Got Mold? Start Here.
So you confirmed you have mold in your home, now what?
First, if you’re still in the exploratory stages where you suspect you may have a mold issue, but aren’t quite sure, sign-up to download our PDF guide below for step-by-step instructions on what to do if you think you have mold.
If you’ve gone through these steps, or you’ve confirmed with testing that you definitely have mold in your home (or car or workplace), then this post will give you the exact steps you need to take now.
Your first inclination might be to call your insurance company and file a claim. Do not do this yet! You need to gather a lot more information before you speak with your insurance company, more on that below.
Hire a Qualified Consultant
The first thing you need to do once you’ve confirmed the presence of mold is hire a qualified mold consultant to help you navigate the process. You may have already been working with a mold inspector. He or she may be able to help you with the next steps, or hopefully they have already provided you with this information. The reality however is that most mold inspectors have a very limited view of the health implications that mold can cause, and as such, do not have a substantial appreciation for the potential consequences of living in mold. If you feel your inspector does not understand this, then you should consult with someone that approaches the situation from a health perspective, like a building biologist. This is something I help my clients with on a daily basis. You can reach out to me for help, or I can help connect you with someone in your area.
Decide Whether Occupancy is Safe
With the help of your qualified consultant, you then need to decide whether or not the space is safe to occupy. Unfortunately, there is no formula to help you answer this question. Your consultant should look at your samples (if taken), consider your health history, the history of the home, and the seriousness of the water event and help you decide if it’s safe to stay, or better to leave for the time being. If someone in the family is experiencing significant health problems, it may be better to leave the home until remediation is completed.
Decide Whether to Remediate, or Sell
The next thing to do is decide if you want to remediate the home or not. Of course, I recommend remediation 100% of the time. If there is mold in a building, any kind of mold, it should be removed to protect any occupants now and in the future. I do occasionally have clients that choose to leave the building ‘as is’. Often, they choose to leave the home entirely, and sell it. A remediation can be quite time-consuming and expensive, so for some, walking away makes more sense. It’s important to note that If you do confirm the presence of mold you are legally bound to disclose this when you list your home.
Contact Remediation Companies
If you choose to stay in the home and remediate it, your next step is to call several remediation companies and get quotes on your job. The sad truth is that not all remediation companies have your best interest in mind. For the sake of their bottom line, they want to get in and out of your home as quickly as possible. This often means that corners are cut, and the remediation is less than thorough. When this happens, you may still be exposed to mold and mycotoxins, and your health will continue to suffer. Obviously, we don’t want this.
It’s best to call at least three companies, if not more. Interview each company on their protocols. If they tell you that their main strategy is to spray the building materials with chemicals, do NOT hire them. Encapsulates do not work. All water damaged materials must be physically removed from the property. Proper containment must be used to minimize cross-contamination with the rest of the building. And a fine particle cleaning must be thoroughly done, followed by post-remediation clearance testing. If these steps are not in the company’s standard procedure, they are not for you. You may have to get six, seven, ten or twelve bids. Keep going until you find the right company.
Call Your Insurance
Now it’s time to call your insurance and make a claim. You want to have all of your information ready to go prior to making this call. In fact, I recommend having the remediation company make this call for you. They are skilled at what to say so that you have a better chance of getting your claim covered.
Hire a 3rd Party to Oversee the Remediation
If you’re finding it difficult to find a company you trust, your consultant can help you. I often work as a 3rd party oversight to ensure the remediation company is following the proper steps. I first develop the remediation plan that the company agrees to, I check in on the property throughout the remediation, and I run post-remediation clearance tests to make sure they did a thorough job. I strongly recommend having a 3rd party oversee this process, otherwise you run the risk of moving back into a ‘still’ moldy home.
*Pro Tip: After the remediation is ‘complete’, your home should pass the ‘white glove’ test. Put on a white glove (black actually works better) and run your finger along all the remediated surfaces. See any dust? Then the remediation is NOT complete. This means the area was not adequately cleaned, and mold spores may be left behind. The remediation company must come back to thoroughly clean the space.
Finally, you will begin the remediation process. It is generally recommended that occupants stay elsewhere during the actual remediation phase. While it may have been ok to stay in the home before, remediation will open up building materials and potentially release more mycotoxins and mold spores into the air. It’s also a very loud and inconvenient process. If it’s possible to stay at a hotel or with friends and family, this is recommended.
As you can see, getting to the remediation phase takes a bit of work. This is one area where you do not want to skimp or rush into things. If you want the best chance of improving your health, you want to take your time with this process and make sure it’s done right.
I also realize it can be confusing and overwhelming. This is why it can help to work with a consultant to guide you with your specific situation. Again, don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to find someone in your area. If there is not someone in your area, many of us can help you remotely.
While you may be feeling overwhelmed with all you need to do, the good news is that when remediation is done well, you have a whole new opportunity to heal. I have seen so many people regain their health and get their lives back once they clean up their homes. It’s happened to me too! And I guarantee you it’s 100% worth it.