Mold inspectors use tools such as moisture meters and infrared camera readings, as well as sight and smell, to determine where to test in the home and what type of sample to collect, according to Jason Dobranic, vice president of microbiology and life sciences at EMSL Analytical, a national testing lab with a location in Indianapolis Air samples are most common, but when there’s visible mold, tape-lift or swab samples can give more detail on the mold’s structure and species. “A lot of people like to say it’s more like an art form to go in and do an investigation,” he says. “There’s a technical aspect, and people gain more intuitive experience over time. The longer you do it, the more you know where to look.”
The most common mold testing method is comparing air samples inside and outside the home to establish a baseline mold spore count. Some strains, such as Stachybotrys chartarum, often called “black mold,” can release mycotoxins that further aggravate health problems. “Everyone wants to know what’s a safe level or what’s a bad level,” Adams says, noting there’s no standard because the amount of mold spores per cubic inch and the mold types vary with season and geography. “The relation between inside and outside is important. You can have a relatively high count inside but an astronomical count outside, so it’s just air seeping in. But if it’s higher inside than outside, the source is inside.”
Kyle Olson, project manager for highly rated A & D Hydra Clean on Indianapolis’ Northwest side, says his company uses highly rated Micro Air, a third-party lab in Indianapolis. Based on their findings, A & D remediates the mold and restores the space. Typically, mold cleanup under IICRC standards includes containment of the area using plastic barriers and removal of damaged material, along with air scrubbers or “negative air” machines, which pass the air through HEPA filters to remove mold spores and construction particulate, he says. “The best antimicrobial is dryness,” Olson says. “Keep your relative humidity under control, keep your plumbing up to date, and if you notice water, that’s a problem you should get checked out.”
Extensive mold removal can be expensive. Local companies say cleanup costs typically start around $2,000, but that can dramatically escalate to tens of thousands of dollars depending on the severity. Homeowners’ insurance typically doesn’t cover mold removal unless it’s related to a covered event, such as a burst pipe, or the homeowner has a specific add-on to the policy, according to Loretta Worters, spokeswoman for the national Insurance Information Institute.
Angie's List member Heather Griffiths, who lives in the Trader’s Point neighborhood on Indy’s Northside, faced a nearly $18,000 cleanup bill last year, after the ice maker in her refrigerator failed while her family was out of town, causing water damage to the kitchen and adjacent bathroom, and mold growth throughout a basement linen closet. Griffiths, a microbiologist who also has asthma and two small children, called several mold remediation companies before settling on A & D. “I closed it up immediately, and didn’t let anyone in the basement,” she says. Fortunately, she says the majority of the cleanup was covered by insurance because the plumber pinned the burst on high water pressure coming into the home. She performed her own mold testing after cleanup. “Quite honestly, it didn’t matter to me what kind [of mold] it was,” Griffiths says. “I just wanted to get it out of there.”