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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

How often should you get your air ducts cleaned?

How often you should clean your air ducts depends on your situation. If you or someone in the home has asthma or is acutely allergic to certain airborne materials or pollen, regular duct cleaning may be helpful. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have an official position on the necessity of air duct cleaning unless the ducts have been contaminated by rodents, insects or mold, or you are aware of particles blowing out through the vents. The EPA recommends you have your air ducts cleaned on an as-needed basis. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) suggests having air ducts cleaned every three to five years.

Be cautious with companies that offer “whole house air duct cleaning,” urges the NADCA. The company may be using unscrupulous tactics to upsell you once they get started. Before any work begins, always clarify in writing what the job entails and what the cost will be. To protect yourself against fraud, read customer reviews and verify that your HVAC cleaning service has applicable licenses and certifications.

What is a mold remediation?

Mold remediation is the process of identifying and removing unhealthy levels of mold that have colonized in a home, office, school or other building. Over time, if untreated, mold can destroy a home by breaking down cellulose-based materials (like wood or ceiling tiles) and causing a slow and messy decay. In the shorter term, a mold infestation can cause severe health problems. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), mold can trigger respiratory problems, nasal and sinus congestion, eye irritation, nose or throat irritation, skin irritations, problems with your nervous system, and aches and pains. Mold inspection and mold remediation are often requested in tandem, although they are two separate services. Nationally, mold inspection costs range from $250 to $300. If mold has been positively identified in your house, either by visual examination or through mold testing, remediation can safely remove it. Properly trained and equipped professionals use specialized equipment (like vacuums and air scrubbers with HEPA filters) to keep mold spores contained while they remove contaminated materials and treat infested areas with antimicrobial spray. A key component to a successful mold remediation after eliminating the mold is ensuring that the water source that caused the mold infestation is also resolved.

Do you need to clean your air ducts?

Air duct cleaning is done by heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals. The pros use industrial-strength, truck-mounted vacuums and powerful brushes and hoses to clean inside the metal ducts that make up your forced air heating and cooling system. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends duct cleaning if there is “substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface ducts, ducts that are infested with vermin such as rodents or insects, or ducts that are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.”

You should also have air ducts cleaned after recent water contamination or water damage to prevent mold; after renovations or remodeling to ensure debris and dust didn’t settle in the vents and ducts; if you are having problems with allergies or asthma; or when you are moving into a newly purchased home, especially if the previous owners smoked or had pets. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends getting your air ducts cleaned every three to five years, or every two to three years in regions where homeowners use their air conditioning and heater for many months of the year, while the EPA suggests homeowners have duct cleaning done as needed.

How is a mold test done?

Mold testing can help identify a mold infestation in your home or business. Mold inspection costs can vary based on the type of test you want done and the number of samples you request. The national average mold inspection cost is $250-$300. The EPA explains that if you have a visible mold problem, in most cases sampling and testing is unnecessary. However, if you have unexplained and potential mold-related illness or can smell mold in your house, mold inspection costs may be a good investment. To avoid unscrupulous testers, the EPA recommends working with a testing agency that adheres to the analytical methods laid out by professional organizations such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association or the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists. Mold inspection costs can vary based on the type of testing done. Prices can also vary, depending on the size of the home, the number of surface areas to be tested, and the extent of the mold infestation. Here are some examples of mold inspection average costs:

  • Swab testing: $200-$300
    • A professional collects a surface swab from a potentially infested area for testing in a lab. Some professionals have concerns about this being the sole test done because it only gathers a small amount of data from a certain area of the house. That’s why it’s frequently done in conjunction with air cell testing.
  • Air cell testing: $250-$350
    • A professional collects an air sample in the home to measure the amount of mold spores in the air. This test is frequently done in conjunction with swab testing to ensure more complete data. Costs are higher for this test because the equipment required of the contractor is more expensive.
  • Both air cell and swab tests provided by the same company: $400-$600.

How does mold remediation work?

Mold remediation can eliminate mold colonies from your home or business. Mold is a normal part of daily life, but in wet or humid settings mold can quickly colonize and spread by making spores. Whether visible or hidden, untreated mold can cause real health problems and cause extensive (and expensive) damage to your property. Mold remediation involves killing the mold, removing the dead mold and preventing future mold growth. Here is an example of the steps involved in professional mold remediation:

  • Contain work area and apply negative air pressure HEPA air purifiers to prevent cross-contamination. If spores spread, the colonies can easily regrow elsewhere in your home.
  • Mist an EPA-registered antimicrobial to suspend and kill mold spores.
  • Remove affected building surfaces.
  • Bag and dispose of contaminated materials properly.
  • Treat cavities/underlayment and dehumidify.
  • Abrasively remove dead loose mold.
  • Apply EPA-registered protective sealer.
  • Perform clearance testing.

Remove containment materials.

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