The time has come to cleanup the mess that Superstorm Sandy left. But there is a great deal of confusion about who to hire for what. Here is some helpful advice:
There are three types of companies. Those that only test, those that only remediate, and those that do both testing and remediation.
Companies that offer to test and then remediate may offer mold testing on the cheap, but then conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem. This is a clear conflict-of-interest, with the result that the problem is not often remediated – if it exists at all. The consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation.
An independent, certified testing company, like RTK Environmental, does not do remediation, and, therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination.
Reliable remediation companies will use a report and remediation plan from an independent testing company to perform the work.
Be sure that the company you hire provides you with comprehensive and accurate documentation of the work or testing performed, as well as the results.
Make sure a company is certified, licensed and insured.
Are you among the nearly 50 million people cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy? If you live near the coast in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, you’ve likely experienced the most significant water damage and indoor mold contamination in the region.
Here are the first steps you should take in addressing water damage and mold contamination:
Get a proper plan together by calling RTK:
Improper demolition or renovation can not only cost you thousands more in unnecessary repairs, it can also send a host of toxins into parts of your home that were not affected, including mold spores, lead dust, and asbestos.
An independent environmental inspection from RTK will pinpoint exactly what needs to be removed, what’s salvageable, and which environmental hazards are present.
Why is “independent” important?
Because we do tests only and do not perform repairs and remediation, there is no conflict of interest when you hire RTK. RTK has been trusted and recommended for nearly 20 years.
STEP 1 CHECKLIST:
Have damage, but haven’t done anything yet? Here’s what you need to do first.
¨ Inspect the damage. Be sure to take photos and video of everything for insurance purposes.
¨ Contact FEMA and your insurance company to find out what benefits and help may be available to you.
¨ Throw away any wet materials, especially if time has passed. They are likely to have mold growth.
¨ Dry out the area completely. Use fans, vents, dehumidifiers, and open windows when possible.
¨ Call 1-800-392-6468 and have RTK, an independent testing company, pinpoint the extent of the repairs needed, and identify any health hazards like mold, lead, asbestos, and bacteria from sewage.
¨ Check for roof and window damage, which may have caused leaks and mold.
Now that you have your independent environmental test report in hand from RTK, decide whether to hire a remediation firm or do the work yourself.
We’re happy to refer you to the area’s most reputable remediation contractors. Remember: Beware of any contractor who both tests for environmental hazards and performs the repairs. It’s a conflict of interest.
STEP 2 CHECKLIST:
¨ Clean anything that was flooded with disinfectant, as there are a number of contaminants, from sewage to bacteria, which reside in floodwater. A mixture of water and bleach works best. Make sure you wear gloves, goggles, and a proper fitting mask. Warning: Never mix ammonia and bleach – it creates a toxic vapor that can be deadly.
¨ Contain work areas before you start. To prevent further contamination, cover surfaces in that area and adjacent to it with plastic sheets in order to prevent further contamination from mold spores, lead dust, or asbestos. Also, seal ventilation ducts/grills in the work area and in the area adjacent to it with plastic sheeting. If the area is large, a mold remediation plan is highly recommended. Exhaust fans, HEPA devices, workspace isolation, and a decontamination room will be necessary.
¨ Only a professional should perform asbestos removal.
¨ Wear the proper protective gear. A respirator, such as an N, R or P-95 or 100, is recommended. Non-vented goggles, long gloves, and protective clothing are also suggested.
¨ Remove any wet drywall and insulation.
¨ Once wet drywall and insulation are removed, you must completely dry the area out before rebuilding to avoid mold contamination.
¨ Have an RTK certified microbial investigator test the area after you’ve completed the work to ensure that you haven’t missed anything during the repair process.
¨ Keep the RTK inspection report in a safe place so you have proof of proper repair should you decide to sell your home.
¨ Call RTK Environmental Group at 800.392.6486 if you have any questions. We’re happy to help.
Note: If you’ve gutted the damage and are ready to rebuild or have already rebuilt, here are some things to consider:
Test Before and After You Rebuild
If you rebuild before the area is completely dried out, you will be sealing mold into your walls. The mold will grow back and cause major damage.
Test your home for mold BEFORE you rebuild to make sure that the mold has been properly removed. Test your home AFTER you rebuild to be sure the job was done correctly, and was cleaned up properly.
Protect Yourself with Proper Documentation
An independent environmental testing company like RTK Environmental Group will provide you with a detailed report, documenting that your home is safe or is cleared to be rebuilt, and has a safe environmental toxin level (mold, lead, asbestos, radon, bacteria, and other toxins).
This documentation will be critical when you sell your home or for insurance claims. To ensure that your document will hold up in possible legal situations or in court, make sure the company that performs the testing is certified, licensed, insured, and does not perform remediation, which could result in a conflict of interest claim. Be prudent. Call RTK Environmental Group to perform the independent test.
Reselling Your Home
Sandy’s widespread damage means that future home buyers will be asking tough questions about whether your home was flooded or struck by falling trees. So, you’ll want to be able to prove via documentation that your home was properly repaired afterwards. Otherwise, doubtful purchasers might cause you to have to lower the sale price – and – you might run the risk of a potential lawsuit from the new owner who could claim that you knowingly sold them a home with post-Sandy environmental contamination like mold, lead, asbestos, and bacteria from sewage.
Future Insurance Hassles
If your home floods again and mold returns, your insurance company may question whether the mold was caused by the new event and not from Sandy. Without proof that your home was deemed mold-free after repairs were made, the insurance company might take the position that a new claim is not justified or that you have met your policy limit.
Independent Testing Companies vs. One-Stop Shops
Some companies offer mold testing on the cheap, and then conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem. This is a clear conflict-of-interest, with the result that the problem is not often remediated – if it exists at all. The consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation. An independent test from RTK can save homeowners thousands!
An independent, certified testing company, like RTK Environmental, does not do remediation, and, therefore, offers consumers an unbiased opinion about any contamination. If asked, RTK will offer recommendations of reliable remediation companies.
Why Choose RTK?
– Leading Independent Environmental Testing Company
– No Conflict of Interest Policy
– Accurate and Unbiased
– 20 Years’ Experience
– Certified Microbial Investigators
– Building and Construction Backgrounds
– In-Depth Report Returned in 2-4 Days
– State-of-the-Art Equipment and Technology
– Extensive, Multi-Room Testing to Ensure Accuracy
One-stop shops that both test for and remediate mold woo customers with low prices, but consumers can end up paying thousands more in the repairs.
The environmental testing industry is plagued by companies offering mold testing on the cheap, and when they claim to find mold conveniently offer their own remediation services to fix the problem. “This is a clear conflict-of-interest, with the result that the problem is not often remediated – if it exists at all,” warns Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator and principal at RTK Environmental Group, which only provides testing services. According to Weitz, the result is the consumer may be paying thousands of dollars for bloated repair estimates or an improper and ineffective remediation.
There is a very big distinction between environmental testing companies. Independent, certified testing companies do not do remediation and therefore offer consumers unbiased opinions and remediation recommendations. They won’t magnify or make-up the problem in hopes of making money on the remediation to follow.
Recently, investigative reporter Jeff Rossen conducted an undercover investigation on NBC-TV’s Today show into mold remediation, and the results were shocking. He found that some companies were willing to claim that eye shadow smeared on a wall was mold, then would charge upwards of $10,000 to remove the ‘mold problem.’
The bottom line is that a company whose practice is strictly limited to environmental testing and consulting and never remediation will assure you of an accurate and unbiased assessment.
This morning, NBC’s TODAY SHOW featured an important hidden camera investigation to determine if mold contractors (an industry mostly unregulated) were attempting to rip off unsuspecting homeowners. In March, NBC contacted RTK to help them with their hidden camera investigation.
As an independent testing company with a pristine record, RTK was hired by NBC News (after a thorough vetting) to verify that the test homes used in the segment were mold-free. Although the segment only aired for a few minutes, several hours of thorough testing were performed by RTK to assure (and to document for) producers that the homes in use were free of mold. Filming actually occurred over a period of several days with multiple trips to each location.
The moral of the story is: If your contractor tells you that you have mold without an insisting on performing an independent test, you may be getting ripped off. (Here’s our contact information if you need an independent mold test.)
Buyer beware: It is a conflict of interest for your mold contractor to test your home for mold. You’ll likely save in the long run by hiring an independent testing company to verify a mold condition and to provide your contractor a “blueprint” for the mold remediation process.
Be sure to look for RTK Environmental Group’s Robert Weitz in the video (he’s the tall blonde-haired guy identified as one of the “reputable” testing companies hired by NBC). We’re thrilled to have worked with NBC News on this important piece.
An article on the affect of mold on health in the New York Times Topics section advised homeowners to use home-test kits to detect the presence of mold. But home-test kit results are unreliable. Here’s why:
– Mold is naturally occurring and present in almost every environment. Home mold test kits that use ‘settle plate applications’ (set the dish out for 24 – 48 hours and spores are supposed to fall into the dish) generally do not measure airborne particles accurately.
Spores vary in size, shape, and most importantly weight. Heavier mold spores will fall out of the air more quickly, and therefore are represented in greater numbers in a home-test kit dish. Since most environments contains some amount of mold, it’s difficult to determine whether the mold spores you collect are from a dangerous indoor colony or just part of the outside environment.
– Do-it-yourself mold test kits often cause people to make uninformed decisions. The levels of spores that are analyzed by the lab are not accurate and they cannot detect hidden mold, so the homeowner cannot properly assess the situation. People often do either too little or too much based on these results. Just because you have mold does not mean you will need costly remediation. When a professional takes a sample of spores, they forcefully draw air into a spore trap. Home-test kits rely on air currents in a room over a 24 – 48 hour period. Property owners need to be sure of the situation, and these home-test kits do not provide certainty.
The bottom line is if you think you may have mold, contact a professional testing service – preferably one with a Certified Microbial Investigator (as certified by the American Council for Accredited Certification). With a professional environmental testing service, you will get interpretation and analysis of the mold, allowing you to make informed choices. Your decision can make all the difference between potential health problems for you, your family, or your tenants, and a very messy and expensive cleanup – let alone a potential lawsuit. The wisest course is to have the job handled professionally, properly, and quickly.
Mold is everywhere in our environment – which means it’s in your home and office. And the sooner you opt for mold removal or mold remediation, the better.
But the all-important first step that is often overlooked is to hire a professional mold testing service to examine your property. Although it’s true that some mold can be seen – black marks on walls, white blotchy marks on upholstered furniture – many of the hundreds of thousands of mold species are invisible, hiding behind walls, under floors and in your ceilings.
Experts always recommend testing for mold whenever your home suffers from water damage, from an event as catastrophic as a flood to a leaking pipe in your kitchen sink. But it’s also wise to have your home tested for mold, even if you have never had any water damage. Just a week of humid days can start mold growing. Smart property owners consider a professional mold test a baseline exam to determine if your home has mold, and if so, to pinpoint where.
Toxic mold can take hold within 24 hours after any unwanted moisture enters a home. When inhaled, mold spores can cause chronic allergies, headaches, fatigue, skin rashes, throat and eye irritations, wheezing, and many respiratory problems including asthma.
“Getting your home tested for mold now can save you big headaches later,” says Robert Weitz, a certified microbial investigator. “Most people wait months, long after a mold infestation has taken root, before they deal with the problem. Once this happens, repairs are often extensive and very expensive. I’ve seen people who had to leave their homes for extended periods while these problems were being remedied.”
Click here or call 800.392.6468 to schedule a professional mold inspection by RTK’s certified microbial mold inspectors.
At first blush, it might seem more efficient and economical to hire an environmental testing company that will test for environmental toxins in your home, water and soil – lead, mold, asbestos, radon — and then remove those toxins.
Recently, life has seemed even unfair – especially for those whose basements were flooded either by tropical storm Irene or Lee. Many had to discard whatever got wet — papers, pictures, furniture, rugs — and then had to call in remediators to dry out their basements.
But that didn’t necessarily solve the problem. For many, the damp musty odor was back. And that usually means mold is lurking somewhere.
The bottom line is it’s not enough to simply dry out your basements and get rid of wet and moldy things. Mold can invade places you cannot see. The only way to find hidden mold — the mold behind your walls and in your ceilings — is to test. And not with do-it-yourself kits. They are not up to the job.
Professional testing will:
• discover exactly where and why excess moisture is entering your home;
• include air monitoring, surface sampling and bulk sampling to compare the results with normal mold levels;
• identify all affected areas and measure the amount of mold;
• recommend safe and cost effective ways to eliminate the moisture and resolve the mold problem. Testing companies like RTK Environmental do not perform remediation, so there is never a conflict of interest;
• determine if the health of your family is at risk.
Before remediation, testing identifies where the mold lurks; after remediation, testing is the homeowner’s guarantee that all mold is gone.
While there is cost involved in hiring professionals to properly test for mold, in the long run, it can save homeowners thousands of dollars, not to mention peace of mind knowing a mold problem is resolved.
Many do-it-yourselfers think that using an at-home mold testing kit will let them know whether they have to worry about that musty odor in the basement or discolored area after a leak. They are wrong. These kits generally contain a fungal growth medium in a Petri dish or some other type of container. The object is to expose this medium to viable spores, which then grow to form mold colonies. Unfortunately, the kits are unreliable and cause many DIYers to make bad decisions.
Here are some of the major flaws and challenges of home mold testing kits:
Home mold test kits that use ‘settle plate applications’ (set the dish out for 24 – 48 hours and spores are supposed to fall into the dish) generally do not measure airborne particles accurately. Spores vary in size, shape, and weight, so they grow at different rates. Also, every environment contains some amount of mold, and it’s difficult to determine whether the mold spores you collect are from a dangerous indoor colony or just part of the outside environment.
DIY mold kits cannot reach areas that are not visible to the eye. You may have mold behind your walls, which is the most dangerous place for it to be. It can spread quickly and infest a whole house before you realize the mold is there.
Even though you may be able to grow mold, you likely won’t be able to identify what type it is. There are over 100,000 different types of mold, and some are much more dangerous than others. If you don’t know what you are dealing with, your health could be at risk.
False negatives and false positives are a common problem with do-it-yourself mold test kits.
Same problem as above. Your HVAC system circulates air and spores are most likely in this air. Unless you have advanced filtering (i.e. HEPA-rated), you should expect to have mold spores being circulated as well. Even with advanced filtering, most HVAC systems suffer from filter by-pass problems, cabinet and duct leakage, etc. Like the settle plate test, if a gazillion colonies form, you may have an HVAC problem, but then again, maybe not. There are certain locations within an HVAC system where mold growth can be a problem. Remember, the main factors that are needed for mold growth are food and moisture so those are the areas to focus on. Mold won’t arbitrarily grow in your ductwork unless there is a significant problem.
Tip: Have the HVAC system inspected by someone who knows where the problem areas are located.
The bottom line is if you think you may have mold, contact a professional. Your decision can make all the difference between potential health problems for you and your family, and a very messy and expensive cleanup, or a job handled professionally, properly and quickly.
You don’t necessarily need to know about an environmental problem to be held liable for it. Environmental-based lawsuits against property owners, property managers, co-op/condo associations, insurers, realtors, builders and contractors — claiming that environmental problems could have been avoided — are commonplace.
Since most environmental issues are hidden from view, it’s important to test to see if your property is contaminated with mold, radon, lead, asbestos, and other toxins, or whether the conditions for future contamination exist. By acting now to uncover and contain problems, you may avert future lawsuits, expensive remediation projects, and excessive insurance costs. You’ll also be protecting the health of your tenants, customers, and employees. Comprehensive water, soil and air quality sampling and testing practices enable RTK to provide an accurate, unbiased assessment of your specific issues and potential risks.
Even if your property is free from environmental hazards today, a problem could arise tomorrow. RTK Environmental group helps prevent problems. Our consultants explain how to discourage mold growth and limit exposure to toxins during renovations. We also advise you how to be fully compliant with all federal, state, and local regulations and standards.
Call us today at 800.392.6468 so our team can inspect your property to ensure that it is free of hazardous materials.