12 Essential Tips for Hiring A Great Mold Inspector

Are you concerned about how mold in your home is affecting the health of your family?

If so, then I invite you keep reading so I can help point you in the right direction.

It is common knowledge that prolonged mold exposure can cause health issues, especially for those who have sensitivities to mold, especially the very young or elderly. This has been well documented by organizations such as the Mayo Clinic and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as well as numerous other sources involved with mold.

Many suffer “cold or flu” like symptoms, when they are in the presence of mold affected areas, only to feel better when they leave the environment.

The more our awareness grows on the subject, the more important it is or us to cut through the noise, so we can pin point exactly what we need to do about it.

Sadly, very few people take the time to properly qualify me, or anyone else for that matter, when looking to hire a mold inspector. I can certainly understand and empathize with them because their emotions take over.

The main focus becomes “I’ve got to deal with this mold threat”, rather than “I need to find the right inspector for a solution.”

Aside from the details outlined throughout this document, the key focus of the mold inspection is to find the source of the issue (if there is one) and exactly what to do about it. You absolutely need to know if your inspector is capable of doing so.

In my follow up article to this one, Tips For Hiring A Mold Remediation Company, I explain the difference between a mold inspector and remediation contractor.


In this article I will clearly outline 12 essential tips for hiring a great mold Inspector for your needs…


1. The initial phone call – This is where you want to establish how open the inspector is for taking the time to understand your concern(s).

Ask if he is willing to discuss your problem over the phone and answer any questions prior to booking the inspection. This is also an opportunity to find out how well the person on the other line communicates with you. Effective communication skills are vital for mold inspectors to have, so you understand any problems and potential implications resulting for the mold inspection.


2. Adequate Training – Even in our modern age of technology and apparent sophistication, the mold and remediation field is largely unregulated. In many cases, a handy man will be called in to conduct a mold inspection. Many strata management companies do this to save on costs (hoping their hired handy man can fix all of the building related issues).

Mold inspections require proper training. Find out what their level of training is and if they have the appropriate certifications to understand what they are looking for… and the impact of what they find. Ask when they took their last training course and which institution it came from. Just like contractors, not all schools are the same… Some good, some bad, so it is important to research this thoroughly.


3. Associations – Does the mold inspector belong to an accredited association and follow a Standard of practice or Scope of work. Do they have a Code of Ethics?

Professional associations are there to help inspectors be the best they can through support and training. When a professional belongs to one, it is a sign that they pay attention to their education and training to best serve their clients.


4. Experience – Find how long the inspector has been conducting mold investigations, and if this is a full or part time job. There are a lot of people who try to take on mold work on the side (like a handyman) without the proper training or experience. This can lead to poor investigations, and possible health safety issues – due to mishandling of mold infected materials, for example. Try to find out their level of experience during the initial phone call.


5. Inspection Procedures – All experienced and well-trained inspectors will have a routine for finding any mold or potential related issues. Ask the inspector to explain their procedures. This is not meant to offend the inspector, but rather to give you some insight on required protocol. A seasoned inspector will know that you have been informed and appreciate your insight.

The inspector should be able to tell you specifically what they plan on doing, including what systems of the home and areas they will be checking. The first priority should be focused on investigating any immediate issue(s). If there are no apparent visible concerns, and the inspection has been requested for peace of mind, this is where a systemized, established routine is important.

The routine should be a specific and detailed… including the water heater, main water shut off (if accessible) visible areas under bathroom and kitchen sinks, ventilation, interior areas along the walls, floors, by windows, in closets, ceilings, behind and under furniture where appropriate, corners, attic and crawlspace as needed. In addition, the exterior and roof may be required as well.


6. Insurance – All inspectors should carry insurance to cover them, should they need it. If they are not covered, then you may have difficulty recovering any losses.


7. Limitations – Ask the mold inspector about any limitations to inspection. They should let you know this up front, and within their contract. This is important to establish clear expectations on what the inspector can and cannot do. You should have this discussion in the beginning, to avoid any confusion later.

For example, the contract may say “The Inspection is a visual inspection of the readily accessible features and components of the Home for water damage and mold contamination. The Inspection is non-invasive and no destructive investigation will be performed.” In this case the inspector is stating that he is limited only to what can be seen, and therefore will not open up any walls or cause damage to find mold or moisture. Other limitations may come up during the inspection as well, such as areas of the home that cannot be seen due to furniture, carpets, wall hangings, appliances, etc.


8. Tools & Equipment – Mold inspectors should be using use a number of tools, such as a moisture meter, flashlight, hygrometer, humidity testers, infrared camera and air-sampling equipment, as needed to properly assess the home or building.

The infrared camera requires at least a level one certification by an accredited institution. Testing equipment for air samples and surface testing requires training as well. It is useful for you to know what tools they plan on bringing so you know they will be well equipped to perform the inspection.


9. Testing and Sampling – Note: Be cautious if the inspector plans on taking air samples at the beginning of the inspection, or suggests that it is standard practice. This is not the case! He may be insisting that you have testing completed when it is not always warranted. Regardless of the test results, each test sample taken will cost you money, which my not be

Inspection Tools

Mold Sampling Air Pump


Air sampling should only be taken after the inspector has completed a full inspection. Air samples determine what the spore counts are at the time of sampling, and the species.

If samples are needed, there should be at least one sample taken on location outside of the home, one in an area of concern and one in an area of the home where the risk “appears” to be less likely. (This is the minimum. More may be required based on other factors, such as the size of the home or findings from the inspection)

Samples help determine if there is an unsafe air quality issue in a given location, but will not help to pin point specifically there the concern is. This is why a full inspection is needed.

Some mold inspectors will claim to verify samples immediately through their own testing procedures (in a van or home lab). Your inspector may in fact be trained to analyze samples under a microscope, however, the only way to know for sure if the test is truly authentic is by an having the samples sent to an accredited independent, third party lab to analyze and confirm the results of the test.

Find out about the lab the inspector uses. You should inquire about what types of testing the lab does, how long they have been in business, what their qualifications are and how many locations they have.

If any lab testing was completed, you should find out how long it will take for you to get the results. The typical turn around time for lab reports is three to five business days. If you need the results within one day, it is not unusual to pay an expensive rush charge. The larger and more established labs will usually be able to get the sample(s) completed and back within a reasonable time frame.


9. Reputation and References – Take the time to check the better business bureau to see if there have been any complaints. It the inspection company listed on the better business bureau? Not mandatory by any means, but it does show that they are accountable, transparent and willing to be held to the voice of public opinion.

See if there are reviews about the company to learn about experiences from others. Ask close friends and family if they know of reputable a mold inspector.

Ask the inspection company if they willing to provide you with a list of references, should you choose them.


10. Inspection Reports – Ask the inspector what type of report(s) will be provided. It is not unusual to get a verbal report only if the inspection does not lead to any issues of concern.

However, full investigations should be followed up with a verbal & written report. Almost all mold inspectors use software programs to generate their reports. It is best if they have a summary section detailing any significant issues, followed up by an action plan and recommendations with regards to remediation as needed. Good reports are detailed, with photos for reference.


11. Price – The mold inspection fee will depend on a number of factors, including location & services needed (testing, reports, etc). The fees should range from approximately $300 to $1500.

You should expect to pay a minimum fee to have an inspector come out to investigate, regardless of how serious the issues may be. Be wary of free inspections by remediation companies, as nothing is truly free.


12. The X Factor – You want to ensure that the inspector has all of the resources at their disposal to provide you with the best inspection and information possible. This shows their dedication to the profession.

As mentioned, you want to avoid moonlighters or the part time guy looking for something to do. It is best to hire an inspector that is does NOT do remediation as well, to avoid any apparent conflicts of interest.

Trust your intuition, and gut feeling when you are on the phone to see if everything makes sense and seems reasonable. Although difficult, try to take any emotions out of the decision making process, while focusing on the facts presented.



I have emphasized the importance of finding a great Mold inspector for the wellbeing of your health and pocket book. To summarize I recommend asking the flowing questions:

  • What kind of mold inspection training have you received, including certifications, and educational institutions?
  • Do you participate in ongoing education to keep current?
  • How long have you been practicing mold inspections?
  • How do you go about conducting a mold inspection? Do you follow a set of procedures?
  • Do you carry insurance in care there is an issue?
  • May I call you after the inspection for follow up questions?
  • May I shadow you throughout the inspection?
  • What are the limitations of your inspection (what cannot be done by the inspector)
  • How long will the inspection take?
  • What tools will you be using during the Mold Inspection?
  • If we decide to do business, do you have any references for me to call?
  • What kind of report is included with the inspection? Verbal, writing?
  • How long has the lab been in business? What certifications does the lab have? If appropriate, how long will the lab report take?
  • What professional associations do you belong to?
  • Will you provide a list of recommendations and next steps flowing the inspection?
  • What is the Price? Ask yourself… Do you think you are getting fair value?
  • Does your company do remediation as well?

Yes, there are a lot of questions to ask. Yet when it comes to mold, I believe that it is necessary to properly qualify the right inspector for the overall well being of you and your family.

If you have any questions about this article, send me an email and I’ll do my best to assist you.

If you found this information useful, feel free to share it with anyone you believe it will help.

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Stop Mold from Growing In Your Fridge – 7 Awesome Tips!

How many times have you seen mold growing on the food in your fridge?


Probably too many times to count. Besides food, it actually it grows anywhere in the home as well… including all surfaces when the conditions are suitable. Regardless of how clean and fresh your fridge is, mold will eventually begin to grow unless we manage it.


Why Is Mold Growing In Your Fridge?


I’ll tell you why in two words… Bacteria and moisture. Excess moisture from the cold temperatures coupled by the bacteria, which grows from expired food or spillage, is the perfect environment for mold to start growing in the fridge.


It this article, I’m going share with you 7 awesome tips to help you stop, or reduce as much as possible that nasty mold from growing in your fridge.


I have interchanged the words fungal and microbial to represent the “M” word.


1. The Foods (listed below) That Should Not Be Stored In The Fridge


Tomatoes – Aside from changing the structure of the tomato, the fact is they just don’t last as long, become wrinkled prematurely and most certainly begin to rot faster.

Onions – The problem with putting onions in the fridge is that they can become mushy, soft, slimy and your guessed it… fungal!

Bread – Bread should be stored the same way it arrives from the supermarket, so keep it on the counter or the freezer if you cannot eat it all. Bread can actually dry out in the fridge or grow microbial bodies if enough condensation forms.

Garlic & Ginger – When you store garlic and ginger in the fridge, they will rot due to the moisture. In addition, the garlic will start to sprout.

Pumpkin – Pumpkin should be used up right away once opened, not in the fridge, as it is very moist. They should be placed in well vented, dark, cool (but not cold) area.

Cucumber – Refrigerated cucumber will decay and rot a lot faster in the fridge. So keep them at room temperature where they like it best. You’ll like them better that way too.

Potatoes, Yams & Sweet Potatoes – These three starch buddies would much rather hang out in a cool, not cold area. Storing them in paper bags work well, which allows them to breathe.

Refrigeration causes the starch to change into sugar rapidly. Once cut open they can succumb to fungal doom as noted in the featured picture.

Cereal and Grains – These items should always be placed in a dry space. The moisture and cool temperatures will cause them to spoil.

Mold infected food can make us sick when we unknowingly eat or smell it. Minor issues can result in allergic reactions, while mycotoxin producing fungi can be much more problematic, health wise.

In fact, even a tiny bit of growth on a tomato, for example, can infect that entire piece of food.

Really? Yup, and here’s why… In simple terms, mold grows and spreads through long thread like structures. These are known as hyphae. They cannot be seen by the naked eye, so there is really no way to know at a glance how much or the tomato has been affected.

So the next time you see a little bit of green fuzzy microbial growth on a yellow pepper, don’t cut out the infected area, just chuck it!


2. Quickly Use Raw Meat, Fish or Poultry


These foods tend to grow bacteria or may in fact be partially infected due to processing, so try to use them within one or two days. This is to prevent the spread of harmful bacteria, when left unchecked, could lead to severe heath issues.


3. Inspect Your Groceries Twice – At The Store & At Home


Sometimes not all of your food items are as fresh as you’d like them to be. Putting infected food inside the fridge will cause fungal spreading and infect other food.

So, it is a good habit to check your food before you leave the store, and at home as well… especially the items that were packed in bags or boxes (which could not be inspected at the store)


4. Clean Out The Fridge Every 2-3 Months


We tend to forget about that baked lasagne from uncle Ken’s birthday two weeks ago. I know that we all do this, yes, me included.

Left-overs should be treated with respect and consumed quickly (within 3 to 4 days) or they will become poisonous and eventually turn into what I call mold-overs. There is nothing worse for food than to shoving it to the back of the fridge, only to be neglected and chucked out… Just say’n.

When you open the fridge and notice an awful odour, don’t ignore it like yesterday’s laundry. Instead, find where it is coming from so you can deal with it immediately.

The more often you clean out & sanitize your refrigerator, the better. Be sure to take everything out of the fridge. Of course, discard anything that is rotten or expired.

Yes… this even includes that cucumber Parmesan salad dressing that was cracked open four years ago for aunt Becky’s baby shower.

Individually clean all removable parts from the fridge, and dry them completely before putting them back. You can use a solution of vinegar, dish soap and water, or buy a solution from the hardware store.

Make sure that you check that all store bought cleaners are safe, and environmentally friendly. A final wipe down with baking soda and water will help remove any remaining odours.


5. Place A Box of Baking Soda In Your Fridge And Freezer


This will help absorb and remove unpleasant odours. Open up the entire top end and place in an area were it is not likely to fall over, like on the door shelf. For best results, replace the box after 3 months.

Although mold will not grow in a working freezer the baking soda will better circulate to remove odours in there as well.


6. Defrost, Thoroughly Clean and Wipe Dry Your Travel or Storage Refrigerators.


After the fridge has been unplugged and defrosted, clean all removable components such as shelves and trays, just as you would with your kitchen fridge. Of course, it should be bone dry after it has been cleaned.

When you are ready to use it again, keep the door open for a while to allow for some ventilation. If it is dirty or dusty, it will need to be cleaned again.

In the unfortunate circumstance where mold has taken over your fridge (usually after it has been unplugged and shut without a proper clean) I recommend replacing it, rather than cleaning it; especially if anyone who was going to use it has fungal allergies or sensitivities.


7. Only Use Air Tight, Sealed Containers


When storing using zip lock bags, try to remove as much air from the bag as possible. This will help keep your food fresh for longer, without absorbing bacteria, mold spores, etc.

Glass containers are best for meat, fish, veggies and poultry. Cheese can be wrapped up in wax paper, stored in cheese bags or cheese paper.


The Big Take Away…


  • Save some space in the kitchen for the foods that shouldn’t be refrigerated.
  • Inspect your food at the grocery store and at home before placing it into the fridge.
  • Toss out old food, and use perishables as soon as possible to prevent bacterial and microbial contamination.
  • Thoroughly clean your kitchen fridge out ever few months.
  • Storage fridges and small travel fridges should be thoroughly cleaned and dried out before use.
  • Baking soda is awesome for absorbing odours… use it all year long
  • Seal all food items tightly to maintain freshness!


For detailed information about potential heath related issues caused by mold, check out this post https://www.epa.gov/mold/mold-and-health


If you liked this article or found it useful, share it with everyone who has a fridge…

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Attic Mold – Questions & Answers

As a mold inspector, attic mold is one of the most common issues that I come across in the field, and not surprisingly the topic of much debate and questions.

In this article I will detail the most common questions and answers regarding attic mold, while providing some advice on how to deal with it.

Why do we get attic mold?

Just like mold found anywhere else in the home, it needs a moisture source, moderate temperature and an organic food source to grow. There are a number of sources that can contribute to this. Due to past construction methodologies, weather conditions, lack of maintenance and mismanagement of the attic space, I have listed the most common reasons below…

Newer Building Materials – Older roofing installations (60-100 years +) allowed for more air and heat to escape, thus reducing the chances for concentrated moisture to develop into mold. However, OSB and plywood (newer materials) are less mold resistant.  The move to manufactured materials rather than traditional wood products, combined with poor ventilation design has resulted in moisture into the attic, while sustaining a perfect environment for attic mold to flourish.

Poor & Missing Ventilation – Attics require proper ventilation to allow air to flow both from the soffits (exterior vents along the perimeter of the home, below the roof line) and out through roof or ridge vents. In addition, air that escapes from the home below (also known as stack effect) will need to be vented as well. When soffit vents are blocked or missing, airflow is not possible. This allows areas of the attic to form condensation, thus, providing the necessary moisture source for mold growth. Other issues include poor vent design, which can cause vents to compete for airflow, especially with gable vents (wall vents in the attic). Attic mold can claim residence anywhere moisture accumulates in the attic.

Improper Attic Ducting: Laundry, Kitchen & Bathroom Ventilation – Often, the ducts inside the attic are made of outdated (plastic) materials, which are susceptible to damage. Damaged, disconnected or unsealed ducts will discharge warm humid air. When this happens, it comes in contact with the cooler sheathing surface, allowing moisture to develop and eventually mold growth.

Inadequate or missing Insulation – Missing insulation keeps the attic cold in the winter and warmer in the summer. This combined with warm air leakage through voids along the attic floor (ceiling lights, attic hatches, fans, electrical conduit pathways & piping cut outs) contributes to moisture and attic mold.

Rainwater Ingress, leaky roof – As the name suggests, small leaks can saturate the sheathing and to allow mold growth.

Low roof slope – When the decking or sheathing is not sufficiently angled, airflow is compromised, so condensation forms more easily along the underside of the sheathing or decking. This problem will be compounded when the soffits are blocked or missing, as mentioned above.

Night Sky Radiation, Condensation – The strange phenomenon looks like patches of dark moisture staining and possible mold growth along the sheathing. In the Pacific Northwest, it seems to appear primarily on the North side of the attic.

This issue is common with newer tighter homes… leaving homeowners frustrated and builders puzzled because it occurs in attics that have actually been designed according to recommended code specifications and proper venting.

According to research conducted by RDH (A Vancouver based engineering firm) this happens when the roof sheathing temperature drops lower than the dew point temperature, resulting from a cold night sky. Frost develops on the roof, even though the temperature is above freezing. The sheathing absorbs the condensation, while the subsequent moisture once again, leads to attic mold. Check out a link to their study here

Does attic mold affect your health?

Fortunately, mold growth in the attic is not usually a health concern. The reason for this is because warm air rises from lower areas of the home, upward into the attic through voids in the upper level ceiling, rather than into the home. This phenomenon is also called stack effect. In addition, we do not spend a lot of time in the attic, so the exposure is limited.

So how do we deal with attic mold once it has been discovered?

It depends on how problematic the situation is. This is a two-part answer. First, you want to call in a professional to find out the source of the problem, so it doesn’t continue.

The next step depends on the nature of the problem and how much actual mold is found. This may involve bringing in a few different professionals, especially if the problem requires more than just mold removal.

Remediation contractors will be able to remove the mold, yet may not install new roof or soffit vents and fix duct work. At times, the repairs may involve a roofer, engineer & remediation contractor to ensure the job is fixed properly.

A word of caution… In my experience, it is always best to bring in contractors with specific experience related to what you are dealing with, rather than a handyman. You want to call a contractor with experience, training and the proper insurance to make sure the job is done correctly the first time.

Remediation costs will also depend on the following…severity of the problem, access, materials, equipment, labour, time and applied methodologies. For more information on this topic, check out my article called Tips for hiring a mold remediation company.

What can be done to prevent attic mold?

The simple answer is to keep the attic warm and dry. As mentioned earlier, call a mold inspector to find the moisture source. The attic will always have enough food in the form of organic debris drawn in from the outside… so deal with the moisture first.

Strategies that we believed to be effective for reducing attic mold may be changing in the near future, especially in and around Vancouver/lower mainland, with regards to the “Night Sky Radiation” issue.

Innovations to building construction have spawned many new approaches to attic design. Building science specialists, engineers and energy advisors are testing ways to reduce moisture, advance energy efficiency and improve structure. Until concrete protocols come to fruition, it is best to contact an experience attic/roofing/remediation contractor. Also, consider the following…

  • Install ample insulation to ensue the attic is warm, and around skylights as well.
  • All vent ducts should be made from the appropriate materials, (rigid metal/flexible aluminum, not plastic) properly sealed and vented to the exterior. This includes bathroom, dryer and kitchen vents.
  • The attic hatch, and all voids should be properly sealed to prevent moisture and airflow from migrating into the attic space.
  • Cathedral ceilings should have insulation installed and adequate clearance between the sheathing and insulation to encourage airflow.
  • Heat ducts should be properly insulated, especially in cooler climates.
  • Ensure that the slope is proper to prevent ice damming (cooler climates) and condensation issues on the attic deck.
  • Make certain that all soffit vents are clear to allow proper airflow. Installation of baffles (rectangular Styrofoam boards to encourage air movement from the soffit up through the attic) should be utilized to achieve this.
  • Adequate ventilation, such as ridge or roof vents should be installed to allow the air to escape.
  • Gable vents (vents along the side walls of the attic) should not compete with upper ridge or roof vents. They may need to be closed off. It would be best to speak to a roofer about this as needed.

For more information on this topic, just let me know. If you found this article interesting and informative, please pass it along…

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Tips for hiring a mold remediation company

In this article, I will reveal some key tips to consider when sourcing out your best option before hiring a mold remediation company. If you are unfamiliar with the potential dangers of mold contamination to your health and pocket book, take a look at this article first… Ok, now that we are up to speed, consider these two important questions:

 1) Where is the mold coming from?

Unless obvious, you will need to know the source(s) so it can be prevented in the future. Initially, many remediation companies are primarily concerned with testing the air quality for mold spore counts and removing the mold.

Although a good indicator of the indoor air quality as it relates to mold, air sampling and lab reports cannot help you figure out specifically where the problem exists. In addition, remediation contractors make the bulk of their revenue by removing the mold and restoring the home to safe conditions. This is great in the short term but will not prevent the mold from coming back. So your best option is to hire an independent mold inspector to determine where the mold is coming from, why it is growing and what to do about it. Mold inspectors leave the mold removal to the remediation and restoration contractors.

 2) How much mold can be identified, or how big is the problem?

This next question is so very important because the answer will help you determine how it effectively needs to be dealt with. In another article, I detail the severity of mold contamination, in relation to how much is found. Essentially, if you see more than 10 square feet of mold growth, you will need to call in a mold remediation company to rectify the problem.

Alright, so how do we choose the best mold removal company?

Below I have listed a number of questions that will help put you choose the best company for your needs…

Do they offer pre & post indoor air quality testing or recommend a third party?

It is standard practice for mold removal companies to conduct pre and post indoor air quality testing for mold. Typically they do this to maintain control of the remediation process. It also saves them time.

A few select companies will suggest you have an independent, 3rd party mold inspector come by to perform air quality testing before (if necessary) and after the job has been completed. This is further assurance that the company is ethical and confident in the work they do. Air testing by a 3rd party mold inspector will be able to verify through the lab reports if the air quality is safe upon completion of the remediation job. I wouldn’t suggest that all companies doing their own testing are unethical, however, to be sure that the testing is unbiased, it would be best to go with a mold inspector, not a remediation company.

Also, it is not unusual for remediation companies to conduct air quality testing as soon as they arrive on site. This should be avoided, as a thorough inspection needs take place first. Also, it is not recommended to test the air for mold when it is visible. This is not necessary and a waste of money.

Regardless of which company performs the air samples, they should be sent to a qualified American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) approved lab for analysis.

Does the company have a proven track record? How experienced are they?

One way to find out about the company is to check the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if there have been any complaints. You can also do an internet search titled “reviews for company” in Google. Many companies don’t have a lot of reviews. This does not necessarily mean they are bad. However, if a company has a lot of positive feedback, and provides an opportunity for clients to do so, then this is a good first step. You also want to find out if the companies will provide references for past work completed, and if they offer a guarantee for their work.

It is advisable to find out how long the company has been doing business and how much experience their employees have. You should ask the contractor if this is their full time job, or just a part time endeavor. Often a strata or property management company will use handymen, as they charge less. In addition to being less expensive, they typically lack the necessary training and expertise needed to perform the job. So always choose a remediation company over a handyman.

Does the company take the time to learn about your mold problem?

This is an important part of your search. The company representative should ask you a number of questions over the phone to learn as much as possible prior to booking a visit. Some questions include…

  • When did you first notice the mold?
  • How did you discover the mold?
  • Is there a moldy or musty is an odour?
  • Where is the mold?
  • Is this a reoccurring mold problem?
  • Have you spoken to any other companies? What did they tell you?
  • Have you had any prior testing done?
  • Are you aware of any present or past leaks?
  • Do your use your kitchen and bathroom fans?
  • Has the outside of the home and or the roof been inspected?

 These questions will show you that they truly want to understand and solve your mold problem.

Mold Remediation

Remediation contractor at work

 Will the company provide a clear scope of work along with the quote?

 After their initial assessment the company should provide a detailed plan (scope of work) on how they will remove the mold and restore your home to a safe living environment. The quote and scope of work should be detailed and specific, yet absent of additional work that is not required. It should include details about containment and equipment use.

 There are several remediation companies operating in each city, so be sure to ask for a few quotes to compare. If you are not 100% clear on what they are providing for you, then ask them to explain and justify it. And last, make sure that you have a full scope of work along with the quote before the job begins. This will protect you from additional charges that “come up” after the job begins.

Do the company technicians have the appropriate credentials, training, insurance and experience for the job?

 There are very strict protocols set out by associations and organizations offering certifications. The Institute of Inspection Cleaning & Restoration Certification (IICRC) and the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) are two such examples. Remediation companies are required to follow these protocols when removing mold. You’ll want to ask if they do so and if their employees are certified.

They should belong to a relevant association, such as the Indoor Air Quality Association (IAQA). Find out if the company has other experts that can be called in to help them, such as Industrial Hygienists. You should also ask if they work with insurance companies in case you want to make a claim.

 Do they use safe cleaning agents during remediation?

 There are many cleaning products and chemicals that are used remediation contractors. Some of the chemicals in the cleaners are not approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Properly certified contractors are knowledgeable about cleaning and restoration methods, chemicals and cleaners. Ideally, they should be using non toxic Eco-friendly natural products. Ask if any of the products they use have been linked to heath issues, and therefore not recommended for use.

 Are you getting fair value?

 When you take a look at the quotation, ask yourself if everything seems reasonable. This may be difficult, especially if you are not experienced at studying their quotes or scope of work.

As mentioned earlier, it is best to compare quotes from a few different companies. You may consider calling an established, credible mold inspector for an opinion. Ideally the scope of work from each company should be relatively consistent. If a big discrepancy exists between the companies, you will need to probe further to find out why.  

 Some companies will offer a free estimate in an effort to earn your business. This is great, but should not be expected. I do not recommend choosing a company for this reason alone. Remediation companies charge by the time it takes to complete the job, the service required, labour and the products they use. So, in reality, the estimate is only free if the company does not get the job. You can be sure that they will build the cost of the “free” estimate into the final bill.

 For more information on this topic, feel free to contact me at 604-729-4261

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Is winter construction linked to mold?

In this article I will highlight some important considerations to think about if you are planning to buy, build or have recently purchased a new home that was built during the winter.

Before we dive into the details, lets talk about mold

Mold in our homes is becoming a frequent topic of discussion as we learn more about the damage that it causes, and potential impact on our heath. Much of this conversation leads to the necessary remediation efforts to remove mold when it becomes problematic. The focus is typically reactive.

The next step usually involves figuring out ways to prevent the mold from coming back. I guess it is human nature to learn from our mistakes so we don’t make them again. The more expensive or dangerous the mold issue is, the more we pay attention.

It would be extremely rare for people to ask me if their newly constructed home may end up with mold issues, resulting from the original construction. Home buyers do not seem to consider whether or not their new homes may actually be harboring mold.

As you will discover below, I believe they should be thinking about this, especially since mold is often not discovered until the homeowner begins to notice heath issues similar to mold exposure (allergy or flue like symptoms, dry throat, etc) or they smell a musty or moldy odours. I also think that it might have something to do with our tendencies to be reactive, coupled by the fact that mold is still a mystery to most folks.

So why is mold a mystery?

The sole reason mold exists is to break down dead organic materials in our outdoor environment. So essentially, mold is nature’s recycling program. If we didn’t have mold, we would be walking around waist deep in vegetation and debris.

Mold is a type of fungus and their spores are everywhere, so getting rid of them is not possible. Mold needs moisture, moderate temperatures and a food source (organic material) to live. Aside from the moderate temperatures and food sources, the single most important ingredient for mold to grow is moisture. Remove the moisture and the mold will stop growing.

However, what many people don’t think about or know is that mold is remarkably resilient. It can dry out, and remain dormant for thousands of years, only to start growing again when the conditions are once again ideal.

Mold is also mysterious because unlike plants, which need sunlight to photosynthesize, mold cannot do that, so it must grow in dark areas and often hidden from sight. That is why it can be discovered indoors behind walls, furniture, in crawlspaces, attics, behind shower walls, etc. Unfortunately for us, mold does not know that we would be much happier and healthier if it just stayed outside.

Getting back to winter construction…

Here in the Pacific Northwest, or more specifically Vancouver (which I commonly refer to as “Raincouver”) we live in a rain forest. We get a lot of rain from October all the way through to May – more than ½ the year!

In fact, this year we had record rainfalls in October. According to CBC News, It rained 28 out of 31 days in Vancouver, surpassing the old record of 26 days. November was wet too with 25 days. It’s now December, and we are getting snow. Vancouver snow does not tend to stay around for long, so it causes more wet slushy conditions.

While driving through the city these past few months, I witnessed several homes under construction and piles of wood that were completely saturated from the rain. Not only was the structure wet, the concrete foundation walls were soaked. Considering these circumstances, I would suggest that winter construction is not the ideal time to build a home, especially here Vancouver, Seattle, etc.

As a home and mold inspector, I began to wonder…

With all of this rain, how do we know that the building materials that go into the new homes are not going to become moldy?

In reality, we have to rely on the supplier to send dry materials to the site. Next, the builder must ensure that the construction materials stay dry or below 19% moisture content before they can be used. After all, once the building has been finished (covered by drywall and insulated) there is no way for us to see what is actually going on behind the walls.

In addition, houses are going up faster and faster these days, as there is a lot of money on the line when projects are delayed. As a result, some builders may in fact be pressured to complete the houses as quickly as possible, without taking the necessary steps to keep the construction materials and framing dry.

No matter how tempting it may be, I’m not going to be a “mold prevention vigilante” running around with my moisture meter, testing the framing, piles of lumber or drywall in all of these construction sites before the homes are closed up.

Organic, wet materials can begin to spawn mold growth within 24-48 hours. Along with the other issues mentioned, even if a small area of mold begins to grow before it dries, a seemingly harmless leak, trapped moisture from evaporation or condensation can result in a serious mold problem anytime in the future. This is especially true with newer, tightly built energy efficient homes that lack proper ventilation.

So what is the answer?

Construction during the winter poses some unique challenges for builders as they work through wet, cold conditions. The first step goes back to the beginning of the article. We have to change the way we think about dealing with mold, by being proactive, rather than reactive. This involves understanding the procedures that a builder needs to take in order to protect the framing and construction materials from moisture, throughout the entire building process.

This can be accomplished through:

  • The use of drying & heating equipment
  • Setting up containment areas
  • Installing tarps
  • By frequent moisture testing

These measures can reduce the risk of hidden mold following construction. However, if mold related issues become apparent soon after construction, complications may arise with respect to resolving these issues.

Based on what I am seeing, I think that building a home during the winter (especially in wet climates) can lead to future problems. Taking the precautions to keep the home dry will likely be an expensive undertaking. If you do plan to have a home built in the winter, consider the following questions…

  • What steps are builders required to take to ensure that a building stays dry during construction?
  • Who is enforcing these rules?
  • Do the Homeowner warranty programs cover mold damage in new homes?
  • Are insurance policies are available, and if so what do they include with respect to mold?

At the end of the day I believe that much consideration should be given to this topic, so home buyers will be aware of the potential implications related to the impact mold can have on new homes, our health and pocket book following winter construction.

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