Living Smart

Mold testing and remediation

Few states have enacted guidelines that prohibit companies from performing both mold testing and mold remediation. In fact, in most states, the same company that inspects and tests for mold can also be the same company that does the remediation.

That poses the potential for a huge conflict of interest.

“The more stuff a contractor finds wrong, the more he gets paid,” said Tom Alford, a Certified Indoor Environmental Consultant and certified Mold Remediation Supervisor with Enviropro in St. Louis who only does inspection and testing for mold, not remediation.

Only a handful of other states — Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Texas and Virginia — either have mold licensing requirements or laws in place that prevent or severely limit the ability of a contractor to offer both testing and remediation.

“In Florida, you can either be licensed to be a remediator, which we are licensed to be, or a [mold inspector], which is a person who goes out and does testing,” said Jon Hall, whose remediation company, Advanced Restorations Inc., is located in New Port Richey. If an inspector finds the presence of mold, they provide Hall’s company with the remediation protocol, “then we go out and write an estimate based on what needs to be done. Once we’re finished ... you have the same company come back and test what we did was correct and the building passes a final inspection.”

Alford said he’s had customers call him after other companies tried to use scare tactics. One client reached out to him after a mold remediator told her she had dangerous black mold in her home that could kill her small children and it would cost $50,000 to correct the problem.

“They gave her all these articles on black mold and told her that her kids would get sick and die,” Alford said. “I went downstairs and found a crack in her foundation that had mud coming through. She got a $50,000 estimate to do the work when what she needed was a $400 crack repair.”

At the very least, homeowners who can’t find a separate tester and remediator should ensure that the person who does the testing sends the samples off to an independent, accredited laboratory for verification and request that the lab also send the results back to the homeowner, before allowing any work to be done.

Alford charges a $300 minimum for testing, with an average cost of $600. If mold is found, remediators will typically set up containment walls to prevent contamination in unaffected areas of the home. If necessary, air movers can be used to bring in fresh air or force air out of the area. Eliminating moisture as a food source is key to controlling mold. The most common reasons are water damage from a flood, burst pipes or a leaky roof.

Look for mold companies that hold verifiable credentials from reputable organizations like the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification and the Indoor Air Quality Association. Check with your local licensing authority to ensure the company meets your local requirements and ask the company to show proof it’s insured.

“A lot of companies that do restoration services may not specialize in mold,” Hall said. “They just offer it because it’s kind of part of the package they offer. It doesn’t mean they’re mold experts or specialists in mold. We see a lot of companies that don’t really know what they’re doing when it comes to mold. That can create significant problems for the homeowners if it’s not done properly.”

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List.

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