Posts tagged ‘mold remediation’
The Basics of Mold Remediation – Part III of III – Final Cleaning of the Containment and Affected Areas
See my posts “The Basics of Mold Remediation – Part I of III – Containment of the Affected Area” as well as “The Basics of Mold Remediation – Part II of III – Gross Removal of Mold Growth and Impacted Materials” for background information important for understanding this part of the mold remediation process. At this point in our process, the mold impacted area has been isolated from all non-affected adjacent living spaces. This was accomplished by establishing containment of the area, which included the installation of HEPA Filtered Negative Air machines and installation of physical barriers which, in turn, would have created a negative pressure environment. Gross removal of all impacted non-structural materials would have occurred as well as the removal and cleaning of mold growth from all of the structural materials. The next step is to perform the final clean of the work area.
Part III of III – Final cleaning of the containment and affected areas.
Now that the nitty gritty portion of the removal has been accomplished, the work area has typically seen a fair share of debris. Not only does the removal of building materials create lots of dust and debris, but the disturbance and removal of the mold source itself typically creates very large quantities of microscopic mold spores. So, how do we make sure we account for all of those spores that we can’t even see with our naked eye? Well, the simple answer is by cleaning everything, and doing it very well. That means every crack, crevice, cavity, ceiling, wall, floor and the air itself must be cleaned.
The first step in the final cleaning is typically a complete HEPA vacuuming of the entire space. Every surface within the containment area will be HEPA vacuumed to gather any dust, debris, and yes, lots and lots of mold spores. The vacuums used are not the typical vacuum you can find at the hardware store, but specialized HEPA vacuums that prevent those microscopic spores that are being sucked up from being re-distributed throughout the space.
Once the area has been HEPA vacuumed, the remediation contractor will typically perform a wet wipe of the area at this time. They will use a cloth that is wetted with some sort of antimicrobial agent or cleaner, and every hard surface will be wiped down. The rags are kept wet not only to aid in the cleaning process, but to help in picking up mold spores and preventing them from becoming airborne.
At this point, some remediation contractors may choose to repeat the previous two steps, and HEPA vacuum the entire space as well as do another wet wipe to ensure that every surface has been accounted for. And after all, it’s better to be safe than to be sorry, or at least that’s what they say.
During all of the previous cleaning efforts, the HEPA filtered negative air machines have been running the entire time. As a result, airborne mold spores have been pulled out of the air and into the filtration device. As the cleaning has become more and more detailed, the airborne mold spore quantities should have been continually getting smaller. Unfortunately though, the quantities of airborne mold spores at this time will typically still be in excess of actual clearance standards. So, at this time the negative air machines are swapped out for HEPA filtered air scrubbers. Instead of air continually being drawn out of the space and as result unconditioned air being drawn into it, the air within the space will now be recycled through the HEPA filtered air scrubbers. As the air is continually pulled through the HEPA filters over and over again, it will become “cleaner” as more and more of those microscopic mold spores are trapped within the HEPA filter. This process is usually continued for a minimum of 24 hrs, and depending on the amount of contamination in the space may go on for multiple days.
At this point, the remediation project has come a long way. We have gone from a mold contaminated area, to what we hope is considered to be a “normal” living space. But, to truly verify whether the space has been returned to normal a Post Remediation Verification Inspection should be performed. This should be performed by an independent mold inspector who has no financial ties with the remediation contractor. They will perform a visual inspection of the space to ensure that all of the impacted materials have been removed and/or cleaned, test the moisture content of the building materials to ensure that everything has been adequately dried, and ensure that the area has been properly cleaned. If the visual inspection is adequate, then they will perform ambient air sampling of the work space. This will test for the presence, types and quantities of mold spores within the space and will be compared to an outdoor sample taken at the same place and time. If the sample is within clearance standards, the project will be considered successful, and the mold remediation project complete. All that is left at this point is reconstruction of the space to return it to a normal living space. After all that we have gone through, that should be a walk in the park…
One of the main intents of an initial mold inspection is to identify whether or not you have a mold problem. This can obviously lead to one of two outcomes: 1) You do not have a mold problem and your concerns were alleviated through a thorough mold inspection and/or testing, or 2) You do have a mold problem and proper mold remediation should be performed. I don’t know about you, but I would be hoping for option one. But, unfortunately, a lot of people end up in situation number two. The next step to properly address the situation is to enlist a certified, competent remediation contractor to perform mold remediation (removal of mold) in the affected area. This can be a pretty in depth process, but for the sake of this article (and the next two to follow) we shall break it down into three basic steps.
Part I – Containment of the affected area
When a remediation project is initiated, the first step is to set up containment (isolation) of the affected area. One of the concerns when indoor mold is present is the resulting airborne mold spores. Containment will help control the spread of these spores, while assisting the remediation contractor in returning the affected area to normal conditions. The act of removing or disturbing a mold source tends to distribute large quantities of mold spores into the air. If proper containment is not utilized, this can affect adjacent spaces to the work area and cause cross contamination.
The first step to setting up containment of the work area is installing a HEPA Filtered Negative Air machine. This is a fan that is set within the work area which pulls air from the area which is typically exhausted outside of the structure via flexible tubing or ducting. Doing this will begin to draw any airborne mold spores away from the airspace eventually creating a negative pressure environment, which we will be discuss later in this article.
Step two is to install physical barriers in the work area. This is most typically done with the use of heavy plastic. The main goal when creating this physical barrier is to completely isolate the work area from any adjacent, non-affected areas. For example, if mold is present in one room of your home and the adjacent areas have not been affected, the room must be isolated. Depending on the layout, the doorway would be completely sealed with plastic. All HVAC systems or shared airways between other rooms would be taped or covered in plastic. All electrical outlets and light fixtures would be covered. In essence, any area that could allow air communication between the work area and other non-affected areas should be properly sealed.
Once step one and two are completed, a negative pressure environment should be created. A negative pressure environment simply means that the air pressure within the work space is less than the air pressure in the areas surrounding that space. This is achieved when the volume of air being pulled out of the space (through the negative air machine) is greater than the volume of air being pulled into the space. As a result of this negative air pressure within the work space, any mold spores that become airborne through the remediation efforts are being controlled, preventing them from affecting the adjacent spaces and flushing them away from the indoor environment which is necessary when attempting to return the area to normal conditions.
Once these steps have been completed, the remediation contractor would then begin Part II of a basic mold remediation project. Stay tuned for what happens next…
The majority of our mold and moisture investigations are considered “non-invasive”. This means that our inspectors do not cut open walls and ceilings, we don’t remove bathroom or kitchen fixtures, nor do we lift carpeting or flooring materials. There are two primary reasons for this approach. Number one, if there is hidden mold, we don’t want to cause airborne mold spore contamination by exposing and disturbing the mold. Number two, performing invasive exploration can cause damage (intentional or unintentional) to a home. But, sometimes to fully understand a mold problem, or to be able to fully remedy a mold problem, invasive exploration is necessary. So, who should do it?
The best person to perform invasive exploration for mold is a mold remediation professional. They have the tools and expertise to place a testing area under containment using specific engineering controls. This containment will prevent the spread of airborne mold spores should mold be found during the exploration.
We will make the recommendation for invasive exploration for mold when we believe hidden mold is possible. For example, if during a typical mold inspection at a personal residence, we find an actively wet wall in a bathroom. We will recommend ambient mold air sampling and sometimes a wall cavity sample. If both of those samples are negative, we will recommend that the wall be opened (invasive exploration for mold). Since the wall is wet and sealed from the ambient air in the bathroom, it is possible that there is hidden mold in the wall even though the air sample was normal or negative. Should mold be found in the wall during the exploration, it will need to be professionally removed. If no mold is found, the source of water will need to be repaired, but no professional mold remediation is required.
Invasive exploration is also an integral part of professional mold remediation. If for example, we definitively discover a mold problem under a kitchen sink, we will recommend invasive testing under, beside, behind, and below that cabinet to look for mold that we cannot see in our visual investigation. This invasive exploration will continue to approximately 18 inches beyond the last visible mold growth and water damage.
Invasive exploration for mold is another important tool used in professional mold investigations. It is generally used to collect secondary data and is not always required as part of a professional mold inspection.
Mold within your home is typically considered to be…, you guessed it, a bad thing. Molds can begin to grow in a number of different ways, and can grow on many different things. When a mold problem is found, the safest and most effective way of addressing the issue is with a three step process including: 1) initial mold assessment, 2) mold removal (also known as mold remediation), and 3) post remediation verification.
The first step is the initial mold assessment inspection. This should be performed by a certified mold inspection company, and that company should be completely independent of any mold remediation work to avoid conflict of interest. The assessment should include determining sources of moisture, determining the overall area of impact (gross contamination as well as elevated airborne mold spore contamination), assessment of the affected building materials and putting together preventative maintenance plans. All of this information should be compiled into a final written report, which should include the mold remediation recommendations.
Next, is the mold remediation. This work should be performed by a competent, certified mold removal company. This can be a pretty in depth process depending on the area affected and materials that have been impacted, and will be unique to each situation. But, there are some basic steps that are almost always utilized including: containing the area from adjacent living spaces, installing engineering controls such as HEPA filtered negative air machines, removal of water damaged and mold impacted non-structural materials, cleaning and disinfecting of structural materials, scrubbing the air, HEPA vacuuming all surfaces, wet wiping all hard surfaces and returning all building materials to adequately dry conditions.
Lastly, a post remediation verification inspection should be done to ensure that the work has been performed properly. This inspection is typically done by the same company that performed the initial mold assessment. The inspection should be done while the remediation contractor’s containments are still in place, but before any materials have been installed. First the area must pass a visual inspection, meaning: All water damaged non-structural materials have been removed, all visible mold growth has been removed, all building materials are adequately dry and the area is visible clean. If the inspector deems that the visible remediation work was adequate, then air samples are collected within the work area to test for airborne mold spores. If the air samples are within industry clearance standards, then the mold inspection company will “pass” or “clear” the project. A final written report should then be provided to all relevant parties, verifying that the work was performed properly and effectively.
Facing a mold problem in your home can be a pretty daunting project at first. But, when the proper steps are followed, and competent professionals are utilized the process can be as low impact on you as possible. And, proper documentation of the entire process can save you a lot of headaches down the road when selling or renting a home with previous mold disclosures.
How many times in life do we really get something of value for free? Not very often…
The same holds true for a “free” mold inspection. There are two primary, and necessary, services when it comes to indoor mold problems — mold inspection and testing and mold remediation (mold clean-up). Those two services should be performed by two different companies.
Mold inspection and testing companies perform a professional consulting service that will:
- Inspect your home or business based on industry standards;
- Collect microbial samples as needed; and
- Prepare a written report of findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
In the recommendations section of the report, the consultant will write a “scope of work” for remediation (clean-up) work, if needed. This scope of work is what the mold remediation company will follow when they prepare their estimate for the work. Mold remediation companies make their money based on the size and scope of a project. Most companies are honest and want to do what’s right for the customer. But, it is a conflict of interest for a remediation company to perform an inspection or to bid on a project without a scope of work from a consultant.
A quality mold inspection and report can take from a minimum of 3 hours to hundreds of hours. Even for the smallest of jobs — say a bathroom, the drive time plus the on site inspection time, plus the report creation time, plus the telephone consultation time adds up to real hours of professional level work. Ask yourself a simple question: “would anyone actually do this work for free?”
A “free” mold inspection is simply a way for some remediation companies to get their foot in the door and to get money from you for mold remediation and likely build back construction services.
Do yourself a favor and actually save yourself money and headaches in the big picture. If you believe you have a mold problem, hire a professional, certified, mold inspection and testing company to perform an initial investigation and a post inspection and testing, after mold remediation, if applicable.