Saturday, February 14, 2009

I think I might have a mold problem. How should I proceed?

So you think you might have a mold problem? Under ideal circumstances, the best way to proceed is to:

1. Obtain the services of an environmental consultant who can help you evaluate your problem, and advise you on how to best fix it.
2. Share the consultant's report with a few mold remediation contractors to obtain bids, and select one contractor to perform the remediation (Remediation is the process of cleaning up environmental contamination. In the case of mold contamination, this may include processes such as common house-hold washing to removal of drywall, insulation and cabinets)
3. Invite your consultant back to make sure that all remediation was completed correctly. Your consultant might find that something was missed, and so come back to re-inspect after all repairs are completed. In the end, your consultant should provide you with a letter or report indicating that the remediation was successfully completed.
4. After your consultant informs you that the remediation "passes," you can obtain the services of a general contractor to put your property back together (e.g. re-install the drywall and cabinets, etc.).

In some cases, extra steps need to be added in. For example, if the cause of the mold is not obvious, then it may be necessary to obtain the services of a leak detection expert to identify the source of the moisture that allowed mold to grow before you start the remediation.

In other cases, steps can be taken away from this process. For example, if the mold problem is small and very obvious (e.g. there was a leak from a sink that caused mold inside the cabinet, and the mold is visible), then a contractor may be able to determine what he needs to do to clean up the problem without the services of a consultant upfront.

However, the steps that I would never advise anyone to skip are numbers 2 and 3 above. That is if there is gross mold growth at your property, it should be cleaned up. And, after the cleanup, it is advisable that a consultant verifies that the clean-up was successful. This visit from your consultant is important because if one day you decide to sell your property, you will be required to disclose any known mold history (California Civil Code 1102). Therefore, it will behoove you to have documentation showing that you took care of the problem.

Hila Wright, MPH, CIH, CIEC
Indoor Air Quality Dept. Manager
Corporate Industrial Hygienist
Clark Seif Clark, Inc.


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