We performed a mold assessment for a family whose home experienced significant water intrusion in November of 2015. Our clients were in the process of having their roof replaced when a fast moving storm came in just after their old roof had been torn off. The roofing company installed tarps on the unfinished areas of the roof, but the high winds blew them off, subjecting the home to a significant amount of water intrusion. The water ran down the ceiling beams, into the walls and saturated their floors, furniture, electronics and other personal items. The roofing contractor wanted to avoid a claim on his business insurance policy, so he told the homeowners that he knew how to dry out the house and he would take care of it. He brought in a heater and a couple of fans and instructed our clients to turn up the heat in their home. Our client trusted that the roofing contractor indeed knew how to dry out their home properly and they followed his instructions hoping the dry out would be successful.
Unfortunately, not only was the dry out unsuccessful, but the newly installed roof leaked a couple of months after installation, causing water intrusion for the second time. At that point, our client filed a claim with their insurance company to try to get the situation handled properly. During this time, the family had multiple unexplained health issues that they now believe were most likely due to microbial conditions that occurred after the water intrusions. Their daughter started to get sick frequently and experienced sinus issues, nose bleeds, burning and itching eyes, headaches, and burning throat conditions. She also was told to use a nebulizer due to her asthmatic condition. Her mother was perplexed by this because her daughter has had asthma for several years that had been controlled up until this time and she had never needed to use a nebulizer. Other family members also started experiencing unusual symptoms during this time.
After filing their insurance claim, the insurance company sent out a water restoration company to dry out the home. Our clients were told that the home was now dry and everything was fine. Our clients were highly concerned because the suspected that the walls were not adequately dry and they were not confident that the roof issues had been permanently corrected. So, they brought in a water restoration company and a different roofing contractor for an unbiased opinion. It was determined that there were still wet building materials within the home and they suspected an even bigger problem, hidden mold growth within the walls and under flooring materials. This is where Mold Inspection Sciences came in.
After a full assessment and laboratory testing, we confirmed that the Living Room wall was still actively wet, mold growth was present in multiple areas within the home and ambient air testing of the lower level showed elevated airborne mold spore counts when compared to the outside control sample. Sadly, after following up with our client, she stated “my husband came down with a headache that was so intense he could not move, his throat and eyes burned, he felt sick and very tired, then he started to have problems remembering what was just said to him – he got extreme brain fog”.
At this time, our clients are still working to come to a resolution with their insurance company, but for now, they have had to leave their home until proper mold remediation can be performed.
Mold Inspection Sciences was honored to help this family and we sincerely hope that their health improves and they are able to be back into their home very soon.
Mold in attic areas can be challenging at times in regards to determining the exact cause and source of mold growth. However, there are some common conditions that we routinely find during our Mold Investigations that contribute to mold growth in attics.
Penetrations in roof systems are common sources of water intrusion into attic spaces. Improper flashing, deteriorated rubber boot flashing, missing or improperly installed flashing around chimneys or other penetration points, and inadequate roof repairs are common causes of roof leaks. Also, water seepage occurs when the roof is beyond the end of its life span and failing. Water damage and mold growth is a common result of roof leaking conditions. Annual inspection of your roof by a roofing specialist and routine maintenance can prevent leaks in the roof system, reducing the likelihood of mold growth in your attic.
Inadequate Roof Ventilation
The lack of proper roof ventilation is a conducive condition to mold growth in attics. Without adequate ventilation, moisture laden air remains in the attic area, often times causing elevated moisture conditions at the roof framing and roof sheathing. During cold winter months, condensation can occur on the cold roof sheathing, creating elevated moisture conditions.
Another common cause of inadequate ventilation is when insulation is blown into the attic and care is not taken to prevent the insulation from blocking the soffit vents. Soffit vents are critical in a passive ventilation system in order to move the air from the lower portion of the attic (intake soffit vents) to the upper roof vents (exhaust vents). Adding additional ventilation ports or a powered roof vent can oftentimes improve and correct inadequate roof ventilation conditions.
Bath & Kitchen Exhaust fans vented into the attic
Exhaust fans should be vented directly to the exterior of the home. However, this often is not the case. When the exhaust fan is missing its exhaust duct or the duct has become separated, that exhaust air is vented directly into the attic space, oftentimes contributing to microbial growth.
Missing or inadequate attic insulation
Attic insulation not only is important in energy conservation, but proper insulation levels can also reduce the chance of mold growth in attics. As air travels up through the structure, insulation provides a barrier to slow the rate of conditioned air loss into the attic area. When an attic has missing insulation, the air movement increases significantly and that warm air can cause condensation conditions on cold roof sheathing. The moisture conditions resulting from such condensation is a catalyst for mold growth. Check your insulation and make sure that you have good and even coverage throughout the entire attic, especially at the lower North side areas.
Gaps or openings in ceilings
Unsealed openings in ceilings, around exhaust fans, can lights, speakers, etc. allow warm conditioned air to escape into the attic area. Sealing all penetrations in the ceiling can be an important preventative step in reducing mold growth in attics.
Finally, we frequently get asked, why is mold in an attic a big deal? While it is true that attic areas are not generally considered living spaces and air communication from upper attic areas to the living space below is relatively uncommon (in most normal situations), attic mold should still be a concern. Why? Because it is possible that if negative pressure conditions exist or occur in the home, air containing mold spores could potentially be drawn from that attic area into the living space. In addition, attic mold is usually an indication of other defects or conditions that could lead to costly repairs down the road, such as water damage, mold contamination in the finished living areas, wood destroying organisms and other moisture related conditions. Now go check your attic and if you see unusual staining or mold-like conditions, call a mold professional for a full assessment and appropriate testing.
Choosing a mold consulting company can be a difficult process; especially when you have health concerns regarding your indoor environment. You may be thinking to yourself…can I trust this company? Will they follow through with what they promise on their website or over the phone? Are they qualified to determine if I have a mold problem in my home or business? Are they going to use scare tactics to try to sell me something I don’t need?
When selecting a mold inspection company, be sure to ask, at minimum, the following questions:
1. Do you also provide mold remediation or cleaning services?
In my opinion, it is a conflict of interest to perform both the initial investigation/testing AND profit from the cleaning/remediation of mold. It is in your best interest to use an unbiased and neutral third-party for your initial investigation and testing. The bottom line is: your mold inspector should not profit from the discovery of mold.
2. Can you provide me with a past client referral list or client testimonials?
Quality companies value hearing back from their clients and they should have a long list of satisfied customers. Many even obtain personal statements from past clients who endorse their services. If the company you are considering cannot or will not provide you with past client testimonials, then consider continuing your search.
3. Are you a member in good standing with the BBB (Better Business Bureau)?
The BBB can be a great resource to locate quality, ethical and honest mold companies. Look for companies that have no complaints and a solid rating.
4. Are You Certified?
Most states do not require any formal certification or licensing to perform mold investigations and testing. However, there are organizations that provide independent certifications for mold investigation and sampling. The ACAC is the best of those organizations. The ACAC requires a minimum number of years of field experience, successfully passing a stringent certification exam, and obtaining continuing education credits annually. Make sure your mold professional is certified by a credible organization.
5. And finally, do you carry Professional Liability Insurance (Errors and Omissions insurance, commonly called E&O insurance)?
Most quality companies carry general liability (GL) insurance. However, E&O insurance is expensive and cost prohibitive for most mold inspection firms. The vast majority of mold inspectors do not carry this form of insurance that provides you with a higher level of protection.
Best of luck with your search for a quality mold inspection company. I hope these questions help.
There are many misconceptions regarding mold. Here are a few more common mold myths.
Myth # 4: Mold growth cannot be controlled in bathrooms
One of the most common areas to find mold is in bathrooms. The following are a few tips to prevent or significantly reduce mold growth in bathrooms:
- The first and most important preventative measure is to control moisture conditions. Showering and bathing produces high levels of moisture and if not properly vented to the exterior of the home through adequate mechanical ventilation, mold growth will likely occur. Bath fans should be quiet in operation to encourage regular use, properly sized for the dimensions of the room and should be operated for approximately 30 minutes after showering.
- Another preventative measure is to use a small squeegee or towel to remove the water from the enclosure walls and shower door after showering.
- Maintain grout and caulking conditions to prevent moisture intrusion, water damage, and potential microbial growth.
- Consider eliminating carpeting and wallpaper. Mold is commonly found behind wallpaper and under carpeting in bathrooms.
- Inspect areas below sinks and around toilets regularly for leaks. Do not put off repairing plumbing leaks or mold growth could result.
Myth # 5: If I don’t see mold- then there can’t be a problem
Mold can exist in non-accessible areas of the home such as behind or under cabinets, below flooring, behind base trim, inside wall cavities, behind wallpaper and inside ceiling plenums. Use your nose… If you notice a musty or mold-like odor, it is possible that you have a mold problem. Microbial testing of the ambient air and inner wall cavity testing by a Certified Microbial Investigator is often needed to detect hidden mold conditions.
Myth # 6: If I have Mold- It’s my fault
The truth of the matter is that occupants can and do sometimes contribute to mold growth. For example, mold growth can occur if the indoor humidity levels become excessive. Excessive humidity often occurs due to the lack of proper ventilation when showering, cooking and doing laundry. Aside from that, if the indoor relative humidity (moisture in the air) is maintained between 30%-50% and you still have a mold problem, then the blame can often be placed somewhere else. Many times, a mold investigation may determine that the cause of the mold problem is actually due to conditions such as, hidden water intrusion, plumbing leaks, roof leaks, and inadequate or nonexistent ventilation conditions. A specially trained mold investigator can often times detect those conditions that most commonly cause mold growth. Be proactive and enlist the services of a professional if you suspect a mold problem.
There is an abundant amount of information available at our fingertips regarding mold. Much of it is relevant, accurate and useful information. The problem is that even the experts differ in opinion on some topics. As a Certified Mold Inspector, I see many different situations and unusual conditions in homes, apartments and businesses. I also hear comments and read information that sometimes makes me scratch my head. So, I thought I’d discuss a couple of my favorite mold myths.
Myth # 1: Only Black Mold is bad.
Mold can present itself in many different colors, and while it is true that the most concerning types of Mold, such as Stachybotrys, are commonly black in color, many types of mold that do not have a black appearance can cause adverse health effects for some individuals. Most mold professionals agree that indoor mold growth of any color is a potential health risk and should not be present inside homes and businesses. In addition, mold growth, of any color, inside a home or business is a sign of a water intrusion problem which can comprimise building materials, both structurally and cosmetically, and can be expensive to remedy.
Myth # 2: Bleach is an effective treatment for Mold
Bleach is comprised mostly of water and adding additional water to a mold problem is kind of like throwing gasoline on a fire. It appears to get rid of the mold initially, but all too frequently, the mold returns in a short period of time and the problem becomes worse than before the initial bleach treatment. The other shortcoming of bleach is that it will not reach or eliminate mold that is hiding in inaccessible areas. Such as inside wall cavities, under flooring, behind wallpaper, or mold that is absorbed into porous building materials, such as drywall. In most cases, it is best to leave the removal and cleaning of a mold problem to a professional mold remediation company.
Myth #3: You can just paint over Mold to seal it and prevent re-growth
Simply painting over mold affected building materials does not provide a long-term fix to a mold problem. We are often told by our clients that someone treated the mold with bleach and then sealed (painted) the area. This is most often times just a band-aid unless the initial cause of the mold growth is addressed and corrected. The underlying cause of most mold problems is excessive moisture and wet building materials, commonly due to water intrusion, leaks or excessive humidity. If the excessive moisture problem is not corrected, repaired or eliminated, then mold will most likely return.
More mold myths debunked to come at a later date. Thanks for reading.
Do you know the allergen levels inside your home? If you’ve been diagnosed with allergies you may have an increased sensitivity to certain allergens.
Knowing what levels of allergens that are present inside your home is the first step in determining if you are being exposed to allergens that may be causing adverse physical conditions. Minimizing your exposure to the allergens that affect you is a crucial step towards controlling your symptoms.
It may be impossible to completely eliminate all of the allergens in your home, but even reducing them can lead to a significant decrease in symptoms, less need for medication and improved indoor air quality.
What can be done if you are allergic to something in your home?
- We can test your home for many different allergens
- The most common test we perform for allergens is the ‘Allergen Screen’ or ELISA (Quantitative Enzyme-Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay)
- The Allergen Screen will determine if significant levels of some of the most common allergens are found in your indoor environment.
- If allergen levels are found to be elevated, we will provide recommendations on ways to reduce the allergens in your home.
Our Allergy Tests – The Details
The “Allergen Screen” will test for the following four most common allergens: Dog, Cat, Cockroach, and Dust Mites. Keep in mind that often times, you cannot see these allergens with the naked eye. In fact, the allergens are microscopic and can easily float in the air. Some allergens, such as dog and cat dander, are sticky and commonly cling to walls, furniture, flooring, and personal belongings, making them difficult to remove. If you live in a home or an apartment that was previously occupied, there could be high allergen levels due to the previous occupant’s pets. Allergen testing may be the first step to improve your indoor environment and overall quality of life.
Would you like to view a sample allergen report? Sample ELISA Allergy Report