Mold Remediation: What To Expect
When you have a mold problem, anxiety is high. You may not be sure who to call first or what to expect throughout the mold remediation process. We’re here to help. This guide will walk you through the entire process, and help to put your mind at ease.
Mold Testing: The First Step in Mold Remediation
If you suspect you have mold, the first thing you should do is call an independent mold testing company – one that does not conduct mold removal. Why is this important? Because you want an honest answer.
‘One-stop shops’ that do both testing and remediation may seem like an easy solution, but they stand to gain more business if they find mold. Oftentimes, they magnify the problem in hopes of charging large fees for the remediation to follow, which may or may not be necessary. In New York, it is actually illegal for the same company to test and remediate on the same mold job.
An independent mold inspection company like RTK will give you a clear, unbiased report that you can then bring to a mold remediation company of your choice. We provide a blueprint for the mold removal work that needs to be done so you won’t be charged extra for unnecessary remediation.
Mold Remediation & Removal: Choosing a Qualified Company
Armed with your blueprint for mold removal, you can now choose a reputable remediation company to implement the plan. Ask about their certifications, insurance and licensing, as well as how long they’ve been in business. You may even want to ask for references.
If you have a flood, try to get a remediation company in as soon as possible —preferably the same day, as mold can grow in as little as 24-48 hours. There are several steps they can take to help prevent mold growth. Carefully remove wet carpets and items. Industrial fans can be set up to help dry the area out. Often, companies will drill holes in the bottom of your walls to help the air circulate on the interior. If everything is dried quickly enough you may be able to prevent mold growth, but a mold inspection is still recommended to be sure.
If mold is found and you’ve chosen a remediation company, it’s time for the work to start. Most remediators follow similar mold removal protocol. The first thing that will happen is that plastic containment will be set up in different places, depending upon the source areas and how far cross-contamination may have occurred, to prevent any further spread of mold spores to the rest of the home or building.
Then negative air pressure will be established within the remediation and cleaning areas to prevent further cross-contamination. They should use a HEPA filtered negative air machine or “air scrubber” which pulls air from the affected area(s), filters it through the machine and then exhausts the air outside of the structure through flexible tubing or ducting. This will begin to draw the airborne mold spores away from the airspace, creating a negative pressure environment.
These physical barriers and the negative air pressure will keep the mold spores from spreading during the mold cleanup process. Additionally, all fans and heating and cooling systems will be turned off to prevent the spread of mold spores.
Removing the Mold:
The next step in the mold remediation process is the actual removal of materials that contain mold. This is the dirty work. Most remediation projects involve the demolition of building materials. This often includes wallboard, insulation, baseboards and other trim, carpeting, and other cellulose materials. Some materials that have mold growth, such as carpeting, beds, and personal items, cannot be cleaned and should be thrown out. When removing items and wallboard, a company should contain the materials by bagging and taping them to prevent the spread of mold spores while the materials are brought outside to be disposed of.
In addition, mold may grow on building structures, like framing, subflooring, and roof sheathing. As long as the integrity of the structure has not been compromised, these can usually be cleaned and if any staining remains after cleaning, thoroughly sealed with an antimicrobial encapsulant.
To clean and remove the mold, companies will often start with a HEPA filter vacuum to remove the mold off from the surface of the affected materials. The next step is to use antimicrobial cleaners to physically kill the mold. The purpose of the cleaners is to penetrate the affected materials, to wet the mold source, and to make the spores less likely to become airborne when removal and cleaning are being done. They will then scrub the remaining materials, most often with a brush, sanding, or even dry ice blasting. This process can create a lot of debris and dust, so a HEPA vacuum is used in combination with the cleaning.
Cleaning Up After Mold Remediation:
Mold removal is a dirty process, which is why cleaning up is critically important. You want to be sure that the mold spores are diminished so they don’t spread, causing a new mold issue. That means everything – from the ceiling to walls and floors as well as the air (yes, air) – must be cleaned.
This starts with HEPA vacuuming every square inch of the contained space. After the space has been vacuumed, the contractor will wipe down the areas with an anti-microbial cleaner. The dampness of the rags or wipes helps to pick up mold spores and prevent them from becoming airborne. The final step following cleaning of all surfaces is cleaning the air for a minimum of 24-48 hours, which again uses air scrubbers to pull airborne spores from the environment.
Clearance Testing: The Final Step
Once the entire process is complete, an independent mold testing company should come in and do clearance testing to ensure the work was done properly. They will take air and tape lift samples to determine if unacceptable levels of mold are present. They will also check moisture levels to make sure everything was dried properly, and that the environment is one in which mold will not thrive.
If your home does not pass clearance testing, the remediation company should come back in to fix any lingering issues at no cost. This test is important, as your health is at stake, and you don’t want another mold infestation occurring because the work was not done correctly the first time.