When I encounter effective mold remediation projects by contractors that have the appropriate knowledge, training, and ethics to protect both a structure and its occ
upants, I am proud of our industry. However, increasingly I coming across mold remediators who either do not know or do not want to do what the standards of care are designed to achieve.
Mold Remediation Emergence
In the late 1990’s to the early 2000’s the restoration industry experienced a big shift away from “rip and run” techniques for mold removal to detailed step-wise remediation performed trained technicians in accordance to a mold consultants scope. A crucial impetus behind safe mold removal was a series of well publicized case studies in which serious adverse health symptoms were reportedly associated with exposures to toxigenic molds in schools, residential dwellings, and court houses.
During those early years of mold consciousness, most residential and commercial insurance policies covered mold damage that was related to sudden water events, such as water intrusions into roof systems after rain storms, refrigerator ice maker supply line failures, and plugged AC condensate pans. Coincidently, at the same time, mixed winter conditions in the midwest and northeastern parts of the United States caused ice dams and consequential mold damage to roof systems and attics, which added to the mold burden caused by storms and hurricanes in warmer parts of the country. A void of qualified and certified mold remediators and consultants triggered the development of new training centers that were flooded by contractors and consultants who were eager to become certified. Before long, various governmental, professional, and trade associations established guidelines that ultimately became the standards of care.
As an indoor air quality consultant, I performed thousands of pre and post remediation assessments in the twentieth and early twenty first centuries. Overall, I encountered contractors that were eager to learn the why’s and how’s of effective mold remediation. I definitely saw improvements as contractors sought to be at the top of referral lists and desired to stay out of the courtroom.
Mold Remediation Downturn
All seemed good in mold remediation land until the mid-1990’s when the insurance companies plugged the flow of money for mold-related losses. Some of the important events that I believe triggered the shut-off of mold insurance included a landmark case in Texas where a jury awarded the Melinda Ballard and her family $32 million dollars for property and compensatory damages associated with mold from a covered water event in their 11,000 ft2 mansion. Another important influence was that insurance companies were paying out more money than necessary for many claims, primarily because historical and loss related damages were not differentiated. Additionally, with so many losses and not enough specialized adjustors, decisions were frequently left up to contractors that were pressured from homeowners to remove all mold. Ultimately most insurance companies capped the pay-outs for mold related claims or completely excluding mold coverage.
With exclusions in mold coverage, many companies that specialized in mold remediation closed their doors. Most of the survivors shifted their focuses to providing water and fire restoration. Companies that survived with mold remediation as their primary service developed special niches, such as physician recommendations, custom builder alliances, and specialized client referrals
State of the Industry
The downward spiral for mold remediators seemed to level off after 2010. Most large insurance reliant companies still provide mold remediation, and a few specialized mold remediation contractors have survived. Unfortunately it seems that the “how to’s” for the quality of work that emerged in the early 2000’s did not get passed on as field technicians and supervisors were replaced. Surprisingly, some companies that still tout mold remediation services have no certified mold remediators in their company and/or are not covered for mold damages. For many of those that have veteran employees with certifications, the basics of “removal under controlled conditions” appear to be awash with restorative drying policies and procedures.
My observations on several recent “post remediation” inspections s prompted writing about this topic. Witnessing what I considered botched remediation that lacked common sense surprised me on the first few jobs. Seeing similar conditions on numerous subsequent jobs left me horrified. The previous eagerness that I had become accustomed to seeing in technicians who wanted to be the best remediators is far too often replaced with rolling eyes, impatience, and indifference. For the consumer, this trend might have devastating health effects. Because the majority of homeowners do not know what to expect from a mold remediation contractor, sub-standard remediation will usually not have immediate adverse consequences for the contractors. Hopefully, health complaints and costly litigation will not be necessary to stop the dummying down and restore credibly to this important industry.