How to Select a Qualified Mold Remediation ContractorSource: Habitat Quarterly - Issue 2
By Chuck Hector
So you have a mold problem.
If you haven't had it evaluated by a professional mold inspector, that's the first step to take. It is never a good idea to deal with mold yourself, no matter how small you think it is. Visible mold often serves as an indicator of much greater hidden mold growth.
But how should you select a mold remediation contractor? What qualifications should a remediator have? Should you surf the web looking for the most impressive site? Should you ask prospective contractors to show you their certifications or license? Should you ask for recommendations?
Great web sites don't always have great contractors behind them. Mold certificates can be bought for little money and less training, and most states don't license or regulate remediators. Recommendations are easy to fake. So, it is very difficult to distinguish between qualified, trained professionals and mail-order masqueraders, if you don't know what to look for.
Here are some tips to help you separate the heroes from the zeros when it comes to finding a qualified mold remediation contractor.
THE MOLD REMEDIATION CONTRACTOR QUALIFICATION CHECKLIST
The responsibilities of a mold inspector, if he or she is fully qualified, are to inspect, take samples, analyze results, write recommendations and/or a scope of work, supervise the job-site setup, and conduct post-remediation clearance inspections.
Think of the mold inspector as the architect of your mold remediation project, and the remediator as the builder. The inspector should design the remediation project and oversee the work in much the same way that an architect would design a building and oversee its construction. The architect wouldn't build it, and the builder wouldn't design it.
A remediator should be able to provide you with a copy of the standards he or she follows. The IICRC S520 from the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification are currently the most thorough and most followed standards in the industry. If the remediator can't show you the standards he or she follows, this is cause for concern.
The contractor should detail his training and experience, and show copies of certifications. There is a wide range of certifications and training available to contractors. Mold remediation is an unregulated profession in most states, so there is no required certification and certainly no standardized training in most states. If he's new to the business, or it's a sideline to his main business, think twice before hiring him.
Find out if you live in a state where mold remediation is a regulated profession. A phone call to your local, county or state health department should get the information you need. If licensing is required, insist that the remediation contractor present a current license and verify it's in good standing with the regulatory body who issued the license.
Take the time to reach out to the Better Business Bureau and the Department of Consumer Affairs to make sure they are not regular recipients of complaints. That being said, even the best companies have angry customers for one reason or the other, sometimes through no fault of their own. Make sure that any complaints that might have been filed were resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of the BBB or DCA.
Being properly insured is essential. Always ask to see a copy of the contractor's current certificate of insurance. There should be a specific line item on the insurance certificate that says "Contractors Pollution Liability (CPL)", "Pollution Control" or "Mold Remediation." Without this line item, you must assume the contractor is not insured for mold remediation, which puts you and your home at risk. Standard business insurance is unlikely to cover a mold contamination problem. Before the job starts, you'll want to see an insurance certificate with your name on it as an additional insured.
If your contractor follows widely accepted industry standards and is properly insured, he should have a log book record for every job. This log book should contain items such as:
The purpose of mold remediation is to restore a property to a normal condition. This means 1) removing the mold-affected materials that cannot be cleaned, such as drywall and carpet; 2) cleaning the exposed surfaces that remain and, in order to prevent a recurrence, 3) correcting the underlying defects that led to the moisture accumulation in the first place.That's it and that's all!
Contrary to common wisdom, "killing mold" is not necessary if it's removed. In fact, the same chemicals used to kill mold and other microbes are also harmful to pets and humans and are therefore not recommended during mold remediation, according to the EPA. We agree.
If someone tells you they are going to spray something on the mold to kill it, ask yourself if you're willing to trade one toxin for another. Dead mold is still allergenic and, in some cases, toxic, so it's critical that the mold be removed, and not simply killed. In essence, chemicals used during mold remediation amount to a dangerous, unnecessary and ineffective shortcut. There are plenty of contractors out there who are more than willing to perform a "green clean," without the harmful chemicals. Seek them out and make your position clear on the subject. You'll be glad you did.
Finally, it is important that your contractor provide you with references, customer satisfaction forms or recommendations that are current. Ask the contractor how many jobs they have completed in the past two months. Then ask them if any of those customers could provide referrals. If you get any resistance here, you will probably want to look for another contractor.
Remember this: Mold is a scary subject which makes the whole thing hard to face. What's worse, sifting through the various professionals to find the one you can trust can be time-consuming and frustrating, but it's important that you do it. Treat this more like you're shopping for a surgeon, not a cleaning service. Be an informed consumer and don't compromise on quality for the sake of price. The lowest price among multiple bids is usually a red flag. At the end of the day, this is a decision which will impact two of the most valuable things you possess; your home and your family's health.
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