Let’s be honest: mold remediation is one of those industries where folks on the outside looking in often find themselves feeling a bit…lost. Without Googling, do know the difference between Rhizopus stolonifer and Stachybotrys chartarum? Could you explain why fungal load is a more accurate way to express test results than a simple spore count? Would you be able to identify a professional-grade environmental mold test as opposed to an over-the-counter kit?
It’s okay if your answer to any (or all) of the previous questions was “No”—this information is the sort of expertise that you pay for when you hire a professional mold remediation service! Unfortunately, like in nearly all trades, there are folks in the remediation industry who are more interested in making a quick buck than they are at doing a good job. Here are five tips for being sure that your remediator isn’t trying to pull the “mold” over your eyes:
1. They offer “free” mold testing.
As the old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” While it’s not unheard of for reputable mold remediation firms to offer free home inspections as a method for courting new customers, unscrupulous companies tend to simply use it as a way to get their foot in the door.
Don’t be too surprised if your free inspection yields evidence of a “serious” mold outbreak that will be expensive to fix—especially if the remediator seems cagey or stingy about details. You should always consult with a mold inspector first. And that brings us to our next point…
2. The remediator says that you have “mold,” but they won’t elaborate
Fact: every single household in the world will probably test positive for some kind of mold. Humans share the planet with over 100,000 different species of the stuff. Even if a person lives in an urban environment or meticulously cleans their home every single day, errant mold spores can still waft in through open windows or catch a ride on clothing. Most types of mold are relatively harmless to people, especially in very small amounts. For example, we wouldn’t recommend biting into a strawberry that’s covered in gray fuzz, but finding one moldy strawberry in the package doesn’t necessarily mean you should throw out everything else in the fridge, either.
If your remediator tells you that you have mold, ask for the names of specific strains and the mycotoxins associated with them. And if the so-called specialist insists that the particulars aren’t important (or, worse, claims that the details are “too technical” for a layperson to understand), get a second opinion.
3. They don’t seem interested in preventing mold re-growth, nor do they offer any kind of guarantee.
Mold is often a symptom of a larger problem with moisture/humidity. You can scrub away any patches of errant mold that you see lingering on the walls of your attic, but as long as your roof is leaking, the mold is just going to keep coming back—and a small issue will eventually turn into a major problem!
Trustworthy mold remediators will not just want to clean up the mold that you can see. Instead, they’ll want to get to the root of the infestation so that they can resolve the matter once and for all. They’ll also have enough faith in their work that they can offer some kind of guarantee on the job that they’ve done. While they probably won’t be able to promise that you’ll never have any problems with mold ever again, they probably will be able to offer a warranty of between 2 and 10 years.
4. They don’t use professional equipment.
This one’s a no-brainer. After all, one of the reasons that you’d want to hire a professional in the first place is because they have access to better tools and technology than the average homeowner! Thus, if your mold remediation “specialist” opens up their kit and pulls out a $20 over-the-counter environmental mold test, then you’re probably not in the best hands. Don’t be afraid to ask outright what sort of equipment the remediator uses during inspections and cleanups. RealTime Labs’ Environmental Mold & Mycotoxin Assessment, or EMMA, is the most comprehensive mold and mycotoxin environmental test there is.
A reputable remediator should be happy to answer your questions about their equipment. If a company representative tries to blow you off or give you a generic answer, then don’t give them your business.
5. They cannot provide references or proof of certifications/licensing.
The types of certifications and licensing that mold remediators are legally required to carry actually vary from state to state. If you live in Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Maryland, or Louisiana, any remediator operating on the up-and-up should be able to show you their license upon request. If you don’t live in any of the aforementioned states, look for certifications from the Mold Inspection Consulting and Remediation Organization (MICRO), the National Organization of Remediators and Mold Inspectors, or the Professional Mold Inspection Institute (PMII).
At the very least, the company should be able to provide references and testimonials from satisfied customers. These days, it’s common for business owners to put glowing reviews on their websites, but there are plenty of third-party sites (Google reviews, the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, etc.) that can provide a wealth of information. If the company doesn’t seem to have any kind of web presence or history, it’s probably best to go with someone else.
Note: for the convenience of our clients, RealTime Laboratories has a list of certified environmental mold inspectors on our website. These are companies with whom we have a working relationship.
Please don’t walk away from this post thinking that the majority of mold remediation firms are disreputable and, therefore, all of them should be viewed with intense suspicion. In fact, we’d like to think that the vast majority of folks working in the industry do great work and strive for customer satisfaction. However, just as there are unscrupulous mechanics, locksmiths, and roofers in the world, there are unscrupulous mold remediators, too. So always practice due diligence before you hire a firm to come to inspect your home or remove mold from your living environment. And, of course, when in doubt, you can always consult with the experts!