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Thread: Mold abatement

  1. #1
    Join Date
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    Default Mold abatement

    A longtime client's daughter had a hot water line failure in the crawlspace of her home. They had a plumber make the repair.

    It flooded and thoroughly wet a large area of the floor decking and framing from below. They had a restoration company come out to dry things out and clean up. They found mold (not from this leak) and said that is was more mold than they were allowed to deal with.

    I have never dealt with a mold problem so could not advise them as to what steps to take to resolve the problem. Is there some governmental / environmental agency involved or do you simply call a mold abatement company?

    I was not there so I don't know first hand what was said or discussed with the original restoration company.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mold abatement

    There is no federal law or rule for how much mold you can work on. There is no agency you have to work with--nor (as far as I know) is there someone who will help you directly. However, EPA and CDC have great web resources--see below.

    Around here there is no state law either, don't know where this house is so can't guess on that one. Some states have legal requirements. Virginia used to but they repealed them.

    There is a 'standard of care' (or really several of them), printed documents meant to establish what is normal or a good idea. If you do work that doesn't meet these minimum standards you can be on shaky ground if somethign goes wrong later. I would say premier among these is the IICRC Mold Remediation standard: http://www.iicrc.org/standards/iicrc-s520/
    The EPA put a somewhat arbitrary stake in the ground at one point (Mold in Schools book) that over 10 square feet means bunny suits and full containment.
    We use that rule of thumb for worker safety if nothing else. Some clients get mad if you imply there are legitimate worries about mold, it's like you've insulted their manliness. We decided to go with 10 square feet for our own selves.

    Anyway, there are many companies in our area who are competent at mold cleanups and are happy to do them. Most of them are restoration companies actually, though the asbestos & lead paint companies are also fine with mold work; it's pretty much the same drill.

    Depending on the level of client concern, we often bring in a third-party mold consultant to bless the scope of work and inspect/approve of the completed cleanup. This costs $500-1500 in most cases around here, worth it for many clients, but not all.

    I will say that there seem to be only a few mold folks around here who are decent people. A substantial number work on a model of scaring the crap out of clients, billing grossly inflated rates for testing, and doing way more testing than really useful. If I were not familiar with a particular consultant, I would be on the lookout for these types of behaviors. Expensive testing at the beginning is a bad sign--per the EPA, if you know you have mold, you don't need to test it.

    EPA's mold page is terrific. I send clients there all the time. It's very clinical and straightforward and tends to reduce anxiety.

    EPA: http://www.epa.gov/mold/index.html

    Sample quote:
    "Testing or Sampling for Mold Is sampling for mold needed? In most cases, if visible mold growth is present, sampling is unnecessary. Since no EPA or other federal limits have been set for mold or mold spores, sampling cannot be used to check a building's compliance with federal mold standards."

    CDC: http://www.cdc.gov/mold/dampness_facts.htm
    Sample quote:
    "There is always some mold everywhere - in the air and on many surfaces. Molds have been on the Earth for millions of years. Mold grows where there is moisture.
    Exposure to damp and moldy environments may cause a variety of health effects, or none at all."
    Last edited by ThingOfBeauty; 01-14-2014 at 07:47 AM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mold abatement

    Thanks Thing. Excellent reply. Just what I needed. SCC

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Mold abatement

    Quote Originally Posted by ThingOfBeauty View Post
    per the EPA, if you know you have mold, you don't need to test it.
    Depends. I have a mold inspector who happens to be an MD and microbiologist. He can tell by looking the species of most fungi. When he suspects a nasty species, he will take samples and send to a lab. Neither his inspection nor the lab analysis are particularly expensive. He charges about $250 to inspect a 2500sf house top to bottom including attic.

    So yes, if you see it you don't need to test for whether you have mold. But you might want to test for what species. Some are totally benign, others not so much.

  5. #5
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    St Louis, Mo for the past 25 years
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    Default Re: Mold abatement

    IMO, it is really about how much and how it is handled. I have been told by inspectors that I can take out small amounts without all the negative air machines and such. And I have, say an area behind a toilet that was maybe a couple of square feet of stuff. I got some spray from a buddy who was a Servicemagic dealer that they use to spray on studs and plates to clean and kill the stuff. I treated it basically like lead paint-respirator, gloves, plastic on floor and walls, into a plastic trash bag and quite a bit of cleaning. Finally sealed the wood with which ever Bin product is the shellac base primer which is what the Servicemagic guys did.

    Now a whole house would be different. Again, the Servicemagic guy told me the same thing as others have said. Some are quite nasty others not bad at all. Depends also on who is handling it and how much and thick it is. He felt insulation was about the worst to handle because the stuff kind of floats in the air to begin with.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mold abatement

    Quote Originally Posted by dgbldr View Post
    ...When he suspects a nasty species, he will take samples and send to a lab...you might want to test for what species. Some are totally benign, others not so much.
    The EPA page has had the same text for a long time. Perhaps there is new information they haven't decided is reliable enough yet to include.
    But, my understanding from the last time I really researched this, is that different people react differently to different types of mold, and there is very little research showing that any particular species is either very dangerous or very safe.
    Essentially, if you have any type of mold you should definitely get rid of it, and in a pretty conscientious manner, being careful of yourself and your clients.
    Knowing the species doesn't give you new information that would change the protocol for cleanup, or help you find and fix the moisture problem, as far as I have heard. Therefore in some ways of looking at it, it is a waste.
    That is the official story as far as I have heard, anyway.

    The testing that makes some sense to me is "clearance testing", when measurements are made of the particulate/spore/mold particle count, to see if there is a high level in a space that is supposed to have been cleaned up.
    Since there are spores and particles everywhere, they normally do a comparison between outdoors, a part of the building outside the cleanup area, and inside the cleanup area. Ideally, there is a similar level in all three areas. If the count inside the cleanup area is high, more work is needed.
    I've always seen this done with Industrial Hygienist equipment, those air pumps that move a metered amount of air through a 'cassette' with a sticky surface that captures spores. The IH/mold tester looks at the sticky stuff with a microscope and counts the spores.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Mold abatement

    have you looked at this "mold" . It could be some rotted wood or some colored wood .maybe the guy doesn't do wood replacement or he's a plumber. And yes I have done mold testing which also seems subjective .

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Mold abatement

    I won't be involved in any demo / clean-up etc. My client just was asking what I knew about mold and I told him that I would see what I could find out. I have passed along what I have learned here.

    As it turns out, his daughter does have an immune deficiency problem so he is going to definitely get professionals involved. She has moved out of the house.

    Don't know how extensive the mold is yet.

    Thanks again for your help. SCC

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