Mold contamination continues to receive increased attention in the media and is a rapidly growing concern for homeowners, property managers, insurance providers and restoration companies. Mold can grow in as little as 48 hours any time excessive moisture is present indoors, whether the moisture is the result of a flood, a slow leak, a broken pipe, or just high humidity. Indoor mold contamination has been identified as a major contributor to allergies and poor indoor air quality. Despite the rapidly growing body of knowledge about mold, it remains the subject of a lot of confusion. We hope that this information will help you to make better decisions.
Frequently Asked Questions about Mold
What is mold? We have probably all encountered mold at one time or another. It might have been in the shower, or on a stale piece of bread or wet drywall. Mold is a microscopic life form found in all parts of the world. It is part of the natural decay process of organic materials. There are many different species of mold, and while they are diverse, they share some common characteristics:
- Molds require an organic food source. The most common food source indoors is cellulose, which is found in building materials such as wood and drywall.
- Molds require oxygen, so they do not grow under water.
- Molds require moisture. To prevent mold, buildings must be kept dry.
- Molds are spread by tiny particles called “spores.”
Why is it a problem?
- The colored, fuzzy growth on the surface of a wall, floor, ceiling or other indoor surface is obviously very objectionable.
- Active mold colonies usually emit a very unpleasant, musty odor.
- Because the job of mold is to digest, decay and recycle dead organic matter, it will eventually destroy whatever surface it grows on.
- Exposure to mold spores can cause mild to severe allergic reactions, depending on individual sensitivity.
What is a reasonable & safe response?
The best way to deal with mold is to prevent it from happening. If the drying of wet building materials is commenced within 24 hours (assuming clean water), the chances of preventing mold growth are excellent. If building materials remain wet, it is inevitable that mold will start to grow. Therefore, addressing and eliminating moisture problems is the critical first step. Simply put, “Got Moisture? Got Mold!”
However, once mold is present, drying is not enough. Moldy materials must be either removed or decontaminated. This process is called remediation, which means “to remedy” or “to cure.” Proper remediation procedures will be determined by the size, scope and nature of the mold contamination.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has published a helpful guidebook for homeowners about the cleanup and prevention of mold problems in homes. This booklet, entitled A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home, can help you decide when you can handle mold cleanup yourself and when you should call a professional. The booklet is available on the EPA website at www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/
ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration by Clean in a Wink can help
We have completed the ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration by Clean in a Wink Quality Restoration intensive mold remediation training. We have also received instruction in the proper procedures for handling mold claims. We are prepared to handle small (10 square feet or less) and isolated areas affected by mold that may be encountered in the course of normal water damage mitigation services. In addition, we are trained and certified to perform larger mold remediation projects.
Address the issues promptly
Just how far reaching the effects of mold may be is yet to be determined. What is clear is that living or working in a moldy home or building is ill advised. The obvious response is to address water intrusion issues promptly and thoroughly, before mold has a chance to grow. ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration by Clean in a Wink is the industry leader in professional water damage mitigation and restoration services and stands ready to serve you.
The following checklist is intended to be a general guideline of the most common elements of a mold remediation project.
MOLD REMEDIATION CHECKLIST
Every detail of this list may not be appropriate for every application/project. This list may be a valuable tool in helping document and evaluate what work is actually required or to help in comparing competitive bids. Please refer to the exact estimate with room-by-room details for more information. This list is designed for structural mold remediation; contact ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration by Clean in a Wink for information about decontamination of personal property (contents). The Wichita-Sedgwick County Department of Community Health is an excellent source of information and referrals. Contact Curtis Redington, Environmental Health Division, at 316-268-8302.
VERIFY MOLD/POLLUTION INSURANCE: Nearly all contractors’ insurance policies have an exclusion relating to mold. Your contractor should provide proof of coverage with either an endorsement to his/her policy specifically stating mold remediation coverage or a separate Pollution insurance policy. Any remediation contractor properly trained and insured will be glad to provide you with this information. For your files, ask for a written certificate of insurance on these specific items. ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration by Clean in a Wink will be glad to provide copies of what this insurance should look like if you have questions.
PREVENTION OF CROSS CONTAMINATION: Since mold spores are microscopic and very light, attempted clean-up activities may actually spread the contamination while the contractor is trying to remove the mold damage. Containment barriers should be erected with negative pressure (i.e. a vacuum type environment) so that any contaminants will be drawn into the HEPA filtration, not spread through the rest of the indoor environment. ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration by Clean in a Wink can provide photos of proper barriers.
HEPA FILTRATION: High Efficiency Particle Arrestors (HEPA) filtering units should also be employed along with the containment barriers. These filtration units should be allowed to operate 24 hours per day during remediation, as well as AT LEAST 72-120 hours after all remediation and final clean-up is complete. Do not assume that your filtration is a true HEPA filtering device unless it is certified as true HEPA.
FLOOR-COVERING MATERIALS: Removal of affected floor covering materials under negative pressure and double bagging.
WALL & CEILING MATERIALS: Removal of affected wall and ceiling covering materials under negative pressure and double bagging (including removal of affected gypsum, paneling, wallpapers, etc).
WALL, CEILING, AND FLOOR DECONTAMINATION: Thorough cleaning of mold inside wall and ceiling cavities is critical, as well as a detailed cleaning of the hard surface flooring. When you seek to clean in cavities, seek to remove as much as possible by washing and detailed cleaning. Attempting to seal over uncleaned areas only invites trouble. Spraying sanitizers as a substitute for proper cleaning is also an unsafe practice and should be avoided whenever possible.
DETAILED CLEANING: Areas should be cleaned as meticulously as possible since microorganisms and spores thrive in dust and dirt. The areas should be cleaned thoroughly and structural materials should be HEPA vacuumed while the area is still under negative pressure.
DRYING OF STRUCTURAL MATERIALS: All structural materials should be thoroughly dried to within 10% (or less) of their normal moisture content before any type of encapsulant (sealant) can be applied.
ENCAPSULATE DECONTAMINATED AREAS WITH APPROVED ENCAPSULANT: Once thoroughly cleaned and inspected, areas should be sealed with approved encapsulant; standard primers and sealers are generally not sufficient. Water based products should also be discouraged, since they may increase the problem by feeding it with more moisture (a primary source of growth).
HVAC DUCT CLEANING & SANITIZING: Since mold spores are microscopic, and nearly as light as air itself, they are easily drawn through heating and cooling system and the attached ductwork. Spores also tend to lodge in the dirt within these systems as well as in the evaporator coils (the dirty ducts provide all the needed food sources and moisture for mold to grow). Proper duct cleaning should be considered as a standard procedure for mold remediation (sanitizing may also be required in some cases). ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration by Clean in a Wink also has air duct video inspection equipment available upon request.
DECONTAMINATION OF INDOOR AIR SPACE: After all the above steps are completed, HEPA filtration should continue for AT LEAST 72-120 hours after all remediation and final clean-up is complete. Do not assume that your filtration is a true HEPA filtering device unless it is certified as true HEPA, simply using HEPA filters does not make a device truly HEPA.
CLEARANCE SAMPLING: Sampling via various methods (cultures, air samples, swab samples, etc.) is often recommended. Since spores are microscopic, the only way to verify and document that the proper cleaning has been completed successfully is to have sampling done by an independent 3rd party. An independent 3rd party, trained in mold remediation and sampling, should take the samples AND interpret the results. Samples should be taken aggressively (i.e. with HVAC system operational, rooms stirred up by doors being opened, furniture being moved, etc.). A reference sample should also be taken of outside conditions for analysis and comparison. NOTE -clearance (final) sampling should not be considered until all visible dirt and dust has been removed and the entire area cleaned. It is impossible to remove 100% of all contaminants from surfaces and duct work, but dusty and dirty conditions will not be sufficient to pass final clearance sampling. The most common goal of final clearance sampling is to make the indoor environment air at least equal to or better than outdoor air.
RECONSTRUCTION: Reconstruction should not begin until a suitable clearance has been secured and the facility is released by the company responsible for clearance sampling. Premature reconstruction may only hinder full remediation and may even require the demolition or removal of newly installed materials.
The following are some web sites often referred to in establishing industry standards and protocol:
ServiceMaster Cleaning & Restoration by Clean in a Wink Web page, check links under “Mold Information”
EPA Indoor Air Quality Web Site, “MOLDS”
National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies