As a home owner faced with the discovery of mold in your home, it can seem overwhelming to figure out what needs to be done. Mold growth can have many negative impacts from significant health problems to the delay or failure of the sale of your home. Here are some tips to help you understand the process and make sure that your mold problem is being dealt with properly and no corners are being cut.
1 Why is Mold a big deal? According to the EPA, molds are part of the natural environment, and can be found everywhere, indoors and outdoors (including dry climates). Mold is not usually a problem, unless it begins growing indoors. Molds have the potential to cause health problems. Molds produce allergens (substances that can cause allergic reactions) and irritants. Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Allergic responses include hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. These reactions are common.
Indoor Air Quality specialists can assess your home for the presence of unhealthy levels of mold spores. Mold can be hidden behind walls, in attics or rarely entered crawl spaces. A home inspection during the sale of a home is often how mold is discovered which is why a thorough home inspection before buying a home is a good idea. Mold remediation can cost thousands of dollars and often this cost becomes the responsibility of the home seller.
2 Indoor Mold Growth = A Water Problem. If you have mold growing indoors, it means you have a water problem. In order to eliminate mold and prevent grow-back your remediation company must identify and repair the water source. This could be as simple as fixing a leaking pipe or more complex such as adding air circulation and venting to attics or crawl spaces, the lack of which is a very common cause of mold growth.
3 Don’t Skip Air Quality Tests. Passing an air quality test following mold remediation is an essential step to make sure your mold issue has been properly addressed. Some remediation companies will not include air quality tests in their services (this is a red flag). Make sure that a post-mitigation, professional air quality test from a third party company is included in your mold remediation bid. Without it you cannot know with certainty that the health risks of mold are gone and that it was mitigated properly. If mold remediation is a condition of a home purchase, make sure you ask for a copy of the mold clearance test from the home seller.
4 How Should Your Mold Remediation Company Handle Your Mold? There is a lot of mis-information about mold and how to best get rid of it. Part of that comes from companies who do not follow industry standards or who are misrepresenting the use of certain mold remediation techniques. This industry is pretty lucrative and many companies add-on mold remediation services without certification or proper training (we recommend using only Certified Mold Remediation companies).
Professional, certified companies will follow these steps:
- Identify and repair the source of water leading to mold growth.
- Dehumidify the area to return humidity to healthy levels.
- Contain the mold BEFORE disturbing it to prevent it from spreading to other locations in your home. A containment area will be constructed out of protective plastic sheeting and include negative air flow to suck mold spores out of the air so they don’t circulate throughout your home.
- Contaminated, non-structural materials are bagged and removed e.g. drywall, floor coverings, insulation
- Treat the mold with a biodegradable, “green” agent that will lift it off of the surface to allow for the removal of mold. In larger or densely effected areas, wire brushing or high pressured baking soda-blasting, may be used (in our opinion, this is clearly the best option for removal).
- The entire contained area will be HEPA Vacuumed (a specialized vacuum with a filter on it that captures the mold).
- The area will then be wiped down with microfiber clothes using an anti-microbial agent.
- An anti-microbial agent will then be sprayed on all surfaces as a final protective measure.
- Bring in an Indoor Air Quality inspector from a third party company to test the surface and/or air.
If your remediation company skips these steps your mold problem may not have been handled as completely as is recommended by industry standards.
5 Why is it so Expensive? Professional remediation companies will follow industry standards to insure that the job is done right. Those standards not only dictate the processes that must be followed but also the number and type of machines necessary (eg. air scrubbers, air movers and dehumidifiers) and how long they run to achieve necessary air quality (IICRC S-520). OSHA also regulates the types of protective equipment that must be used during mold remediation (e.g. respirators, suits, supplies).
Pricing, as a standard, is set by the insurance industry through a software program called Xactamate. These costs are set by zip code. If your remediation company uses Xactamate in the estimating process they have agreed to accept this pricing structure.
During mold remediation, every square inch of contaminated area will touched a minimum of three times. This can be a significant amount of area to cover. If for example, an attic and all of the support structures have mold growth, you can imagine how time consuming and involved touching the whole area that many times can be. This degree of thoroughness is necessary to properly remove mold.
6 Beware the Low Bidder. We have discussed this before in a separate blog post, but it is definitely worth repeating. If the bid is low and all your remediation company is offering to do is spray the mold with a serum or fog the area with a chemical…that is an incomplete service (review the above steps). Mold must be removed even with the use of these agents. If you are buying a home and are requesting mold mitigation be completed before you buy the home, make sure it has been mitigated properly.
Sadly, we often see homeowners hiring companies that suggest that spraying or fogging mold with these chemicals or serums will “kill”it. Even if a chemical agent could kill mold (most manufacturers of these products do not make these claims) the remaining “dead” mold is still toxic. Leaving this material behind can leave health hazards behind. Mold must be removed in all circumstances. Period.
Low estimates, in the majority of cases, fail to include all of the recommended steps. If you have any questions about your mold project, Helpers certified technicians are available. Helpers is a Certified Mold Remediation Company and follows industry standards with all of our mold remediation projects.