How to find an experienced, qualified mold assessor
Mold assessment and testing is a combination of science and creative judgment on the part of the mold assessor. There are no firm industry standards that designate one single “right” way to assess and test a structure, which makes it imperative to select an experienced, reputable mold assessor certified and licensed in the states requiring it.
For this reason, I have prepared the following mold assessor tips and designed support material to get you up and running quickly—knowledgeable in industry terms and standards—to aid you in the process of interviewing mold assessors.
Fast track to successful mold assessment
Remember, you don’t have to become an expert in mold assessment yourself. You only have to be able to identify a knowledgeable and experienced mold expert who specializes in mold assessment. To help you learn what you need to know BEFORE you start interviewing mold assessors, I have prepared a short list of support material condensed with need-to-know information. For ease of comprehension, read the material in the following order:
- Finish reading this blog
- Become familiar with our Mold Assessor Selection Form
- Read the Explanation of Criteria for the Mold Assessor Selection Form
- Additional helpful information is in the first three chapters of Section I of my book MOLD: The War Within
These resources are the quickest route to gain the base knowledge you need to minimize further damage and make an informed decision when securing a mold assessor to provide an accurate assessment, which can then lead to a successful remediation.
Now, let’s take a look at what mold assessors actually do and how you can best prepare yourself for the interview and screening process.
Mold assessor or inspector?
The mold assessor has a higher level of training than a mold inspector and is essentially the architect of the project, a common industry phrase referencing their pre- and post-project responsibilities. Due to this managerial role of the mold assessor, selecting a qualified and experienced assessor is the first step to take when faced with a mold project.
What do mold assessors do?
The mold assessor carries out the following functions:
- Performs a visual assessment of both the structure and the property under and around the structure. This visual assessment is subjective, so experience is a critical component that enables the assessor to make the correct determination based on the visual inspection.
- Identifies the source of water or moisture, when possible. Keep in mind that mold assessors do not perform invasive investigations, such as removing walls or shower tiles, so they may not be able to visually see the cause of moisture to identify it. Conversely, since mold remediators do perform invasive investigations by removing structural building materials, it is legally their responsibility to locate the moisture source and make sure it is fixed before closing up and putting the investigated area back together.
- Designs and implements the testing protocol according to industry standards. Ideally, a combination of testing methods should be used to give the broadest picture of what is going on in the structure—for example, air, bulk, and tape samples.
- Interprets objective test results in the context of the site visit. Reports findings in a written mold assessment report.
- When applicable, outlines a generalized mold remediation protocol that includes the specific criteria that must be met for the project to pass Post Remediation Verification (PRV).
- Confers with the mold remediator on the remediation protocol. Please note that it is the responsibility of the remediator to notify the mold assessor if the scope of the plan needs to be altered based on the additional information gained during the invasive investigation.
- Confirms the completed execution of the remediation protocol by the mold remediator.
- Performs PRV testing to determine that pre-identified PRV criteria have been met. Keep in mind that the initial mold assessor can perform clearance testing, or another company can be brought in to do it.
Are you playing Beat the Clock?
Having a water leak or flooding incident in your home or workplace is stressful, but stay calm. Don’t let the shock of it all panic you into making rash or ill-informed decisions. Moving too quickly can result in an outcome far worse than the initial water leak or resultant structural mold. Worse yet, by the time a person realizes they have made a less-than-optimal decision in the selection of a “professional” mold assessor, it is often too late to undo the damage that has already been done or recoup the money that has been spent without costly litigation, the outcome of which can be uncertain.
What is your situation?
If your water damage is “fresh”, then you have 24-48 hours to get the wet building materials and personal belongings removed or dried.
If you have discovered visible structural mold from a source of moisture that was not readily revealed when it initially occurred, you are past the 24- to 48-hour window of minimizing damage. You already have active mold growth in the structure. In this case, containment is an option. You do not want to disturb it because that will increase the number of biologicals, toxic mold, and bacteria in the air. A properly trained and experienced mold professional will be able to take steps to minimize cross-contamination with the rest of the house before starting the removal process. To prepare yourself with the information you need to select a mold remediator, see my article on mold remediation tips, “How mold remediators are not all equal—training and experience count.”
If you suspect you have a source of hidden mold in a structure, the 24- to 48-hour window does not apply to you either.
Do you need temporary housing?
In certain circumstances, it may be advisable for some or all occupants to locate alternative housing or relocate work activities until a mold assessor has determined the level of indoor air quality or until a mold remediator has completed the tear-out and cleaning phase of remediation. Sometimes occupants may want to consider relocating to temporary housing, depending on the severity of their structural mold contamination. Some of these scenarios include the following:
- When the entire structure is flooded, and unsafe conditions clearly exist
- When structural mold is visible in every area of the structure, leaving no less-affected area in which to live or work
- When occupants experience life-threatening levels of respiratory distress when in the affected structure
- When medical professionals advise patients to remove themselves from the affected structure. This may occur when occupants are environmentally sensitive or in a high-risk group designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Do you need professional mold testing?
Keep in mind that one of the main jobs of the mold assessor is to identify the source of moisture and locate any resultant structural mold. However, in cases when you already know the source and location of the water damage, such as from roof leaks, broken pipes, faulty sump pumps, etc., calling a mold remediator or water restoration professional to remove and dry out the water-damaged building materials ASAP is likely the best option unless you have the proper equipment, manpower, and personal protection equipment and are prepared to take those steps yourself. Remember, mold will start to develop within 24-48 hours, so acting quickly is imperative.
Watch for any water damage that has spread to any electrical systems. Should this occur, remove electrical power to the affected area.
Professional mold companies carry insurance
By initially not calling a mold assessor, you may save both time and money, but you lose the protection of the professional mold company’s insurance coverage. Furthermore, mold assessors and mold remediators carry two very different types of insurance based on the respective service they provide, which affect the type of coverage you would be eligible to receive should a problem arise due to an error on the part of one of these mold professionals. In brief, a mold assessor should have professional errors and omissions insurance, whereas a mold remediator should have general liability insurance with a pollution control clause.
Should you decide to initially forego bringing in a mold assessor, it is always advisable to contact one after the remediation process has been completed. At this point, the mold assessor would perform an initial assessment and test indoor air quality to confirm no elevated levels of mold (and possibly bacteria, too) are present. However, if no criteria for PRV were set prior to remediation as a measurable future goal, there would be no PRV criteria to meet.
Mold industry best practices
To be able to identify if a mold assessor knows—or doesn’t know—best practices within the mold assessment industry, become knowledgeable on the mold basics, testing methods, terminology, and common mold scams. That way, when you are interviewing a mold assessor and he gives an incorrect answer, you will know to move on to the next prospect on your list. Preparing yourself in this manner can help ensure an effective assessment, which is the first step toward a successful remediation in cases of existing structural mold, saving you untold amounts of financial loss from additional assessment and remediation work and potentially years of health problems.
Researching this type of information can be time-consuming, which is why we did the research for you and compiled it in Section I of MOLD: The War Within, a book we wrote after recovery from mold-related illnesses after Hurricane Katrina. The book contains a foreword by Dr. Doris Rapp, a renowned pioneer in the field of environmental medicine. It also has received accolades from other medical professionals, including Dr. Joseph Mercola, who describes the book as “one excellent resource”. For immediate access to this comprehensive source of information, a digital version of the book is available here.
Hire a mold pro
Learning mold terminology can be confusing. It can be like learning a foreign language. To help simplify the process and shorten the learning curve, download our Mold Assessor Selection Form to use as a guide when researching mold assessors. We custom-designed the form in a way that would make it easier to compare companies providing mold assessment and inspection services, using four stages of information gathering and criteria screening. The form is a simple and effective support tool to help you make an informed decision.
Two usage options
- Download our Mold Assessor Selection Form and type in the fields
- Print our Mold Assessor Selection Form and write in the fields
By using our Mold Assessor Selection Form, you will remember to ask all the appropriate questions and have an organized way to keep track of answers.
The next step is to understand each area of the form and how it may apply to your situation. For Explanations of the Criteria Used in the Mold Assessor Selection Form, click here.
Who to call?
A good place to start when trying to locate a certified mold assessor in your area is to run a search for assessors using your zip code in the database of reputable trade groups for certified mold assessors, such as the database at NORMIPro.com that contains up-to-date information on members who are mold assessors certified by the National Organization of Remediators and Microbial Inspectors (NORMI).
As you begin your search, be aware that there is a difference between a mold assessor and a mold inspector. The two main differences are as follows: 1) a mold assessor has undergone a higher level of training than a mold inspector, and 2) a mold assessor is the architect of the project, whereas a mold inspector performs mold testing but without the in-depth assessment and project management skillset.
For more information
Additional information on structural mold and testing methods is available in the first three chapters of Section I of my 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, mold remediation, and building science, as well as documentation from published, peer-reviewed journals.
I give special thanks to the industry experts who reviewed this article: Jim Pearson, CMH, and Doug Hoffman, CEO of the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Assessors (NORMI). Their reviews of the Mold Assessor Selection Form ensured the accuracy and user-friendliness of the form.
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.
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 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.
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