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Getting Rid of Mold: DIY or a Job for a Pro?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Heading to Arkansas where Fred is on the line with a mold question. What’s going on at your money pit?

    FRED: A contractor is getting ready to do some work on my house. And he went to  start doing it and since the last time I’d been underneath the sink, it had grown a large bunch of black mold underneath there. He needed to do some work in the utility room and found the same black mold up there. I got a mold abatement to come in and give me an estimate on it and I almost fell backwards.

    TOM: What did they want to charge you and what did they say they were going to do, Fred?

    FRED: They would come down, tear out all of the affected areas and charge it off. And I would be responsible for having it put back in.

    TOM: And how much were they going to charge you for that privilege?

    FRED: Between 2,000 and 4,000 dollars. 

    TOM: Wow. That’s very nice. Yeah.  OK, so we have this mold in two areas, right? We have it inside the kitchen cabinet? Is that correct? With the sink cabinet?

    FRED: Yeah.

    TOM: Alright. And how much mold would you say is there if I were to ask you for sort of in square footage? Is it like 2 square feet, 3 square feet, more than that? What do you think?

    FRED: Probably 5 or 6 square feet.

    TOM: So it’s quite a bit?

    FRED: No, it’s not that much. It’s just there’s a lot of area under there.

    TOM: Is it like growing on the walls of the cabinet?

    FRED: Yeah.

    TOM: OK. And then you said there was a utility room? How much mold is in that area?

    FRED: It’s completely covered out there. My water heater blew out the other day and I couldn’t get at it right away. And between the time I got it replaced, there was mold growing there, too.

    TOM: Now, was that outside the house or inside the house?

    FRED: It’s off the carport outside.

    TOM: It’s off the carport outside. So that’s less of a concern because it’s more exposed to the exterior. It’s like an outside closet, correct?

    FRED: Yeah.

    TOM: So, the New York Department of Health – New York State Department of Health – has some really good guidelines on sort of do-it-yourself mold control. And they generally recommend that if it’s less than 10 square feet, you can do it yourself.

    If this cabinet – this sink cabinet – is not structurally damaged, you could treat the affected mold with simply a bleach-and-water solution. I would use a fairly heavy bleach-and-water solution. Maybe at least 25-percent bleach if not 50-percent bleach. You’re going to have to have proper eye protection, proper respiratory protection while you spray it and gloves and all that kind of stuff.

    And you’ve basically got to spray it on there thoroughly and just let it sit so it kills the mold spores. And then you can clean it up again with all of that proper respiratory protection and good ventilation, too, in case any of those mold spores get stuck to – get distributed to the air. What I like to do is open all the windows in the house, put some fans on so we depressurize the rooms and then go ahead and clean it.

    But if it’s a small amount like that, there are guidelines online that you can follow to do it yourself. But that’s essentially it. You spray the mold to kill it and then you clean it from there. And the reason it happened is because you have a cold, damp, enclosed space like that. And if you try to make sure that you check it once in a while so it doesn’t leak, it doesn’t become stagnant like that, it probably won’t come back.

    FRED: So I guess I’ll ask – get someone else to do that because I’m a disabled vet and I’m on oxygen already but ..

    TOM: Well, now, yeah. So, OK, I’m glad you mentioned that. Because if you have respiratory issues, then it’s more important that you’re very, very careful not to distribute the mold to the rest of house. So I would have somebody experienced do it but I don’t necessarily feel like this contractor’s approach of tear it all out is necessarily the right way. Because in my view, that’s going to even cause more disruption than if you were just to clean it.

    FRED: Now, that’s what I figured. But some of these guys are in business to make a lot of money off of …

    TOM: Yeah, I know. And they panic-peddle, too. They see mold, they try to get you all freaked out about it. And yeah, it’s an issue but it’s fixable, alright?

    Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT and thank you so much for your service, sir.

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