Recently we were called out to inspect a bathroom tear out. The seals had become loose around the tub, allowing water to seep behind the tile and into the drywall and subfloor. A general contractor was hired to perform the tear out, and upon opening up the wall a strong musty odor of stagnant water and decaying cellulose was immediately noticeable. The contractor went about his work, peeling back wet drywall, black with mold, and proceeded to carry the moldy debris out of the bathroom, through the house and disposed of it in the dumpster out back
Unless it is being done by a professional company specializing in mold, this is common procedure for many water damages. It’s cheap, it’s fast, and usually takes care of the original problem – the leaking tub. However, it’s also dangerous. Mold spores are easily aerosolized and spread with the slightest disturbance. This may not be a big deal if working with a small affected area (<10 square feet), but can quickly turn into a cross contamination nightmare when dealing with large amounts of mold- some of which are often toxic. This leaves you with a working tub but compromised air quality and exposure to high amounts of airborne mold spores.
What can you do?
- If there’s water damage, more than likely there is mold. Knowing this will help you approach household repairs with proper caution.
- Always perform exploratory work first to determine overall scope of work needing to be done and total affected area. The EPA recommends that jobs involving 10 square feet or more of moldy material be handled by a professional.
- If you are having a professional do the work, ensure that they are ready to properly adjust their procedure if mold is found, even if it isn’t immediately noticeable. This should include a containment to keep the affected area from cross contaminating the rest of the house.
- If you are a renter and a landlord is handling the repairs, politely ask that the work be done by someone who is experienced with mold. If they dismiss it as something not to worry about, explain why proper procedure is needed. Landlords deal with hysteric tenants on a daily basis, so differentiate yourself and your request by being as calm and reasonable as possible. If they are still insistent on proceeding as planned, call a certified inspector to document the situation and to evaluate the overall scope of work needed and potential risk. This documentation will give you leverage in discussing the procedure with the landlord, and in the unfortunate event that the situation is taken to court, will give you proof that it was indeed a situation needing professional remediation.
- The health of your living space is essential to the health of you and your family. Protect your home, protect your family, protect your health.