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How to Clean Up Mold

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Well, even the cleanest of homes can have mold and we’re not just talking about the mold that covers the uneaten of leftovers from last week. You know, besides being unsightly, mold can cause major and even permanent health problems.

    TOM: That’s right. But what do you do if you find mold or suspect that you have mold? The host of This Old House, Kevin O’Connor, is here to walk us through it.

    How to Clean Up MoldSo, Kevin, if we suspect that we have mold or we spot something that looks moldy, is it a do-it-yourself project to clean it up?

    KEVIN: Well, I hate to say it but it depends.

    TOM: OK.

    KEVIN: And here are a couple things to think about. First of all, mold can pose serious health issues. So, if you are allergic to mold or if you have respiratory problems or a suppressed immune system, you should not be getting rid of the mold yourself.

    Now, if you don’t have those health issues, then you want to think about how much mold do you have and where is it. If the mold covers, say, 10 to 30 square feet, that’s about the size of a 4×8 sheet of plywood, well, then you can probably get rid of it yourself.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: If it’s a bigger area than that, you want to call in a professional.

    And if you can see where the mold is, well, then you can probably get rid of it yourself. But if you’re afraid that it’s gotten behind the walls into places that you can’t see, that’s when you might want to think about calling in a professional, as well.

    TOM: And I think it’s important to note that even if you are going to do it yourself, you want to follow some basic guidelines. And the New York City Department of Health actually has some of those guidelines online that are very helpful.

    KEVIN: They do. So does OSHA. And basically, some of those guidelines say eye protection, gloves and a respirator whenever working with mold.

    LESLIE: Now, if you do attempt to sort of tackle this do-it-yourself cleanup of mold, should you first identify what kind of mold that you have, to even see if you should do it yourself? Or if you’ve got it, get rid of it?

    KEVIN: I don’t think you should bother with a mold test. I mean there are literally thousands and tens of thousands of different kinds of mold out there. Mold is a problem when it’s in concentrations and when it’s in our house. And so it doesn’t matter, really, what kind of mold it is; you want to get rid of it. So spend your time and money getting rid of the mold, as opposed to determining which kind you have.

    TOM: Now, if you are going to hire a pro, it’s a challenge today, more so than ever before, to find somebody who really specializes in that.

    KEVIN: And I think that’s the key. I think you do want to find someone who specializes in this. Someone might have done a great job renovating your kitchen and they might be a fantastic contractor but they should be trained in mold mitigation. And so not every contractor out there is right for this job.

    I would suggest that you go to a couple different organizations that certify folks. There’s the American Indoor Air Quality Council and the Indoor Air Quality Association. That’s a good place to start when looking for a qualified contractor.

    TOM: Now, what about insurance coverage for mold? Is that standard today or not? Or is it just another thing that they try to weasel out …?

    KEVIN: Well, in terms of insurance, I think the answer there, also, is: it depends. It really depends on which – what kind of a policy you have. And I will say that you need to be aware that some insurance companies require additional riders for mold. So read the fine print and know what you’re getting into.

    LESLIE: Now, what about once you’ve got the mold situation under control, what can you do to make sure that this doesn’t come back and isn’t a recurring problem?

    KEVIN: Well, mold needs three things to grow and live: it needs oxygen, it needs food and it needs water. Deprive it of any one of those three things and you won’t have mold come back.

    Now, it’s very – well, it’s impossible to deprive it of oxygen.

    TOM: Right.

    KEVIN: And it’s hard to deprive it of food, because it likes anything organic and it loves cellulose, so we’re talking 2x4s, we’re talking the paper on the backing of insulation and drywall. So, get rid of the water. No water? No mold.

    TOM: Fix the leaks.

    KEVIN: Fix the leaks, keep the house dry and you’re not going to have a mold problem.

    TOM: Good advice. Kevin O’Connor, the host of TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    KEVIN: My pleasure to be here.

    LESLIE: You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings and a step-by-step video on mold removal and other projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com

    TOM: And Ask This Old House is brought to you by Stanley. Stanley, make something great.

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