We feel for you. Your home has mold, and you want it gone. But how do you know if it’s a job you can handle yourself, or if you need to call in the experts?
To answer that question, we first need to better understand what we’re up against. Let’s start by taking a look at the dangers of mold.
Mold and Its Dangers: A Primer
Don’t get us wrong. Mold is a serious problem to have, and one that could potentially cause a lot of personal and financial problems. That said, small amounts of common household molds are to be expected, and unless you’re mold-sensitive or immunocompromised, it’s usually nothing to worry about.1 Simple household cleaners can take care of the issue.
Pro Tip: You may have heard of the extremely dangerous Stachybotrys chartarum, more commonly known as black mold. While studies are ongoing, the evidence shows it’s not particularly dangerous. At least, no more than other common molds, anyway. Check out our guide to mold allergies for more information.
Where you really run into trouble is when mold contaminations are extensive. What do we mean by extensive? Well, the EPA defines it as more than 10 square feet. Mold contamination of this size can be potentially hazardous to the health of those living in the home, particularly if they are at high risk.
So if your mold contamination is significant, you’re likely going to need to call in the professionals. But when you start looking into mold cleanup, you’re going to find quite a few terms that are being used. Let’s nail those down now.
Mold Testing, Inspection, Removal, and Remediation: What’s the Difference?
There are a lot of terms in the mold removal world that seem related or interchangeable. Let’s define them now, so you know which service you need and what to expect.
- Mold Testing: Generally speaking, testing for mold in the home involves taking a sample of either the air or a surface in your home. Those tests are then sent to a laboratory where they are analyzed. The goal of a mold test is to identify the type(s) of mold present in your home.2
- Mold Inspection: A mold inspection is performed by a professional who will examine your home for the presence of mold and the extent of the infestation. Mold inspectors will go through every inch of your home, including hard-to-reach places, and let you know how to fix your problem, should one be found. Remediation might be their recommendation, though it might not be.3
- Mold Removal: Mold removal is a general term that refers to the cleaning of any surface mold that exists in your home. This can be done by housecleaning services, cleaning crews, or handymen. Most of the time mold removal is insufficient to address the underlying causes of contamination, but it can be helpful in some instances.4
- Mold Remediation: Mold remediation includes assessment, containment, cleanup, disposal, and sanitation of a mold infestation, as well as recommendations for measures to prevent it from returning. This is the most thorough and effective solution for dealing with a mold issue in your home.5
FYI: Don’t count on your homeowners insurance to help if you have a significant contamination — most policies don’t cover damage caused by mold. More on that in our guide to mold insurance.
So now that you understand the differences between the services in this space, let’s talk about how you should select a mold remediation specialist.
What to Look for in a Mold Remediation Service
If you’re dealing with a considerable mold problem, it’s understandable that you’d want to deal with it as quickly as possible. But Googling “mold remediation near me” and hiring the first result might not be the best approach. Instead, you should slow down and do some vetting.
Why is this important? Because there are no federal or state licensing requirements for mold remediation. What does that mean? It means that anyone with a work van, a spray bottle, a hazmat suit, and a business license can call themselves a mold remediation professional. Here’s a checklist you should work through before contracting any service:
- ✔ Are they certified? While there are no licenses required to remediate mold professionally, there are third-party certifications that will demonstrate your potential contractor’s qualifications to do such work. The one that you should really look for is the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification. IICRC certification is the gold standard in the industry and the standard-issuing body for insurance providers.6
- ✔ Do they offer a warranty? A warranty is a guarantee that the company you’re potentially dealing with stands behind its work. If they are unsuccessful in their first attempt at remediation, what recourse do you have? Will they make it right? Be sure you ask specific questions about your unique situation, and how they will demonstrate that their work has been successful. This should involve a third-party test that air quality has returned to safe levels.
- ✔ Are they bonded and insured? Ask if their workers are bonded and insured, and make sure you understand what this means for your job, specifically. If something is damaged during the course of their work, who will be financially responsible? A reputable mold remediation company will be able to answer this question without hesitation.
- ✔ Do they have recommendations? Any company that does great work will have customers who are willing to talk about them. Ask if you can speak with some of them, or if they have a third-party online profile where reviews are posted. Make sure you’re not just reading reviews on their website, though. Those can be cherry-picked and might not give an accurate representation of the average customer experience.
- ✔ How will they protect themselves and your family? Don’t be afraid to be specific here. Ask them what kinds of PPE they require their workers to wear, and if those workers are covered by workers comp should they become sick. Ask them how they will contain the contamination in your home to prevent its spread. If their answers aren’t definite or if they’re unsatisfactory, you should probably pass.
- ✔ Will you have a project manager? Mold remediation is a big job, and multiple types of professionals might be employed to get the job done over the course of several days or weeks. Ask if you’ll have a dedicated point of contact during this time to go to with any questions or concerns.
- ✔ What are their costs, and what might make the price increase? Make sure you’ve settled on a figure before work starts, and go through different scenarios that might increase the cost as the project progresses. Make sure you’re clear that work will stop and additional costs will be approved before work will resume. Mold remediation costs can be quite high, so you want to make sure you’re on the same page with the company from the start.
- ✔ What is their plan for preventing mold in the future? Part of the mold remediation service package you’re purchasing should be a plan for preventing mold from returning in the future. If this element is missing, ask for it.
If these questions have been answered to your satisfaction, it’s very likely that you’re dealing with a company that adheres to high standards of professionalism. With this in mind, though, there are plenty of red flags you should look out for.
What to Look for in a Mold Remediation Service
While there are some great companies out there who take their work and their customer’s satisfaction very seriously, there are just as many that will leave you dissatisfied at best and sitting in a damp, moldy basement at worst.
While the inverse of what we said above can be counted as red flags — If they don’t have any certifications, if they can’t give you recommendations, if they’re cagey about their warranty or insurance — there are a few other indications that you might not be dealing with the most reputable company. Here’s what to watch out for:
- ✘ Remediation companies that offer free testing. While this might sound like a good deal, anyone who offers free tests to indicate if you need a service they provide has a clear motive for finding a way for you to test positive. Simply put, your free mold test is always going to come back positive, and they’ll always recommend remediation, whether you need it or not.
- ✘ Remediation companies that crop up after disasters. If your neighborhood floods, be mindful of mold remediation companies that form immediately afterward. These are usually scams. Be sure to check out the company history, and as we said above, look into recommendations.
- ✘ Remediation companies with poor response times. Mold remediation can be a long process, and you don’t want it to drag out longer than necessary. Make sure the company you’re dealing with is prompt when you ask questions or need clarification.
- ✘ Remediation companies that want payments upfront. Asking for the entire payment before work begins is a common scam. A fair payment plan is 25 percent when the work starts, 25 percent during the work, and the remainder after work is done, along with an completed independent test showing that the property’s air quality is safe.
- ✘ Remediation companies that use heat to kill mold. This is one way to remove mold, but it isn’t very effective – especially if the underlying causes of the contamination aren’t addressed. We’re not saying heat can’t be used as a mold remediation method, but make sure it’s not the only one they plan to use.
- ✘ Remediation companies that use opaque sealant. This is usually a method dicey companies use to hide shoddy workmanship. If sealant is mentioned in your remediation plan, ask which type they will use and specifically ask that it be transparent.
There might be other moments that occur that give you pause, so listen to your gut. If something doesn’t seem right, ask questions. A reputable company will have no problem explaining everything to you. If they can’t answer you directly or if they won’t give you the details you’re looking for, you should probably move on to one that will.
Final Thoughts on Mold Remediation
As we’ve mentioned, we understand that when you’ve got a mold problem, you want it dealt with as quickly as possible. But response time is just one factor in selecting a mold remediation company that’s worth its salt. There are numerous other factors at play to ensure you’re getting the best service for your money, and one that will get the job done effectively and successfully.
And finally, if you want to know more about this topic before you make your ultimate decision, check out our exhaustive guide on everything there is to know about household mold. After reading that, the professionals might be asking you questions.
Mold Remediation FAQs
Most common household molds do not present a threat to healthy adults; however, if that person is sensitive, immunocompromised, or the mold is present in large enough quantities, it could be dangerous.
Most minor mold contamination can be cleaned by homeowners using commercial or natural products. Just make sure precautions are taken to prevent unnecessary exposure.
Extensive mold contamination will require professional removal. The EPA recommends remediation for outbreaks over 10 square feet.
Depending on the extent of the contamination, mold remediation can get quite pricey. Generally speaking, though, expect to pay between $10 to $30 per square foot. Entire home remediations might cost upwards of $30,000.
If your mold contamination is relatively minor, remediation might take a day or two. If the outbreak is more significant, it could take a week or more to fully deal with the problem.