It’s easy to panic when you’re told you have dangerous mold growth in your home. Mold can cause health risks and lower the value of your home if it’s not addressed.
A professional mold remediator can make the necessary repairs, which could cost anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the extent of the damage. Though it’s always important to hire reliable professionals, the health and cost implications of a mold remediation project makes your hiring research especially critical. Highly qualified and trained mold remediators will be happy to show you their credentials.
But like any industry, there are those who offer services that are not as reliable. The two biggest red flags:
Remediation companies that conduct their own testing to determine whether you have dangerous mold.
High pressure sales tactics that involve predictions of immediate health risk unless action is taken right away.
Reputable mold remediation companies send mold tests to an independent lab to determine whether the mold is dangerous. This provides a buffer between the test conductor and the remediator. Homeowners can also hire other companies that offer testing, but do not do remediation work. Some home inspection companies offer this service, for example.
Mold is most commonly found in crawl spaces, basements and attics and is usually identified by its visual presence or a musty smell.
“Probably the majority of our work is mold treatment in crawlspaces,” said Julie Hurst, president of American Mold Experts in Centerville. “As a general rule, if a water leak is not caught or cleaned up in 48 hours, then mold is going to grow.”
Testing for mold generally includes an air quality test, which consists of obtaining air samples from the interior and exterior of the home and comparing those samples to determine what airborne molds are present and at what levels. Testing should always be done after mold has been remediated to ensure it’s been satisfactorily removed.
“It’s really a good idea for the same company to do the pretesting and the post testing,” said Christie Kirchmer with Guardian Inspections, a home inspection company in Mason that offers mold testing. “There are a number of things you have to do identically so you can get the same results when you do the testing, from what type of equipment you use to what types of spore traps you’re using. You want to keep everything as similar as possible so you’re comparing apples to apples.”
Sometimes, an air quality test might not be enough and the home might require a surface test, also known as a tape test. That’s when the value of someone with experience in dealing exclusively with mold can really come into play.
“We’ve had air samples come back perfectly clean and we could see the mold,” Hurst said. “The reason they came back clear is because that part of the colony had not been disturbed, so in that particular case, you would need a tape sample.”
Hurst’s company, which offers remediation, also sends all pre- and post-remediation tests to an independent lab. A thorough air quality test typically costs between $200 and $400.
“We make sure we seal those samples in front of the consumer and then have them sign off on that envelope,” Hurst said. “That way, they know we aren’t substituting their samples. And when we do a remediation, we do not know whether we got it all or not without a clearance test, so we’re not done until the lab tester is done. That way, the consumer has peace of mind and we have peace of mind.”
Homeowners who have a small area of mold – generally less than 10 square feet – can follow the latest guidelines established by the Environmental Protection Agency to treat small areas themselves.
When hiring a mold remediation company, check that it carries liability insurance and is bonded. Look for a remediator with certification from a reputable organization like The Cleaning Trust or the Indoor Environmental Standards Organization.
Written by: Angie Hicks
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a national provider of ratings in more than 550 categories of service. www.angieslist.com.
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