Category Archives: Mold Testing

The Four Letter Word that Frightens Realtors!

As a realtor you know how challenging it is to list a house and then try to find the right buyer for the client. So many things can show up during a home inspection that your client may become discouraged due to past flooding, ice dams, roof leaks, or a pipe that froze. Water intruded throughout some of these areas that now may have suspect mold growth.  Yes ‘mold’ that dirty four letter word that can frighten a buyer away!

 

Mold growth and contamination can cause damage to a house or building if not dealt with properly. There are people who are very sensitive to mold fungi and have allergic reactions, sinus infections, even respiratory problems. People with asthma in general struggle with air quality issues. Did you know that the EPA says, “We spend approximately 90 percent of our time indoors”!

 

Before listing a house it is important to ask questions about past flooding, roof leaks, ice dams, pipes from bathrooms or kitchens bursting etc.  How long did the water leak occur? Was water standing for more than 48hours or less? The best time to dry out excess water problems is within the 48  hour period. After a few days this is usually when mold growth tends to occur.  Do you see dried water stains or stains that are suspect for mold such as in the basement, attic, ceilings, walls, etc. Repairing the source of the problem of moisture and dampness is important to control mold growth from occurring.

 

What about those musty odors? Does the crawlspace or basement have a dirt floor? Has the source of the leak been repaired properly? Is the insulation drooping to the floor of the crawlspace because of excess moisture? Are dehumidifier(s) properly operating when needed? Controlling excess relative humidity is important to help mold growth from spreading. Excess Relative Humidity over 60% R.H. can fuel moisture for mold growth. It is important to install the right size dehumidifiers for the basement or crawlspace. Add quality grade vapor barrier sheeting to the entire dirt floor areas. Replace any drooping or excess moist fiberglass insulation; and of course clean and treat the mold where and if necessary.

 

The good news is that there are solutions to mold growth and contamination. Removal of mold physically  such as wallboard, contents, carpets, furniture, wet or damp insulation, etc. Clean and treat affected areas professionally from a trained and certified (current certifications) company to remediate the mold. You may want to have the person selling their house to consider a mold inspection and moisture assessment before they list the house. Home inspectors usually do the structural aspect of the house. (Beware of labs pushing untrained home inspectors to conduct mold inspections and testing!) Hire an independent professional who is trained, certified and experienced company who does not remediate mold to offer an objective viewpoint for your project.  I emphasize trained and certified because there is no federal state regulations in Massachusetts and other the New England states. Very few states require licensing for mold assessments and removal.

 

Andy Provitola -CMC

Environmental Resources LLC

www.airenvironments.com

781-248-9975

 

Crawlspace Moisture

Excess Moisture in Crawlspaces

This time of year in the summer months causes concerns for musty odors, excess moisture and mold growth on the surfaces. What’s that smell? Do you know what is going on down in your crawlspace? Does it have a dirt floor? Is the open fiberglass insulation in the floor joist drooped down into the floor? These are signs that excessive moisture and mold contamination growth may be occurring.
Mold spores can and will exacerbate with any excess moisture and excess relative humidity that will cause existing mold spores to travel and move around where new growth can occur. Excess relative humidity in a basement or crawlspace is like adding ‘gas onto the fire’ where spores will grow. The picture in this crawlspace has a vapor barrier over the dirt floor and stapled above the floor joist. Moisture was still dripping with excess moisture in the middle of winter with a relative humidity reading at 79%. There was no dehumidification operating in the crawlspace.
Conducting a thorough visual investigation of the musty odor or any source of water leak, excess moisture is very important. Relative humidity (RH) should be less than 60% or lower to help to control moisture (30% to 50% (RH) is the best range). When (RH) is above 60% or more this is not good for your basement, crawlspace, or living/working space where mold and other contaminants can grow; even causing wood rot and decay to the structural support of the wood beams and joists. To control excess moisture and humidity it is important to install the proper dehumidification system. Too often homeowners and business owners do not have the proper size dehumidifier(s) installed because the square footage or cubic area is too large and the unit does not cover this amount of ambient space.
Crawlspaces with dirt floors should have quality grade vapor barriers with minimal 6 Mil thicknesses or higher covering the entire dirt floor including part of the lower side walls or to the top. Quality grade dehumidification is recommended to help control moisture.
During the hot and humid months less moisture is probable when the outside vents of crawlspace are closed up. Climates are different throughout the country; the Northeast region is different from the Southeast and Southwest regions.
Insulate using foam pipe sleeves any copper pipes underneath the crawlspace or in the basement area. The cold water pipes usually condensate when excess humidity comes in contact with them. Insulate Well Tanks and Water Filter Tanks as well. Dehumidifiers need to drain properly operating on a 24/7basis when needed.
If chronic water leaks or water floods into the basement or crawlspace areas then quality grade sump pump(s) and/or drainage are recommended. Install vinyl grade cover over sump pump area. Sump pump is best installed in the ground and the bucket is deep enough to effectively pump and drain water. Add drainage around perimeter if necessary. A professional can provide the proper assessment with the proper tools to help to determine such factors as relative humidity, temperature, air flows, moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Camera, etc.

Environmental Resources is here to help identify problem areas. Also we provide solutions with products and quality air purification with several pounds of carbon to fight odors. We offer sampling if it is called upon. Call for a professional consultation of your home or business’ indoor air quality today.

Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
Environmental Resources LLC
316 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061
781-248-9975
www.airenvironments.com

Excess Moisture Relative Humidity in Basements-Crawlspaces

This time of year in the summer months causes concerns for musty odors, excess moisture and mold growth on the surfaces.  What’s that smell? These complaints are often called into my office and I ask a few questions such as: Have you been flooded due to the recent heavy rains last spring or prior years. How about roof leaks, pipe leaks, or ice dams? If water intruded into the building or house and flooding occurred, how effective was the cleaning, drying out process ? Did you get to the water early such as within 24 to 48 hours to help avoid potential mold growth problems?

If existing surfaces are spotted with mold spores because the areas were not cleaned out properly then the mold will not disappear! Mold spores can and will exacerbate with any excess moisture and excess relative humidity that will cause existing mold spores to travel and move around where new growth can occur. Excess relative humidity in a basement or crawlspace is like adding ‘gas onto the fire’ where spores will grow.

Conducting a thorough visual investigation of the musty odor or any source of water leak, excess moisture is very important.  Relative humidity (RH) should be less than 60% or lower to help to control moisture (30% to 50% (RH) is the best range). When (RH) is above 60% or more this is not good for your basement, crawlspace, or living/working space where mold and other contaminants can grow; even causing wood rot and decay to the structural support of the wood beams and joists. To control excess moisture and humidity it is important to install the proper dehumidification system. Too often homeowners and business owners do not have the proper size dehumidifier(s) installed because the square footage or cubic area is too large and the unit does not cover this amount of ambient space.

Crawlspaces and basements should have quality grade vapor barriers with minimal 6 Mil thickness or higher covering the entire dirt floor including part of the lower side walls or to the top. Quality grade dehumidification is recommended to help control moisture.  During the hot and humid months less moisture is probable when the outside vents of crawlspace are closed up. Climates are different throughout the country, the Northeast region is different from the Southeast and Southwest regions.

Insulate using foam pipe sleeves any copper pipes underneath the crawlspace or in the basement area. The cold water pipes usually condensate when excess humidity comes in contact with them. Insulate Well Tanks and Water Filter Tanks as well.

If chronic water leaks or water floods into the basement or crawlspace areas then quality grade sump pump(s) are recommended with vinyl covers over the top of recessed bucket. It is best in the ground and the bucket is deep enough to effectively pump and drain water. Add drainage around perimeter if necessary.  A professional can provide the proper assessment with the proper tools to help to determine such factors as relative humidity, temperature, air flows, moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Camera, etc.

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Environmental Resources is here to help identify problem areas. Also we provide solutions with products and quality air purification with several pounds of carbon to fight odors.  We offer sampling if it is called upon. Call for a professional consultation of your home or business’ indoor air quality today.
Andy Provitola  CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
Environmental Resources LLC
316 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061
781-248-9975

www.airenvironments.como my office

Allergies and Indoor Air Quality

  • There are many types of air particulate that move around in our homes and offices. We buy products,furniture,home goods, and furnishings that most of us do not know what the materials or chemicals they are made from. It has also been said, “that we spend nearly 90% of our time indoors that can affect the quality of our indoor living lifestyles”. Particles like dust, pollen, mold, dander, fibers, odors, etc. can produce allergy triggers that can cause you discomfort. I often get calls from people who immediately think they have a mold problem. Why do you think you have mold? Usually mold is produced from water damage, water leaks, flooding, excess moisture and high relative humidity over 60%.

    No signs of water damage or leaks, no chemical smells, but the house is full of dust, insect and mice droppings, old storage and furniture with films of dust found in all the hidden places behind & underneath furniture, headboards, tops of picture frames, door frames, top sides of ceiling fan paddles, and very high shelves that rarely get cleaned. The vacuum cleaner is rarely used because we are all legitimately busy and continue to remind ourselves with notes that we will get around to eventually cleaning the areas of concern.

    Before spending money having all kinds of testing conducted indoors which can get expensive, I have a few suggestions as pro-active preventative measures:

    A Good General House Cleaning

    Clean from top to bottom. Use a soap or detergent. Some use an anti-microbial disinfectant cleaner which can combat, mold, bacteria, odors, virus, etc.

    Use a Quality HEPA Vacuum

    Vacuum the floors, carpets, difficult areas and high spaces. Remember, if you hire a cleaner have them use your vacuum. You don’t know where there vacuum has been! I have had cases where clients had severe allergy triggers the next day after the house cleaner arrived the day before.

    Dust Thoroughly the entire House

    Use a good Swiffer or Dust Rag. Dust the difficult high places such as shelves or cabinets and hidden places underneath or behind bureaus, furniture. Tops of ceiling fan paddles, picture frames, and where necessary.

    Invest in Quality HEPA Air Purification
    To help clean the air in your space of dust, allergens, mold, fibers, dander, odors, etc. Use them often and move them around because they work!

    A good general cleaning of the basement once a year is recommended. Dust can accumulate fast. While you’re at it some of that storage may need to got hats been sitting there for years. Give it away, have a yard sale or donate it to a local charitable cause

    Should there be some chronic problem with your indoor air quality then it is recommended to call a professional who is trained, certified with experience.

    Andy Provitola CMC,IEP
    Environmental Resources
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-294-7071
    www.airenvironments.com

    Real Estate and Mold Fungi Confusion-The New Mold Rush!

    In the past several years many unqualified contractors have jumped on the ban wagon profession of mold remediation. I tend to call it the “Mold Rush!” Contractors who are unqualified may be taking advantage of naïve homeowners and business owners. Most people know a lot about a mold problem after they have experienced shelling out thousands of dollars and in some cases unnecessary costs!

    Our philosophy and standard of care, is the mold cleaning and mold removal should be done properly, and the source of the water or moisture problem is corrected. If this does not take place then don’t waste your hard earned money! There are cases where the home inspectors exaggerate about a mold condition that may not be an excess mold condition at all! The buyers push the envelope for more money claiming ‘health purposes’ or added remediation that involves more cost. In most of these cases the buyers choose the money at the closing, and say, “they will have the work done”! (There are some legitimate cases). I do not recommend this route but do recommended getting 2 or 3 qualified competent estimates from professionally trained and certified companies. How will the work be conducted for the cleaning and removal, spelling out the details of the scope of work for the remediation project? Is there a scope of work from an independent third party consultant? (See guidelines in EPA ‘Mold and Commercial Buildings’, IICRC S 520 Mold Remediation and Cleaning Standards (Note: IICRC S500 this is for carpets. water damage and drying). There are other guidelines as well.

    Ask the mold remedial companies for their current certifications and are they up to date (not something outdated 10 years ago. How long have they been in the mold business (not as a contractor but actual mold remedial experience). How do they conduct there procedures or scope of work? What kind of class training, field experience training did they take? Did they attend a qualified class or was it just an online gimmick? Do they conduct their own testing (against industry standards) which is a conflict of interest for all parties involved.

    I have experienced cases in past several years where the buyer claimed, “excessive mold and health issues”, why they needed more money or demolition walls floors, ceilings, etc. and remediate entire basement or living space areas when it was not justifiable or necessary. The seller called us prior for an independent assessment the buyer chose to have assessment, but I warned the seller that the buyer should use an ‘independent party’ IEP to test and inspect so there would be no conflict of interest. A week later the seller called us only to be dismayed at looking at a $15,000.00 estimate which was far from what the actual cost was to remediate!

    Homeowners do not need to get desperate to sell their home. (In one case the seller almost lowered the price $100K, $50K, down to $20 K!) Everything was properly cleaned and post inspection, mold testing was verified so there was no need to lower the price!). To be frank, this house could have been in the ‘Home and Garden’ magazine. The moral of this case is the buyer backed out looking for money and claiming health risks at first. The owner sold the house one month later. Do not be sold on fear tactics and get a second professional opinion if necessary. The problem can be treated and corrected by a competent certified trained professional. Mold is not uncommon due to the awareness of hurricanes, flooding, storms, etc. The mold removal company conducted their own testing which is against industry standards and in some states against the law. The confusion with mold remedial cleaning and testing is that there are no federal or state regulations, except for a few states. It is advisable to check references and not just online reviews that are written by some companies friends and relatives. Buyer and Seller Beware!

    Andy Provitola CMC, IEP

    Environmental Resources LLC
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    www.airenvironments.com
    781-248-9975

    Real Estate and Mold – Moisture Assessments

    Mold growth and contamination has become a popular yet hidden subject when it comes to buying and selling a home. What has caused a mold assessment to become more frequent in the past 10 years? Several areas to consider for concern include:

    1. The foreclosure crisis in 2008 and 2015 historic ice dams in Massachusetts.
    Homes and building were left unattended with nobody overseeing the property when it was vacant. The banks lost enough so why spend more money! Contractors and investors bought many houses with excess mold contamination due to floods, pipes bursting and leaking roof leaks etc. causing mold to grow. Although house were renovated the crucial question was whether the house or affected room were professionally cleaned and treated by a certified trained mold remediation company? The renovations look good but the musty odors are awful.

    2. The Ice Dams and water damage of the Winter 2015 in Southern NE brought new challenges and the Storms of the past 10-15 years has brought much awareness due to hurricanes, flooding, nor’easter storms and even the ice dams. Ask questions if flooding, ice dams, leaky roofs or plumbing occurred with the history of the house. Ask if mold contamination and growth was a problem? Ask if proper repairs were properly corrected by removal versus just painting over or putting a ‘band aid’ over the existing problem. If mold remediation was conducted and renovations properly completed (repairing the source of water leaks) and documented.

    3. Indoor air quality in general is a growing concern and if you have asthma and/or allergies this may affect your health and breathing! Some people are more sensitive and have a weaker immune system when it comes to mold or excess moisture and excess relative humidity. properly installed dehumidification and sump pumps with drainage where necessary are important.

    Remember purchasing or owning your own home is a lifetime investment and the castle you will live inside for numerous hours. Mold contamination can affect your property value and your health. It is wise to ask questions and address the above issues to allow you to breathe easier in the comfort of your home.

    For Better Health,

    Andy Provitola – CMC

    If you would like more information please go to:
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Norwell,MA
    www.airenvironments.com

    Ice Dams-Roof Leaks and Mold



    Did you know that ice dams can cause mold problems?

    Frozen ice and snow on top of roofs and gutters are creating havoc for homes in New England and the greater Boston area. With cold temperatures in freezing climates then an unexpected 40 to 60 degree day causes a lot of melting of the ice and snow which enables mold growth, roof deterioration of the plywood, wood rot in the fascais boards behind the gutters. The water and moisture can travel through the attic area, dormers, wall cavities and down into lower levels even down into the basement and first floor.

    Some ways to detect mold: 

    1. See if water spots and dark stains are noticed and perhaps wet.

    2. Look for visible stains such as mold on the surfaces of the ceiling, walls of the living areas, floors, carpets, attic plywood sheathing, attic sidewalls,  floor joist, wet insulation, and excess moisture or humidity

    3. Check for moisture or high relative humidity over 65% and higher.

    4. Smelling unusual irritable odors such as musty or moldy where wall cavities or insulation can be wet inside the walls, but dry on the outside wall. High relative humidity or moisture may be the culprit.

    5. Other ways to detect mold is to hire a competent professional with the right tools such as conducting mold sampling the air or visible mold with tapes, swabs, or bulk.

    6. Utilizing moisture meters, Thermal Infrared Imaging camera, boroscopes, etc.


    For a professional mold inspection and mold assessment call:

    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

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    The Value of Mold Testing

    What is the value of mold testing? Too often I have heard that if you see the mold just get rid of it!

    This is true to a certain extent however, what if you can smell the mold but can’t see it? There is a strong musty mold odor or some form of dampness. I agree if you see the mold get rid of it and/or have the mold treated, but what about mold that may be hidden or undetected? Mold spores are not visible to the naked eye that are airborne. Just because walls, ceilings, or floors are not moist does not indicate that mold spores are not present. Every building have some forms of mold, we are looking for unusual or excessive mold growth.

    The value of mold sampling is Threefold:

    • The air testing will determine the mold spore elevations present in the room if they are excessive beyond our natural environment.
    • The air sampling or direct identification will determine the type of mold species such as mycotoxic, pathogenic,or allergenic.
    • The sampling will determine if the mold is growing actively or is dormant. (Dormant mold is known
    • to be allergenic and can still compromise a building or a persons health)

    Another value for a professional mold test and inspection is the peace of mind to know your investment and health are not at risk. Our theme is “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”.

    Mold testing is best to be perormed by a professional  independent company or consultant that does not remediate mold to offer a factual unbiased assessment.

    All our samples are sent to qualified labs with trained microbiologists. Certified EMPAT AIHA Labs.

    Having personal field experience with hundreds of mold inspections and assessments in the past several years there are times when the mold in the building looks worse than what may appear and at other times the room walls and ceiling look clean and innocent only to find that the room has excessive mold in mycotoxic, allergenic in nature.  Although there are currently no federal standards or guidelines regarding results of fungal samples and there are no levels which are typical or permissible there is still value, especially in finding and correcting the source of the mold such as a water or moisture problem.

    Environmental Resources provides qualified and trained professionals to provide sampling and protocol in your mold assessment and mold inspection. We serve all of Massachusetts including Greater Boston, North & South Shore, & Cape Cod-Islands.

    For more information:

    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

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    Independent Mold Assessments

    Mold inspections and mold testing are an important part of the process to determine the extent of a mold contamination problem, especially when it may involve professional mold removal. Too often a mold remediation contractor will try to conduct their own testing or exaggerate an inspection claiming the mold is very extensive when in reality it may not be extensive in the nature and scope of the problem at all. For example, Environmental Resources does not remediate mold or remove toxic mold in homes or businesses. We are an independent consulting firm providing professional environmental inspection services for mold and (IAQ) indoor air quality issues. A real estate company or the potential buyer will call us stating, “There was a home inspection and dark or black stains or what looked like mold fungi species was indicated”. (A mold company was in prior to us coming for inspection proposing a very high cost estimate for mold removal after the buyer called a mold remediation company in Boston MA area).

    An independent visual inspection utilizing the latest instruments and tools to determine water leaks and moisture issues for the source of the problem. Mold sampling was conducted with the inspection and it was determined that the extent of the mold problem or mold damage was not as severe or extensive as was told to the homeowner by the remediation company. The mold assessment was conducted by an independent party and does not remediate (clean) mold which brought assurance and peace of mind to the homebuyer and seller because there was no conflict of interest. The suspect area for mold did need some mold remediation but was not as extensive as first claimed. It is always beneficial to have at least two or three estimates from companies who a qualified, trained, and certified from an independent body. Ask how long they have been remediating mold which may be less than how long they have been in business. Several contractors have jumped on the “Mold Rush” bandwagon so do your homework!

    Independent mold assessments also help insurance claims and insurance adjusters to provide non bias independent professional opinions of indoor mold growth. Many homeowners deal with floods and water leaks in disasters such as hurricanes, flooding, heavy rainfall and high relative humidity which happens often in the Boston, Massachusetts and Cape Cod areas along the entire coast from Maine to Cape Cod. High relative humidity and moisture to mold spores is like putting gasoline on a fire which flares up and spreads the problem even more. Water problems need to be addressed within 24 to 48 hours for the best results for mold prevention and its microbial growth indoors. Our philosophy is that, “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure” or “Do it the right way when it comes to a standard of care or don’t do it at all”! A certified trained professional mold inspector providing mold inspections and mold testing may end up saving $1000’s thousands of dollars in the long run along with peace of mind and assurance. If you think you have a mold problem or are not sure because the mold may be hidden behind a wall or underneath a floor then call a professional. Serving Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Islands.

    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

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    Mold Remediators Clean not Test!

    There is a trend lately where several mold remediation companies are testing for mold along with cleaning. Then they go one step further and conduct there own cleaning verification testing to determine if the area i.e. basement was cleaned and treated properly. There is a problem with this picture because there is no accountability and no independent 3rd party to provide an objective factual mold assessment. Too often remediation companies who do their own testing exaggerate and make a claim of their own work or add unnecessary work. i.e. The entire basement walls, floor, needed to be removed, In several cases we were called in it was not the case just excess humidity on the walls with slight surface stains and the walls did not need to be removed! Some cleanup was necessary but not the entire area or walls and floors removed. We have saved homeowners and business thousands in several cases due to unnecessary extensive cleanup. The confusion is happening because there are no federal or state government regulations to set a criteria for Threshold Limit Values.(TLV) for mold testing and verification. There are industry standards for cleaning such as IICRC S520 for mold remedial cleaning and/or EPA guidelines. As for testing there is standards but industry guidance as to what is considered a mold amplification where remedial cleaning becomes necessary. The remedial process should always be to physically remove the mold if at all possible. If that cannot happen then properly treat with EPA registered products such as antimicrobial or anti fungicides etc. All remedial companies should be trained and certified from an independent firm. Ask about the history of their training and current certifications not the 2 hour online course that my pet can obtain! Ask for references, how long have they been conducting mold remedial cleaning, and get more than one estimate to compare expertise. It is not always about the lowest price, but being assured the job is done professionally and done right as a standard of care. Just ask the people who are dealing with mold now after hurricane Sandy in NJ and Staten Island, NY, or those who have experienced flooding.

    Andy Provitola CMC-Certified Microbial Consultant
    Environmental Resources LLC
    Headquarters
    316 Washington Street
    Norwell, MA 02061
    781-248-9975

    www.airenvironments.com

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