By Jim Donovan
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Ignoring a mold issue in your home will only prolong the problem and allow it to get worse. Since mold exposure can cause health problems, it is important to take steps to eliminate it from your house and hire a reputable company for the job.
In this week’s Angie’s List report, Jim Donovan shows you what you need to look for when choosing a professional for the job.
Are you concerned you might have mold in your home? There are a couple things experts will look at.
“There are generally two types of test one is a lift test where a sample is taken from a suspected area of staining that is not quite for sure that it is mold. The other is an air sampling it is to determine the level of spores that are in the air in a particular area of a home, or crawl or attic,” said Ron Porter, a mold removal specialist.
But mold remediation can be expensive, so if the mold is visible, that initial diagnostic test can be skipped but you don’t want to skip the final testing.
“Do the remediation and then do the post test because the post test is going to be very important to make sure that the remediation was done properly,” said Angie’s List founder, Angie Hicks.
Also, make sure the company you hire explains who will be testing your samples.
“It’s important for consumers to confirm that the company they are hiring do the testing is going to send the sample out to a third-party, an independent third-party for analysis because you want separation between those two activities. You don’t want the company selling you remediation to be analyzing whether you need it,” said Hicks.
More from Angie:
• Common areas: Mold is most commonly the result of water damage found in crawl spaces, basements and attics and is usually identifiable by a musty odor.
• Testing for mold: Testing for mold can include surface and air tests to determine the type of mold and its levels, which can cost several hundred dollars depending on the home’s size and other variables, like the number of tests conducted. There are several home mold testing kits on the market. However, these kits should only be the first step. Remediators typically will set up containment walls around the area being treated to prevent cross contamination to unaffected areas of the home. If you have visible mold, save your money for testing until after the cleanup is done. Air testing can cost hundreds of dollars and it’s more important to make sure the cleanup was done properly.
• Where is the source? Before you try to remove the mold, first figure out the source of the mold to prevent it from coming back because you likely have a moisture problem. Eliminating moisture as a food source is key to controlling mold.
• Small areas: Homeowners who have a small area of mold – generally less than 10 square feet – can follow the latest mold guidelines established by the Environmental Protection Agency to treat small areas themselves. After you’ve cleaned the area, be sure to revisit the site of the mold often to check for signs of additional damage or more mold growth.
• Large areas: If it’s a larger area that’s affected, find a professional who is trained to deal properly with mold. Reputable remediators and inspectors have the tools to check the moisture content of the walls and can advise you on the best approach for your particular issue.
Angie’s List tips for hiring a mold professional:
• Check credentials: When hiring, ask for a Certificate of Insurance. 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).
• Involve a third-party: To ensure objectivity, if you hire someone to test for mold be sure it’s not the same person who remediates it. Hiring the same company that does mold testing to do the remediation can pose a big conflict of interest. After all, a company that offers both services has a vested financial interest in finding mold. Once the cleanup is complete, bring in an independent third-party inspection company to perform a clearance inspection and certify that the mold has been removed.
• Don’t make a decision under pressure: Unfortunately, some companies aren’t as open about what many perceive to be a conflict of interest. Some do their best to scare homeowners into needlessly spending thousands of dollars in the process. Often, these companies will reveal results of their air quality tests that show the presence of mold in the home and will offer a discount on remediation service in an attempt to pressure the homeowner to act immediately.
• What does the project entail? Mold can be hazardous to remove, so discuss the details of the project before work begins. 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.
• Get a written estimate: Costs are generally determined by the significance of the mold, the difficulty of the access to get to the mold, the labor and the product the company uses.
• Is work warranted? Ask the company what type of warranty it offers. You should expect a minimum three-month warranty with any work done.
Angie’s List tips for preventing mold growth:
• Ventilate: Basements especially should have a ventilation system in place. This can help to bring fresh air in and push water vapor out. Homes that are not equipped with windows should use a dehumidifier or circulation fan.
• Fix foundation cracks: The smallest crack or leak can provide a perfect habitat for mold growth. Window frames, doors and corner locations of the foundation can be sealed using a water proof chalk. This is a service that should be performed at the beginning of rainy seasons.
• Keep stored items organized: When storing personal belongings or furniture, it is best not to pile items on top of each other. This can cause moisture to get trapped, and it prevents air circulation.
• Keep HVAC systems clean: Air ducts, heating systems, air conditioning systems and filters should all be cleaned and changed regularly. This will prevent mold from growing and spreading throughout the home.