Frequently Asked Mold Questions
What is Mold?
There are different Kingdoms of Living Things on our planet. These include, among others, Plants, Animals and Fungi. Molds are microscopic fungi that live on organic material, under the proper conditions. The universal purpose of mold is to breakdown dead, organic material.
How do I know if I have mold in my home?
This is probably the most frequently asked question, and for good reason. If you live in Florida, then the answer is, "Everyone has mold in their home". Mold is ubiquitous (it is everywhere). The warm and humid Florida environment, combined with abundant plant life and vegetation, make it ideal for high levels of mold growth. As you come in and out of your home, you are constantly bringing mold in and out with you. The true test to see if there is an elevated mold condition inside a property is to compare the air quality inside against outside. The best question to actually be asking is, "Do I actually have a mold problem in my home?". Mold levels in the home should be at or less than the outside levels. Elevated mold conditions can be present in a home without actually having any visible mold growth. Mold spores, which carry the myco-toxins, are microscopic in size. If you suspect that you have elevated mold conditions in your home or property, the best course of action is to have a LICENSED professional inspect for mold.
Why is mold in my home an issue?
Both the EPA and the CDC have great answers to this question. According to the EPA, all molds have the potential to cause health effects. While the severity and specific reactions caused can vary by individual and circumstances, mold exposure should be taken very seriously. According to the CDC, most molds will not harm most people; however, some molds are harmful to anyone and some people are affected by any mold.
Can I clean the mold problem myself?
There are no regulations or laws which prevent anyone from cleaning up mold in their own property. However, there are significant risks involved. More times than not, if not properly cleaned up, the mold will come back even stronger than before. Additionally, if the cleaning disturbs the mold without properly containing the spores, there is a greater likelihood of cross contamination. Cross contamination occurs when the easily aerosolized mold spores are spread to otherwise unaffected areas of the home. Most importantly, your health is at risk if cleaning mold without proper respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE).
If mold is everywhere, why would it be harmful in my home?
This is a great question. Building codes for the last 20-30 years have made homes more efficient with respects to power consumption/savings. However, that does have a cost of its own. Homes are built air tight, with little breathability. The harm is to have molds present in elevated conditions, in a contained space where you are constantly recycling the air.
How does mold grow?
There are a few components necessary for mold growth: Food - Water - Time. The food source is anything organic in the home, including the cellulose found in wood products (wall framing, cabinets, baseboards, furniture, drywall paper), household dust (mostly dead skin cells), and other organic materials, such as leather clothing items or furniture. Since molds are always present, the key factor is moisture. Elevated mold conditions are a good sign that there is a moisture problem in the home. This could be the result of a leaky pipe, roof or just high humidity levels. Mold is a living organism and needs a water or moisture source to live and grow.
Can't I just use a household bleach to take care of my mold issue?
Cleaning with bleach is the most common misconception when it comes to mold. Bleach is never recommended in mold cleaning for several reasons. Bleach is over 90% water. The properties of bleach will not allow it to absorb into materials, which is why the label says to use on hard, non-porous surfaces only. Using a product that leaves moisture behind is not recommended, because it will only cause more extensive mold growth. Bleach is great for countertops or shower tile, but very bad for drywall or wood products.
Is Black Mold more harmful than other molds?
There is a big misconception among the public, that black mold is more toxic than other molds. The truth is that there are over 200K species of mold in the US. Most of those species are black. A good portion of those black molds are not toxic. Black mold is in the spotlight more often, since one of the most toxic and common molds is black. This mold is called Stachybotrys. Cladosporium would be an example of a non-toxic, black mold, that is very common in the State of Florida.
For your own health and wellness interests, unless it has been analyzed, all molds should be treated like toxic mold.
How do I know if I have insurance coverage for Mold?
A large number of basic homeowners insurance policies exclude mold coverage, or have it as an additional rider. However, if mold results from water damage that is "sudden and accidental" it is usually covered. A rider is an addition that you make to your policy, that you have to pay for on top of the basic coverage premium.
The largest insurer in the Tampa Bay area is Citizens Insurance. Most policies automatically come with $10,000 in coverage. Citizens will not allow you to purchase additional coverage; however, other carriers will allow you to purchase higher mold limits for a small amount (about 5% increase). We highly recommend that you at least have $20,000 in mold coverage. Between the required testing, the cleaning and the replacement of damaged items, $10K will disappear very quickly.
A large number of insurance carriers have adopted an unwritten "14-day rule" when it comes to water and mold damage. All policies state that they cover water peril (unless you have a specific water damage exclusion in your policy), if it is "sudden and accidental". The policy holder is obligated to prevent further damage by taking the necessary steps to clean and dry, so that you don't get mold. If they feel like the damage is greater than 14-days old and proper prevention measures were not taken, they may try to deny the claim.
If the insurance carrier wants to send out a remediation company, do I have to use them?
As the property owner, you have the right to choose any company that you like. They can recommend a company to you, but you do not have to use that company. If the insurance carrier is telling you that you have to use their contractor, there is a good chance that they are getting some type of discount from that company. Be wary...a lot of these companies consider the insurance carrier to be their customer and not you. You want a company that considers YOU to be the customer, and ultimately the boss of the job.
Who should I call if I have a mold issue or questions?
If the growth is visible and obvious in a particular area, it may be best to contact a LICENSED mold remediation company or mold assessor. A LICENSED mold assessor can perform air quality testing, to give an accurate assessment of the levels of contamination and the areas affected. The mold remediator performs the "cleaning/remediation" of the mold. After the remediation, the area should ALWAYS be tested by a mold assessor to confirm the success of the cleaning/remediation and ensure a healthy living environment.
It is Florida Law that any company performing mold cleaning/remediation be LICENSED by the state. Any mold assessor has to be LICENSED with the State of Florida, as well. One very important note: NEVER allow a mold remediation company to perform their own testing. This is a serious conflict of interest. It never ceases to amaze me how many companies will do a pre-test to determine if work needs to be done, then ask a homeowner to pay thousands of dollars to clean it up. What if that company is having a slow month?...how inclined would they be to fudge the numbers a bit to say that additional cleaning is necessary? In addition, any reputable mold remediation company will guarantee their work. The way that they do this is to get a post/clearance test done, showing that the mold remediation was successful. If they fail the test, they have to re-clean for free and cover the cost of the re-test. For obvious reasons, testing one's own work should never be done. All testing should be done by a third-party, independent Certified Industrial Hygienist or Mold Assessor. In the end, it's a system of checks and balances that ultimately protects the homeowner.
A lot of remediation companies state that they are licensed and certified. Who governs the licensing and certifications?
The IICRC (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification) has written the National Standard in mold remediation. It is referred to as the IICRC S520 Standard. It is ANSI approved and should be followed as a guideline in mold remediation. The IICRC offers classes to become certified in Mold Remediation. Any firm performing mold remediation should be IICRC certified, both as a firm and individuals.
As of July of 2011, the State Of Florida requires that any job being performed by a remediation company be state licensed. Licenses can be checked on the MyFlorida.com website.
Are there different degrees of mold contamination?
There are three degrees of mold exposure/contamination, as defined by the IICRC.
Condition 1: Normal fungal ecology. Mold levels are at or about the same as outdoor ecology. There is no visible mold growth. No cleaning/remediation necessary.
Condition 2: This condition has more to do with elevated levels of mold in the home, but not necessarily visible mold growth. The levels in the home are significantly higher than they are outside. This is called "Settled Spores" contamination. There are high levels of microscopic spores in the home, which have settled with the household dust. They are easily aerosolized by any nearby movement and can travel with and be perpetuated by the AC system. Remediation includes HEPA filtration through vacuuming and air scrubbing, as well as a wipe down process throughout the affected area(s).
Condition 3: Active mold growth. Elevated moisture levels have allowed mold to actively grow in the property and produce new spores to be released. On top of the remediation procedures included in Condition 2 contamination, removal of damaged structural materials is often necessary. This may include drywall, cabinets, doors, etc.
Who should I call if I have additional questions/concerns about Mold?
This website has been developed with the assistance of a list of sources in the Tampa Bay Area. These sources consistently prove to be the most reputable and knowledgeable of mold remediator's and assessors. Feel free to contact these professionals in the resources section of the website.
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