Save Time and Money on Mold Remediation with a Prevention Plan
By: Beth Jarrett
Mold remediation can be a very expensive and time-consuming process for homeowners. The combination of fear, an unregulated industry, and fluctuating environmental conditions is a formula for high cost mold remediation. Fortunately, current advances in mold remediation procedures, products, and technology can help cut the cost of a mold remediation project, while delivering more satisfactory long term results. The key to a permanent solution to mold in the home lies in looking at the building as a complete system that must be balanced and maintained in order to be healthy.
The main steps for any mold remediation project can be boiled down to: proper assessment, professional remediation, and environmental correction. Done correctly, these steps will tie together to form a coherent mold remediation and prevention plan at little cost to you.
When it comes to home repairs, check out your contractors carefully. Although many people may say that they can do mold remediation, they may not have adequate training. Mold remediation is still an unregulated industry. Make sure you hire professionals who specialize in mold assessments and remediation to get the best results.
A typical mold assessment would include a visual inspection, measurement of the humidity in the air, the moisture in the building materials, and a sampling of the mold. There are several different methods for taking mold samples; it is important to use the same method for measurement both before and after the remediation for comparison purposes. An important but often overlooked part of the assessment process is pinpointing the real cause of the mold. In some cases it will be a catastrophic event, such as a flood or a broken pipe, but many times there are other factors that create or contribute to the mold problem. Cracked foundations, poor drainage, inadequate gutters, and oversized furnaces can eventually lead to mold in the home.
Although there are no formal regulations for the mold remediation industry, there are standard guidelines, methods and protocol, such as those established by the EPA and the New York City Department of Health. Ask your mold contractor which guideline they will be using and if they can’t answer that question, find someone else to do the job.
Traditional remediation techniques usually include removal of all contaminated material, all the way down to the studs, and in some cases including the studs. This is a very slow, labor-intensive, and expensive method and may not be effective in the long run if environmental conditions are not corrected. More current methods include fogging with antifungal agents, which can be introduced into the wall cavity through a very small hole. These fogging agents range in toxicity from harmless all-natural oils to more aggressive industrial agents. All are extremely effective against mold; the individual remediator would determine the type used, based on the requirements of the job.
Even the best mold remediation job will not be a permanent fix to the mold problem if the environment itself is not corrected. Mold needs only two things to grow: a food source and moisture. Given those two things, mold will return again and again. It can lie dormant for years, waiting for the humidity levels in the home to creep up past the threshold and into the optimum mold growing range of above 50% relative humidity. In hot and humid climates, it is a constant battle to keep the humidity lowered, especially when the home is air-conditioned and has a basement. As warm, humid air from the basement or crawl space hits the cooled floor joists from the floor above, it immediately begins to form condensation. Over time, mold will grow in the floor, sub-floor and floor joists.
The most effective way to treat mold long term is by treating the environment. Drying out basements is probably the single most important step in mold prevention, as is humidity control inside the home. Second, good air filtration is needed to remove mold spores and other airborne allergens that may still be present inside the home. Finally, adding adequate ventilation to the home will keep the air inside fresh and healthy. When a home is built tight for energy efficiency, it tends to have negative pressure and may need additional ventilation. Homes with negative pressure can have problems when mycotoxins from mold and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) migrate through the exterior walls and into the living spaces. The introduction of additional ventilation will dilute any VOCs that are present and create positive pressure inside the home to minimize unhealthy air infiltration.
When an overall mold prevention plan is implemented as part of a mold remediation project, everyone benefits. The remediation is quicker and less expensive when newer technologies replace the more destructive and labor-intensive methods used in the past. By treating the home as a system and keeping that system in balance, the homeowner can create an environment that is healthy for the inhabitants and incompatible with mold.
The HealthyAir line of DVAs combine dehumidification, fresh air ventilation and air filtration for a complete whole house system that helps prevent mold recurrence post-remediation, by maintaining a balanced and stable indoor environment. These three methods work together to create an indoor environment that is healthy, stable and mold-free, meaning concerns about mold removal costs are a thing of the past.
The HealthyAir DVAs have been very successful in homes, especially those in hot and humid climates. Combining the installation of a DVA with more advanced and less destructive remediation methods has resulted in mold remediation jobs that are faster, less expensive, more effective and do not require the owners to leave their homes for extended periods of time. Best of all, the homeowners end up with a long-term mold prevention plan that is simple to implement and easy to maintain.