June Mold Series: “Half-Measures” Are Costly!” Part 3 of 4
Cesar Collado
December 5, 2022

Painting over mold as a “half measure” solution

Hiring The Right Mold Professionals

The principle of “sunk costs” is especially relevant when it comes to mold.  A mold infestation must be completely remediated or the project will fail.  This means that repairing only a portion of the mold problem will be a wasted expense and another effort will likely have to start from scratch.  In fact, many mold remediation projects done by building science mold experts are initiated after one or more DIY, inexperienced, or low-cost handymen or contractors’ efforts have failed.  This can lead to escalating costs by an order of magnitude.

Finding a seasoned expert Indoor Environmental Expert (IEP) to inspect and devise a remediation plan for your home is always a challenge. There are several diverse certifications or licenses to perform this task. This makes the choice of a mold inspector, remediator, and HVAC technician complicated.  Patients with a diagnosed chronic illness, inflammatory disease, autoimmune disease, or who are mold sensitive require a thorough and safely implemented remediation. Finding the right expert is essential when wellness or improved quality of life is your goal. Online, you can find many mold remediation companies.  I discovered that very few mold remediator sites post or describe their certifications.  “Why would a business not post their license or certification?”  Mold remediation can be a lucrative business with relatively few requirements to practice.  Some companies that serve other mold related needs (carpet cleaning, general contracting, and water damage emergencies) may offer mold remediation services as an extension of their services; however, they are often not qualified (minimally certified) to deal with mold.  There are very few experts in any geography that are familiar and experienced with all aspects of mold biology, moisture repairs, and ventilation.  The best professionals will also have some medical understanding of mold as antigens, pathogens, and toxins. More important, they will have empathy for chronically ill patients.  Detailed questions are required to learn about the home and occupants.  It is essential understand the specific mold exposures and learn about any harmful past encounters involving mold and other toxins.

There are many certificates with a wide variance of effort and scholarship to attain.


All Homes Present Unique Issues

Each individual home has its own set relevant ventilation and moisture physics

Every home has a unique ecosystem comprised of the quality of the structure (materials), outdoor water management, floorplan, moisture, microorganisms, and ventilation (HVAC).

All homes have some mold but will have varying amounts of mold contamination.  It isn’t necessarily difficult to find moisture issues, staining, or visual mold.  Once mold and moisture are discovered (DIY or professional), remediation planning must be developed and at least reviewed by an expert.  Every mold issue discovered can present a different puzzle that needs to be solved. By focusing on occupant health, Indoor Environmental Professionals (IEPs) are well suited to create such a plan. Mold remediation is a fluid field that requires continuous learning about mold mycology and new innovations in diagnostics, repair, and moisture management.  New innovations often provide improved precision, efficiencies, or savings.



Indoor Environmental Professionals (IEPs)

IEPs always begin their job with a  discussion with occupants about the home history and the occupants’ health.  In some cases, IEPs will interact with your physicians (with permission).  They will have a deep understanding of the different types of indoor molds and their toxic secondary metabolites, mycotoxins.  This profession remains in its infancy today.  Most big cities will have one or a few IEPs.  Smaller towns may have to look for an IEP in a nearby large city. Many IEPs that I know operate regionally across several states, often through virtual consultations.

There are too many unknowns and differing circumstances for any one person to claim they understand all mold issues.   To keep up, IEPs often network amongst themselves, other home professionals, and physicians.  They leverage others experience when needed to borrow wisdom.  The mold remediation industry is regulated by individual states by implementing EPA, OSHA, and other policies However, regardless of training, almost all companies seem to be willing to oversell themselves to win a project.


How To Find Professionals That Are Not “In Over Their Heads?”

Ideally, when a water leak, flood, or other water damage occurs, occupants

Commercial Dryer and Humidifier

should have the problem fixed immediately to maintain a healthy environment and retain property value.  When promptly addressed, moisture problems can usually be repaired without the need for a mold expert.  This is always the best solution.  Commercial dryers and dehumidifiers can be rented at the local hardware store or purchased so you can act very quickly. Mold takes 24-48 hours to begin reproducing at a high rate.  There are rare incidences where the very small amounts of visual mold contamination is dried immediately (within 24 hours) where a mold professional may believe it can remain dormant if moisture issue is solved, and remodeling outside of painting is not anticipated. For mold sensitive people, immediate action is required, as any mold can become harmful to the health of the individual.

While it is normal to seek the lowest cost solution when seeking estimates to fix the mold problem, focusing primarily on price often leads to failure.  Mold is too resilient to be responsive to “half-measures.”  If the cause of moisture is not permanently repaired, including removal of mold debris, a patient with chronic symptoms will not heal. This is because their immune system will be taxed whenever people are home and breathing the contaminated air.  Sleeping with good indoor air quality is essential for the body to heal.

The IEPs and building scientists I know participate, and often seek specific advice from, other experts.  The majority of their projects involve working on fixing homes for sick patients AFTER tens of thousands of dollars are spent ineffectively on unqualified remediation tradesman.  In some cases, a doctor treating environmental illness will recommend these experts.  Another common problem identified by IEPs is the recognition that home mechanical systems (HVAC, plumbing, and water management) may not have been installed properly or according to building code.  Having a lengthy discussion regarding all these issues is critical during the vetting process of finding a mold expert to facilitate the repairs and remediation.

Certificates and Experience Required

A very high level of competence across multiple trades is required to remediate a home when human and pet health is concerned.  A Certified Indoor Environmentalist (CIE) will have had experience in the field working with a seasoned mold professional and pass an examination through the American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC), a “gold standard” independent organization that becomes a certifying body. A two-day onsite training course willis available to help prepare candidates for a certification exam. Alternatively, training is available online, which takes about 32 hours to complete.  Not everyone qualifies to become a Council-certified Indoor Environmentalist (CIE). The ACAC requires applicants to have 2 years of field experience in indoor air quality.  In some cases, some states may reduce the experience requirement to 1 year if the candidate has a college degree in science, engineering, or a related field.  It is important to know that there are also non-accredited CRIE certifications that can be misinterpreted, as this level of training does not require prior experience.

Different Types of “Mold Remediation Experts”

Often, the IEPs are primarily mold investigators that develop remediation plans and have a local network of trade professionals that understand the precise steps for a complete remediation.  Some have businesses that will do the remediation properly and have working relationships with experienced subcontractors.  To better understand the benefits of identifying and collaborating with the right expert, you must look at the broad field of service providers that are necessary for your home.  Unfortunately, this industry is heavy on different licenses and certificates for mold remediation.  There can be a great deal of variance between the different professionals.  Conversely, some remediators who are not IEPs might have numerous course certifications coupled with decades of experience in solving indoor air quality issues as well as keeping up with the latest knowledge and innovation.

There is a wide landscape of certification and licenses. Understanding or asking questions about the certifications can help you quickly disqualify estimates from remediators who may not be qualified to find the right solution that addresses you air quality issues, health concerns, and make measurable improvements.   The ultimate metric is to be able to live in the home without harmful effects of mold on occupants. Expertise and experience are essential to fix a “sick home” safely.  A poor choice in selecting a professional can lead to lost work time, human suffering, other human costs, and the spreading of mold contamination.  If you are severely sensitive to mold and wish to get better, it can be a life and a cost saving to understand the relationship between your medical health and home health. This way you can address your home situation, limit expenses, and mitigate risks.  Other consequences of mold include diminished quality of life, pain and suffering, financial insecurity, and relationship strain.