Using a borescope to check a wall cavity for visible moldIndoor Air, Gas, Odor or Mold Emergency?
When to Hire a Professional to Inspect or Test for Mold or other Contaminants
     


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When to hire an expert to inspect & test a building for environmental, health, safety, mold, IAQ hazards:

This article describes how to determine that you should hire an expert for on-site mold or other indoor contamination inspection and testing.

Not every environmental, safety, or mold contamination worry merits a costly onsite investigation - hiring an onsite expert or even performing mold testing for trivial mold cleanup jobs is expensive and usually unnecessary.

But failing to hire an expert when one is needed can itself be a costly mistake of a different kind.

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How to Decide When to Hire an Environmental or Mold Inspection / Test Professional

Photograph of fungal fruiting bodies growing out of indoor baseboard trim - a very wet home.

The purpose of the advice below is to help readers decide when it is appropriate to perform mold inspection and testing on a building.

We want to know how and when mold testing is appropriate, and we want to avoid spending money on mold testing when it is not necessary. Also we want to avoid spending money on unreliable mold "tests" and inspections that do not validly support any conclusion about the building.

Our moldy home photograph (left) shows a cup fungus growing along the wall/floor baseboard trim in a home that had suffered a prolonged plumbing leak.

The visible fungal growth is quite obvious. What is less obvious, and what will require an expert inspection, is the extent of mold cleanup needed in the building, possibly including hidden mold in wall and ceiling cavities.

The answer to the "when to hire an expert" question hinges on the answers to the questions given in the table below. Or if you don't like decision tables try our "expert hiring RULES of THUMB" that follow the table.

When to Hire a Mold or Environmental Inspector: Decision Table

Question
Comments
More Information
Is there an indoor air quality emergency? Yes: immeditaly get outside into fresh air, notify building occupants, seek help;

IAQ EMERGENCY STEPS

No: whether or not you need an expert depends on the questions & answers below. If you are not sure if an emergency exists check out the articles listed at right.

DEFINITION of IAQ PROBLEM

DEFINITION of MOLD EMERGENCY

Large visible mold area: Is there a large area of visible, non-cosmetic mold in the building - more than 30 sq.ft. of contiguous mold of any color or texture? Yes: you need a professional to define the scope of cleanup needed and to explain how to correct the cause of indoor mold contamination.

MOLD DETECTION & INSPECTION GUIDE

MOLD APPEARANCE - WHAT MOLD LOOKS LIKE

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

MOLD CONSULTANTS / INSPECTORS

BLACK MOLD, HARMLESS COSMETIC

BLACK MOLD, TOXIC & ALLERGENIC

RULES of THUMB

No: whether or not you need an expert depends on the questions & answers below.

FIND MOLD, ESSENTIAL STEPS

MOLD in BUILDINGS

STAIN DIAGNOSIS on BUILDING INTERIORS

UV LIGHT BLACK LIGHT USES

Mold "Test" Results: do results of a mold screening test, air test, surface test, or culture test suggest that indoor mold contamination is present?

Yes: provided that the mold screening test was properly conducted and has reasonable validity, you need a professional to define the scope of cleanup needed and to explain how to correct the cause of indoor mold contamination.

Watch out: because it is possible to find some mold growth in just about any building, collecting a sample of such mold from what is actually a trivial or small area of indoor mold contamination would not, of itself, justify a costly and extensive building mold investigation.

MOLD TEST KITS

ACCEPTABLE MOLD LEVEL

MOLD COUNT NUMBER GUIDE

MOLD STANDARDS

U. MINNESOTA RULES discuss levels of mold contamination & other factors.

FIVE RULES of THUMB

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

CLEAN MOLD BEFORE TESTING?

RULES of THUMB

No: Watch out: while a "positive" mold test result can indeed suggest that a hidden mold problem is present in a building, negative results on just about any mold test cannot assure that no problematic mold reservoir is present.

Whether or not you need an expert depends on the questions & answers below.

MOLD TEST vs MOLD INSPECT

MOLD TESTING METHOD VALIDITY

AIR TEST FOR MOLD: ACCURACY

AIRBORNE MOLD COUNT NUMBER GUIDE

MOLD CULTURE TEST KIT VALIDITY

MOLD LEVEL IN AIR, VALIDITY

ACCURACY OF VARIOUS MOLD TEST METHODS

ACCURACY vs PRECISION of MEASUREMENTS

Other evidence of an IAQ problem: is there other evidence of an indoor air quality problem such as building-related occupant complaints

 

Yes: hire a professional to identify & investigate building areas of highest risk of a hidden or non-visible problem or hazard

DEFINITION of IAQ PROBLEM

AIR POLLUTANTS, COMMON INDOOR

ALLERGENS in BUILDINGS, RECOGNIZING

BIOLOGICAL POLLUTANTS

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

FLOODS in BUILDINGS, MOLD PREVENTION

GAS EXPOSURE EFFECTS, TOXIC

GAS TEST PROCEDURES

HOUSE DUST ANALYSIS

INDOOR AIR HAZARDS TABLE

INDOOR AIR QUALITY & HOUSE TIGHTNESS

LEAD POISONING HAZARDS GUIDE

LEGIONELLA LEGIONNAIRES' DISEASE

METHANE GAS SOURCES

MOLD ODORS, MUSTY SMELLS

MOLD RELATED ILLNESS SYMPTOMS

ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE

No: whether or not you need an expert depends on the questions & answers below.

INDOOR AIR QUALITY IMPROVEMENT GUIDE

MORGELLONS SYNDROME

Other high risk factors: are there other high risk factors such as vulnerable building occupants, non-specific building-related health complaints, or a history of building leaks or floods Yes: hire a professional to identify & investigate building areas of highest risk of a hidden or non-visible problem or hazard

FIVE RULES of THUMB help decide if a building investigation is warranted

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

CLEAN MOLD BEFORE TESTING?

FIBERGLASS PARTICLE CONTAMINATION TEST

RULES of THUMB

No: most likely a building investigation and further testing for mold contamination are not justified.

CARPETING & INDOOR AIR QUALITY

MOLD ODORS, MUSTY SMELLS

MOLD PREVENTION GUIDE

VENTILATION in BUILDINGS

WATER ENTRY in BUILDINGS

 
This table is part of a series of advisory steps about mold contamination investigation found at MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ?.

Five reasons to consider a more extensive on-site investigation for toxic or allergenic mold

Five Rules of Thumb for Deciding When to Hire a Professional to Inspect for Mold & Prepare a Mold Remediation Plan

  1. People in the building are at particular health risk: elderly, infant, immune-impaired, asthmatic, history of respiratory illness or other medical complaints which might be caused by or aggravated by mold, allergens, or other bioaerosols
  2. People in the building are sick and there is reason to suspect that the building is causing or contributing to health, air quality, or similar concerns. You need a building or apartment evaluation and diagnosis to answer the question that may be posed by your doctor: might the building be contributing to or causing these complaints?
  3. The building has or is suspected of having had a history of significant leak events or even a single event which flooded some areas: plumbing leaks, roof leaks, ice dam leaks, basement water entry, sewer backup, ventilation problems, air conditioning system problems; forced-air central heating/cooling concerns. If hidden building cavities have been wet, the mold you see may be just the tip of a "mold iceberg" that does need an expert to find the extent of mold, cause of mold, and to remove the mold.
  4. Large areas of water damage or mold contamination have been seen and you need an estimate of the extent of demolition and mold remediation which will be needed to make a proper cleanup and repair.

    Small mold problems: If you are confident that the amount of mold is less than 30 sq. ft. of contiguous mold (and that there is no significant risk of a larger hidden mold problem) then the NY City mold remediation guidelines suggest that professional remediation is not appropriate. You do not need to hire someone other than perhaps a handyman or general cleaning service. BEWARE: if during cleanup of a small mold problem you discover that it is actually a large one, stop work and bring in a professional to advise you on how to proceed.

    Large mold problems: If more than 30 sq. ft. of mold-infected material is found or is already visible, then you need professional advice as more serious health risks and mold contamination may be involved.
  5. Contractors have already bid a variety of expensive mold-cleanup approaches to building cleanup/remediation and you need an unbiased, informed professional to help sort out these proposals

U. Minnesota general rules of thumb for deciding when to inspect for mold

Mold spray in process (C) D Friedman & Anabec[Edited and annotated by Daniel Friedman.]

IF these conditions are present in a building being evaluated for mold contamination risk

  • Fungal spore count or visual presence indicators are high (air or bulk) [DF comment: BEWARE: while a high indoor spore count probably does indicate a problem, a low indoor airborne mold count is not a reliable clean bill of health for a building. See ACCURACY OF AIRBORNE MOLD SPORE COUNTS.]
  • Fungi indoors are different from outdoors or non-complaint control areas.
  • Fungi are allergenic or toxic
  • The area is likely to be disturbed
  • There is or was a source of water or high relative humidity, AND
  • People are occupying the area or have contact with air from this area
  • There are immune compromised individuals or individuals with elevated sensitivity to molds
    [DF Comment: we add other examples of people at special risk: elderly, infant, asthmatic, COPD sufferers]

THEN mold may be a problem in the building. -- N. Carlson, U. Minnesota [Comments added by DF]

Mold Inspection & Testing Consultants

 

 

Continue reading at DEFINITION of MOLD EMERGENCYor select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.

Or see DIRECTORY of MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERTS

Or see MOLD TEST vs MOLD INSPECT

Suggested citation for this web page

MOLD / ENVIRONMENTAL EXPERT, HIRE ? at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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