A Guide to Mold Remediation
Flood events are becoming more common due to changing climate conditions. Any time a home suffers water damage, mitigation efforts are needed. When mitigation efforts fail, or there are too many waterlogged homes for nearby service providers to treat, mold sets in.
Mold is more dangerous and difficult to remove than simple water damage and requires specialized equipment and processes to properly treat. Some Pros are more prepared to handle mold remediation jobs, whereas others attempt to handle mold with improper protections and methods. Washing with bleach or painting over mold is not the answer, but in this post we will outline the steps remediation professionals take to protect the homeowner.
For Pros looking to improve or create their mold remediation process, read on as we break down the best practices outlined by the Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration Certification:
Step 1: Wear the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Providing complete protection from the mold the restoration professional is working to remove is vital for proper remediation. Exposure to mold during remediation can result in eye irritation, coughing, congestion, rashes, and a variety of other negative effects.
Proper PPE includes non-vented goggles, long rubber gloves, disposable coveralls, and at least a half-face respirator. Moreover, if the mold exposure is severe enough (more than 30 square feet of contaminated surface) then there should be no open skin or non-disposable clothing exposed while remediating. This means wearing shoe covers, full body coveralls, and a full-face respirator to ensure the Pro is not exposed to contaminated air while working. In addition to all worn elements of PPE, there must also be a Decontamination Chamber for PPE disposal before the provider enters uncontaminated areas of the dwelling.
Step 2: Set up Containment
Once the Pro is protected, priority then shifts to protecting the uncontaminated sections of the home. Mold spreads easily by dispersing spores from one contaminated surface to the next, and remediation efforts jostle spores loose and send them into the air while the restoration provider is working to remove them. While they are protected by the PPE they’re wearing, it’s important to take steps to ensure that the mold doesn’t spread to other areas of the home. Erecting containment with plastic tarps to contain any spores will prevent the mold from spreading out of the contaminated room, allowing the provider to work freely.
Containment also includes setting up a decontamination chamber between the contaminated and uncontaminated areas. To prevent contamination, the clean chamber should be where your PPE is put on, before entering the contaminated area, and where it’s taken off when leaving the contaminated area and before entering an uncontaminated area.
Step 3: Install HEPA Air Scrubbers
HEPA filtered air scrubbers are the most effective tools to rid the air of any air pollutants, including mold spores. Through a combination of limestone and chemicals, these scrubbers are equipped with filters that take in contaminated air, trapping mold spores and releasing now-purified air back into the room. Purifying the air ensures that no other surfaces in the contained area are affected by the spreading mold while the restoration provider performs the remediation, thus reducing the likelihood of recontamination.
Step 4: Establish Negative Air to Exhaust
Negative Air Pressure is a technique where the air is exhausted out of a space, creating a negative pressure environment. This is extremely important in a mold remediation project. Hospitals use these concepts to isolate quarantine areas and prevent cross contamination, due to infectious diseases. Establishing negative air pressure in a space is relatively simple in concept. Simply remove more air out of a space than is provided into the space. The resulting negative pressure will prevent airborne mold spores from traveling past the containment into the unaffected areas of the building.
Setting up this negative air environment in a home or building consists of placing one or more containment barriers, usually consisting of 6mm polyethylene sheeting between the affected and unaffected areas and exhausting sufficient air to achieve 4 air changes per hour or one every 15 minutes. The containment barrier is not intended to be an airtight seal, it will simply restrict the passive airflow (replacement air), causing the desired negative pressure situation.
Step 5: Remove Affected Porous Material
For our purposes, porous material is defined as materials or surfaces with small holes that allow air, liquids, and contaminates like mold, to penetrate and seep inside the material. Because mold can pass through these materials, they can never be fully cleaned and must be removed from the home. Porous materials can include wood, carpet, drywall, wallpaper, and other organic materials. All moldy materials and surfaces should be removed from the home and placed in sealable bags before removing them from the containment area. Surrounding nonporous materials can then be addressed.
Step 6: HEPA Vacuum Passes and Bio-wash
For any nonporous surfaces contaminated with mold, the surfaces must be bio-washed to remove the mold entirely; this will remove any traces of mold from the nonporous surface, allowing it to remain in the room after remediation is complete. According to the IICRC S520, this includes tile, metal, glass, and other non-organic material. Because air or liquid can’t pass through these materials, a combination of HEPA vacuuming, wetting with a detergent/water solution, vinegar scrubs, and disinfectant scrubs can render the surfaces decontaminated and safe for further human contact.
There is a specific order that must be followed for this step, as outlined below:
- HEPA Vacuum (1st pass)
- HEPA Vacuum (2nd pass)
This staggered approach nearly guarantees the decontamination of a nonporous surface. To be 100% sure that no mold remains in the contaminated area, mold remediation professionals must complete one final step.
Step 7: IAQ Test & Moisture Test to Confirm Mold Removal
The IAQ test is the final step and is recommended to ensure successful remediation in mold removal. After a job is complete, you must perform an Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) test using specialized air sampling equipment to ensure that all previous containment and HEPA precautions have been successful. Additionally, remaining surfaces must be tested to ensure moisture levels are within acceptable ranges before the job can be considered complete. With the removal of all contaminated material, and the air clear of any spreadable contaminates, the area can be considered clean, and the process of removing equipment and containment sheets can begin. Once containment precautions are lifted and the restoration worker has removed all contaminated disposable PPE, work can begin on restoring the home to its previous condition.
Applying the Knowledge
This information is valuable to any restoration company that does work with water damage mitigation or flood damage restoration. Any time water damages a structure, prolonged exposure without mitigation can lead to mold. Service providers need to be aware of the signs of mold as well as proper remediation techniques.
With the proper equipment and training, any restoration organization (with the proper licenses, which can vary by state) can take on mold remediation as a service. As mentioned earlier, mold events will be on the rise as flooding and natural disasters become more common across the country. HOMEE has already adopted several mold remediation specialists into its Pro Network but is always looking to expand partnerships for its newest platform, MyCAT Marketplace. Click here to learn more about MyCAT Marketplace, or sign up today.
To read further, please see the ANSI/IICRC S520-2015 Standard for Professional Mold Remediation: Third Edition.
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