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How To Know If You Have House Mold

The first step is to perform a competent house mold assessment:

Determining IF you have house mold is the first step; and if there is a problem, what is the extent of it.

This may sound easier than it actually is because:

  1. There are other substances which mimic the appearance of house mold. Visual inspections are a starting point however they do not reveal conclusive evidence of whether or not you actually have a mold issue. You may have “lumber yard rot”, or an accumulation of other types of harmless particulate matter, etc.
  2. Typically, the costs associated with competent house mold sampling and analysis outweigh the potential costs of omitting this important step in the assessment process. There are many mold remediation projects which are unnecessary because someone incorrectly assumed that there was a house mold issue when one did not actually exist. This can be a very costly and unnecessary mistake that is preventable. Mold sampling may consist of sampling the interior air and making a comparison with the outside air; taking direct surface samples of areas suspected of microbial activity; dust collection and bulk materials collection, this involves removing actual limited size building materials and having the laboratory perform a direct microscopic examination and or culturing to determine if the mold is living  (viable) or not.
  3. If initial laboratory testing is performed and there is in fact a mold problem which requires remediation, after the remediation is performed, you will now have the necessary quantitative data to determine if the remediation project was successful.
  4. Laboratory analysis can provide very useful information on the types of house mold that are potentially present and provide important clues as to the cause of the mold infestation.
  5. After the laboratory analysis is completed and reviewed, it is combined with an on-site assessment, you now have the necessary combination of information to create the appropriate types of house mold remediation protocols.

The second step is to decide who will perform the house mold remediation work:

Having an accurate assessment can provide the necessary information to determine the extent of the scope of the project. Some projects visually initially appear to be very small in size however once the laboratory analysis is studied sometimes there are clear indications that the mold problem significantly exceeds what was believed initially based on the visual inspection.     

Once the size of the project has been ascertained, it is substantially easier to decide who is the most appropriate person or company to perform the remediation work. The level of technical expertise, technical equipment required and personal protective equipment needed are all important relevant factors to consider. These issues should be included or addressed in one form or another in the written mold remediation protocols (recommended procedures).

If the project is relatively small in the scope and or does not contain high levels of highly toxigenic mold then perhaps it might be suited for a homeowner. It is highly recommended that a thorough understanding of personal protective equipment also known as PPE and its proper use be understood and properly implemented. There is no margin for error with the use of personal protective equipment. Failure in this area can produce a life-altering health event or death. A proper and thorough understanding of containment principles and procedures should also be understood and implemented to prevent cross-contamination of the entire structure during the remediation process. If demolition is required, or if the work scope exceeds more than simply wiping down some existing services and applying antimicrobials, then serious consideration should be given to hiring a competent and experienced professional who has the technical expertise and equipment to perform the job correctly.

Tips for selecting a mold remediation contractor:

  1. The mold remediation contractor should have verifiable mold remediation training and certification from a reputable company. It is preferable to have a contractor that has more than one single training certification. Because mold remediation training is largely unregulated in many parts of the United States there is an abundance of substandard training and certification courses available to contractors who wish to acquire a quick certification; their only requirement is a valid debit card. The names of these companies and schools sound legitimate, so do your homework.
  2. The contractor should have several years of minimum experience in performing specific mold remediation work. The amount of experience performing mold remediation should be an important consideration because there’s no substitute for a quality experience. It is possible that this information may be contained in the company’s website; however, remember that the website is a pre-designed sales prop, and has been carefully crafted to portray a specific image.
  3. The mold remediation contractor should own his own remediation equipment. A contractor who claims to be experienced but does not have a substantial investment in technical mold remediation equipment should be excluded from the selection process.
  4. A great deal can be ascertained about the level of professionalism in observing a contractor in his work vehicle. This factor alone can be very revealing and helpful in the selection process. For example, if you are hiring a contractor to rake leaves out of your yard, an old pickup truck and some leaf rakes should be adequate. However, if you need a technically educated contractor to perform a complex job and he needs thousands of dollars in technical equipment then perhaps a different contractor than our leaf raking yard contractor example would be appropriate.
  5. Verifying the Workmen’s Compensation insurance and professional liability insurance certificates is a worthwhile investment in time. Contractors who are reluctant to provide this type of information should be viewed with extreme scrutiny for a variety of reasons. Ethical and professional contractors are rarely insulted by potential customers asking for this information, in fact, professional contractors generally respect consumers who request this information.
  6. Everyone knows they should check references, but hardly anyone ever does. Typically most people are short of time and do not wish to make the investment. At the very least, asking for references and observing how the contractor responds to the question can be very insightful. Generally, good contractors will not be distressed in the least by your question for references and they will be able to give you numerous references immediately, typically on the spot. Cellular phones should contain an ample supply of happy customers. Along this line of questioning, you should ask the contractor if he has pictures available of work he has performed recently.  Most contractors have an abundance of pictures on their smartphones. Noting the equipment used or lack of equipment can be insightful.
  7. Pay attention to your gut-level feeling, in other words, your intuition is typically correct. If you do not have a good feeling about the potential contractor don’t hire him. We could talk about neuroplasticity and how your non-conscious brain is performing far more functions than your conscious brain suffice to say you’re picking up nonverbal clues as to the person’s character and professionalism and integrity.
  8. Have your checklist with questions readily at hand when interviewing the contractor. It is very easy to forget important questions he planned on asking the contractor.
  9. The List of tips we have provided is not exhaustive, but it is designed to get you moving in the correct direction.

Recommended Article: How To Select a Good Mold Remediation Contractor

Preparation for house mold remediation work:

  1. How do you prepare for dealing with house mold remediation? The question as to whether or not you should be on-site during the remediation process should be determined as early in the process as is practical; typically, once the choice for who will be performing the remediation has been determined. Removing children, and pets, and securing the property and valuables is easier accomplished without undue duress at the last minute. In general, ideally, it is better to avoid being in close proximity to mold remediation work that is ongoing. There should be air containment and negative pressurization systems implemented, and air filtration devices operational, however during remediation work typically there are much higher levels of particulate matter that are airborne and not being in close proximity to the worksite is advantageous.
  2. How the property will be secured and access will be granted for security purposes is an important consideration, not only to the occupants but also to the contractor from a liability perspective. Planning to reduce risks and concerns about property security is more easily accomplished with proactive planning earlier in the process rather than later.
  3. It is essential that cross-contamination of house mold be prevented. This issue should be clearly addressed prior to the mold remediation work commencing. Having a thorough understanding of containment barriers and how the pressurization systems work is essential to prevent the size and scope of the job from escalating. If containment barriers and procedures are compromised then cross-contamination of the entire structure may be possible. Subsequent testing to determine if cross-contamination has occurred may be warranted in this type of situation. Many people are unaware of how drastically airborne levels can mold spores increase during mold remediation work. Escalation of airborne particulate matter over 100 times is not uncommon.  

The house mold remediation process:

There are many books, courses, certifications and degrees that are designed to teach the essential elements necessary to perform successful remediation. It is beyond the scope of this article to address the mold remediation process itself due to the complexity of the remediation process. Some jobs are very small in size and simply involve applying antimicrobial chemicals to a surface area, other jobs involve substantial amounts of demolition and removal of construction materials requiring very sophisticated remediation techniques.

Application of the correct type and proper antimicrobial chemical(s) is an absolute necessity. We do not make specific recommendations or endorsements of specific products for numerous reasons, one of which is liability related. That being said, many untrained, ignorant and or incompetent persons use a mixture of bleach water in the remediation processes. Use of this type of product for mold remediation is generally a very poor choice ineffectiveness as well as creating a potentially very hazardous health situation, generally, use of this type of product should be avoided at all costs. The mold in your house is dangerous and the misuse of chemicals can be just as dangerous. Use products which are specifically designed for mold remediation should be used. Some products designed for mold remediation are specifically registered with the EPA Environmental Protection Agency; it should be noted that although a product has an EPA registration number, the EPA does not specifically endorse or otherwise indicate the effectiveness or lack thereof of the specific product.

Determining the completion of a mold remediation project varies considerably between jobs due to the wide range of sizes and complexities. Some small jobs that involve simply wiping down surfaces with antimicrobial may require that a simple visual assessment will prove sufficient. Mold in your house that is determined to be a larger project, may require the use of post-remediation assessment and testing that may include the use of mold sampling and laboratory analysis. Whichever the case, the criteria used to determine when the job is considered completed should be designated at the beginning of the project, not at the end of it.

I hope that you have found these brief guidelines suggestions and tips helpful. They should be considered a starting point in your mold assessment process.  Feel free to contact us for a house mold assessment.

Written by Tom Talen

Mold Remediation & Mold Awareness by Violet Frog from Violet Frog LLC