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Are all molds harmful? Aren't there good molds?

What kinds of people are susceptible to mold?

What is a mold inspection?

How often is moisture damage found in structures?

How is the mold inspection different from a physical inspection? 

Why has mold become such a "hot" topic?

What is remediation?

When is remediation necessary?

What are the practical aspects of mold remediation?

Are there other methods of removing mold than remediation?

What should I do if I have a mold situation and I am given a proposal for tens of thousands of dollars for remediation?

Why should I use Moisture and MoldCheck Professionals as opposed to another inspection company?


Are all molds harmful? Aren't there good molds?

Most indoor common molds found are, at minimum, allergenic, and several are toxic to some individuals when there are spore counts in sufficient quantity that may affect certain types of people. Virtually every air and most swab samples taken are found to have allergenic and/or toxic molds present.

When mold contamination is experienced, such as under a leaking kitchen sink or in a poorly ventilated bath room, the production of allergens or toxins may be occurring. In short, there are no "good" mold conditions. 

Two additional important points here are that 1) there are no established threshold limits for mold exposure by any scientific body or governmental agency and 2) that not every person reacts to mold in the same way.

What kinds of people are susceptible to mold?

Any person who already has allergies to mold is very susceptible to having more allergenic reactions. This is also true of any person with a compromised immune system, or a person recuperating from major surgery such as open heart surgery, an elderly person, a pregnant woman, infants, toddlers, etc. Also any person that already suffers from asthma or has other respiratory conditions should take extra precautions in this area.

These persons should not be exposed to mold contamination.

What is a mold inspection?

A mold inspection is initially a very thorough visual inspection of a property to locate past or current moisture intrusion situations. Moisture situations are located by noting stains, discolorations or moisture-damaged interior materials, noting musty smells and by locating areas of excess moisture in walls, ceilings and flooring. A moisture meter is used for this purpose. All areas of a structure are inspected for the above especially areas that have plumbing; such as the kitchen, bathrooms, hot-water-heater closets, and laundry areas plus all windows, exterior doors, interior room walls and ceilings, decks, attics and crawl spaces. Additionally the heating and cooling system as well as exterior walls are inspected. Another important area of concern is site drainage including grade of soil near the property, drains, whether the structure has gutters and downspouts, planters around the structure, lawn and planter sprinklers that are impacting the structure, etc.  

A visual inspection is probably a misnomer, as it is what is behind those eyes looking at a structure for a client that counts. Our inspectors have a lot of years and experience with moisture and mold in all kinds of structures. They know where to look, where to place the moisture meter and other tools; they know what certain stains or discolorations in areas may be caused by, what is causing the musty smell, why there is high humidity in an area or structure, etc., and this takes a lot of experience.

If "red flags" are found, then a mold inspector may recommend testing by the taking of ambient air samples, in the wall air samples, or swab, tape lift or bulk samples using specialized tools and methods. The samples are submitted to an accredited laboratory for analysis. Once the laboratory results are obtained, then the mold inspector makes recommendations to the client for repairs and/or remediation or cleaning of areas affected by moisture intrusion or mold contamination. This is done via a computer-generated report with photographs of situations found with recommendations and referrals for repairs or remediation as necessary.

How often is moisture damage found in structures?

In 2003 the insurance repair industry put out a fact sheet that stated that in Southern California, in any given year, over 30% of residences have water damage claims. And this is only the situations that are reported to the insurance carriers; not all situations where there may be claims whose values do not meet policy deductibles are reported to the insurance carrier.

From experience, many situations go unreported, and even insurance claims are not always fully handled due to monetary limits of policies. Many times they do not complete all of the clean-up of the mold contamination for lack of money.

Some moisture intrusion situations go unknown to many building owners, such as leaking windows and doors that can be perennial, and the owner just does not see the ongoing situations and does not act on them. This is seen in residential and all manner of commercial structures.

How is the mold inspection different from a physical inspection? 

A mold inspection actually looks at virtually all the same areas of a structure as in a physical inspection (except electrical). Why? Because any area or system of a structure can be affected by or be in part involved in moisture intrusion which can then lead to mold contamination. The mold inspector looks at a structure from a slightly different viewpoint than the physical inspector, as the mold inspector has specialized training and tools for locating moisture intrusion and testing for mold that the physical inspector lacks. The emphasis of a mold inspection is always on moisture to determine if there is a mold situation.

Why has mold become such a "hot" topic?

There area two primary reasons: The first is because construction has changed significantly over the past 30 years since the energy crisis of the 1970s. Newer construction is generally "tighter" than the construction of the past, due to the energy requirements, and these are things such as dual pane glass, higher insulating values of wall, ceiling and floor insulation, tight sealing around windows and doors, etc. As a result, while structures have become more energy efficient, any flaws in design, poor workmanship or defects can exacerbate leak situations, and a collateral effect can be mold growth. Newer structures do not always "breathe" as well as older structures and moisture more easily becomes trapped in walls. The other reason for mold being a hot topic is that in the past decade a handful of legal situations involving health issues arising from mold and construction defects/problems caused the legal profession to conclude that money can be made by pursuing litigation on behalf of clients.

What is remediation?

Remediation is the specialized treatment and cleaning of mold-contaminated areas and materials that are treated as hazardous. All workers involved in remediation of mold are required to have personal protective equipment, for example, face masks with air filters, "bunny suits", goggles and gloves. The contaminated area is cordoned off, usually by using plastic sheeting, and this is secured to walls, ceilings and floors, using tape. An access is created using a let-in opening with a vinyl zipper or an overlapping flap to keep contamination from escaping the contained area.

These trained workers remove all wet and damaged materials such as drywall, plaster, carpets and ceiling tiles. The materials are then removed from the area, and the structural members are thoroughly cleaned by a variety of methods including sanding, grinding, and treating with chemicals. The air within the contained area is cleaned by using air-scrubbing machines with H.E.P.A. filters (High Efficiency Particulate Absolute).

When the work is complete, and before walls and ceilings are closed back up, clearance testing should be performed. Clearance Testing is done by the mold inspector taking air samples that are submitted to a laboratory. This is the client's assurance that the remediation work has been completed properly. 

When is remediation necessary?

There are no hard and fast rules for when remediation is necessary. There are only "guidelines" recommended by the U.S. EPA and the New York City Health Dept., but these agencies are not in our area and these are guidelines and not laws. There are no firmly set rules. 

Remediation is recommended by Moisture and MoldCheck based upon experience and what is practical for a homeowner. We take into account the health of occupants and the seriousness of the situation when making the call.

There is another vital part of the equation and that is what the laboratory results? Are there high concentrations of toxic molds such as Stachybotrys or Fusarium or allergenic molds such as Aspergillus or Alternaria? When these are present in high counts then it is pretty certain the inspector will be recommending remediation.

What are the practical aspects of mold remediation?

On a practical basis, the mold inspector must assess the mold situation that he comes across and make determinations of what to do based upon experience, the size of the areas of concern, the health of the occupants of the structure and, also, if the scope of the work is beyond the ability or skill levels of the homeowner or a handyman. 

From experience, well over 40% of remediation of the interior side of exterior walls has found damage/deterioration of the stucco felt paper. Therefore, if only cleaning of visible surfaces is done instead of remediation where the plaster or drywall is not removed, then the damaged stucco felt paper will not be repaired properly in these areas. Then future moisture intrusion and likely re-contamination of mold will occur. This is an important point that the mold inspector must consider when deciding to recommend remediation. 

Sometimes an in-the-wall air sample is taken to determine the actual conditions in the wall or a borescope is used to look into the wall. 

Another example where it is not always practical for a home owner or handyman to handle a mold situation is in the area under a kitchen sink where one can only "see" moisture damage and mold contamination from 32 to 36 inches wide (the width of the sink cabinet). From considerable experience, when there is that much contamination visible, there is usually more moisture intrusion and mold contamination that is unseen inside the wall where the whole affected area may from 6 to 9 feet wide. This is not seen until all the drywall or plaster behind the sink cabinet, adjacent cabinet and the dishwasher are removed. Without this knowledge and the actual familiarity of this type of work, the untrained person can easily miss what is really necessary to be done, and if they discover it they could easily be overwhelmed buy the actual amount of work. 

Another point here is that when remediation is attempted by a willing homeowner or the handyman in the employ of the homeowner, the reality of the "home-made" remediation work will invariably NOT PASS clearance testing the first time. In many cases, the clearance testing may not pass until the third try. The added time and costs can be upsetting to the homeowner who was attempting to do the work at a reduced cost, rather than having a professional firm do the work.

Are there other methods of removing mold than remediation?

Yes, most of Moisture and MoldChecks recommendations are for cleaning and the improvement of ventilation rather than remediation. Many times, mold and mildew growth in a structure such as in older buildings (homes, apartments or condos) in bathrooms, bedrooms and closets is due to poor ventilation. These are things like the lack of proper bathroom mechanical exhaust vent fans or the lack of central heating and cooling filtration system. As a result, building owners are frustrated with "mildew" in closets, on leather shoes and other garments, surface mold growth on exterior walls, behind furniture, and growth on metal window frames and jambs. Also, carpets are often found to have become mold spore reservoirs.

Many of our reports recommend cleaning/housekeeping be performed where there is visible mold/mildew in tile grout, seals at bath tub, sinks or shower enclosures. The cleaning of surface growth on walls behind furniture can be done, as well, when the cause is poor ventilation of a bathroom. Cleaning is done using a bleach and water solution or an approved biocide such as Lysol. We recommend that no chemicals be sprayed directly on mold-contaminated surfaces as "blow back" will spread mold spores into the air. A cloth soaked in the chemical with the person doing the cleaning wearing rubber gloves, goggles and a cotton particle mask or filter mask is recommended. 

In fact, many mold inspection recommendations concern the need not only to improve ventilation within the house but also in attics and in crawl spaces in order to improve air flow and reduce the chances of trapped moisture/humidity creating conditions for mold spore growth. Further, in the rainy season many, many mold inspection recommendations are for the improvement of site drainage such as gutters and downspouts, re-grading the soil away from the structure or the adding of area or French drains. Moisture over saturating the soil at the exterior walls, or saturating and possibly flooding the under floor/crawl space can lead to mold situations.

What should I do if I have a mold situation and I am given a proposal for tens of thousands of dollars for remediation?

Always, always seek a second opinion from another qualified mold inspection firm. And always, always obtain two or more quotes for remediation.

Why should I use Moisture and MoldCheck Professionals as opposed to another inspection company?

Moisture and MoldCheck Professionals does not perform repairs or remediation of mold. We therefore do not have a "vested interest" in whether or not your property has mold. We only provide unbiased reports and testing that are presented in a non-alarming manner with repair recommendations and remediation referrals if they are needed.  

Moisture and MoldCheck's orientation is from an extensive background in construction and repair work and knowledge of the actual causes of moisture intrusion and mold contamination. This is of importance to our clients as they only get the straight facts on conditions found and how they can be resolved. 

If a client is making a major purchase such as a home, then having a complete mold inspection by inspectors that are qualified and experienced with construction issues is of paramount importance.



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