Through the Eyes of an Inspector:

How Contractors can Successfully Pass Mold Clearances

asbestos testing before remodeling

Mold mitigation is a tricky business, and although mold is not a regulated hazardous material, the industry still practices having a trained mold inspector clear a containment of the mold affected area prior to re-occupancy (i.e., Post-Remediation Verification (PRV) testing or mold clearance). BuildSafe’s team of mold inspectors are hired on mold cleanup projects so that property owners working with mold mitigation contractors have a neutral party verifying the work of the contractor by “clearing the containment”.

BuildSafe offers two types of mold clearance services: 1) visual inspection only or 2) visual inspection with air quality sampling. BuildSafe does not recommend collecting air samples in unconditioned areas within a home (e.g., crawlspace or attic). However, it is up to the contractor to choose what type of mold clearance they would like BuildSafe to perform. A visual PRV may sometimes be the only option for a contractor; for example, if the affected area is small or if there are additional microbial issues outside of the contractor scope of work. Air sampling is always recommended if the occupants have a known respiratory sensitivity.

One of the toughest aspects of the job as a BuildSafe consultant occurs when walking onto a mold mitigation project, conducting a visual assessment, and having to tell the field techs that additional cleanup of the containment is needed before they can move forward. Our mold inspectors work hard to practice diplomacy in the field every day with clients, but upholding construction industry standards (IICRC S500 Water Damage Restoration / IICRC S520 Mold Remediation) means sometimes we have to be the bearer of bad news for our clients.

At BuildSafe, our goal is to keep our restoration client’s projects on track and save them as much money as possible. We understand that our restoration partners have a talented team of field techs with many years of industry experience; however, because mold is not regulated, contractors are left to interpret industry standards for mold cleanup to various degrees. To ensure that your mold mitigation projects pass a mold clearance on the first visit, BuildSafe’s consultants have put together a list of best practices for your success.

BuildSafe’s Visual Investigation

When our inspector first shows up onsite, he will look in and around the containment for any visible issues. During this visual investigation, the Inspector will be looking for the following signs that may lead to a containment failing air sampling:

Visual microbial or water staining inside the containment.
Spider webs, dust or debris inside containment (microbial spores stick to these organic materials, so this can impact your air quality results).
Poor ventilation or lack of clean make-up air in the contained work area.
Improper containment setup.
Additional materials left inside the containment that should have been removed (e.g., carpet tack strip, drywall, baseboards, insulation, etc.).
Conditions outside of containment that could potentially compromise air quality (e.g., compromised make up air).

All mitigated areas adequately encapsulated with antimicrobial agent.

If BuildSafe Inspectors visually notice something that could potentially fail the air quality sample analysis, they will ask the Project Manager whether or not to move forward with air sampling. This is the Project Manager’s (along with the field teams) opportunity to discuss further cleanup efforts with the Inspector. If cleanup efforts cannot take place while the Inspector is onsite, they can contact BuildSafe Scheduling for a follow-up appointment after the additional cleanup efforts are completed. To clear the site as quickly as possible, it is recommended that the Project Manager meets the Inspector onsite during the time of the clearance inspection.

Successfully Passing a Mold Clearance

We recommend that all restoration and mold mitigation contractors implement an internal pre-clearance checklist system with their field teams, so that mitigation protocol is completed successfully before calling BuildSafe for a PRV. The following list of recommendations will ensure your containment is ready for inspection:

Ensure that air exchanges have been ongoing during the mitigation process and that the negative air machine is large enough for the containment.
Add pre-filter(s) to additional make-up air ports.
Ensure all materials in containment are thoroughly and completely dried.
Sand or scrub all visual staining with sandpaper and/or a metal wire brush.
If carpet is to remain in containment, steam clean and/or HEPA vacuum the carpet thoroughly. The contractor can cover the carpet with plastic sheathing if carpet is not going to be treated or removed. Tack strips should also be inspected for microbial growth or discolorations and should be removed or chemically treated.
Disinfect all surfaces in containment with an anti-microbial solution.
Containment should be vacuumed with HEPA Vacuum and containment should be free of ALL dust and debris.
After HEPA Vacuuming, all cellulose building materials, exposed from flood cuts or building material removal, should be fully encapsulated with a pigmented sealant.
Have onsite Supervisor visually inspect the work area with a flashlight. Once the Supervisor feels the containment is ready for the clearance, contact BuildSafe to schedule an appointment. We specialize in Emergency Services so we can get out to your jobsite quickly!
Finally, after successfully passing the PRV, and before commencing the re-construction process, it is imperative to ensure that source of moisture has been properly identified and repaired. Nobody wants to have newly installed building materials to take on moisture again.
Note: Fogging a containment is arbitrary and up to the contractor. Our laboratory analysts believe that fogging reintroduces moisture into the area and should be avoided.

Containment with HEPA filter in place. NAM not running at time of inspection.

With the Visual Investigation passed, our inspector will take air samples to the lab and you can expect results within about 6 hours from leaving the job site. We will contact your team with verbal results as soon as we hear back from the lab. Your team can then remove the containment and move forward with the project.

Here at BuildSafe we are confident that if you can follow this guide on your next mold mitigation projects, we can successfully clear your project on the first attempt. Our team of experts are always here to help you along the way, so please feel free to call us at any time with questions or concerns.

No dust or debris present in the contained work area.

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