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Avoiding Cross Contamination During Mold Remediation

Thursday, November 12th, 2020
Mold Remediation

Inside a mold-contaminated home, microscopic mold spores are often concentrated in the immediate vicinity of contamination. However, efforts to remove that mold runs the risk of dispersing spores more widely. Known as cross-contamination, the process of removing active mold growth may potentially spread contamination to parts of the house not previously infected by mold.

Professional mold remediation services utilize a variety of tactics and equipment to ensure that cross-contamination doesn’t disseminate mold more extensively inside a home during the procedure. Here are some of the methods commonly employed:

  • Preliminary air sampling. Air sampling for spores provides important information about which areas of the home are contaminated versus those that are not. This allows mold remediation technicians to isolate particular target areas while preventing spread to areas that aren’t contaminated.
  • Sealing the area. If the contaminated area is more than 30 square feet, specific techniques are utilized to isolate the area from the remainder of the house. The work area will be air-sealed with sheets of 6 mil plastic barrier, including an air lock to enter and exit the area. HVAC vents in the affected area will also be sealed.
  • Preventing spore spread. To further ensure that airborne spores do not migrate into uncontaminated areas, a negative air machine will be installed to reduce air pressure in the infected area. This device, which includes high-efficiency HEPA filtration, continuously reduces air pressure in the infected area to retain airborne spores.
  • Restricting access. Only individuals who are trained and have proper mold remediation credentials, as well as equipped with proper personal protection equipment (PPE), should be allowed in the contaminated area while mold remediation procedures are underway.  
  • Final procedures. After active mold growth and any infected materials have been removed, and before the containment area is unsealed, the entire area is vacuumed with HEPA-filtered equipment. All surfaces inside the area will be wiped down with an antimicrobial cleaner. HVAC vents are unsealed.
  • Post-remediation air sampling. To verify that mold has been removed from the affected area and all other parts of the house remain uncontaminated, air samples will be taken throughout the home. 

Does Insurance Cover Mold Damage?

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020
mold damage

Homeowners insurance coverage for mold contamination inside a home is a case of “maybe so, maybe not.” Certain circumstances surrounding the specific case will make the difference, and details of coverage will vary from company to company, as well as state to state. As a generalization, the most common scenarios of mold contamination occurring due to home water damage are likely to be covered by typical homeowners insurance. To dig deeper into the fine print, here are some of the details that may make a difference:

What Caused the Damage That Caused the Mold?

As a rule, if the mold contamination was the direct result of a “sudden, accidental” event which is typically covered by your homeowners insurance, then the cost of professional mold remediation will be covered by the insurance, too.

  • Say a washing machine hose suddenly ruptures and water inundates part of the home. Damage caused by that sudden, accidental event is probably covered by insurance. As mold is likely to be triggered by contact with this water, professional treatment to prevent and/or remediate subsequent mold contamination is also likely covered.
  • However, if a mold outbreak is due to outdoor flooding that inundated the house, you probably aren’t covered. Basically, all forms of flooding from outdoor sources are not excluded from homeowners insurance. Flood insurance for homeowners is instead provided by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which does not include mold coverage. 

How Did You Handle It?

Your role in water damage inside the house can also influence whether that damage and resultant mold are covered or not.

  • If water damage to a house occurred due to a situation that developed due to negligence, then homeowners insurance may decline to pay for damages as well as any mold contamination that results.
  • Let’s say a homeowner lets a roof leak continue for an extended period instead of having it fixed in a timely manner, or a plumbing pipe that should’ve been professionally repaired wasn’t and subsequently ruptured, then both the water damage resulting from this neglect, as well as accompanying mold contamination, would be ineligible for coverage.

How to Prevent Carpet Mold

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

After a home water damage incident, the steps to prevent carpet mold take high priority. The deep pile in carpets harbors dormant mold spores accumulated over time along with microscopic organic material that serves as mold nourishment—skin cells, tiny food bits, hair, insect parts, and even common dust. At this point, all that’s missing is the presence of moisture to activate dormant spores. A carpet saturated during water damage rapidly converts into a highly efficient mold-breeding ecosystem, continuously releasing toxic airborne reproductive spores, spreading contamination throughout the house, and producing allergic symptoms to susceptible occupants.

To Prevent Carpet Mold or Not

The deciding factor in the effort to prevent carpet mold after water damage is time. From the moment water soaks a carpet, a race against the clock begins. Within 24 hours, dormant spores begin converting into active mold growth. Once 48 to 72 hours have elapsed without professional intervention, a wet carpet and the padding beneath it must be considered presumptively contaminated by mold. 

If the window of opportunity to prevent carpet mold elapses without professional remediation, according to the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) guidelines, the affected carpet and padding should be removed from the house ASAP and discarded. The hard floor underneath the carpet can be cleaned and disinfected. New carpet and padding may then be reinstalled.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Carpet Mold?

However, if the water damage was Type 1 or Type 2 from non-toxic sources like a pipe rupture or appliance overflow, and if professional water damage treatment methods are applied before the critical time frame elapses, wet carpets may be saved. Here’s a typical sequence of events utilized to successfully prevent carpet mold:

  • Removing the saturated padding beneath the carpet may be required.
  • Powerful water extractors pull all water from the carpet fibers.
  • Steam cleaners inject anti-microbial solutions and deodorants to kill residual mold.
  • Industrial-grade dehumidifiers and high-volume air movers speed drying.
  • After the floor beneath is disinfected, new padding is installed and the cleaned carpet is replaced.

Water Damage: How to Prevent Mold on Clothes

Thursday, October 1st, 2020
prevent mold on clothes

Since mold is a frequent side-effect of home water damage, considering ways to prevent mold on clothes is a worthwhile preventive measure. Mold grows indoors when moisture and dormant mold spores come together. Fabrics including clothing—especially those made of natural fibers—support mold growth following water damage. Either direct contact with released water, or the unusually high humidity typically present inside a water-damaged house, may be sufficient to trigger mold growth on clothing.  

How Mold Affects Clothing

  • Staining. Mold contamination may discolor fabrics with dark or purple-colored stains.
  • Odors. Clothing contaminated by mold will have a persistent pungent smell very noticeable to the person wearing the clothes as well as others nearby.
  • Physical symptoms. Individuals with a sensitivity to certain types of mold may experience allergic reactions such as respiratory symptoms or skin rash due to inhaling mold spores from contaminated clothing.

Ways To Prevent Mold On Clothes

  • Clothing affected by water damage should be machine-washed ASAP with laundry soap and bleach at the hottest water setting the fabric is suitable for. Run clothes through two full washing cycles.
  • If clothes cannot be exposed to bleach, add a cup of vinegar to the first wash cycle, instead. Vinegar has anti-microbial properties that help prevent mold on clothes. In the second wash cycle, add half a cup of baking soda to neutralize odors associated with mold.
  • Air-dry outdoors in sunlight, if possible, to prevent mold on clothes. Ultraviolet rays present in sunlight destroy mold.
  • If certain fabrics must be dry cleaned instead of washed, place the clothes in a plastic bag and seal it. Inform the dry cleaner that mold is an issue and point out any specific mold stains you are aware of.  
  • To prevent mold on clothes in seasonal storage, consider the potential for water damage and/or chronic moisture. Certain areas such as the basement or attic may be at greater risk for water damage and/or are chronically damp and contaminated with mold spores. Store clothes in a location with favorable air circulation and relative humidity no higher than 60%.  

Can You Kill Mold By Drying It Out?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020
mold issues

No moisture, no mold. It sounds like a simple solution to mold issues in a home. Since mold is a fungus that requires moisture to grow, just drying out mold growth ought to eradicate it in short order. Right?

Like many easy answers to complex problems, it ain’t necessarily so. While moisture is the key factor that triggers the active growth mode that causes mold issues, ironically, the absence of moisture alone doesn’t make mold go away. Here are two reasons why:

  • Mold can exist in more than one living state. Active or viable mold triggered by moisture grows and releases microscopic airborne reproductive spores that spread that growth to other locations in the house. These spores contain mycotoxins that cause allergic reactions or other symptoms when inhaled by certain individuals.
  • In the inactive state, an absence of moisture causes mold to be dormant and cease growth—yet not be technically dead. Inert spores from dormant, dried-up mold can be just as allergenic as active spores from living growth if inhaled. Moreover, moisture from any source such as water damage or leakage—or even simply sustained high humidity—quickly reactivates dry, dormant mold growth and triggers the release of reproductive spores once again. Mold issues then recur throughout the house.

Successful mold remediation isn’t a one-step solution. It requires multi-faceted treatment to ensure comprehensive decontamination.  

  • All mold growth must be tracked down and physically removed from wherever it exists in the house. No existing mold—active or inactive—can be left behind, as any remaining growth may likely reactivate at some later point under certain conditions.
  • After removal, areas of contamination must be directly treated with EPA-approved fungicides to sterilize surfaces and prevent regrowth.  
  • The source of water which triggered active mold growth must be identified and permanently eliminated.
  • If mold growth occurs as a result of a water damage incident, prompt professional water damage remediation includes standardized mold prevention methods like air sampling to detect the presence of spores and proven techniques to locate and remove mold growth and sterilize affected surfaces. 

Does Insurance Cover Mold Damage?

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020
mold damage

Mold damage in homes is common, but is it commonly covered by standard homeowner’s insurance? Like so many questions about insurance coverage, this typical answer frequently applies to mold damage, too: “It depends.”

Specific circumstances surrounding mold contamination issues can spell the difference between fair insurance compensation and having to pay for the damage out of your own pocket. Here are some examples of when homeowner’s insurance coverage applies to mold damage and when it doesn’t.  

Sudden and Accidental” Incidents

This represents the largest category of mold damage that does qualify for coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy. Water damage inside the house is the most common cause of mold. The “sudden and accidental” term applies to unforeseeable water damage incidents such as sudden pipe breakage, an appliance overflow, or a ruptured water heater. Another cause that qualifies under this category is mold due to water released by firefighters extinguishing a fire in the house.

Maintenance Issues and Chronic Causes

Mold may be caused by ongoing problems that aren’t recognized and/or not responsibly addressed by the homeowner. This includes scenarios like a roof leak that isn’t repaired in a timely manner or neglected household plumbing maintenance. When mold ensues after one of these preventable causes, coverage under a standard homeowner’s policy will usually be denied.  

Certain circumstances beyond the homeowner’s control may also rule out compensation for mold damage. For example, if mold growth is triggered by high humidity which is a natural feature of the local climate, insurance compensation for mold remediation will be denied. 

Are There Other Options?

In certain cases, insurance companies offer a special mold endorsement to a standard homeowner’s policy that includes many types of contamination not usually covered. This is available at an increased yearly premium.

What About Flooding?

Water damage and resultant mold contamination due to outdoor flooding or inundation from severe storms aren’t covered by homeowner’s insurance. Insurance coverage for damage caused by flooding is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program, a program administered by the federal government and available to all homeowners.  

Is Indoor Mold Causing Your Allergy Symptoms?

Thursday, June 11th, 2020
allergy symptoms

What are the facts about the connection between indoor mold growth and allergy symptoms? Mold and the microscopic airborne spores it releases are ubiquitous on planet Earth. In fact, you’re probably inhaling mold spores at this moment. Of the nearly 100,000 mold species in nature, however, only about 12 types are typically found inside houses.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, health issues due to mold growth are primarily related to:

  • The extent of exposure. The concentration of mold spores in outdoor air is very dilute. However, airborne spores released by active, growing mold inside the enclosed environment of a house may accumulate to very high levels. This elevated daily exposure may cause allergy symptoms in susceptible persons.  
  • Mold type. Individual sensitivity to mold varies widely, as do potential symptoms. Spores released by certain mold types such as Stachybotrys chartarum carry mycotoxins which may trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. However, a specific person may be uniquely sensitive to spores from any particular type of mold—or experience no reaction at all.

How Mold Thrives

Certain conditions must exist for mold growth to gain a foothold and expose residents to possible ill effects:

  • Indoor temperature. The most conducive range for mold growth is 70 degrees to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  • Food supply. Mold growth thrives on cellulose present in wood and building materials like drywall, paper, fabrics, and even household dust.
  • Moisture. Contact with moisture triggers long-dormant spores into an active mode in just 48 hours. Active growth releases airborne microscopic reproductive spores. Inhalation of reproductive spores is a proven cause of allergic symptoms in individuals with a sensitivity to mold mycotoxins.

Moisture = Mold

Moisture is the most critical factor in mold growth, particularly immediately following a water damage incident. Professional mold remediation includes these strategies:

  • Rapid response with research-proven measures to inhibit activation of dormant mold and release of allergenic spores.
  • Where mold is already established inside a house, professional remediation methods include determining the extent of contamination with air samples, tracking locations of active growth, and utilizing proven mold removal and decontamination methods, including EPA-recommended antimicrobial solutions, to permanently eliminate mold.

Selling Your Home? Resolve Mold Issues First

Thursday, May 7th, 2020
mold problems

If you’re considering putting your home on the market and the house has an ongoing mold problem, what’s the preferred strategy? Should you offer the house at a discounted “as is” price—mold contamination included? Or is it a better idea to take control of the issue and get professional mold remediation now, before trying to attract prospective buyers? Here are some facts to take into consideration when you’re selling a house with a mold problem.

  • You can’t keep it secret. A known mold issue—or even knowledge of conditions that would likely trigger contamination such as water damage—are facts that, in most states, must be divulged to prospective buyers in a pre-sale disclosure. If existing mold not mentioned in the disclosure is discovered after the sale, the seller may be liable for civil damages.
  • In the real estate industry today, the presence of mold is considered a substantial liability. Neglected mold contamination is often a deal-breaker or at least a substantial negative impact on market value.
  • Many qualified buyers won’t make an offer on a house with existing mold issues—at any price. There’s simply less risk and headaches by offering fair market value on an uncontaminated property, versus dealing with potential issues that accompany the moldy house down the street.

Before You Sell

Mold issues resolved by a qualified mold remediation service eliminate the stigma that drags down a home’s value. In fact, proof that a house has been certified mold-free by trained professionals is a positive selling point.

  • If you know or even suspect mold contamination, get testing and inspection by an IICRC-certified mold remediation provider. This includes in-depth visual inspection in areas where mold is likely to occur, air samples to detect mold spores, and attention to secondary factors associated with mold, such as ongoing moisture issues or water damage.
  • If the presence of mold is confirmed, have the problem professionally resolved before listing the house for sale. Once the home is declared mold-free, you’ll have written certification to substantiate that fact as an extra inducement to attract qualified buyers and the most favorable offers.

Killing Mold Is Not Enough

Thursday, April 30th, 2020
killing mold

Is simply killing mold an effective quick-fix to decontaminate your home? Since toxic mold is a living fungus, it might seem logical that applying anti-microbial disinfectants to kill visible mold growth would resolve the problem. Indeed, numerous options are available to kill mold, from DIY approaches such as household bleach up to spray application of professional biocides. However, as a comprehensive treatment to eliminate contamination inside a house, here are two reasons why merely killing mold alone falls far short:

  • Topical disinfectants don’t kill all the mold. Studies show that surviving spores remain in the residue of dead mold if treatment is limited to the direct application of disinfectants. Over time, active mold growth will recur at that location and elsewhere and the process of increasing contamination throughout the house will resume.
  • “Dead” mold can be still toxic. Both living and dead mold spores contain mycotoxins proven to trigger allergic responses in certain persons. Dead spores from the residue left behind following application of disinfectants readily circulate in house air currents and may be inhaled by occupants.

For a truly comprehensive treatment and verifiable results, professional mold remediation includes these steps:

  • Take air samples to determine the extent of contamination inside the house.
  • Locate all existing mold—not just the visible, readily accessible contamination. This includes the original focal point of contamination and all secondary sites.
  • Physically remove all mold from surfaces. Where mold growth has penetrated below the surface of certain building materials such as drywall or wooden structure—or deeply infected carpet or insulation— these materials may need to be removed and replaced.
  • After all mold growth and residue is removed from the house, treat affected surfaces and adjoining area with EPA-approved biocides.  
  • Resolve secondary conditions that support mold growth. Since mold spores are ubiquitous in both outdoor and indoor environments, comprehensive remediation must also include identifying and eliminating sources of moisture that are a major factor in activating indoor mold growth.
  • Take follow-up air samples to confirm successful remediation.

How to Prevent Carpet Mold After Water Damage

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Carpet mold is a common consequence in the aftermath of water damage. A carpet presents a perfect environment for mold growth. The fibers capture dormant airborne mold spores present in any home. Microscopic bits of cellulose—mold’s favorite food—are also attracted and retained in carpeting by static electricity. Moisture, then, is the only missing element. Once water damage occurs, soaked carpeting will often spawn mold growth in 24 to 48 hours.

Simply allowing carpet to air dry is not enough. Drying a wet carpet does not eliminate the inherent mold potential. Here are some standard steps to prevent carpet mold:

  • Not all wet carpet is an appropriate candidate for cleaning and mold disinfection. If water damage is Category 3 “black water” — raw sewage from a backup or outdoor flooding that inundated the house—the carpet is toxic and typically needs replacement.
  • The process must begin ASAP. The mold clock is ticking as soon as water contacts the carpet.
  • Remove standing or pooling water on the carpet with a wet/dry vacuum.
  • Powerful water extractors pull deeper water out of the carpet and, in some cases, out of the padding beneath, as well. If water damage is Category 1, originating from a clean source like a broken water pipe, professional extraction methods may eliminate the need to pull up the carpet and remove the padding. If Category 1 water has remained in the carpet for more than 24 hours, however, or if the water originated from a contaminated Category 2 or 3 source, the padding may need to be removed and replaced.
  • Steam cleaning—not just hot water extraction—provides superior mold decontamination. Professional carpet steam cleaners inject steam above 212 degrees, high temperatures necessary to kill mold growth. Most pro steam cleaning units can also inject mold disinfectants along with the steam, as well as deodorants.
  • Professional air-moving equipment designed to direct high-volume air across the surface of carpet and floors should be utilized to rapidly dry the carpet after cleaning. To support drying, dehumidifiers should be kept running in the affected room.
  • Moisture meters should be utilized to confirm that the carpet is fully dried.