If you suspect undetected water damage or moisture in a home (unidentified mold can lead to serious and sometimes debilitating health issues)
If there’s an unrelenting musty smell
Never try to tackle a mold issues yourself as it often makes matters worse. Black mold grew on the walls of my bathroom in college (I lived in a really old house). I remember trying to clean the mold with bleach (something I know now to never do). My efforts actually mobilized more mold spores exposing me to mold and mycotoxin related health issues.
What Makes A Great Mold Remediator?
It is important to find a qualified remediator who is properly certified. Some reputable mold certification agencies are: IICRC, NORMI, ACAC, IAQA, RIA. IICRC is the most widely used certification. Keep in mind that certification alone does not determine the qualification of a mold remediation specialist. An experienced remediator will also understand the need for thorough home testing, be able to explain why a particular location is being tested, and recognize common hiding places that are often missed by mediators. He should be familiar with the different types of fungus, bacteria, mold, and mycotoxins that might show up in mold tests and which ones are critical to address. A qualified remediator should also understand the hazards of improper remediation and take safety precautions during the process.
Interviewing Your Remediator
When I had to find a remediator for my own home, it quickly became clear who was skilled for the job or not, by asking questions. Here are some questions to help you determine if a potential remediator fits the qualifications described above.
What are your certifications?A good remediator should be able to provide certification, not just “experience.” One of the certifications mentioned above is best.
What remediation protocol do you follow?
A remediator should be able to explain the protocol he follows. Does he kill the old or simply remove it and why? What steps does he take to insure mold is gone and will not recur?
The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IIRC) has created a standardized protocol for safely remediating residential mold- the ANSI S520. Ask your remdiator if he follows these standards.
3. Where do you check for mold and will you be able to tell me the cause of the mold?
Samples should be taken from all over the home or office and particularly from areas where there has been water damage. Do they go into crawl spaces, attics, basements and other hard to reach areas to check for signs that testing could be needed in these areas? Finding the cause of the mold is important. Visible signs of mold and air pore counts do not alone tell the story. It is important to culture for bacteria and endotoxins, test for mycotoxins, and to Q-PCR on several dust samples. Bacteria can also be present in water damaged structures, releasing toxins into the environment. It is important to always check cement slabs as well as below windows in the home. Cement slabs can harbor cracks that allow moisture to continue to provide moisture to invisible fungi, bacteria and mycotoxins, even under previously remediated floor coverings. Any home with a high level of moisture or highly damp areas, can be at risk for ongoing mold issues. It is critical to find a remediator that recognizes the importance of thorough testing rather one who simply addresses visible mold, doesn’t test, and remediates a visibly effected area. Testing should be done before and after remediation to demonstrate success or failure of the project. Don’t simply trust the “experience” of a remediator.
4. What type of testing do you use?
The gold standard for home testing mold is the qPCR test (sometimes called the ERMI or dust test). Finding a remediator who knows what this test is and utilizes it is imperative. Most mold “remediators” simply test for mold using inaccurate air tests, which do not insure your home is free of mold. Other types of testing, such as direct microscopy and fungal enzyme tests, may be utilized for identifying specific locations of mold, once the presence of mold in the residence has been established by the qPCR.
5. Do you believe mold creates health problems?
A remediator who does not understand that some molds create health problems will not be able to properly identify, remediate, and take remediation precautions to address concerning molds.
6. Can you explain what a mycotoxin is? Do you identify the different mold species types and can you tell me the difference between toxigenic molds and allergenic molds?
This could make a difference in how you remediate. Some mold exists in every house and may not need to be remediated but simply cleaned. Other molds will require complete removal and replacement of all affected materials and surfaces. The quantity of the mold load also helps determine how critical remediation is.
7. How many years have you been in business and how many remediation projects have you performed?
Remember that a full understanding of mycotoxins and proper remediation testing, discovery and remediation is more important than just the number of projects performed.
8. How do you contain a work area and prevent cross contamination?
Proper containment should never be dismissed as it keeps mold spores from spreading. It includes using plastic sheeting as well as protection at the containment site to avoid cross contamination. Negative air pressure with Negative air machines (NAM’s) that are HEPA-filtered and exhausted outside are ideal. Air scrubbers inside the containment area are also advised. Workers should wear protective gear such as hazmat suits, safety glasses, respirators, and shoe protectors, as foot traffic is a major source of cross contamination if not properly mitigated. In addition, air scrubbers and HEPA vacuums used in the remediation process should be contained in fresh wrap before entering your site to prevent contamination from a previous work site.
9. Are you insured?
An uninsured contractor may bring down pricing but it could cost more in the end and result in the need to remediate again in the future, if the work is not done properly the first time. Their policy must clearly show that they are covered for removal and safe handling of mold. Liability insurance for this service is very important to you.
Never work with a contractor that dismisses your questions or demeans your concerns. This process is about your health and you’re the expert on that. Be sure to get several bids to ensure you are getting the best remediation. Price is not the prevailing issue in mold remediation. Don’t look for a company with the best prices, coupons or discounts. Paying less now may cost much more later, in your health or in further remediation for unsuccessful cleanings and repairs.
Finally, check their certification, the Better Business Bureau, and Insurance. Ask for references and a service guarantee. A five star yelp rating is not a sufficient measure of expertise.
The expense of mold remediation can be a catastrophic blow to finances, but mold remediation may be the very thing to save your health. Money cannot be enjoyed if you are not functional due to mold related illness. Mistakes made by an unqualified mold remediator can cost you thousands of dollars and possibly your health.
I also recommend checking out the nationally recognized Mold Medic's remediation company- Home Cleanse.