Mold remediation is the process of removing mold from an environment. There are currently no federal codes, standards, or laws for mold remediation in buildings.
The EPA’s Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification (IICRC) currently set the standard of care for the industry.
In the 1990s, various public and private organizations got together to create guidelines that address proper standards of care for those who are in the industry. The IICRC first published the standard and reference guide for professional water damage restoration in 1994 and released the ANSI/IICRC S520-2015 Standard for Professional Mold Remediation shortly after.
These guidelines detail the most significant techniques, details, procedures, and methodologies during a mold remediation project. Professional mold removal companies should follow them to ensure that they do the job correctly and for the safety of their clients.
These guidelines are not the only standards in the industry, but they’re considered to be some of the best. Some companies will add their own protocols to these standards because each situation is unique and may require a deviation from the standard.
There are five general principles that professionals should follow during the mold remediation process.
Once an indoor environment has been determined to have mold contamination, it is important that certain safety protocols are instituted immediately to keep the occupants and any workers safe. The occupants and all workers should be notified that the area is contaminated and the risk associated with entering the area or property.
If needed, appropriate respiratory protection such as a p100 face mask or at a minimum a n95 face mask should be used while in the property.
According to the EPA, “In cases in which a particularly toxic mold species has been identified or is suspected, when extensive hidden mold is expected (such as behind vinyl wallpaper or in the HVAC system), when the chances of the mold becoming airborne are estimated to be high, or sensitive individuals (e.g., those with severe allergies or asthma) are present, a more cautious or conservative approach to remediation is indicated. Always make sure to protect remediators and building occupants from exposure to mold.”
Relocation of the building occupants should also be considered.
The EPA says, “The decision to relocate occupants should consider the size and type of the area affected by mold growth, the type and extent of health effects reported by the occupants, the potential health risks that could be associated with debris, and the amount of disruption likely to be caused by remediation activities. If possible, remediation activities should be scheduled for off-hours when building occupants are less likely to be affected.”
2. Mold Remediation Plan
The next step is to create a home remediation plan to remove the mold from the area and also keep the occupants and the rest of the property safe from cross-contamination. This plan is also called the scope of work in the industry and will act as a type of blueprint and contract.
Professional mold remediation companies will use this as part of their contract to show the work that’s going to be done and ensure that it’s going to be done right. This will also most likely include warranties, disclaimers, insurance and payment details.
A remediation plan may vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the job, and may require revision if circumstances change or new facts are discovered.”
According to the EPA, “Assess the size of the mold and/or moisture problem and the type of damaged materials before planning the remediation work. Select a remediation manager for medium or large jobs (or small jobs requiring more than one person).
The remediation plan should include steps to fix the water or moisture problem, or the problem may reoccur. The plan should cover the use of appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and include steps to carefully contain and remove moldy building materials to avoid spreading the mold.
The plan will detail how many people will be needed to handle the project; where to place the containment; what contaminated materials will be removed and replaced; and the drying equipment needed to dry the structure.
If repairs are being completed by the company, it will also detail what and how it will be repaired and the cost.
3. Contain and Control the Mold
Once an area of a property has been identified to have mold contamination and a plan is in place, the area should be contained for contamination control. What you are doing is building a plastic barrier between the contaminated area and the rest of the property.
Use 6-millimtere clear polyethylene sheeting ceiling to floor around affected area with a zipper entry. This will help contain the mold spores within the work area before and while the work is being performed.
A HEPA air purifier with negative air pressure within the containment where the air is released from inside the containment to outside of the property. Block supply and return air vents within containment area.
4. Mold removal
All mold found within a structure on porous items such as drywall, insulation, carpet, padding, furniture, most cabinetry, and some wood like cork board or OSB should be physically removed.
All materials that are being removed should be placed in heavy duty 6 mil construction bags and then double-bagged within the containment. The bags should then be wiped clean with a microfiber rag and mold removal product before removing them from the containment area to minimize the dispersion of mold spores throughout the building. Large items that have heavy mold growth should be covered with polyethylene sheeting and sealed with duct tape before they are removed from the containment area.
Many woods within the walls, such as 2x4s, 2x6s and plywood are semi-porous so they can be properly cleaned using an EPA-approved mold removal product along with a wire brush and or sanding. The EPA says that “you should scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy.
It is not recommended that you use bleach or other harmful products because they are toxic to humans. Use the appropriate PPE and follow precautions.
The EPA also no longer recommends bleach to clean mold in their consumer tutorial, “A brief guide to mold and moisture and your home.” The EPA says that “the use of a chemical or biocide that kills organisms such as mold (chlorine bleach, for example) is not recommended as a routine practice during mold cleanup. ”
OSHA states that the use of a biocide, such as chlorine bleach, is not recommended as a routine practice during mold remediation, although there may be instances where professional judgment may indicate its use (for example, when immuno-compromised individuals are present).
According to the EPA, “If you suspect that the heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) system may be contaminated with mold (it is part of an identified moisture problem, for instance, or there is mold near the intake to the system). Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold – it could spread mold throughout the building.”
If you have a duct system that is made entirely of bare sheet metal or sheet metal with exterior insulation, you are most likely in luck. More often than not, they can be cleaned properly and safely if you hire a professional HVAC cleaner who has extensive experience with cleaning mold.
Sheet metal duct systems with internal glass insulation or made entirely of insulation will have to be removed and replaced if they have water damage and or mold. There is no safe way around this fact and it can be very expensive.
Here is what the EPA says, “If you have insulated air ducts and the insulation gets wet or moldy it cannot be effectively cleaned and should be removed and replaced.”
Please keep in mind that you do not want to hire amateurs to do this. Your health and life may be on the line here.
5. Drying the structure and mold prevention
The last step in the process is to make sure that the structure is dry using dehumidifiers and fans. All the wood needs to be at the proper moisture levels before repairs are made or mold may grow within the walls if they are still wet.
Depending on how moist the wood is, this process can take anywhere from two to five days or more. It is advised that a moisture meter is used to monitor the progress of the drying.
All wood and the work area should be thoroughly sprayed and wiped down with an EPA-approved mold removal product to remove any remaining spores. Sometimes this is done 2 to 3 times to ensure cleanliness and avoid cross-contamination.
6. Final Clean Up
Once the mold is removed, the area should be thoroughly HEPA vacuumed along every surface within the containment including the floor, walls etc. Then everything within the containment including the plastic and floors, should be wiped down with a microfiber cloth and an all-natural type of disinfectant product. such as hydrogen perooxide.
Then all tools used during the process should be thoroughly wiped down and cleaned before removal from the containment.
A property is considered properly remediated when the mold contamination and porous materials have been removed and disposed of using these procedures. The area and all surfaces where the work is performed is clean and free of any dust particles and any type of mold smells.
TOOLS AND SUPPLIES
There are various tools and supplies that will be needed during the mold remediation process. It’s recommended that you have the following:
A p100 face mask
Drywall saw or multi-tool
Floor paper or ram board
6 mm clear plastic
Disposable 6 mil construction bags
Mold removal product or spray
Terry cloth rags
Wire brush or sander
Moe Bedard is the founder of Mold Safe Inspections and manager at Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation.
If you need help with a project, please call 760-818-6830.