Got Mold? Angie's List: Take care of it quickly

Not taking care of mold will only make it worse

TAMPA - It's a four-letter word homeowners dread - mold. If you suspect, or have discovered a mold problem, ignoring it will only prolong the problem and allow it to worsen. Since mold exposure can cause health problems, it is important to take steps to eliminate mold from your house and hire a reputable company for the job.

"Remediating mold can be a costly venture," said Angie Hicks, founder of the consumer group, Angie's List . "So if you see that you visibly have a mold issue, you can easily skip the initial test to confirm that you have the mold because it's obvious. Do the remediation and then do the post test because the post test is going to be very important to make sure that the remediation was done properly."

Ron Porter, who owns a mold removal company, said there are generally two types of tests for mold. "One is a lift test where a sample is taken from a suspected area of staining that is not quite for sure that it is mold. The other is an air sampling test to determine the level of spores that are in the air in a particular area of a home, or crawl or attic."

Mold exposure can lead to several health-related problems. With its natural ability to travel through the air, the inhalation of mold spores can create a variety of respiratory ailments. Common side effects include asthma, allergies, respiratory infections, sinus infections and skin rashes. In some cases, mold exposure can even be fatal. Mold can also damage your home leading to wood rot and structural issues.

Mold is most commonly the result of water damage found in crawl spaces, basements and attics and is usually identifiable by a musty odor. Testing for mold can include surface and air tests to determine the type of mold and its levels, which can cost several hundred dollars depending on the home's size and other variables, like the number of tests conducted. There are several home mold testing kits on the market. However, these kits should only be the first step. Remediators typically will set up containment walls around the area being treated to prevent cross contamination to unaffected areas of the home. If you have visible mold, save your money for testing until after the cleanup is done. Air testing can cost hundreds of dollars and it's more important to make sure the cleanup was done properly.

Where is the source? Before you try to remove the mold, first figure out the source of the mold to prevent it from coming back because you likely have a moisture problem. Eliminating moisture as a food source is key to controlling mold. 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. After you've cleaned the area, be sure to revisit the site of the mold often to check for signs of additional damage or more mold growth. If it's a larger area that's affected, find a professional who is trained to deal properly with mold. Reputable remediators and inspectors have the tools to check the moisture content of the walls and can advise you on the best approach for your particular issue.

Porter adds, "Our process entails three different steps. One is spraying a broad spectrum fungicide throughout the area that is suspected. The second step is spraying a stain remover which will penetrate porous surfaces like joices, wood framing, even drywall and it will penetrate and kill the mold at its root and also remove the staining. So in many many times when we are finished doing the remediation process there is absolutely no remaining signs that there was mold even there. The third step is actually electrostatically spraying duroband which is one of the most prominent mold prevention products in the area and that adds a protective coat to prevent future growth." Costs are generally determined by the significance of the mold, the difficulty of the access to get to the mold, the labor and the product the company uses. Be sure to get a written estimate.

Angie's List tips for hiring a mold professional:

  • Check credentials: When hiring, ask for a Certificate of Insurance. Look for a remediator with certification from a reputable organization like The Cleaning Trust (formerly the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) or the Indoor Environmental Standards Organization (IESO).
  • Involve a third-party: To ensure objectivity, if you hire someone to test for mold, be sure it's not the same person who remediates it. Hiring the same company that does mold testing to do the remediation can pose a big conflict of interest. After all, a company that offers both services has a vested financial interest in finding mold. Once the cleanup is complete, bring in an independent third-party inspection company to perform a clearance inspection and certify that the mold has been removed.
  • Don't make a decision under pressure: Unfortunately, some companies aren't as open about what many perceive to be
    • a conflict of interest. Some do their best to scare homeowners into needlessly spending thousands of dollars in the process. Often, these companies will reveal results of their air quality tests that show the presence of mold in the home and will offer a discount on remediation service in an attempt to pressure the homeowner to act immediately.
    • What does the project entail? Mold can be hazardous to remove, so discuss the details of the project before work begins. Remediators typically will set up containment walls around the area being treated to prevent cross contamination to unaffected areas of the home. If necessary, air movers can be used to bring in fresh air or force air out of the area.
    • Is work warranted? Ask the company what type of warranty it offers. You should expect a minimum three-month warranty with any work done.
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