Remediating (Removing) Mold
Before starting any mold remediation project, you should follow several steps to ensure that you understand the nature of the contaminant, the scope of the project, and the health & safety implications.
Assess the size of the mold and/or moisture problem and the type of damaged materials before planning the remediation work. The remediation plan should include steps to fix the water or moisture problem, or the problem may reoccur.
The plan should cover the use of the appropriated personal protective equipment and include steps to carefully contain and remove moldy building materials to avoid spreading the mold. A remediation plan may vary greatly depending on the size and complexity of the job, and may require revision if circumstances change or new facts are discovered.
The remediation manager’s highest priority must be to protect the health and safety of the building’s occupants and remediators. In some cases, the remediation plan may include temporary relocation of some or all of the occupants. The decision to relocate occupants should consider the size and type of the area affected by mold growth, the type and extent of health effects reported by the occupants, the potential health risks that could be associated with debris, and the amount of disruption likely to be caused by remediation activities.
Remediators, particularly those with health-related concerns, may wish to check with their doctors or health care professionals before working on mold remediation or investigating potentially moldy areas. If you have any doubts or questions, you should consult a health professional before beginning a remediation project.
Do not run the HVAC system if you know or suspect that it is contaminated with mold. If you suspect that it may be contaminated (it is part of an identified moisture problem, for instance, or there is mold growth near the intake to the system), consult the article on Air Duct Cleaning in our Hot Topics section.
In some cases, indoor mold growth may not be obvious. It is possible that mold may be growing on hidden surfaces, such as the backside of drywall, wallpaper, or paneling, the top of ceiling tiles, the underside of carpets and pads, etc. Possible locations of hidden mold can include pipe chases and utility tunnels (with leaking or condensing pipes), walls behind furniture (where condensation forms), condensate drain pans inside air handling units, porous thermal or acoustic liners inside ductwork, or roof materials above ceiling tiles (due to roof leaks or insufficient insulation). Some building materials, such as drywall with vinyl wallpaper over it or wood paneling, may act as vapor barriers, trapping moisture underneath their surfaces and thereby providing a moist environment where old can grow. You may suspect hidden mold if a building smells moldy, but you cannot see the source, or if you know there has been water damage and building occupants are reporting health problems.
Investigating hidden mold problems may be difficult and will require caution. For example, removal of wallpaper can lead to a massive release of spores from mold growing on the underside of the paper. If you believe that you may have a hidden mold problem, you may want to consider hiring an experienced professional.
The Key to Mold Control is Moisture Control
- When addressing mold problems, don’t forget to address the source of the moisture problem, or the mold problem may simply reappear.
- Remember to check for high humidity and condensation problems as well as actual water leaks, maintenance issues, and HVAC system problems.
- Protect the health and safety of the building occupants and remediators. Consult a health professional as needed. Use personal protection equipment and containment as appropriate when working with mold.