Mold has had its 15 minutes of fame over the last few years. Though the hype has died down, mold is still an important issue. Customer complaints require home builders to have a fast action plan; both to clean up the mold problem and to show customers a quality home builder is looking out for their health and safety and the durability of their home.
There are two important things to remember about mold: prevent it by doing things right the first time and when you do face mold, take care of it immediately. Ensuring that your warranty team follows a process for mold remediation will take care of the latter.
The following steps, which can be adapted to fit within your company's policy, serve as a basic process for quickly remediating mold problems.Step 1: Learn about moisture
Assessing mold growth involves more than just looking at what's visibly growing on the walls or in a corner. Mold can be an invisible intruder, growing behind and around what you first see. Such devious behavior requires inquisitive thinking. First, understand that behind all mold growth is a water or moisture problem. Second, become a master of moisture — know where moisture comes from and how it gets into the home. The ultimate goal of these two steps is for warranty representatives to identify a moisture source and use its location to help locate all mold growth, not just what's immediately visible.Step 2: Document the mold problem and create a remediation plan
Before you begin remediation, document the mold situation with writing, photos and video. The warranty team supervisor will use the documentation to develop a remediation plan, which typically answers questions like when work is slated to begin, when that work is scheduled to be completed, who will be performing the remediation, any testing that should be done, and if homeowners will be temporarily relocated. In the longer term, the documentation can help manage liability for your company or point to larger trends in mold growth.Step 3: Calculate the extent of the contamination
Mold may not always grow in one area, so you need to figure out how much contamination you're really looking at. Calculating the extent of the contamination will impact how you approach mold removal and clean up. The goal of mold remediation is to clean up mold growing within the home, and to avoid exposing homeowners to large amounts of mold. The New York City Department of Health (NYC DOH) has developed guidelines for cleaning up mold contamination. These guidelines are widely used in the construction industry and recommend six levels of mold remediation based on the square footage of the mold and whether or not the mold is located within the home's HVAC system. Following the NYC DOH's guidelines, available online at http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/epi/moldrpt1.shtml , calculate the remediation level needed.Step 4: Remediate mold contamination
Remediation will always involve cleaning up existing mold while avoiding exposure to oneself as well as homeowners, as well as preventing new growth by addressing the moisture source. Based on your calculation of the contamination area, determine if you're working in an area up to 30 square feet (approximately the size of a full sheet of drywall). If so, you'll be following the guidelines for remediation levels 1 and 2. Level 1 remediation is used for small, isolated areas of mold up to 10 square feet and Level 2 remediation covers square footage from 10 to 30 square feet.
The clean up process is the same for Level 1 and Level 2 mold remediation and comprises these steps:
Reference the remediation plan during the actual remediation to make sure it's being followed. If additional mold is discovered during the clean up, the warranty supervisor should update the plan.
For contamination areas greater than 30 square feet, many builders hire outside mold remediation firms to perform the clean up. In this case, you and your team switch from actually performing mold remediation to supervising a qualified contractor. Having a general understanding of the proper procedures an outside company should be following is useful. The NYC DOH guidelines address such procedures for Level 3 contamination and above.Step 5: Determine if clean up has been successful
Just because the mold is gone and there's no dirt or dust doesn't mean that you're done. Your last step is to determine if your clean-up efforts have been successful. While this last step is a judgment call, there are some options and guidelines to follow.
The EPA document, Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings, is a great resource that provides guidelines for helping you complete your clean up efforts. Some of these guidelines include:
Depending on your company and the specific details of a mold problem, additional testing by an environmental testing company may be performed after the clean up to verify that all mold has been removed.
When it comes to mold, the key is to implement a comprehensive moisture management strategy. Potential liability and health issues from mold can be dramatically decreased by doing it right the first time. Clean up must be immediate and thorough, following a process like the above steps. It may sound over-simplified, but the primary failure in response to homeowner complaints is simply the fact that builders don't respond fast enough, or with the emphasis that the issue is potentially serious.
Minimum personal protection equipment for levels 1 and 2 remediation includes an N95 respirator, eye goggles without vents and rubber gloves that extend to mid-forearm.Got Mold?
Following an immediate and thorough remediation plan is essential for getting rid of the mold and showing your customers you're committed to acting quickly.
Before entering a home to assess a mold growth situation, make sure you have the necessary personal protective equipment.