Having a mold problem in your home or office can be a traumatic experience. Most homeowner’s do what comes naturally… they panic. Once you have determined that you have a problem, whether its water intrusion, mold growth, or a sewage backflow, it’s important that you take a moment to assess the situation before you make any decisions.
Mold is everywhere. It can be found in every city, in every home, and in every breath you take. Mold is an essential component in the earth’s ecosystem, acting as the vultures of the microbial world. When you have excess moisture in your home, it’s only natural that mold growth will follow. The steps you take, and the people you hire will make a big difference in how quickly your problem is solved, how completely your mold is removed, and how much the project costs to fix.
Every project is unique, and each step in the process is unique to your specific project. The following general steps should give you a basic understanding of what you need to do, in the order that you do it:
1. IDENTIFY THE WATER SOURCE
Mold will not grow without water! Mold growth under a window is most likely the result of water intrusion through window flashing or inadequate sealing. Mold growth on the ceiling drywall is most likely water intrusion through the roofing system. Mold growth around plumbing is most likely the result of a leaking pipe or appliance. While the cause of the mold growth isn’t always so clear cut, if you have the ability to identify and stop the water source you may be able to prevent additional damage. If you do not… then let Pacific IAQ or your contractor help you out.
2. CONTAIN THE AREA
Since mold spores are very small, they have the ability to quickly and easily become airborne, and have a tendency to spread to other areas within your home. Containment is the key to controlling where those spores go. One of the first things a remediation contractor does is to erect 6 mil poly plastic barriers around the damaged area to prevent cross contamination. They also install HEPA filtered air movers to control the air flow and pressurization within the containment. While most homeowners don’t have the equipment or knowledge to set up a proper containment, there are a few simple steps that will help contain the mold growth while you build your remediation team:
Turn off the HVAC fan. Running your furnace or air conditioner moves air around your home and may be the single biggest contributor to cross contamination. If the damage is confined to one room, seal up the supply vent with blue painters tape. NEVER USE FANS TO DRY OUT A MOLDY AREA.
Cover and seal the moldy materials. If the area of mold growth is small enough, tape over it with duct tape to prevent aerosolization. If the area is too large to cover with duct tape, consider using poly plastic (visquene), or the plastic from a large garbage bag. Cut the plastic so that it completely covers the moldy area, then staple around the edges and seal the edges with duct tape.
Close and seal doors. If the area of mold growth is confined to one room or one area, close the doors and seal around the edges with blue painters tape.
3. ASSESS THE DAMAGE
Most people know what mold looks like, and you don’t need a lab to tell you what it is when it is growing on your walls. Assessment is not about determining whether or not mold growth exists. It’s about determining the extent of the mold growth and developing a remediation plan to safely and properly fix the problem. Pacific IAQ specializes in microbial investigations. We use the most reliable sampling methods and the most cutting edge technology to determine the extent of the water damage and mold growth, then we use our years of experience to develop a scope of work, or protocol, for the remediation contractors to follow. There are two primary reasons for getting a microbial assessment and protocol; the first is to get a scope of work that you can provide to multiple contractors to get competitive bids, the second is to get an independent third party evaluation of the project, where the size and scope of the project is not tied to monetary gain. In other words, do not let your remediation contractor determine the scope of work… it’s a conflict of interest and there is too much incentive for additional or unnecessary work.
4. BUILD YOUR TEAM
Once you’ve determined the size and scope of the project, it’s time to build your team. The following are some of the professionals you may want to consider on your project:
This is the company that will test the home, develop the remediation protocol, and provide exit sampling and post remediation verification to make sure the project was completed correctly… Pacific IAQ is an excellent choice!
This is the company that actually removes the mold. There are several excellent remediation companies in the North Bay, and while Pacific IAQ never makes recommendations, we can refer companies who we have had success with in the past. When choosing a remediation company, it is important to look at their certifications and experience. Some certifications are better than others, and most are nothing more than “training certificates”.
After the mold has been removed, and the laboratory analysis confirms the efficacy of the remedial efforts, you will need a general contractor to put your home back together. Many remediation contractors are also general contractors and it is possible to have the same company provide both services. If you use the same company for remediation and build-back, be aware of the possible conflict of interest and make sure that your contractor follows the protocol during remediation. It may be difficult for some contractors to try to work around your kitchen cabinets and granite countertop when they will make more money if they simply remove them.
The most important step in the remediation process is to stop the water intrusion. This may involve roofers, plumbers, insulators, etc. It is important that you find an appropriate professional and let him help you in the planning of your project. The success of your project depends on fixing the source of water.
Legal action is never pleasant, but often it’s the only way to rectify a situation. If you think that you may need legal representation because a product or service caused or contributed to your mold issues, or if you have a liability on the project, such as builders, landlords, real estate agents etc., it is always best to hire your attorney before work has started. Once you have completed the work, it is very difficult for an attorney to collect the evidence necessary to represent you properly. Pacific IAQ can work directly for your attorney to protect your liability.
The health effects related to mold spores are poorly understood. What is known is that different people react differently to elevated concentrations of mold spores, and the effects, generally, do not cause long lasting or permanent health concerns. Those with suppressed or compromised immune systems appear to be at greater risk than those with a healthy immune system. Immunosuppression may be caused by AIDS, chemotherapy, medications, or the natural cycles of aging. If you suspect that mold is affecting your health, Pacific IAQ recommends that you consult with a physician prior to working around, or living with a mold problem in your home.
Pacific IAQ believes that you are the most important member of the team. We don’t work for the contractor, we work for you. Unlike some of our competitors, Pacific IAQ has no financial ties to any remediation contractors… we don’t give or receive referral fees. As a valuable team member, you should be involved in every aspect your remediation project. From the planning and remediation to reconstruction, it is your home and you are the team captain.
Remediation comes from the word “remedy”, which is a cure or treatment. Mold remediation is the physical removal of mold growth and the cleaning of the affected areas of the structure or contents. Mold remediation is not rocket science, but it does take some specialized knowledge and equipment to do correctly. While Pacific IAQ will work with any contractor that the home owner chooses, it is our experience that most general contractors have a difficult time getting a successful post remediation clearance. If the home owner chooses to use a general contractor, or if the homeowner wants to do-it-themself, Pacific IAQ can provide classroom or onsite training, as well as publications and resources for success.
6. POST REMEDIATION VERIFICATION
The goal of remediation is not to provide a mold-free environment… that would be impossible. The goal is to reach a level of cleanliness that is reflective of “normal” fungal ecology. Remediation is complete once Pacific IAQ has collected samples and the lab has verified that the mold spore concentrations within the structure or containment are qualitatively similar to, and quantitatively lower than, the outside air. Post remediation verification is the “final clearance” that you need for peace of mind and protection of liability.
This is the easy part. Once you have successfully remediated the mold, your project is basically a remodel. There are no special procedures for the rebuild. Some consultants may require encapsulation of the exposed wood building materials with a mold inhibiting paint, but Pacific IAQ believes that if the mold is removed correctly, and the source of the water is stopped, your project is no different than any other remodel.