Find a property restoration professional near Somerville, MA

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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.

What is a general contractor?

When starting a home remodel or new construction project, you will probably hire a general contractor. A general contractor is a professional who is qualified to take a set of building plans and construct them as outlined. The general contractor may help perform the day-to-day building, or they may just hire workers and oversee all the work activities. In either case, the job of the general contractor is to see that your project gets built.

When you have a building project, ask for bids from various contractors. The bids tell you how much each will charge and what their scope of work will be. Once you have selected a bid, you sign a contract with that general contractor outlining the specifics of the project and the milestones during the project when they will receive payment installments. Once the contract is official, the general contractor will bring in their crew to begin construction. The contractor will manage the workers and subcontractors (anyone who doesn’t work directly for their company but that they need to outsource, like a marble installation pro), order all the materials, obtain work permits, and confirm that all the workers and subcontractors are completing their projects as planned. They typically handle all the payments to the workers and subcontractors, and send you invoice. For all these reasons, it’s also especially important to follow a few smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor.  If you are organized and competent to oversee construction projects, and are able to make sure everything is being built properly and meeting code, it’s possible you can be your own general contractor.  

How long does it take to get your ducts cleaned?

The amount of time air duct cleaning takes can depend on how extensive your duct system is, how old your air ducts are, and whether they have ever been cleaned. On average, expect a standard size home (between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet) to take 2-5 hours for one to two technicians to clean. Here are the proper protocol and equipment you should expect from a professional duct cleaning service, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency:

  • All doors and access ports opened to ensure the entire duct system is inspected and cleaned.
  • Thorough system inspection prior to cleaning to identify possible asbestos-containing materials. If asbestos is present, specially trained and equipped contractors must do the removal.
  • Use of approved vacuum equipment that exhausts particles outside of your house. If the vacuum exhausts inside your home, it must be HEPA equipment.
  • Furnishings and carpet covered and protected.
  • Soft-bristled brushes only on fiberglass duct board and sheet metal ducts internally lined with fiberglass.
  • Ductwork properly protected.
  • Adherence to guidelines and practices set down by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.

How much does it cost to have someone clean your dryer vent?

The national average dryer vent cleaning costs range from $190 to $260. Dryer vent or duct cleaning costs can vary based on where you live in the country and what ductwork repairs may be required. Duct cleaning pros will use a brush cleaning method, a forced air vacuum, or a combination of the two to remove lint and other debris that can collect in your dryer duct, lint trap housing and vent. If left unchecked, this buildup of highly flammable debris can catch fire and lead to a home fire, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In addition to home safety, a great reason for regular cleaning is the money you’ll likely save on energy bills and improved indoor air quality. Pros may offer a lower rate on their dryer duct cleaning costs when you also hire them to clean your entire HVAC duct system. To ensure you’re working with a pro who will keep your home as safe as possible, read their reviews and check whether they have been certified by a reputable organization such as the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) or the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Many duct cleaning pros will also show you before-and-after photos as proof of the cleaning.

Is mold damage covered by insurance?

Mold damage may or may not be covered by your homeowner's insurance. Mold damage is caused by standing water and excess moisture. Mold damage can be covered by insurance when an item already covered under your homeowners insurance breaks accidentally — for example, if your plumbing suddenly ruptures and water floods your house, the homeowners insurance will cover part or all of the costs for the plumbing repair and any mold remediation costs necessary as a direct result of the water damage.

But you may not be able to get insurance to pay for your mold remediation costs if the damage is a result of your neglect — for example, if you’ve had a slow leak under your bathroom sink for years and have ignored the issue. If the insurer can determine that the mold damage is a result of your negligence, they likely won’t cover mold remediation costs. Also, most homeowners insurance will usually not cover mold remediation costs after a flood unless you have a special insurance rider covering your home in case of a flood. To help prevent mold damage, always keep humidity levels in your house between 30 percent and 60 percent, clean up water spills and damp areas right away, and ensure you have exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom.

How do you choose a commercial general contractor?

A commercial contractor provides similar services as a residential general contractor but specializes in working with large-scale projects for businesses, schools, nonprofits, governments and development firms. When researching commercial general contractors, review their portfolio of work and confirm they have ample experience working in the area you need. For example, if you are building a small strip mall, ask if the contractors have experience successfully incorporating all the needed elements such as a parking lot, meeting ADA requirements, accessing the proper permits, and completing work on time.

Once you’ve identified several qualified candidates, request bids for your project and then compare the scope of work with your needs and budget. Your commercial general contractor should oversee design, permitting, construction, materials purchase, and adherence to building code and zoning regulations, as well as sticking to an agreed-upon budget and schedule. It’s important to establish clear communication with your future commercial general contractor, as this will mean a smoother process for everyone. For all these reasons, it’s also especially important to follow a few smart hiring practices when it comes to finding a general contractor.

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