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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mold - How Do You Clean It Up and Keep It From Coming Back?

Alex was in shock.  In his hand he held an estimate from the restoration company to remove the mold growing in the basement bedroom.  He had hoped it would only be a few hundred dollars, not thousands; and they didn't give any guarantee that it wouldn't cost more, once they tore his house apart.  How could this cost so much?  There was quite a bit of mold in the bedroom and bathroom, but not this much.

They also said his insurance might not cover the clean-up or the repairs.  What good was home owner's insurance then? How would he explain this to his wife?  Oh, and she would probably want him to do this himself, too.  Fear gripped Alex as he saw their planned vacation to Disney World, dissolve into a heap of black, smelly mold.

To comprehend the cost of mold remediation, we must first understand the protocol or the method needed to remove and clean it up.  We discussed in another post, a common misconception, that if you apply an antimicrobial, you kill the mold and it will no longer be a problem, such as with bacteria or viruses.  This is not a reality.  Bacteria and viruses have soft cell walls that break apart and decompose very rapidly after they are killed.

Aspergillius Mold Spores
Mold, on the other hand, has a hard cell wall, much like a nut, that does not break down nor decompose without water.  Also, when mold dies, it sporulates, that is, it spews out hundreds of thousand of spores (eggs) that await the opportunity to hatch and grow.  Introducing water will decompose the dead mold carcasses, but will also germinate the waiting spores (eggs) and the mold colony will continue to grow and thrive.  Because mold does not dissolve upon death, they provide the same level of irritation that live mold does and must be removed from the environment to have the remediation successful.  Therefore, the proper protocol for mold remediation is "mold removal".

The schedule of tasks to remove the mold consists of the following order of events:
  1. Identify and repair the source of water
  2. Contain the affected area with plastic barriers
  3. Technicians must wear full protective gear including respirators or masks
  4. Install negative air pressure; filtering and exhausting the contaminated air to the outside
  5. Remove all contaminated materials; drywall, carpet, framing, etc.
  6. Double-bag and dispose of contaminated materials
  7. Sand or scrape mold from any remaining structural framing that can not be removed
  8. Hepa vacuum all the surfaces inside the containment area, including all plastic barriers and equipment
  9. Wash/wipe down all surfaces with a fungicide
  10. Hepa vacuum all surfaces inside the containment area, again.
  11. If damaged area is still wet, install appropriate fans and/or de-humidification
  12. Once the area is dry, hepa vacuum the entire inside of the containment again
  13. Industrial Hygienist tests the air quality to determine if the remediation was successful
  14. If testing fails, re-clean entire containment area and re-test as needed
  15. Remove all barriers, double-bag and dispose.
These are just the basic steps than need to be taken to properly remediate mold.  Often there is more vacuuming or cleaning.  Sometimes testing is not performed, under the assumption that the remediation will be effective.

Addressing the price of such work, contractors also need to provide proper training for their technicians, as well as purchase and maintain fans, de-humidifiers and negative-air machines that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars each.  Most states also require pollution insurance, in addition to regular liability insurance, which costs additional thousands to tens of thousands of dollars a year, depending on the volume of work they do. On top of all this, the contractor still needs to realize a profit to remain in business year after year.

While there are unscrupulous contractors that use mold remediation as a vehicle to separate a customer from their money, most contractors are merely passing on the actual costs of doing business with a sufficient profit margin to allow them to remain in business.

There are many times, with smaller jobs especially, that a home owner has the skills and experience to do the work themselves, with proper instructions, but they still need to follow the protocol outlined above to protect themselves and their families.  A "smaller job" is generally accepted as one containing less that 10 sq ft of moldy surfaces.  If there is more than 10 sq ft, an experienced, professional mold remediation company should be hired to do the work.

As for questions regarding insurance coverage, check out Mold Coverage and Insurance Policies


    Unknown said...

    Not only are molds ugly to look at, but it’s also not good for our health. People with respiratory problems shouldn’t be exposed to molds; also, itching and other skin diseases can occur. Anyway, it’s best to conclude that not everyone can take on these molds on their own. Your post really caters much needed information in understanding molds and how it could damage our properties, and of course, how to get rid of it. Thank you.

    Allen Hoffman

    David L. Mefford said...

    Allen, I appreciate your comments. The blog was designed to educate people about the realities of mold rather than having them receive their information from sources who use drama and mis-information to separate homeowners from their money.