After discovering a mold problem in our outdoor storage closet, we decided to hire a professional mold inspector.
Should you fix your mold problem yourself, or hire a professional? Hiring a professional mold inspector can give you peace of mind but might not be necessary. According to the EPA, if your mold problem covers an area of less than 10 square feet, you might be able to fix it yourself.
Just keep in mind mold problems can be more complicated than what meets the eye. Initially, we assumed our mold problem was confined to our storage closet. But, thanks to tests performed by our mold inspector, we learned the problem was more extensive.
When to Hire a Mold Professional
When we discovered our mold problem, it had only been a few weeks since we last opened our storage closet. But, in that short space of time, we went from having no visible mold in our apartment to having a closet full.
Not only did mold cover the ceiling and walls of the closet, but it was also growing on our belongings, many of which we were unable to salvage.
Mold spreads quickly, and the longer it’s allowed to grow, the more damage it can cause.
After carefully removing our possessions from the closet, and, regretfully, moving many of them to the dumpster, we considered whether the mold might have spread into our living area. We decided not to take any chances and hired a professional mold inspector.
Your particular situation may be different, but you should consider hiring a mold professional if:
- you don’t have proper safety equipment, or don’t feel comfortable removing the mold yourself;
- you smell mold in your home, but can’t find the source;
- or you or a family member have a mold allergy.
Our mold report cost us $450. While that’s no small sum, it turned out to be a worthwhile investment. Our inspector’s report confirmed mold had infiltrated our living space. This finding enabled us to terminate our lease without having to incur thousands in lease breakage fees. Not to mention, it protected us from untold damage to our furniture as well as potential health issues.
You may not want to spend any money on a mold professional. And the good news is, it might not be necessary. If you’re dealing with a relatively small mold problem, and you take the proper precautions, you should be able to resolve it without hiring anyone at all.
Mold Cleanup Safety Tips
If you decide to tackle your mold problem yourself, take the following precautions:
1. Wear a Mask
When dealing with mold, you must use a mask. Specifically, an N-95 respirator. If worn correctly, these inexpensive masks can significantly reduce your exposure to airborne mold or mold spores.
Getting the Right Fit:
Masks are only effective when they fit snugly against your face, so check the fit before using your mask:
- Negative pressure check: With your hands covering the mask, inhale sharply. If adjusted properly, the mask will pull into your face, and no air will leak around your face or eyes.
- Positive pressure check: Place your hands over the mask and exhale sharply. No air should leak from around the mask if it fits properly.
2. Protect Your Eyes
Before getting face to face with your mold problem, put on some protective eyewear. Make sure to select a pair that does not have ventilation holes.
3. Grab Some Gloves
To avoid coming into contact with moldy items, wear gloves that extend to the middle of your forearm. If you’re using a cleaning solution consisting of water and mild detergent, ordinary household rubber gloves should do the job. But, if you’re using something stronger, like chlorine bleach, you should use gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC.
How to Prevent Mold from Spreading
The mold problem in our apartment was caused by water that penetrated a gap in the siding and accumulated inside the building’s walls.
Molds spread by releasing invisible spores into the air. No matter what you do, it’s virtually impossible to rid your home of mold spores completely. But, fortunately, mold spores will not grow unless moisture is present.
If your home has a leak or any other moisture problem, be sure to address it as quickly as possible. Otherwise, a mold problem could develop in as little as 24-48 hours.
After tending to the source of your water problem, be sure to dry all water-damaged items thoroughly. Finally, to check for residual moisture, consider using a moisture meter.
Tips for controlling moisture in your home:
- Regularly clean and repair roof gutters.
- Ensure your property’s grade slopes downward and away from your home to prevent water from pooling around or entering your home’s foundation.
- Clean air conditioning drip pans, and check drain lines to ensure they are unobstructed and flowing freely.
- Maintain a low level of humidity inside your home (below 60 percent relative humidity). If you notice condensation or moisture on the inside of your window-panes, your home’s humidity level is likely too high.
How to Clean up Mold Successfully
Once you’ve fixed any leaks or water problems, it’s time to get to work safely and effectively removing visible mold growth from your home.
Start by clearing the area of any furniture or other things you can move relatively easily and take note of all affected items. If there’s anything you cannot clean thoroughly, you may need to throw it away. It can be near impossible to remove mold from porous or absorbent materials, like ceiling tiles and carpeting, where it can grow in seams and crevasses.
Next, use a solution of water and detergent to scrub mold off hard surfaces. Remember to dry all surfaces after removing the mold.
Even after you’ve completely removed the mold, you may find some surfaces are stained or damaged in some other way. So, after finishing your cleanup effort, you may need to apply a fresh coat of paint.
How to Determine If Your Mold Problem Is Resolved
How do you know if you’ve done enough to rid your home of mold and prevent it from coming back?
Well, if the cleanup was sufficient, you should no longer be able to detect any visible mold or moldy odors in your home. And, if you or any of your family members experienced mold-related allergies, you should experience significant relief from those symptoms.
After the cleanup is completed, keep tabs on the affected area by periodically checking for signs of new water damage or mold growth.
And, take comfort in knowing, as long as you control moisture levels in your home, you should be able to prevent future mold problems.
Can exposure to mold cause health problems? Yes, molds produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, toxic substances, all of which can potentially impact your health. If you think your health is being affected by mold exposure, speak with your health care provider.
Is it necessary to determine what type of mold is growing in your home? No, with respect to potential health risks and removal, all molds should be treated with the same level of care.
Should you have your air ducts cleaned after finding a mold problem? Hire an inspector to examine your HVAC system if you suspect it was affected by moisture or mold. Although a substance may resemble mold, only an expert can tell you what it is for sure. So, before committing to having your air ducts cleaned, insist that your service provider send samples of any suspect materials to a laboratory for analysis.