Chances are you have found this article because you have a mold situation and need to know what to do. Should you hire a mold remediation company or should you attempt to DIY the area in question? If you do hire a company how do you know what to look for?
Let’s take a look at mold remediation in general and then discuss where you go from there.
What Is Mold Remediation?
The term mold remediation is defined as “the removal, cleaning, sanitizing, demolition, or other treatment, including preventive activities, of mold or mold-contaminated matter that was not purposely grown at that location.”
Mold Removal vs. Mold Remediation
Mold removal is exactly what it sounds like…removing mold from something. Mold remediation is everything mentioned in the above definition.
How Much Does Mold Remediation Cost?
That depends on so much including the size of the impacted area, the degree of damage, whether there is still standing water, how much mold growth there is, what has to be removed from the area, whether the building itself requires some level of demolition, the area you live in, and more. There is no “average” cost of mold remediation and don’t believe anyone who says otherwise. It is on a case by case basis.
How Do I Find A Reputable Mold Remediation Company?
A qualified restoration company understands the science behind mold and mold growth. They also understand the health risks associated with mold. In addition, they should be willing to go the extra mile to ensure that YOUR requests are met.
I’ve been through too many mold rodeos (both my own and helping others) and know just how FEW reputable remediation companies are out there. It’s a joke really. But as you know, mold is no laughing matter.
So how do you find a reputable mold remediation company?
Don’t rely on your insurance company to send out a qualified remediation company. Most insurance companies default to ServPro. They are not a bad company but the quality depends on who is running the franchise in your area. I’ve had mixed experiences with them.
Instead, try the following:
- First – ask your friends and neighbors. They may have used a company in the past and be able to give you some insight.
- Don’t hesitate to ask on websites like Nextdoor or Facebook. There are lots of Facebook groups dedicated to mold and chances are you can find some members in your area to steer you in the right direction.
- Read Google and Yelp reviews of various companies.
- Call a few local plumbers and see who they recommend.
Once you have a list of companies to call, arm yourself with questions to help you vet their knowledge of mold and approach to remediation.
Questions To Ask A Mold Remediation Company Before Hiring Them
Do you consider mold to be a potential health hazard? This should ALWAYS be yes! The company should also know the difference between a mold allergy and mold illness due to mold exposure.
What’s a mycotoxin? If they can’t answer that then they should not be in business.
Do you test for mold before starting remediation? If they answer yes, you can be assured that they are going to over charge you and likely insist on a lot of additional products or services you don’t need. You already know you have mold in a particular area. You do not need to test for it until AFTER remediation is complete. If high levels of mold are still showing up this might indicate that you have a separate problem elsewhere. If there is a reason to test for mold before, this should NEVER be done by the remediation company but instead by a mold inspector or environmental hygienist.
Do you document your work? This should always be yes and documentation should be a combination of pictures or videos and written notes.
How do you contain the area and keep the rest of my home safe during the remediation process? Proper containment includes plastic sheeting and protection at the entrance to the containment site to avoid cross contamination. Any air vents or air returns in the impacted area should be closed and sealed off in plastic. Plastic should be both stapled and taped with no gaps for air to escape. The entrance in and out of the area should be zippered and taped. Ideally there will be a double entrance – one into the area to be remediated and another into a “clean room” between the impacted site entrance and the rest of the house. Plastic should be secured on the floors throughout any portion of the home the remediation company will need access to and clean shoe covers should be worn when leaving the containment area before entering the rest of the home. Negative air machines (NAMs) should be HEPA filtered and exhausted outside.
Do you have insurance? I think it goes without saying that the remediation company must be licensed and carry insurance.
What kind of protective gear do you wear? Workers should have hazmat suits, safety glasses, and respirators. Like I mentioned above, shoe covers are necessary as well. Gloves should be worn at all times.
What do you do with all the wet, moldy material you remove? The response may depend on whether this is an insurance situation, if there will be litigation, or if this is self pay. For self pay, the remediation company should immediately bag the material they remove in an industrial bag or double bag it. Spraying the inside of the bag with fungicide is a good idea but not a deal breaker. These bags should be removed from the premises that same day. Moldy material should not be left outside your home for removal later.
If the insurance company has not yet come out to inspect the damage, the remediation company will likely have to leave larger items like cabinetry and furniture, outside for their inspection. Once the inspection is done these items should be immediately removed.
If you are planning litigation your attorney may advise you to keep and store the damaged items. In this case, rent an outdoor storage unit and follow the advice of your attorney in terms of how long to keep the moldy items and building materials stored. The remediation company will not transport this for you.
Do you clean and wrap your equipment before each new project? The answer should always be yes! Air scrubbers and dehumidifiers that go from one moldy environment to the other can cross contaminate and do more harm.
Will you get all of the mold removed and will my house be mold free? If their response is something like “mold remediation focuses on getting mold levels back to normal, natural levels, not removing it all” run away! You want them to say that they are going to remove ALL of the mold and make sure that the rest of your home was not cross contaminated.
What Is The Process For Mold Remediation?
Mold remediation is a complex and detailed process in many cases. However, there are 14 standard steps for mold remediation.
- Turn off the main water line if the mold issue is related to an active leak. If it was related to flooding from a natural event then proceed with step 2.
- As discussed above, properly seal off the damaged area as well as any air vents/returns in the area. Turn off the air conditioner/heater to prevent the spread of mold spores.
- Suck up any standing water with a wet vac.
- Remove wet and moldy loose building materials, furnishings, décor, etc…
- Open up wet and moldy walls, remove flooring, remove affected cabinetry, etc…
- Spray materials with fungicide and place in doubled up construction trash bags (double bagging) having a 6-mil thickness.
- Vacuum debris from demolition with a wet/dry HEPA vacuum.
- Apply a fungicide to the entire area. Wipe down all non-porous surfaces with an EPA registered fungicide.
- Bring in fans and dehumidifiers to dry out the area + clean the air of airborne mold spores using HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) air scrubbers and air exchange (i.e. replacing dirty moldy air with clean fresh air through simple ventilation or more sophisticated negative air controls for bigger jobs). This can take anywhere from 1-10 days depending on the extend of the damage.
- Re-spray twice the cleaned out area with another wet spraying of a fungacide to kill any remaining, living toxic mold spores or mold growths.
- Apply a sealer to make the treated areas more resistant to water damage and mold and also to help with odor control.
- If the air ducts were impacted, clean the air ducts.
- Remove mold spores from all personal property, furniture, and equipment in the entire home by washing the items outdoors or in a plastic-sheet-built clean room with a fungicide. In addition, spray a fungicide on all surfaces or fog the home.
- After the toxic mold remediation is completed, mold test (clearance testing) all of the remediated surfaces plus the air of each room, attic, basement, crawl space, garage, and the outward air flow from each heating/cooling duct register to find out if those areas are now safe from mold prior to rebuilding the cleaned out areas with new building materials.
Is There Anything Mold Remediation Does Not Include?
Yes. It will not include fixing any leaks. It also does not include the restoration process although many remediation companies have a division for that.
Can You Do Your Own Mold Remediation?
Yes, of course you can. Should you? No. I’ve remediated some very small mold issues myself. But anything over 3 feet by 3 feet really should be handled by a professional mostly for your own safety.
If you do decide to tackle remediation yourself, please purchase, read, and follow the instructions given by Brian Turner in A Homeowner’s Complete Guide To Mold Remediation. I also suggest you read Mold: The Ultimate Homeowner’s Removal Guide by Dainian Nembhard.