While dealing with the insurance company, it's also time to find a mold remediation company. We found mold after removing the cabinets because they put out lots of fans but never removed cabinet doors/drawers (read How to Dry Out Kitchen Cabinets). With no prior experience involving mold remediation, this is a perfect opportunity to share my research and how I went about hiring a new contractor.
Mold Remediation Means What?
When researching mold and mold remediation companies, I realized there were several words being used and it wasn't clear what each meant. More important was figuring out the word that best described the services I needed.
- Water damage as defined by Wikipedia, “losses caused by water intruding where it enables attack of materials by destructive processes like rotting of wood, growth, rusting of steel, de-laminating materials such as plywood”.
- Water mitigation refers to the process of preventing or reversing damage caused by water in a building. Reversing water damage can mean water removal and/or the whole water cleaning process
- Water damage remediation means treating or reversing the damage caused by unwanted water accumulation. In covers the process of cleaning, drying, sanitizing and repairing any structural damage caused by water
- Water damage restoration includes the complete process of water cleanup from the removal of water, drying items and structures, and moving restored items back.
DIY Test Kits: See if Mold Remediation Needed
Once the mold behind the cabinets was visible, it was time to do more testing.
With no agreement by the insurance company that any mold testing is required, I started with some DIY mold test kits. The testing is really simple so don't be afraid of it – it reminded me of biology labs in high school.
- Pour the mold growth medium (small bottle below) into the petri dish.
- Leave the petri dish uncovered for one hour (I used the timer on my phone).
- Monitor petri dish for mold growth. It's frustrating when there's nothing to see for the first two days but right around 48 hours, you'll see mold and over the next two days it will bloom.
What was frustrating with the mold test kits was there's only one test per box, even when an outdoor control test is recommended. My MoldArmor kits are available at Home Depot and Lowe's in the paint aisle, or you can find them on Amazon (see more mold test kits on Amazon).
DIY mold test kits sell for less than ten dollars per kit. You'll have to pay about $35 to send your results to a lab for further analysis. That's still less than the $75 to $125/test you'll pay for an indoor air quality testing company to perform the test for you (planned so I'll be able to compare results in a week or two).
What Does Mold Remediation Include?
The more interesting challenge was learning what services are provided by mold remediation companies. Here's what I've learned so far from online research and talking to two companies. One company wanted to take over control of the entire remediation process without describing the steps. The other company estimator was very friendly, answered all my questions and together we came up with a strategy for taking the first few steps.
The mold remediation process begins with indoor air quality testing, and possibly some swab tests if there's visible mold. Companies that do the test provide two types of reports:
- Mold analysis report indicating which types of mold exceed acceptable levels for a healthy home (flagged in red below).
- Recommendations (called a protocol) for the mold remediation company to follow to eliminate mold in your home. When I received mine I'll share it here … but I think it's a pretty standard process.
Next before cleaning starts, all the house fixtures damaged by the water need to be removed. This includes
- Baseboards and then drywall as needed.
- Interior doors and door jambs if needed. Sometimes the jambs may be okay as they're solid wood while most doors today hollow-core and made from fiberboard which absorbs water quickly.
- Base cabinets often need to be replaced. This happens with MDF construction. The fiberboard absorbs too much water which affects the structural integrity of the cabinets. Or the paint on painted cabinets like mine, peel away from the plywood underneath.
- Flooring may need to be removed although that's more often done when removing water from a house.
- Wipe down all hard surfaces. This includes ceilings, walls, remaining cabinets, furniture and appliances (all 6 sides) with an EPA recommended contact fungicide.
- HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter) vacuum all affected areas.
- Pack up soft contents and move to storage. Things like towels and clothing are left to the homeowner to wash while …
- HEPA air scrubbing equipment is run during remediation and for 72 hours after remediation is completed.
- Clean all duct work, vents and air handler (read: Anatomy of a Central Air Conditioner). Clean and sanitize coils and treat all ductwork/air handler with a microbial.
- Take air samples and submit to mold testing company for analysis.
- Provide a detailed report and warranty.
More Information on Mold Remediation
There's a lot of information online about mold. Here are the best articles I've found:
- Good introductory presentation, What You Need to Know About Mold.
- Article with most of the basics Mold Growth: How it Grows and What to Do.
- Minnesota Department of Health, article on Mold and Your Health.
- Fascinating news report on Mold Inspection Fraud.
- When you want to learn about What Causes Mold to Grow.
- Learning about mold under tile, Can Flooring Moisture Meters be Useful for Installing Tile Floors.
- For my flooded house, the article Hidden Mold Contamination, was especially helpful as it explained how big test cuts should be to determine if there's mold inside the wall cavities.
Learning about the tools used during mold remediation.
- Air scrubbers, Can Air Scrubbers Remove Mold.
- Rental costs for dehumidifiers, air scrubbers and more.