The fungus among us: getting rid of household mold

The fungus among us: getting rid of household mold

Few things scare homeowners more than learning they have mold in their home.

Mold can be unsettling, but it’s a common problem that could cause health risks and diminish the value of your home if not addressed.

Though most mold remediators are honest and reliable, some unscrupulous companies try to scare homeowners into spending thousands of dollars unnecessarily. One tactic these companies use is revealing results an air quality test the company conducts itself, which shows mold present in the home. Often, these companies will offer a discount on remediation service in an attempt to pressure the homeowner to act immediately.

A reputable mold remediation company, though, will send all air quality tests to an independent lab, which will in turn provide those results to the homeowner, providing a buffer between the test conductor and the remediator.

Homeowners should get “an independent third-party determination that’s not going to benefit from the remediation costs,” says Dr. Diana Catt, a microbiologist with Mold Diagnostics in Monrovia, Ind., and teacher at University of Indianapolis and Indiana University School of Dentistry. “Because I’m the microbiologist, I do the analysis myself. I come in and look at the conditions and collect the samples from where it most likely would be the problem.”

Ron Porter, owner and president of Porters EcoCare Mold Solutions in Indianapolis, says his company, which inspects, tests and remediates mold, utilizes an independent company to analyze samples produced at the job site and provides full documentation of the results to the homeowner.

“Homeowners should be on the lookout that the remediation company doesn’t actually perform the analysis of the air sample tests,” Porter says.

Air quality testing consists of obtaining air samples from the interior and exterior of the home and comparing those samples to determine what airborne molds are present and at what levels. Testing should always be done after mold has been remediated to ensure it’s been satisfactorily removed.

“If you have visible mold already, save your money for the air testing until after the cleanup is done, if (cost) is an issue,” Catt says. “It’s more important to make sure the cleanup was done properly than to find out how high the levels were before.”

A thorough air quality test can range from $200 to $400, Catt says. She also offers a mold identification test, in which homeowners can collect and send her samples of suspected mold, for $27.

Homeowners should have the air tested if they suspect mold, which is usually identified by its visual presence or a musty smell. Mold is most commonly found in crawl spaces, basements and attics.

“These areas typically have poor air flow, high humidity and darkness, all of which are prime conditions for mold growth,” Porter says. “These are also areas people don’t regularly inspect, so a small problem can become a big problem quickly.”

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. Eliminating moisture as a food source is key to controlling mold.

When hiring a mold remediation company, check that it carries liability insurance and is bonded. 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). 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in March 3, 2012.

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