don’t find!) While there are some relatively harmless types, even these can cause allergies. The more dangerous ones can make people and pets very sick over time and can lead to large productivity losses, increased healthcare costs, and a decrease in the value of your building. Often, mold-related problems are hard to identify and may resemble a number of unrelated conditions.

If you find mold or persistent moisture, it’s best to ask a professional to examine it. They can identify the type of mold, determine the extent of the growth, and form a plan to rid your building of mold. Taking action now, even with small amounts of mold, can help protect you from potential liability from possible future health concerns.

Do you need help with your mold problem? Get in touch with us and today and let’s work together to make your building as safe as possible.