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5 Reasons Why You Need a Home Mold Inspection: An Interview with John P. Lapotaire of Indoor Air Quality Solutions

By John Lapotaire, CIEC

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Indoor Air Quality Solutions IAQS is a Florida indoor air quality consulting company that provides indoor air quality inspections, mold inspections and testing by Florida licensed mold inspectors and Council Certified Indoor Air Quality Consultants (CIECs). Our inspections take a comprehensive whole-house approach to identifying and correcting indoor air quality and mold problems in homes and offices. We have been providing indoor air quality and mold inspections since 2001 for both commercial and residential properties.

In addition to our indoor air quality and mold inspections our services include: Mold remediation protocols, mold clearance testing, radon testing, water damage inspections, indoor allergen testing, building envelope inspections, and thermal imaging and infrared IR inspections.

What are the best and worst case scenarios when there is mold growth in a home and it goes undetected (and untreated)?

Mold growth in a home is a result of damp indoor conditions that support the mold growth. With thousands of species of mold each individual can react to molds differently. In most cases with small amounts of mold growth the occupants will recognize typical allergic symptoms. However in some cases when the occupants are allergic to the species present the reaction can be much worse. With larger areas of mold growth that have gone undetected many species can be present and some mold species have the ability to produce mycotoxins. The occupant exposure to these mycotoxins is the worst case scenario.

It's important to note that not all molds produce mycotoxins and those that have the ability to produce mycotoxins don't always produce them. It's been my experience that the worst cases of exposure to mold and mycotoxins have been in cases where the mold was disturbed without the necessary containment to prevent the unnecessary occupant exposure. It's during the mold removal that the indoor environment is at its highest level of dust up and potential occupant exposure to mold.

It's extremely important that the mold inspector identify the cause and origin of the mold growth and write a mold remediation protocol specific to the loss that outlines the extent of the mold damage as well as the containment necessary to protect both the occupants and the unaffected areas of the home during the mold removal.

What are the most common causes of mold and affected areas in Florida homes?

Mold is the result of moisture within the home that remains unaddressed for a period greater than 48 hours. It's this moisture that supports the mold growth. There are thousands of mold species and each grows with varying amounts of water. Some molds require much wetter conditions to grow while others can grow with an elevation of humidity.

One of the most common causes of mold growth in Florida is called a humidity bloom. A humidity bloom actually occurs in the cooler months when the air conditioning isn't being used. During the hot Florida summers the use of air conditioning both cools the home as well as reduces the humidity. The humidity is created by daily activities such as cooking, bathing, and breathing. In the cooler months when there is no need for the air conditioning to cool the home we have also eliminated the homes only means of reducing the humidity from daily activities. The result is often an elevation in indoor humidity well above 60% that can then support mold growth or a humidity bloom.

More common than the winter humidity bloom are the slow and hidden leaks that provide the moisture for the mold growth. These slow leaks at showers, sinks, windows, and roofs can support mold that can go undetected until the occupants begin to notice an increase in allergies while at home that seem to be reduced when they are away from their home.

When should a homeowner or home buyer get a mold inspection?

When occupants begin to feel that they are reacting to their indoor environment with allergy related symptoms that's when it's time for a home assessment or mold inspection. This is not and I repeat not a test for mold or air sampling for mold. A mold inspection is the inspection of the home for areas that can support mold growth. An air mold sample for mold cannot tell you where the mold is growing, the cause and origin of the water that is supporting the mold growth, nor can the air sample for mold tell you the extent of the mold damage. In short the air sampling for mold will provide you no useful information. When it's time for a mold inspection make sure you hire a licensed mold inspector that will inspect your home for areas that could support mold growth and not an inspector that is only going to sample your air for mold.

What are the basic steps that an inspector is involved in from start to finish of a mold inspection to the final clearance of affected areas?

The process of establishing a mold or indoor air quality issue within your home begins with the actual assessment of your home, never with sampling, never. IAQ Solutions begins all our indoor air quality and mold inspections with a thorough visual inspection to identify any and all contributors that may compromise our client's indoor environment. It's important for our clients to understand that it's not always mold.

We focus on identifying the contributors to poor indoor air quality by focusing on the whole home as a single system that can affect our client's indoor environment. Building envelope failures such as leaks at the roof or windows, air conditioning failure which can include duct leaks, excessive condensation, and/or negative pressure of the living space can all be contributors to indoor air quality problems and the elevation of indoor allergens or mold growth.

When we identify an area of mold growth we create a mold remediation protocol specific to our client's loss. This is critical with all mold remediation. The mold remediation protocol should include a floor plan identifying the water and mold damaged areas. (Several examples of these site specific mold remediation floor plans can be viewed at www.microshield-es.com/moldremediation). The protocol should establish a containment strategy to prevent occupant exposure to the mold during removal as well as prevent cross contamination to the unaffected areas of the home. The mold remediation protocol should then specify the amount and area of water and mold damaged building material that must be removed. This should never, and I can't stress this enough, Never be left to the mold remediation contractor. The mold assessment is the identification of the cause and origin and the extent of the damage. It's a direct conflict of interest and against Florida statute to provide both the mold inspection and mold remediation on the same job. Mold inspectors should never profit from what they find. If you hire a mold remediator to inspect for mold they will always find plenty of mold to remediate.

The mold remediation protocol should establish the method of mold removal as stated in the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration BSR-IICRC S520 procedural standard and reference guide for the remediation of mold damaged structures and contents.

The goal should be to remove mold growth by cleaning or removing moldy materials. Dead mold can still pose health risks if you are exposed. Chemicals are not necessary in the typical mold remediation job. We aren't killing mold we are collecting and removing mold once the water source that supported the mold growth has been corrected. There is no shortage of "quick fix" ozone or chemical using mold remediators out there that will attempt to chemically fog or ozone your home to affordably "kill" your mold. But if they don't collect the dead mold and remove it from your home the mold is still there and its still and allergen. (For more information on Mold Clearance visit www.microshield-es.com/moldclearance )

What advice would you give to someone who thinks they might have a mold problem but has a limited budget?

Remember that a mold inspection is the physical inspection of areas that could support mold growth or the areas of suspected mold growth. No sampling is necessary and most low-cost inspectors inflate the bottom line with several unnecessary mold samples. You shouldn't risk your health on the lowest price available. Shop and interview the inspector and ensure that they aren't going to just sample your home and have you sign a lengthy disclaimer and provide you with nothing more than a laboratory report.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

We are available all day every day via our direct office line (407) 383-9459. Visit us online or call us with any questions for your home, for your office, and for your health "Healthier Air Starts Here!" Indoor Air Quality Solutions, IAQS

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