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Ask the mold remedial companies for their current certifications and are they up to date (not something outdated 10 years ago.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

Heat Loss- Ice Dams Culprit for Attic Mold Growth!

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So often in attic spaces especially in the Northeast region attics have large area spaces and most of the homes are very old. Many home inspectors keep pointing out that the ventilation or an improperly vented bath exhaust fan cause the mold growth. This can be true but in many instances of assessments but the real culprit for the mold contamination and growth is due to heat loss! Yes, heat loss due to lack of proper insulation R-value installed in the floor joist to keep the heat in its proper place – The Living Space. The purpose of insulation is to keep your home warm where you live and sleep not your attic. Attic space temperature is similar to outside space and should be within a five degree difference. During the cold or winter months films of frost eaves slightly buildup on the roof bays overnight. When the heat escapes into the attic area it melts the frost from the roof bays causing the plywood or pine boards to become moist and wet. The longer the moisture stays on the wood substance the greater potential for mold fungi is ripe to grow. Excess snow and ice dams standing on the roof can also be a causation for mold growth. Water seeps into the roof bays freeze and then melt due to heat loss or a rapid increase or spike  in warmer temperatures i.e. 20 degrees Fahrenheit (F) to say 50 -60 degrees F in a day. In the northern climates attic experience this more verses warmer southern climates. Consider a mold assessment/inspection or an energy audit utilizing Thermal Infrared Camera optimization to determine if heat loss is occurring due to temperature differential Several energy audit companies observe this heat loos and moisture problem usually identifying some form of staining of the attic roof bays and recommended to conduct an assessment for mold before any insulation is added.
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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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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Musty Damp Odors

This time of year brings in many calls with some nasty irritable odors. After a dry, but an unusually high hot and  humid summer, the Fall season here in the Greater Boston area has brought some rain fall with the same type of humidity; but now it is getting a bit colder. This means the windows have to be closed and air quality tends to get stale or odors are more noticable.

What’s that smell? These complaints are often called in 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? How effective was the cleaning, drying out process and did you get to the water early such as within 24 to 48 hours to help avoid potential mold growth problems.  What type of smell are you experiencing such as is this a chemical smell, foul smell, a rotten decomposed smell such as a dead rodent, or a strong musty mold smell.

Not all odors are mold or due to water damage, so an investigation requires a rule out process. Taking a few samples for mold is not necessary the solution, it may help in the ruling out process.

Conducting a thorough visible investigation of the odor or where the smell appears to originate is a beginning is important. Some odors can be on the second or third floor but have originated from the basement. The basement flooded out months prior and now the relative humidity “fuels the fire” for the odor and the draft from the stack pipe or plumbing drift up to the upper levels. 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 Imaging, cannisters, etc.

In a recent odor investigation of a bathroom-Laundry area in an antique home 150 + years on the north shore, the smell was overwhelmingly strong. It did not necessarily have the odor of mold but strong in this area to say the least. After a plumber, contractor, and even a pest control company, the odor was not solved up to this point. This can be frustrating and costly. I don’t like to use the term “witch hunt”, but at times professionals can go on a witch hunt and it can end up being very costly in the hundreds if not thousands of dollars with no solution in sight. The key is the scope of work conducted has to be a rule out process and talk about a budget that you may be willing to spend before the work begins. There is no guarantee for discovering the odor problem, even after paying for this type of service. To sum up this antique house, a dead rat was trapped behind the lower wallboard behind the washing maching shut off valve. This was even after a company inspected this area. Again, sniffing odors can be hard to find even when they are right under our nose!

Most odors are caused by ventilation issues in general. It is best to open windows until the odor can be discovered. HVAC systems, pet, rodent odors, dampness, mold, the trash can, refrigerator, etc. Sampling can help as an inidcator, however, a thorough visible inspection with the right tools from a professional is an excellent start if you have come to your wits end as to finding this irritable odor.

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
Headquarters
316 Washington Street
Norwell, MA 02061
781-248-9975

www.airenvironments.com

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Heavy Floods-Water Intrusion in Basements

What happens when water stands in a basement for a prolonged period of time? Recently Massachusetts experienced some of the largest rainfall in  a short period of time including 6 to 13 inches of water in a 3 to 4 day span a few years ago. Towns such as Andover, Billerica, Hingham, Topsfield, Peabody, Waltham, Sudbury, Canton, and many others experienced unusual flooding in the homes and businesses.

The longer the water stands in the basement or building they are prone for active mold growth throughout the affected substrate areas. Water, floods, dampness, moisture are all key ingredients when it comes to mold fungi to grow on substrate sources such as drywall, carpet, furniture, boxes, etc. Toxic mold and black mold can grow even after the drying out process if the area is not dried out properly. The visible mold is the easier areas to handle such as wallboard or ceiling tiles, however, mold spores are not always visibly seen or noticed until after the fact. Such as several weeks or months later when odors begin to arise or a family member may be experiencing some breathing discomfort.

The to prevent any mold growth is to keep the area clean and dry, preventing moisture from accumulating. A proper mold and moisture professional assessment is a wise choice to prevent this from happening. Environmental Resources uses the latest state of the art technology when it comes to detecting mold and water leaks. A Flir Thermal Infrared Imaging Camera well help detect water and moisture problems. Certified  mold testing and mold inspections utilizing accredited microbiology accredited labs will determine the type of mold species growing and the describe the extent of the growth whether is active or not.
Serving Greater Boston-Cape Cod

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 Inspections-Testing in Real Estate

Is buying a house that is under foreclosure really a bargain? Most banks and mortgage companies will try to sell in an ‘as is’ condition, but you may want to consider having a professional mold inspection, mold testing, and moisture assessment to determine if the property is really worth it. Due to the overstock of foreclosed properties in recent months ‘mold has become a hot topic in the real estate’ industry. Toxic mold has become the new environmental issue and has become a problem for the seller and the buyer. That musty moldy odor smell may not be just a damp basement with mold growing due to standing water in a basement or a severe leaking roof that has still yet to be repaired for several months!. Many banks do not even know what kind of condition the properties are in and how distressed they may be. These conditions may have been here for months and perhaps a few years. These foreclosed houses are not properly winterized and the pipes burst only to have excessive water damage and mold running down several floors and walls and down into the basement.


Relative humidity have caused excess mold fungi to grow. As you walk through a property those stains that you see on the walls or ceilings may be indicating mold growth. Mold fungi grows in many forms and colors such as black, orange, greenish, white etc. and usually in a wet damp environment.
What can I do now and be assured that I am not buying a property that will lose value or become a health risk such as asthma, allergies, or a sinus condition?


Hiring a trained certified profession to conduct a mold assessment and mold testing can help you to determine if the property is habitable and give you peace of mind. Environmental Resources LLC is aware of the mold and water problems today. Using the latest state of the art technology which includes sampling, moisture readings, and/or Thermal Infrared Imaging to help with leak detection. Mold is mold whether it is mycotoxic, pathogenic, or allergenic it is not a respecter of buildings and houses. It seeks fruited organic sources to grow and deteriorate the porous materials.


Our theme is “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”, so before you go to list that property or consider buying a home that has any signs or symptoms of mold, hire a professional to conduct a quality mold and moisture inspection. Environmental Resources has trained certified professionals to point you in the right direction. We are independent consultants and give you an objective view because we do not remediate or remove mold. Serving all of southern New England.


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

www.airenvironments.com

 

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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