Comparing Proposals from Mold Remediation Companies - Part 1
If you are a homeowner, or property owner, and need to hire a contractor to remove mold from your home or building, the format and content of the two or three proposals you review need to be similar. The mold remediation industry has been an established service with published national guidelines for about 20 years, but there are no laws in Ohio protecting a property owner from incompetent companies. Many people I meet do not even know there are national remediation guidelines that companies should be following. The following discussion is important because this industry is not uniform in its approach or methods. This information will help in understanding what to expect, the content, and how compare the proposals you review.
Comparing Scope of Work
When you meet a representative of a remedial company, as with any service, you get a feel for their character, honesty, and competence. But to compare remediation proposals, the Scope of Work (SOW) must be the same, and presented in a format that allows you to see what they are going to do and how they are going to do it. Each company should be asked to do the same scope of work and this work should be stated very clearly. If one company wants to do something more than the others, then they can list each additional task as an “Additional Line Item” and present the associated cost separately.
The SOW should be presented in a bulleted format. If you need help with your basement, you should see something like this:
Construct critical barriers to separate the basement from the home
Turn off the furnace/air conditioner system and cover with plastic
Remove or cover contents with plastic
Install small negative air machine and discharge outdoors. Place containment chamber under negative air pressure
Remove mold growth from overheard floor joists by HEPA vacuuming and applying a chemical cleaner
Clean the basement by HEPA Vacuuming and wiping down selected areas with a soapy cloth. This process will be repeated three times
If there are Optional line Items in one (or more) of the proposals, they should be presented like:
Optional Line Item #1: Apply antimicrobial coating on overhead floor joists $300
Optional Line Item #2: Clean all contents by HEPA vacuuming and wiping with a soapy cloth; this will be repeated two times $800
National Mold Remediation Guidance Standards
All of the work completed by a Mold Remediation Company should follow one of the three National Mold Remediation Standards. These guidelines are the New York Department of Health, the U.S.EPA, and the Institute for Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) guidance document S-520. These standards describe the correct technical approach for how to protect the home during the remediation activities, how to remove the mold from a building, and how to clean the area of remediation before the protective methods are removed.
The proposals (and subsequent agreements) should have these standards identified so the contractors demonstrate they will complete the work in accordance with these documents. When a state does not have any laws governing a service industry, to demonstrate the company completed the work correctly, they follow what is referred to as “Standard Industry Care” which means they completed their work in a method that is typical for their industry. Following any of the national remediation standards will meet the description for Standard Industry Care. This is very, very, important for the future safe occupancy of the building after the work is completed.
There are five steps for most mold remediation projects.
Step 1: Construct critical barriers to separate an area from the rest of the building
Step 2: Establish negative air pressure so the debris that is created in the containment area does not get out
Step 3: Demolition of contaminated materials, enclosed in trash bags and remove
Step 4: Remove mold from surfaces using an appropriate technical method
Step 5: Clean the containment area three times by HEPA vacuuming and wiping with a soapy cloth
These five steps and they will be easier to read, and compare, if presented in a bulleted format and contain a complete description of what will be done. Remember that each company should have the same tasks and their approach be clearly described. Just as a side note, if the contractor is working in an attic, it would be prudent to cover the insulation with plastic to prevent the mold debris that is created during the removal activities from falling into the insulation and being left behind. Most mold contamination in attics are caused by improper ventilation and must be corrected or it will grow back. If the remediation contractor does not know how to provide recommendations on what is needed for proper ventilation, or address the source(s) of the elevated moisture, then find another company.
If the contractor will be working in a basement, I recommend that they turn off the HVAC system. There is technical literature which shows that because of leaks in the seams of the ductwork, about 22% of the air is lost in the cycle. Therefore, the return air ductwork, and the unit itself, will collect air from the basement and distribute it into the entire home.
Fogging as a Treatment Technique
Treating mold without removal does not adhere to any mold remediation national standard. There is no treatment of mold; there is only removal. Fogging is a method that describes converting a liquid into a mist. This technique comes from the water damage restoration industry for addressing a sewage backup contaminant. The E.coli that is in human solid waste is a health risk for exposure, and fogging applies an enzyme (a beneficial bacteria) on the surface that consumes the contaminate. Unfortunately, this is often used by a few remediation contractors as a way of cleaning a home, or a remediated area, by “killing” mold spores. It makes the building owner feel good that the contractor is making the area safer to occupy. However, when you breath, dead mold spores (if the chemical is actually effective in doing what they claim), you will react the same as if they are alive. The fogged chemical does not affect the mycotoxins that coat the spores, or the chemicals in the cell walls of the mold colonies, that you react to when you breath in the contaminate. The chemicals that are often used in fogging are affective against bacteria, but there is no technical literature that I have found that supports its usage of fogging in mold contamination projects. I do not recommend that you have the contractor do this for addressing mold contamination, and if you want to consider it, put it in the proposal as an Optional Line Item.
Encapsulation over Mold Growth
Applying a coating over mold growth, without first removing the contaminant, does not meet any of national mold remediation standards. The focus of all national standards is to remove the mold growth and determine why there was elevated moisture to allow for the growth. A remediation contractor that encapsulates mold growth is not trained and is placing themselves in a position of liability. A proposal from a company that proposes this task should be dismissed.
In Part 2, we will discuss the following very important topics for comparing proposals between remediation companies:
· Warranties Describing the Prevention of Mold Regrowth
· Final Remediation Report
· Billing Methods for Project Costs
· Professional References
· Educational Biography
· Errors and Omission Insurance
Deep Breath is an article that is dedicated to distributing information through the Stark & East Central Ohio BIA newsletter. Hopefully the information presented here will spark your interest in learning more about a topic that will help your business and clients. If you have any questions or would like to hear about a certain topic, you can reach me at BobBennett@usefarsight.com. He will post some of the questions asked at the end of the next article.
Bob Bennett is the President of Farsight Management, and the President of the Indoor Air Quality Association for North East Ohio. He has been provided indoor air quality consulting and abatement for the last 20 years to builders, homeowners, insurance companies, and property management companies. You can follow Mr. Bennett on Facebook under Farsight Management or visit his website at UseFarsight.com; he frequently posts comments on interesting projects and articles of interest. Contact him through his email if you have any questions.