Whether in new construction, or in existing buildings, you've likely run into similar conditions at properties.  How to you handle these types of situations?

Tags: IAQ, Indoor, air, environment, mold, quality

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OK Group--

Who has had an experience with suspected mold in a property you were called to work on?  Let's get a little discussion going about how you dealt with the situation!

Hire an expert in mold-remediation or and environmental consultant and follow their advice.

Proper protocol should involve something along the lines of:

1) Mold sampling to verify types of mold present.
2) Protection of employees working on site.
3) Elimination of the moisture source.
4) Elimination of the visible mold.
5) Treatment to inhibit further growth.
6) Mold sampling to verify success of Remediation efforts.

Methods for elimination of visible mold will vary depending on the affected materials) There are products for the lumber that can be spray applied. Party wall likely needs panels replaced. On fire jobs this sometimes involves opening the roof for access.

If you don't deal with this proactively you expose yourself to serious legal risks. New owner: "What's that musty smell? Why are my kids sick? Why is there mold in my brand new home/apartment? Honey! Call the lawyer!!"

How much mold would you have to see to trigger the protocol you outlined?

Good question Richard.   

Since the mold industry is not federally regulated, the emphasis in unregulated cities and states has been on acceptable industry standards of care.  That industry SOC is drawn somewhat vaguely from various sources, such as the NYC Guideline, EPA, OSHA, IICRC S520, etc. There are states such as Texas and Florida that have their own state guidelines, so I suppose I should have inquired as to the location of the project.   


According the the NYC 2008 Guidelines, "Small Isolated Areas (less than 10 square feet) – e.g. ceiling tiles, small areas on walls (a) Remediation can be conducted by trained building maintenance staff. Such persons should receive training on proper cleaning methods, personal protection, and potential health hazards associated with mold exposure. This training can be performed as part of a program to comply with the requirements of the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200)."  

That figure (<10 SF) has been implemented by several other agencies such as the EPA, however it was never based on any scientific data.   It was a political compromise between city officials and large landlords who wanted to limit their exposure to cleanup costs.  Lab testing has shown that a 1 SF area of mold growth on drywall in a 10x10x8 room, disturbed without proper cleanup, can spike mold spore levels to over 1,000,000 spores per cubic meter of air.    


Regardless of the location of the project, with what I see in the photos, I would personally want to play it safe rather than gambling with occupant health and liability risks.  

I think the first order of the day is to inform the homeowner. Take photos and inform the owner in writing. Also make sure its safe for you or your crew to work in that environment. Looks like they had a flood in that basement already! If the homeowner assigns you to fix the situation, then seek out professional help. Depending on your trade and background, you may be able to determine if the source of moisture is still present or has been remedied.

Good thought, though if you're a subcontractor it probably would be wise to go to the builder first.  Looks like a multi-family unit so there may be no 'homeowner' yet.  

You are correct about it being multi-family.  It is, in fact, an assisted-living facility, so it will contain a potentially susceptible population.  I have seen similar issues in many of these types of properties over the years.

In any case where there is visible mold present, I would begin with a thorough VISUAL assessment of the building. I would then make decisions based on the findings of the visual investigation. In most cases, sampling is not necessary to remediate the problems. If the home or building is vacant, I would then base my remediation protocol on industry guidelines. The first step, in all cases is to determine cause and correct the moisture situation. If there are occupants and they are complaining of health related issues, I would direct them to consult with their physician. After completing the visual assessment, talking with occupants, reviewing any medical reports, etc. I would consider what, if any useful information might be gained from sampling? I would then create a strategy for any such sampling based on the hypothesis which was developed from the visual inspections and occupany interviews. 

Most of the moisture issues there can be attributed to failure to get the roof system completely sealed in a timely fashion during construction. 

Can anyone tell me exactly HOW mold sampling impacts the mold remediation process or protocol? Why do you need to know mold types, mold spore counts or anything else when you see a mold/moisture problem? How will the results of a mold test impact the process involved in stopping the moisture issue, replacing damaged porous materials, and cleaning non-porous or semi-porous materials? 

Sampling would be primarily to verify 'Condition 1' or 'Normal Fungal Ecology' after remediation.   If mold has been confirmed visually, remediation could commence with testing only occurring afterwards to confirm that the remediation adequately dealt with the mold in the structure.   

The 'moisture issue' is separate.   Mold remediation could be carried out perfectly, yet the problem will reoccur if the moisture problem isn't rectified.    The results of the mold test would perhaps impact the remediation insofar as you are determining the rooms that you should target with your remediation and repair efforts.   

How can the 'moisture issue' be separate from the mold and/or mold testing issue? You can't have mold without moisture correct? How does mold testing help determine which rooms are targeted when air flows freely and somewhat unpredictably inside a home? I'm hearing a lot of mumbo jumbo baloney whenever I ask this question. I've yet to see a situation where mold testing had a significant impact on what needed to be done to stop the moisture/mold problem. I think mold testing is totally un-necessary in almost all instances and a waste of money. Unscientific and unreproducible 'testing' for mold should be stopped. 

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