Just the idea of mold can make a homeowner panic. But how do you even know if you have mold, and how should you deal with it if you do? Mold is naturally found in nature, and there is no way to completely eliminate mold spores. However, unhealthy levels of mold growth inside your home could harm your family's health. According to the Centers for Disease Control, "Mold can cause fungal allergy and respiratory infections or worsen certain illnesses such as asthma." Unchecked mold that colonizes in your house over years can lead to decay and rot in the wood and other cellulose-based elements of your structure, causing expensive damage and even lowering your property value.
The EPA states that if you have a visible mold problem, testing is usually not necessary, as the problem is already evident. You may pay to have professional mold testing done if you have experienced a flood, leak or ongoing dampness, and you can smell mold inside your home. You may also get professional mold testing done if anyone in your home or office is experiencing potentially mold-related illnesses. When you have your home or building tested, at least a minimal level of mold will always be found, as mold is virtually everywhere. Hiring an independent third-party mold testing company that does not also provide mold cleanup services can help you get an unbiased explanation of your test results and advice on the next steps to take.
Mold remediation is the treatment and removal of mold colonies by a mold removal specialist (also called a mold remediation specialist). When mold spores connect with moisture, they have the opportunity to colonize and grow. Indoor mold colonies that multiply unchecked can lead to health problems and cause major financial damage. Professional mold remediation companies identify mold colonies — both those visible to the naked eye and those lurking behind drywall, in ductwork or HVAC and air conditioning systems, or in other hidden locations — and provide solutions for safe mold removal. Mold inspection and mold removal services are available for homes, multiunit buildings, commercial spaces and offices. Mold inspection and mold removal are frequently requested in tandem, although they are two separate services. Common requests for mold services include inspections and testing for mold, mold removal, fabric restoration after mold damage and other related tasks. Sometimes mold has no effect on a property's inhabitants. Sometimes there is visible mold or just the odor of mold, and sometimes inhabitants report a persistent cough or sore throat. Mold loves wet areas and is commonly found in bathrooms, basements, air ducts and vents, attics, and other damp locations.
If you are ready to handle the mold problem at your home or office, here are the factors that affect the average cost of mold inspection and what you can also expect for mold removal costs.
Mold testing cost
If you are concerned that unhealthy levels of mold might be present in your home, but you don't have visible proof, mold testing can help you assess the problem. Costs for mold testing can vary based on the type of mold testing you want done. Companies may offer swab (or surface) testing of small areas of your home, air cell or air quality testing, and/or bulk testing. There will always be some level of mold spores present in your home, so don't be alarmed when mold _is _found. Testing professionals are looking for abnormally high levels of mold that could be detrimental to human health or cause property damage. Mold testing prices can vary depending on the size of your home, the number of surface areas to be tested and the extent of the mold infestation. Testing can also tell you what type of mold you have, such as black mold. Rite Way in Zionsville, Indiana, charges the following average prices for the two most common types of mold testing:
- Swab testing: $200-$300
- A professional collects a surface swab from a potentially infested area for testing in a lab. Some professionals say swab testing should not be 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.
- Swab testing and air cell testing together: $400-$600
Mold can colonize and spread quickly, and it often travels wherever there is dampness or moisture. This might mean your entire basement becomes infiltrated with mold, or the drywall surrounding your guest bathroom develops mold as a result of an untreated water leak. Generally, the larger the area of a home that is affected by mold, the more it will cost cost to treat it. Basic mold remediation costs for easy-to-access areas like basements and bathroom interiors could be roughly $2 per square foot. On the other end of the spectrum, mold remediation costs that require demolition could start anywhere from $4 to $6 per square foot. Prices will vary widely depending on the accessibility of the area, the level of the mold infestation and the process required for treatment. In the examples from Rite Way below, both homes had approximately the same size floor plan, but had different amounts of mold to be treated. The higher-priced project had more surface area to be treated, and the mold was more difficult to access. Both prices cited below included the cost of testing:
- Mold treatment of 15 square feet in an accessible area with a less aggressive type of mold: $3,400
- Mold treatment of 27 square feet inside an HVAC system, which required more chemicals and processes: $9,500
Location of mold
The location of mold in the home affects the cost of mold remediation (treatment and removal). Treating mold in an easily accessible area, such as on the basement wall, requires less labor and time than accessing mold inside a home's walls — which could require demolition, electrical precautions and more.. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends cleaning inside your air ducts if there is "substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface ducts." If any kind of major demolition work is recommended as part of a mold remediation project, it is highly recommended to get multiple quotes from reputable mold remediation companies before starting work. You don't need to rush on mold work. Yes, it's a bad idea to wait months or years, but waiting an extra week or two so that you can get more quotes is not unsafe.
Mold removal process
The mold remediation or mold removal process involves three things: Killing the fungi, removing the dead mold, and protecting against future mold growth and colonization. Here's a typical multi-step process for professional mold removal:
- Contain work area and apply negative air pressure HEPA (high efficiency pressurized air) air purifiers to prevent cross-contamination
- Mist EPA-registered antimicrobial to suspend and kill mold spores
- Remove affected building surfaces
- Bag and dispose properly
- Treat cavities/underlayment and dehumidify
- Abrasively remove dead loose mold
- Apply EPA-registered protective sealer
- Perform clearance testing
- Remove containment materials
Does insurance cover mold removal? It depends on the type of coverage you have and the cause of the mold. If your negligence led to the growth of the mold, it is unlikely your insurance company will pay for its remediation. Mold colonizes when there is excessive moisture or standing water where it can grow and multiply. Water leaks, pipe problems and natural disasters can all cause excess moisture. For water leaks, the question is who or what is responsible. If you have a slow leak in your master bathroom shower that's obviously been going on for ages and you just haven't dealt with it, your insurance company might deny your claim for treating the resulting mold on the grounds of negligence. On the other hand, if a pipe bursts in your laundry room and you call for help immediately, the insurance company will more likely cover the cost of plumbing repair and any necessary mold remediation. Floods are a major problem in some parts of the country. If you have a special insurance rider that provides flood coverage for your home or property, mold damage that results from a flood will likely be covered by insurance. Unfortunately, most standard homeowners insurance does not provide coverage for mold problems due to flooding, so it is very important to act fast if you have flooding in your home. Remove any excess water and clean and dry everything to the best of your ability to prevent mold colonization.
The best way to deal with mold is to prevent it from colonizing in your home. Mold spores flourish in moisture, so be vigilant about water leaks, excessive dampness and spills. Try to keep the humidity levels in your house between 30 percent and 60 percent. Make sure your bathrooms, laundry room and other moisture-rich rooms have adequate ventilation. If you have a basement, consider installing a dehumidifier and be sure to address any drainage issues from groundwater seeping through your foundation. If you have a water spill, a pipe leak or a flood, quick cleanup is critical. Standing water is a paradise for mold spores looking to colonize. The EPA recommends these DIY cleaning tips to prevent home mold:
- Handle plumbing leaks and any other water issues immediately. Make sure everything is dry after a leak has occurred.
- Use detergent and water to scrub visible mold off hard surfaces, and then dry completely.
- Dispose of any carpet, ceiling tiles and or other porous materials that have become moldy.
- Wear the appropriate protective materials (gloves, mask) when cleaning, and avoid exposing yourself or others to mold.
- Paint does not kill mold. Before you paint, clean any mold off surfaces with water and detergent, and dry completely. Untreated mold can continue to grow under your paint and cause it to peel.
- If you are unsure how to clean a piece of art, fine furniture, or other valuable or delicate item, consult a reputable specialist affiliated with a professional organization in their field.
The EPA states that for mold problems of less than 10 square feet, homeowners should be able to clean it themselves if they can access all the impacted areas thoroughly and safely. Anything larger than 10 square feet should be turned over to the pros, according to the health experts. However, if you have health challenges that prevent you from working around mold, or you just dislike the idea of scrubbing mold out of your attic or crawl spaces, you can hire a mold remediation team. Mold removal experts may charge a minimum fee for their services, no matter how small the job. This minimum service fee ensures that the company's business overhead and operating costs are met when they accept a job, even if it is only 2 square feet.
Because many homeowners are alarmed by the possible health risks and damage that mold exposure can cause, there are a small number of untrustworthy companies that take advantage of people's fears. They may exaggerate the results of mold tests or claim that more demolition and construction work are required than is really the case, so that unwitting customers spend more than is necessary on remediation. To protect yourself, always use an independent third party to do the mold testing and a different company to do the mold removal or remediation. This prevents any conflict of interest because the company reporting your mold test results does not stand to benefit financially from the outcome. It is also important to read customer reviews and cross-check mold remediation companies with organizations such as the Better Business Bureau. Finally, for larger projects, get several quotes before signing a contract.
- Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you're choosing the right pro for your project. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring.