This is a really good post by James Quarello, who is a home inspector. We recently had a situation that got totally out of hand over mold and learned a lot. The home inspector for the buyer scared the pants off the buyer over a couple spots of mold in the attic. The home owner called out a mold remediation company who said the most important test of whether mold is a problem is an air quality test. They did an air quality test and found miniscule levels of a plant mold which is found outside, a normal mold that is everywhere. The home inspector, who also calls himself a "mold expert" (although the mold remediation company said there is no such thing as a "mold expert"?) did swab testing, which they also asked the mold remediation company to do, and both tests came out the same. The levels and types of mold were the same and the mold remediation company said there was no need to remediate because air quality results were so low but the home inspector said that all of the ductwork in the house neeed to be cleaned and sprayed with a mold spray.
We found it very interesting how the results and the recommendations differed from both companies. It was actually in the mold remediation company's best interest to find high levels that needed remediation (because they could make more money), yet they did not recommend it.
Obviously we are not "mold experts" but from our experience as well as I'm sure the vast experience that James has, we think it's certainly a good idea to get a second opinion and don't let fear be your motivation for doing extensive home repairs. Sit back and think through the situation, ask family or neighbors for recommendations for another professional to come out and see what they say.
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I was recently contacted by a homeowner who was seeking direction and advice on maintaining his home. He was in a quandary over suggestions he had received related to preventing ice damming. His concern stemmed not from the snow and ice damming that occurred around the area in the winter of 2010 - 2011, but instead from some hired "experts". His story from my perspective is one that demonstrates how fear and ignorance can be used to swindle unsuspecting homeowners.
This homeowner, will call him Mr. D, clearly meticulously maintains his house. It is very clean. Mr. D being someone who likes to keep his home updated realized his windows were older and it may be time to think about changing them. Mr. D found a window company with a booth at a local fair. He set up an appointment for them to come over and give him an estimate on new windows.
This window company also happened to do energy audits. So when they came to Mr. D's house they not only checked his windows, they also checked his attic insulation. While looking in Mr. D's attic, the energy auditor - window guy saw....mold. Mr. D said he was surprised by this revelation. Being a diligent homeowner he regularly inspected his attic and had never seen mold. The window guy - energy auditor - mold expert said mold was definitely there, probably due to the ice damming from the hard winter of 2010.
This information sent Mr. D into a panic. He then, on the guidance from this window - energy auditor - mold expert guy began to work toward resolving his until now unknown issues of mold and ice damming.
Mr D contacted an environmental testing company. They did extensive testing advising Mr. D that he should remove all his insulation and remediate the entire attic. Mr. D was freaked out by this information. He set about having his roof removed down to the rafters since there was mold on the wood roof sheathing, then having the entire roof covering replaced. He added more ventilation on the advice of the window - energy auditor - mold expert guy. One piece of advice that was sound. He had the mold remediation company then treat the attic. They sprayed all the wood with a "mold inhibitor". Looks like thinly applied paint. Finally Mr. D had all his attic insulation replaced.
Sounds extensive. Sounds monumentally expensive. Sounds like a bunch of snake oil salesmen found themselves a sucker.
Mold is common to find in attics as well as other parts of a house. It is important to keep in mind that mold is and always will be an indicator of a moisture issue. It should not be viewed as a scourge needing to be eradicated with extreme measures.
Mr. D's story demonstrates the advantage that fear and misinformation can have for those companies out there waiting for the right fish to take their bait. It's too bad Mr. D hadn't found a home inspector or another disinterested company for advice first. His fears could have been quelled.
Fear is an unfair advantage.
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