How to find an experienced and qualified mold remediator
Mold remediation is not a process that can be done with cookie-cutter methodology. Each mold remediation project needs to be assessed by an experienced, professional mold remediator to determine which level and method of removal and remediation will work best for each given situation. Just as with mold testing, there are no industry standards that designate one single “right” way to remediate a structure, which makes selecting an experienced, reputable mold remediator critically important.
For this reason, I have prepared the following mold remediator tips and designed support material to get you up and running quickly—knowledgeable in industry terms and industry—to aid you in the process of interviewing mold remediators.
The Indie 500 to Information
Don’t get overwhelmed. Remember, you don’t have to become an expert yourself. You only have to be able to identify a real mold expert who specializes in mold remediation. To help get you up to speed with the information you need to know BEFORE you start interviewing mold remediators, we have prepared a short list of support material with condensed information for you to read. For ease of understanding, read them in the following order:
- Finish reading this blog
- Download and read our Mold Remediator Selection Form
- Read the Explanation of Criteria Used in the Mold Remediator Selection Form
- For additional information, read the first three chapters of Section I of the book MOLD: The War Within
Now that you know the quickest route to gathering the critical information you need to make an informed decision, let’s take a look at what mold remediators actually do and how you can best prepare yourself to identify an experienced mold remediator.
What is the job of the mold remediator?
The mold remediator is responsible for carrying out the written mold remediation protocol when provided by the mold assessor. He is also the mold assessor’s backup man on the lookout for any hidden structural mold or sources of water intrusion or moisture buildup, so selecting a qualified and experienced remediator is imperative.
Mold remediator steps
The mold remediator carries out the following tasks:
- Provides a detailed, written mold remediation work plan outlining the specific steps that will be taken, the equipment that will be used, the size of the crew, and the number of man-hours needed to complete the project. When applicable, the mold remediator will use the mold remediation protocol provided by the mold assessor as general guidance. The protocol may recommend removal methodologies, but ultimately the method of removal is up to the mold remediator.
- Creates containment of the area in the occupied space that is mold-contaminated before beginning removal or remediation processes so the rest of the structure and personal belongings do not become contaminated from the remediation process. Levels of containment created can range from limited containment to isolated containment, the highest level of containment used for occupants environmentally sensitive or in high-risk groups. For information on high-risk groups, see my article, “How mold after a hurricane can destroy your health.”
- Uses air filtration devices (AFD) as air scrubbers and negative air machines, as needed. Air scrubbers clean and recirculate the air inside the structure. Negative air machines circulate air through machines with attached ducting that exhaust to the outside, removing the contaminated air from the indoor environment.
- Finds and fixes moisture sources, including coordinating work with other tradesmen, such as plumbers, roofers, electricians, painters, etc., as needed.
- Performs mold remediation services according to industry standards, including 1) removal of personal property and mold-contaminated building materials deemed not salvageable, 2) sanitation and cleaning of salvageable personal property, and 3) mechanical cleaning of salvageable building materials.
- Effectively supervises trained/certified mold remediation workers (MRW) performing mold remediation tasks onsite.
- Assesses and interprets results of tasks performed in the work plan.
- Coordinates post-remediation verification (PRV) with the initial mold assessor or PRV professional.
- Performs any additional work required to meet PRV criteria designated in the mold assessor’s protocol.
Remain calm and don’t panic
Having a water leak or flooding incident in your home or workplace is undoubtedly stressful. However, finding out you already have structural mold growth in your home or workplace can be even more distressing as oftentimes, occupants’ health has already been negatively impacted. Don’t let the shock of it all scare you into making a rash decision that is poorly informed.
Moving too quickly in the decision-making process regarding vendor selection can result in an undesirable outcome that is far worse than the initial water leak or resultant structural mold itself. Even worse, by the time a person realizes they selected the wrong “professional” mold remediator, it is often too late to undo the damage already done or get back the money that has been spent without engaging in litigation, which can be costly and have an uncertain outcome.
Is temporary housing needed?
Mold remediation of a structure involves the removal and mechanical cleaning of mold-contaminated structural building materials. This process inherently causes levels of mold, bacteria, dust, and debris to concentrate in the indoor air. To prevent these elevated levels of airborne contaminants from spreading through to the rest of the structure, creating temporary barriers to contain the mold-contaminated portion of the occupied space is standard practice in the industry. Setting up negative airflow to route contaminated air in the containment area to the outside is also an industry best practice.
Properly created containment barriers are designed to enable occupants to remain living and working in the non-affected portion of the structure. However, even with containment in place, it may be advisable, especially for people environmentally sensitive or in a high-risk group, to not remain living or working in the structure during the tear-out and cleaning phase of remediation.
Do you even need a mold remediator?
When a leak or water intrusion has just occurred, or it is still within the first 48 hours of the initial incident, property owners who are not in a high-risk group may be able to perform the tear out of the wet building materials, depending on their skillset and equipment.
Some factors to consider when evaluating whether you can remove the wet building materials and personal belongings yourself include the following:
- Do you have the necessary tools to perform the tear-out?
- Do you know how to turn off any necessary utilities, such as power or water?
- Do you know how to cut into a wall without harming other building components such as electrical wiring or plumbing?
- Do you know which building materials must be discarded and which may be salvageable?
- Do you have a way to discard the debris? What about any contaminated debris?
- Do you know how to clean and, if necessary, sanitize building materials?
- Do you have the necessary amount of proper equipment, such as fans, heaters, and dehumidifiers, to dry out the structure after the tear-out phase?
- Do you have the expertise to identify the source of water?
By not calling a remediator, you may save both time and money, but do realize that professional mold remediators should carry insurance, which makes you eligible for coverage under the limits of the policy should a problem arise due to the services provided by the remediator. Mold remediators should carry general liability insurance with a pollution control clause.
Should you decide to forego hiring a mold remediator and do it yourself, it may be advisable to contact a mold assessor once you have completed the tear-out and cleaning/sanitation phase (unless the size of the project was very small, such as 3 ft. x 3 ft.). A mold assessor coming in after the remediation would perform an initial assessment and let you know if air quality testing was advisable.
Doing your research is imperative
To be able to spot a mold remediator who knows—or doesn’t know—industry best practices, become mold savvy to a certain degree. Understand mold basics, testing methods, terminology, and common mold remediation scams. With this knowledge, you will be able to identify when a prospective mold remediator gives an incorrect answer when you are interviewing them. You will know when to cut the interview short and move on to the next prospect on your list. By preparing yourself with knowledge before interviewing mold remediators, you can help ensure you have a successful remediation. Improper (or botched) remediations can cost a building owner untold amounts of money, potentially years of health problems, and a house that is uninhabitable for them.
Researching takes time and can be hard to apply to a real-life situation, which is why we did the research for you and compiled it in Section I of MOLD: The War Within. The research in the book, which we wrote after our family recovered from mold-related illnesses after Hurricane Katrina, contains research and firsthand interviews I conducted with medical and science experts in my search for an effective treatment plan for my family. The book contains a foreword by Dr. Doris Rapp, a leading expert in environmental medicine. It also has received accolades from other medical professionals, such as Dr. Joseph Mercola, who says the book is “one excellent resource”. For immediate access to the comprehensive information in the book, download a digital copy here.
Hire a mold professional
Learning mold lingo can be confusing. To some, such as those with no science background, the terminology can sound very foreign. To help shorten the learning curve and simplify the process, use our Mold Remediator Section Form as a guide when researching mold remediators. We custom designed the form to make it easier to compare remediation service providers, using four stages of information gathering and criteria screening. The form is designed to be an effective and simple support tool to assist you in making an informed decision.
Two easy usage options
- Type directly into the fields after downloading the Mold Remediator Selection Form
- Write in the fields after printing the Mold Remediator Selection Form
The Mold Remediator Selection Form will ensure you remember to ask all the necessary questions to each mold remediation company you are considering and document the answers in an organized way to keep track of answers.
Next, you will want to make sure you understand each area of the form and how it may or may not apply to your situation. For the Explanations of Criteria Used in the Mold Remediator Selection Form, click here.
Who to start calling?
A good place to start researching companies when trying to locate a certified mold remediator in your area is to search for mold remediators in location-searchable databases with industry trade groups.
Two reputable industry trade groups that provide certifications for mold remediators are the following:
- The National Organization of Remediators and Microbial Inspectors (NORMI) lists the licensing status and certification level of its members in a location-searchable database at NormiPro.com.
- The IICRC also has a database that is location-searchable for mold remediators at IICRC Global Locator.
Be aware that there is a difference between a mold remediator and a mold remediation worker (MRW).
The two main differences are as follows: 1) a mold remediator has undergone a higher level of training than an MRW, and 2) a mold remediator oversees the execution of the detailed mold remediation work plan, an MRW performs the remediation work itself without the project management responsibilities.
Depending on the size of the company, the mold remediator may or may not perform actual remediation tasks. In larger companies, the mold remediator may manage the project and supervise a crew of MRWs. In smaller companies, the mold remediator may manage the project and perform the actual remediation work.
Additional information on structural mold and testing methods is available in the first three chapters of Section I of our book, MOLD: The War Within. The book addresses structural mold, the health effects of mold exposure, and treatment options for mold-related illnesses. It includes firsthand interviews with experts in indoor air quality, mold assessment and remediation, and building science as well as documentation from published, peer-reviewed journals.
Mold industry reviewers
I give a special thank you to the following industry reviewers: Jim Pearson, CMH, and Doug Hoffman, CEO of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Assessors (NORMI). Their review of the Mold Remediator Selection Form ensured its accuracy and user-friendliness.
Jim Pearson, CMH: Mr. Pearson has over 35 years of experience in indoor air quality and is president and CEO of Americlean, a full-service restoration company in Billings, Montana. For the past 13 years, Mr. Pearson has acted as the Chairman of the Consensus Body in charge of writing and publishing the ANSI/IICRC S520 Standard and Reference Guide for Professional Mold Remediation.
Doug Hoffman, CEO of NORMI: Mr. Hoffman has over 35 years of experience in the construction field as a state of Florida certified class “A” general contractor, a certified master plumbing contractor and a certified master roofing contractor. Since 2004, Mr. Hoffman has been the head of NORMI. As an approved training provider for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and multiple states, NORMI provides training to members and issues over 14 certifications that meet licensing laws now established in Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Texas, and Washington, DC. NORMI is active in the promotion of mold legislation in non-regulated states to provide residents with a higher level of consumer protection.
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