Mold Detection & Remediation: FAQ’s

1. Q: Can mold make people sick?

A: Excessive mold spores indoors can trigger allergic reactions, breathing disorders, and asthma attacks. Mold spores can become elevated indoors when mold grows on surfaces or when insufficient ventilation or filtration is available to remove mold that comes in from outdoors. Mold can cause adverse health effects, whether the mold is alive or dead. This is the reason why mold growth should be cleaned up by professionals. If microscopic mold spores are spread throughout the indoors, people can react long after mold is improperly removed.

2. Q: Are some molds more dangerous than others?

A: Any mold can be dangerous if an individual has developed sensitivities to it. However, some molds that produce toxins are considered by many doctors to be more dangerous than others. Some or the molds that produce dangerous toxins include Stachybotrys, Aspergillus, Trichoderma, and Penicillium. These molds are most commonly found indoors when water damage occurs. Without the competition of molds that thrive better outdoors, these molds thrive indoors on wet wood, drywall, and other building materials.

3. Q: If mold spores are always present in the outdoor air, why should I be so worried about mold indoors?

A: The most common type of outdoor mold is Cladosporium, which grows on decayed vegetation. This mold is generally not associated with adverse health as are the types of mold that thrive indoors.

4. Q: Hasn’t mold always been around? Why are we so worried about it now?

A: Tight construction is one reason people react more to mold than they used to. With tighter construction, molds can be trapped indoors, increasing exposures. Additionally, medical knowledge has increased and doctors have found that some of the previously unexplained illnesses, such as fibromyalgia and other auto-immune disorders, are triggered by mold and mold toxin exposure.

5. Q: Visible mold is present on walls in my home. Should I have the mold tested?

A: Testing of mold is generally not necessary unless a doctor needs the information to assist with diagnosis, litigation is involved, or additional information is needed to develop a mold removal (remediation) plan. The methods for removal of mold growth are the same for all types of mold.

6. Q: How do I get rid of mold growing on drywall in my home?

A: If the mold covers more than 10 square feet, a professional mold remediation company should be contacted. However, even if one square foot of mold is visible on the surface, it is necessary to investigate further as there may be a more serious underlying problem.

The mold must be removed under controlled conditions to prevent mold spores from being transported throughout the indoors. The underlying cause of moisture must also be corrected. A qualified contractor wearing personal protective equipment will set up containment barriers and filtration before removing the mold.

7. Q: Will putting a more efficient filter on our furnace get rid of mold?

A: Up to 40% of air flows through the ductwork. To make the filter more efficient, the whole home should be evaluated for ventilation, air flow, and make-up air.

Filtration only removes mold spores from the air stream. Efficient filtration is great for controlling mold that enters from outdoors. If a source of mold growth is present, mold spores will continually be released into the air. Therefore, remediation must be performed to remove the source.

8. Q: What is Black Mold?

A: While there are hundreds of molds that are black in color, the term “black mold” generally is used in reference to Stachybotrys: a very black shiny mold that grows on very wet drywall, particle board, ceiling tiles, wood, and oriented strand board (OSB). Because Stachybotrys produces potent toxins that some medical experts have attributed to serious illnesses, including neurological disorders, excessive bleeding, gastrointestinal disorders, and inflammation, it has received more notoriety than other types of mold.

9. Q: We are putting our home up for sale and wonder if we should have it inspected now or wait for the buyers to hire an inspector.

A: Many times an offer is removed or the offer is reduced when a buyer’s inspector identifies mold growth. Many times, the problem is easily fixed without spending a lot of money. However, identifying the mold and correcting it before putting the home on the market can only avoid costly delays. Of course disclosure of the mold is required. However, provided documentation is available that the mold has been removed by a reputable contractor and the home’s asset value is protected.

Please note: A buyer’s home inspection and mold inspection are very different.  Buyer’s home inspection looks at structure and mechanical function.  Mold Inspection looks for mold growth, source of moisture, any water intrusion.

10. Q: Several of my co-workers and I have developed skin rashes and coughs that we do not experience when out of the office. What is our best course of action?

A: Your work place might be suffering from “Sick Building Syndrome” (SBS) or Building Related Illness (BRI). BRI is a specific illness or set of symptoms resulting from exposure to a known material. Legionnaire’s  disease, which is caused by the bacterium, Legionella, is an example of a BRI.

In contrast, SBS is a term that denotes an excessive occurrence of adverse health and comfort complaints that are linked to time spent within a building. In most cases of suspected SBS, a direct cause for the IAQ problem cannot be identified. Symptoms associated with SBS generally include runny noses, coughs, sore throats, eye irritation, and lethargy.

An Indoor Air Quality Assessment should be performed in the building. The IAQ assessment should include a detailed visual inspection as well as data collection to assess ventilation and contaminant sources.

11. Q: Under what circumstances might indoor testing for mold be recommended?

A: The following circumstances warrant mold sampling:

  • To assist physicians in diagnosing illnesses.
  • To define a remediation scope. An example would be testing to determine if spores traveled outside of an area of known water damage or visible growth.
  • Comparison of pre and post remediation when litigation is involved.
  • Confirm suspect growth in areas of staining or water damage.
  • Evaluate potential contamination prior to real estate transactions.
  • Comparisons of complaint and non-complaint areas of a building.
  • Litigation issues relative to construction defects, contractor negligence, insurance disputes, and non-disclosure in real estate transactions.

17 Responses to “Mold Detection & Remediation: FAQ’s”

  1. Gnuts Says:

    I have been feeling sick in my home for about 3 years. This was shortly after we discovered mold in our kitchen ceiling due to water from the bathroom above. The insurance company sent out someone to replace a fixture in the shower. About one month ago, we discovered water in the kitchen ceiling again. When the plumber investigated, he found rotted wood and black mold on green board behind tiles. The insurance company will not pay for the repairs because they claim the damage is long term. I have been told this will be very expensive. How should we handle this. Can my brother, who is a handyman tear out the shower and bathroom floor.

  2. Connie Morbach Says:

    The situation of gnuts is far too familiar. When a water damage event occurs, it is advisable that the situation be professionally evaluated – even when insurance companies send a contractor for repairs. An independent third party indoor air quality professional with mold expertise should evaluate damages and prepare a scope for remediation. In this situation, a mold expert should conduct air and surface samples to assess the damages and determine if mold spores were spread to other areas. If so, the remediation might extend to other areas of the home. Once the remediation scope is developed, a qualified mold remediation company should be called to provide estimates. Legal assistance might be required regarding the insurance claim. Relying on a handyman or any contractor that does not have expertise in containment to prevent creating cross-contamination during remediation is not recommended. Improper remediation can be worse than no remediation.

  3. conniemorbach Says:

    I see a real need for a mold victims support group. A common thread among my clients that have experienced adverse health symptoms is the desire to discuss issues with empathetic individuals. Simply having their fears and concerns validated by testing is a first step to emotional healing. However, so many victims have through trial and error discovered “cures” for their health issues and emothional aftermath.

  4. blueys Says:

    I have less than 1 sq. ft. of what appears to be small spots of mold on my basement wall. Can I clean it with bleach and paint over it with Kilz?

    • Connie Morbach Says:

      My initial response is the legalese answer, It Depends.” But assuming you are not an attorney, I will expand on the answer. IF the walls are concrete or block and the basement is very well ventilated, using a wire brush to scrub with a solution of one cup of bleach per gallon of water would be okay. However, in this instance, using Concrobium to clean the spots would be safer.

      KILLZ, which is a primer often used to cover soot and other stains before painting serves no purpose in remediation of mold. The mold must be removed. Simply painting over the mold will likely result in peeling of the paint and continued exposure hazards.

      If the basement wall is constructed of drywall, cleaning with bleach or any other cleaner would not be appropriate. Moldy drywall must be removed. Precautions must be taken to prevent the mold spores from becoming airborne and traveling to non-affected areas. If you absolutely are certain that the mold does not extend beyond the 1 sq. ft (this means you can see the backside of the drywall, heavy gauge polyethylene can be taped over the moldy area, and the drywall can be removed using a hand tool (not electric). Keep in mind that spores released from the surface must be removed by HEPA-vacuuming and damp-wiping. Also, the person removing the drywall must wear a respirator and gloves.

      If the mold is on an outside wall, the backside of the drywall, which is unpainted, probably is more severely affected than the front side. In this case, a professional mold investigator should be called to assess the damages and determine the type of containment necessary.

      Ultimately, the underlying cause of water damage must be corrected to prevent future mold growth.

  5. dharmaqueen Says:

    I love your site and I share your values. Most places don’t seem to understand that “green” should also mean harmless to human health!

    My question is: How do I remediate a room that was exposed to mold 3 ways?

    1 – general mild mold in the walls, but the landlord won’t do anything about it because it’s in the whole apartment (it doesn’t seem to bother me much);

    ***2 – I left an outfit in there for 2 weeks that I wore when I was exposed one day (2 trips downstairs) to a moldy basement that had a horrible smell and long black strips showing through the paint; so I think the outfit cross-contaminated the basement to my bedroom; I’ve since bagged up the clothes and the blanket I slept on the night after I was exposed; when sleeping in there I got burning nostrils and nausea [I think this exposure is the true culprit of my harrowing sinus infection and the phlegm I still deal with, 2 1/2 weeks after, even after anti-fungal herbs – and putting my head in there one day recently without a mask started the tickly cough again];

    ***3 – there are a few boxes, covered in cheap plastic, with items from boxes I salvaged from a friend’s moldy (piles of whitish stuff in that basement ceiling) basement, too, which I’m not sure were making me sick but I am wondering how do I remediate the items – some valuable photographs and a lot of sentimental photos and papers. I saw your page on salvaging items, but how do I salvage valuable photos? Have an air purifier running in the contaminated room, and do the paper/photo salvage *before* I remediate the room?

    4 – Knowing the above, do I need to individually remove each book from the bookcases and each paper from the manila file folders to clean them? It is overwhelming. Or can diffusing essential oil deactivate any spores in the room? (I had a horrible allergic reaction to that person’s basement, it seems, so I’m worried even about dry spores, though I’m sure the room needs a dehumidifier too – no visible mold, just a musty smell on humid days)

    Basements are awful, it seems.

    Thanks for any advice you can give. I’m compiling a huge list of things I can do, when I’m not trying to get well from the sickness that started with the moldy basement (my health was already hanging by a thread).

    Is there an email address I can contact you at? It might be easier than comments, plus I would like to keep in touch for environmental/anti-mold projects!

  6. Crime Rates Says:

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  11. Lauren Fowlie Says:

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