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Mold Removal: The Basics

Mold has been found to be a significant health problem inside many homes and as such, more people are having to take a crash course in mold removal than ever before. People exposed to mold can experience cold-like symptoms, lung problems, sinus congestion, coughing, sore throat, watery eyes and skin irritations. Mold can also trigger attacks in asthma sufferers. Prolonged exposure to mold can eventually lead to the development of a lifelong allergy. Mold is particularly insidious because it can grow on anything organic including things like soap scum, wood, dirt and paper.

Mold needs moisture to fuel its growth so areas of the home that suffer flooding, water leaks, condensation or high humidity levels are at especially high risk for mold. If your home has problem areas like this, you may want to consider cutting out a small section of the wall to check for mold growth inside the wall. In addition, mold is often found under cabinets, in carpet padding, under baseboards and under wallpaper. Closets, bathrooms and basements are areas of the home that are particularly susceptible to mold growth.

Once it’s located, mold should be removed as soon as possible. Because it’s so dangerous, it is important to wear the proper safety equipment during the removal process. A respirator or mask needs to be worn that is specifically designed to filter mold spores. Eye protection and rubber gloves should also be worn during mold removal. Your clothing should be immediately laundered after mold removal is finished.

Mold Removal

Moldy objects should be dampened before removal to reduce the number of airborne mold spores that are released during the cleaning process. Hard surfaces without pores like glass, hard plastic, metal and counter tops can be cleaned of mold with a bleach solution. Use a solution that contains a ½ cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Open windows for proper ventilation when using a bleach cleaning solution. Scrub the bleach solution in thoroughly with a stiff brush, then rinse well with clean water. Make sure to dry the clean area quickly and throughly to prevent the recurrence of mold growth. Porous surfaces, unfortunately, can never be completely cleaned of mold spores so things like paper, wood, drywall and carpet padding need to be cut out and removed if they have mold in them.

Mold spores are present in the air everywhere so it is impossible to completely rid any area of them. The only thing to do is to prevent these mold spores from finding a hospitable environment in which to grow. This means keeping your basements, bathrooms and other wet areas of the house as dry as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to use a dehumidifier. You must make sure to check the dehumidifier daily and empty it anytime it has water in it. If it is not emptied, the full container will give mold spores a chance to start growing again.

If areas of your house do suffer from flooding or water spills, it is as very important to dry them out as quickly as possible. After they are dry, clean them with the bleach solution or another mold killing agent. This will kill any mold spores that are present before they have a chance to grow again.

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Black Mold Removal

Thanks to increased levels of public awareness, most homeowners now know all about the dangers of black mold.

What they are often far less aware of is that unless the proper precautions are taken, undertaking black mold removal on your own can be almost as hazardous as doing nothing at all.

Black mold reproduces and spreads by releasing invisible spores into the atmosphere. Once in the air, these spores can travel throughout your house, from one room to the next, and settle on carpets, walls or other surfaces. If the conditions are favorable, the spores will start to grow and more mold will appear. One small patch left untouched or poorly dealt with can spread and ultimately infest an entire home, often in places you are unable to see.

Spores are released naturally as part of the mold’s life cycle but they can also be stirred up and sent airborne during the process of black mold removal. This is one key reason that the Environmental Protection Agency recommends that patches of mold covering more than 10 square feet should be dealt with by professional mold removal companies rather than the homeowners themselves.

Mold is a living organism and needs food to grow as well as moisture. That food source can be anything organic including wood, paper, fabric and drywall. In the process of growing, the mold can cause major structural damage to your property. It is not uncommon for people who have failed to tackle their mold problem quickly and effectively to find that they end up paying tens of thousands of dollars to repair their homes.

If the patch is small enough for you to tackle on your own, you will save a good deal of money as long as you go about it the right way. The key to effective black mold removal is to ensure you have the proper protective equipment and employ a careful step-by-step approach so that you minimize the chance of any mold being transferred to other parts of your home.

A good respirator mask, preferably with a replaceable filter which is fine enough to stop mold spores, is a good starting point. You should also wear non-porous gloves and goggles without air vents to prevent spores and debris from affecting your skin or your eyes.

When professional mold remediators are called in to deal with black mold removal, one of their first tasks is to seal off the room where the mold is present and use an air scrubber to remove all spores from the area but you don’t need professional equipment to take similar action. Doorways and windows can been sealed off with plastic sheeting while the cleaning is taking place. Pre-soaking the area of mold with a fine water spray will help reduce the number of spores than become airborne. Remember to open any available windows in the room while you are working to keep the air moving.

Once the area has been thoroughly cleaned and allowed to dry, disinfect it with a commercial product or a 1:1 vinegar and water solution to discourage the mold from returning. You should then go over the room with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter. This will ensure most of the remaining spores are removed from the room. Always tightly bag all rags, sponges and filters and dispose of them in an outdoor trashcan.

To ensure your black mold removal plan has been fully effective, try to keep the humidity of the affected room below 55 per cent as it is extremely difficult for mold to grow under such conditions.

 

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Mold Inspectors

For most homeowners, the first they know about mold infesting their home is when they either see it or smell its distinctive musty odor. Up until that point, they’ve probably never even heard of mold inspectors or mold abatement procedures.

However, in many cases the mold may have already been around for a while by the time it becomes noticeable and may even have spread to areas of the house that can’t easily be seen. If you’re concerned about potential mold problems in your home, the easiest way to put your mind at rest is to arrange to have the property inspected by a certified expert.

DIY testing kits are available and can save you huge amounts of money compared to the cost of a certified inspector, but while they can help identify the exact type of mold and how best to get rid of it, home testing kits can still fail to identify the full extent of the problem.

If there are elderly, infirm or other vulnerable people in your home, or if any members of your family have been suffering from unexplained illnesses and seem unable to get better, a proper inspection can either confirm or eliminate mold as a factor in their health.

Mold Inspectors

Although the services of certified mold inspectors don’t come cheap, it may pay off in the long run. You will either catch mold at an early stage and therefore save on clean-up costs or be given a clean bill of health and begin taking precautions to ensure you never have a mold problem. In fact, good mold inspectors will be able to highlight potential problem areas and give advice on how to keep your home fungus free.

You may be tempted to engage the services of an inspector who offers to check your home for free but, sadly, a few unscrupulous operators in the industry have made this a bad idea. Inspections are free but only if the same company is hired to do the clean-up. This means the inspector has a significant financial incentive to find mold in your home rather than remain objective.

By hiring an independent inspector who receives the same fee regardless of whether or not any mold is actually found, you can rest assured that you are getting a truly neutral viewpoint. The fee they charge should also include a return visit so that they can ensure the remediation company you choose has done its job properly.

Good mold inspectors can be hard to find and if you succeed in doing so, you can chalk it up as much to luck as you can to your fine good judgment. Although many training and certification courses exist there are no universal standards so it’s best to take the time to completely vet your candidates. If possible, seek the advice of friends or family who have had their own homes inspected. You should also ask any company for testimonials of satisfied customers to get their perspective.

In addition, try to obtain quotes from several competing mold inspectors and let them know that you are shopping around in an effort to get the best possible value.

An inspector will begin by making a visual survey of the home, looking for signs of mold, and follow this up by testing humidity, moisture levels in walls, floors and other materials, taking air samples to see if spores are present and finally taking samples of any visible mold.

A few days later you will receive a report of the mold inspection. This should detail all the areas of the house that were examined, explain whether or not any mold was found and give an estimate of how much it will cost to fix. This report can then be given to a mold remediation company and it can act as their guide while they are carrying out the work.

 

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Cost of Mold Remediation

In these trying financial times, there is a strong urge to do everything you can to save money. But cutting too many corners when it comes to mold removal could end up costing you far more in the long run but in some cases, the cost of mold remediation can be quite manageable.

The most economical way of tackling the problem is, of course, to do the job yourself. So long as the mold covers a modestly sized area (no more than about 3’ x 3”), it is easily accessible and you are able to locate the source of the moisture that allowed the mold to grow in the first place, you should have no problem.

After paying for protective gear including a breathing mask, gloves and goggles, the only other expense is the cost of the cleaning materials that you will use – if you don’t count the cost of your time that you will spend scrubbing and disinfecting the moldy surfaces.

However, if the amount of mold you can see is more extensive or much of it is located somewhere inaccessible to you, it’s time to bite the bullet and call in the professionals.

The Cost of Mold Remediation

The first stage in accessing the cost of mold remediation for your home is to arrange for your home to be inspected in order to identify the full extent of the problem. While some mold removal companies will offer to do this for free, it is usually contingent upon hiring them to do the subsequent work and many people feel – quite rightly – uncomfortable with this. If only a small amount of mold is present, the company will lose out financially so the less scrupulous firms will tell you there is a major problem, regardless of whether or not this is actually true.

In order to address these concerns, many companies have sprung up in recent years that specialize in mold inspection and nothing else. Because they are being paid a set fee to examine a home, they are free to report their findings honestly regardless of whether or not there’s a fat paycheck coming when the remediation bill gets paid.

A detailed inspection will include the use of specialist equipment which can detect mold spores in the air and detect areas of infestation in cavities or crawl spaces. The cost varies from one city to the next but will usually be in the region of $300. This should include the cost of a follow-up visit after remediation to ensure the problem has been properly dealt with.

The mold remediation cost itself is subject to a number of factors. Moldy crawl spaces can cost anything from a few hundred dollars to several thousand to rectify. If the mold is present in several areas of the house, the cost can easily exceed $5,000. If the mold has been around for some time and caused structural damage to the building, then you could easily be looking at between $10,000 and $30,000 or more.

Although some contractors may offer to do the work more cheaply, this too can be a false economy. Certified remediators have been properly trained in how to ensure the problem does not spread beyond where it already exists. They will also guarantee the work they do. Although they may have good intentions, untrained contractors may be far less competent.

From the outset, it is important to realize that the actual mold removal is only part of the overall cost of mold remediation. For example, in cases where mold in a crawl space is being caused by pools of standing water, additional costs will be incurred to pay to pump out the area, clean it and seal it against future flooding. If the mold has been caused by faulty pipes or poorly maintained air conditioning units, these may have to be repaired or replaced. If tests show that the mold in your home is one of the toxic varieties, then you and your family will have to move out while the remediation process takes place. This may involve a significant additional cost.

That said, the longer you leave it before you take action, the further throughout your home the mold will spread and the more difficult it will be to get rid of. In the end, the mold remediation expenses may be high, but the cost of doing nothing is always going to be far, far higher.

 

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Black Mold Inspection

Mold is bad news no matter what color it is.  But for many homeowners, black mold is considered to be the very worst of all.

Officially known as stachybotrys, it is this greenish-black variety of mold that has been most closely associated with the most serious health effects. However, the reality is that not all black molds are toxic, and not all toxic molds are black. And while you’ll probably be headed for a mold removal project of some kind, the only way to be absolutely sure exactly which kind you have is to have it tested.

If members of your household are having persistent health problems that do not seem to be responding to treatment, have them check with their doctor about whether black mold could be a contributing factor. If it is, this will help justify the cost of bringing in a professional to do a black mold inspection, especially if no mold has been seen during a regular visual inspection.

Until the results are known, however, the best strategy is to treat all mold as if it were potentially toxic and to take all necessary precautions to avoid excessive exposure.

Home testing kits are available and are relatively straightforward to use in helping you identify exactly what kind of mold is present. The kits cost between $10 and $15 and can provide much needed assurance about just how dangerous a particular patch of mold is. Where home testing kits fail, however, is that they cannot tell you exactly how big a mold problem you are dealing with.

All mold needs moisture in order to survive which is why it is particularly common in humid areas like kitchens and bathrooms or areas that can be susceptible to damp like basements and crawl spaces.

Mold also requires a food source. This can be dirt, wood, paper or even the detritus of everyday life like pet dander, dead skin cells and deceased insects parts. This means that mold that appears on floorboards may well have penetrated down to the subfloor and joists. It means that patches that appear close to window sills could also be eating away at the nearby wallpaper. A professional mold inspection will allow you to identify such problems as early as possible and allow them to be dealt with long before the remediation costs spiral out of control.

Black Mold Inspection

If you’re intent on doing the black mold inspection yourself, ensure you are as thorough as possible. Move pieces of furniture, peel back the edges of carpets and examine ventilation ducts and wall cavities as carefully as you can. Even if you can’t see any mold, it may be worth taking samples to send off so that your findings can be confirmed.

If black mold is present, there is no need to panic. Provided you wear the proper safety gear – gloves, goggles, a respirator and ideally a disposable pair of paper overalls – you can tackle the removal of small patches of black mold yourself. But this should only be done if you are completely confident that the mold is confined to this one small area.

The biggest danger during the clean-up operations is that you may spread spores elsewhere in the house so that eventually mold will begin growing in other rooms. And even if you do manage to kill all the mold, inert spores can continue to cause health problems for all those who are allergic to them.

If possible seal off the room where you are working and once you have cleaned away the mold, go over the area with a vacuum cleaner fitted with a HEPA filter which will trap any airborne spores before they can spread.

A thorough black mold inspection followed by an equally thorough clean up can ensure the problem quickly becomes a thing of the past.

 

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Mold Remediation Equipment

Every job that needs doing around the house, from fixing a leaky faucet to sanding down floorboards, is always a million times easier when you have the right tools. Mold removal is no exception.

Tackling small patches, or a simple shower mold removal project may require nothing more than a scrubbing brush and a bucket and can easily be carried out by the homeowner.  But larger infestations or those that are not visible to the naked eye can require more specialized equipment.

In such cases, a major advantage of employing a mold removal company is that they will bring with them a range of expensive equipment that can help pinpoint both the source of the problem and monitor the progress that is being made in eliminating it.

One of the most useful items of mold remediation equipment in a professional’s toolkit is a borescope. This is essentially a thin, flexible telescope which enables the operator to spot mold inside wall cavities, crawl spaces, ceilings and other tight spaces that would otherwise be inaccessible. Only a small hole is needed to use a borescope, minimizing the level of damage to the property.

Professionals will also employ humidity gauges to see how much moisture is in the air of your home. If the levels are too high they can bring in a portable dehumidifier to reduce them rapidly by extracting moisture from the air. Portable heaters may also be brought into rooms to assist with the drying process and progress is monitored with the use of moisture meters which can measure how much wetness remains in carpets, walls, wood and other materials.

If testing shows the presence of airborne mold spores, air scrubbers may be used. These machines act like giant vacuum cleaners for the air, filtering out all unwanted particles from the atmosphere to prevent mold from spreading and reduce its impact on the health of those living in the house. Hospitals use similar air scrubbers to remove potentially infectious particles from the atmosphere.

Before remediation can begin, the type of mold must be identified. Inspectors will use hand-held ‘sniffing’ machines to sample the air and take other types of samples from areas of visible growth.  Mold inspectors send their samples to a specialized lab which, after testing, will provide the inspector a detailed report outlining the results of testing and suggested remediation procedures.

Several companies offer homeowners the opportunity to test their own samples. You simply take short strips of sticky tape and press them against any mold you see, transfer them into a zip lock bag and mail them to the laboratory.

For major infestations, professionals can now bring out the state-of-the-art in mold remediation equipment: an organic fog which is sprayed around the infected area using a special compressor.  This fog literally consumes the mold and mold spores in the room.  This method is effective not just on hard surfaces but will also penetrate carpets, clothes and reach right to the heart of an air conditioning system or ventilation shaft.

Vacuum cleaners fitted with HEPA filters which trap mold spores and other unwanted particles are used during the final stage of clean-up in order to ensure the problem is truly gone forever.

Regardless of whether you are a professional or an amateur, the most important items of mold remediation equipment are the goggles, gloves, masks and overalls that protect you while you are in the process of removal.

 

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