|Teach Yourself Environmental Home Inspecting
Let’s start out with some negative stories:
One man pulled out insulation with Stachybotrys on it in his basement, and then tracked back and forth between the basement and living areas. His wife is severely sensitive to Stachybotrys. Exposure to that mold makes her feel like her lungs are on fire.
There had been a plumbing leak in a wall cavity, and another homeowner took down the wall cavity, releasing an untold number of mold particulates into room air. His wife was severely allergic, and they ended up having to get rid of most of their furniture and move out.
One remediation company owner went to inspect a jobsite, apparently without adequate respiratory protection. A few hours later he ended up in the emergency room with breathing issues.
If you have a partner or a child who is supersensitive to mold, give extra consideration to professional mold remediation. Check with a physician, but they possibly should be out of the house during the project. Arrange for post-remediation testing, to confirm that the remediation job has been successful (at least in terms of spore counts).
General DIY guidelines:
Protect yourself with personal protection equipment, the most important being a good-fitting P100 or N95 respirator.
Note: OSHA requires medical certificates to clear new workers for respiratory use. People with some heart and lung conditions should check with their doctors regarding respirator use. If there is any question about your health, consult with your physician first about using a respirator. Buying a respirator with a punch out for breathing offers less resistance to breathing than one without that. N95 and P100 respirators can be had for around $12 to $15 at a local home supply store. P100 filter finer particulates than N95 do.
After working with mold, mold particulates are likely to be on your Tyvek suit, your shoes, in your hair, etc. Avoid tracking particulates out of the work area.
Protect clean areas of your home with containment. JonDon, Grainger, and similar suppliers may sell plastic sheeting for erecting temporary walls for the work area.
Depending on the job, consider renting an air scrubber, which you possibly will set up as a negative air machine. One source of rentals is SunBelt Rentals.
You will need a HEPA vacuum cleaner, such as a HEPA shop vac or a Euroclean GD930. If you already have a shop vac that is not HEPA quality, the shop vac could be left outside, with the hose running through a window or door to the work area.
Review the section on professional Mold Remediation, and follow those guidelines as closely as you can.
If carpet removal is part of the project, you could HEPA vacuum the carpet and then tape some drop sheets over it prior to rolling it up and covering it with another drop sheet for disposal.
If there is some mold, but not a whole lot, on – say – ceiling joists and subflooring in your basement or crawl space, it may be adequate just to HEPA vacuum them and then spray paint them. You could use regular paint, possibly low or no VOCs.
Plan out the remediation project, so you have the supplies you need and know what you are doing. Whatever you are doing, be meticulous about it. The stakes can be high with an inadequate DIY job, or with a careless job by professional remediators.
Regarding HEPA vacuuming, get the most out of the time you spend doing the final vacuuming. Since it takes Aspergillus and Penicillium spores 4 to 8 hours to drift down and settle in dust, have your vacuum cleaner plugged in at the entrance to the work area, wait eight hours and then start vacuuming gently at the entrance, sneaking up on the mold spores. Damp dust horizontal surfaces. Do this several times.
The mold part of my environmental home inspection takes the greatest amount of time. I might be gathering tape samples while the homeowner is taking the air samples. Between the two of us, we are collecting 40 to 60 samples. If there is time at the end of the inspection, I’ll set up the microscope and will review some or all of the samples.
Many times I’ve said to homeowners that taking all these samples may be overkill, but that I’d rather take too many than too few samples. No homeowner has ever disagreed, and many have expressed appreciation for the in-depth nature of the work.
I stress the objectives of the inspection:
Find where mold is growing;
Find where mold isn’t growing;
Look for patterns of dissemination
We covered a lot of ground in this Mold section, and now it’s time to leave for a new adventure on Indoor Air Quality! Congratulations for making it through Mold!