Mold impacts human health and the structural integrity of a home. If you find mold growing anywhere in your home, you must take immediate action by killing and removing the mold. By carefully cleaning the infected area, you can also help prevent the mold from returning.
The extent and type of mold will determine whether you can handle the mold clean up yourself or need the assistance of a mold removal professional. Following are house mold clean up tips from The Money Pit’s air quality expert, Jeff May.
When to handle mold clean up yourself
Small mold clean up jobs–defined as “ten square feet or less” of mold growth by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Disease Epidemiology–can be tackled by occupants, as long as there is no one present who is sensitive to mold. Larger clean up jobs should be handled by professionals. Before you tackle any mold problem, however, gather information (refer to the EPA publication, “A Brief Guide to Mold, Moisture and Your Home”) and see your physician.
Selecting a qualified mold removal professional
To find a qualified mold removal professional, ask for references from your insurance company and a mold removal contractor’s past clients, and seek information from professional training and certification organizations such as the American Indoor Air Quality Council and the Indoor Air Quality Association. Jeff also has a lot of information about professional remediation in Chapter 11 of his book The Mold Survival Guide: For Your Home and for Your Health (www.myhouseiskillingme.com). Specialized training is important in mold removal work, so find out what sort of education and certification a contractor has before allowing him to get started killing mold in your house.
Insurance coverage for mold removal
To determine coverage of mold clean up services, carefully review your policy or ask your insurance agent. Be aware that mold remediation can be very expensive, more and more insurance companies are instituting coverage limits or charging extra for mold riders.
According to mold expert Jeff May, one of his clients did have mold coverage in her insurance policy, but once the work was completed and paid for, her insurance company terminated her policy because she was now “high risk”. Then her lender considered her mortgage in default because she didn’t have insurance. So if the cost isn’t too high, I’d be cautious about asking your insurance to pay for a house mold clean up, because it’s a slippery slope.
Preventing the return of mold
It’s important to remember that the micro fungi known as mold and mildew are living organisms. Mildew can grow within 24 to 48 hours whenever air, moisture (from leaks, spills, high relative humidity and condensation) and food sources (including skin scales and insect body parts in dust, starch and cellulose in drywall, cardboard and paper) are present. Cleaning will help kill the mildew, but it will likely reappear unless you change the conditions that were conducive for the mildew to grow in the first place.
How do you do that? Control moisture, including relative humidity, and you control mold growth. Keep below-grade spaces consistently heated to at least 60 degrees in the cooler months and dehumidified to below 50% relative humidity in the warmer months. Repair leaks as soon as they are discovered, don’t over-water plants and avoid over-humidifying your home, and you’ll prevent the return of mold and never have to worry about killing mold and mold spores or house mold clean up.