What should I expect from mold remediation?
October 3, 2011 7:03 AM   Subscribe

Tell me about getting mold cleaned from inside a wall. I am freaking out.

A sewage pipe cracked inside my wall, I don't know when. The seeping black water caused a mold colony to grow inside the wall. At some point moist spots appeared along the wall near the floor. We had a plumber cut the wall open, and found the cracked pipe and the mold colony.

From what I can tell the mold is only a few square feet, on drywall, old insulation that will be pulled out, and possibly on a little wood.

I've had two remediators out to look at it. The first guy came out and estimated $1k to clean it up, said it'd take a day, and that the whole situation was minor. But he went MIA when I asked for a written estimate -- he promised it several times over the course of a week, to no avail. So I called a second guy whose name I saw on a community web board. That guy promptly prepared a written estimate for $2K, which includes all kinds of air scrubbing and so forth. I thought it was strange that he barely looked at the interior of the wall where the mold is. The contract he has asked me to sign has problematic clauses in it: (1) it disclaims consequential damages, and (2) it requires binding arbitration. Also, the description of work has weird stuff. "Dry ice blaster"? WTF?

I'm really upset about this whole thing. I can afford $2k, but this whole thing smells like bullshit and I'm worried that I'm out of my league. The first guy, the one who went MIA, gave a description that made sense to me - basically, clean out the mold, cut out the rotten parts, and seal the wall back up. This second guy is talking about air testing and all kinds of stuff that would make sense for a contaminated interior space, but this is inside a wall, and I don't care about the air in there. Is this standard? Is he honest? It feels like a scam...

Also, the warranty company said they wouldn't fix the cracked pipe until they had "something from the remediation company" saying the mold was cleaned. Not sure what's involved here - will this be a 3rd party lab's result?

I also have small children and a demanding job and I can't afford to spend a ton more time on this.

So, unlucky MeFi'ers who have dealt with mold remediation in similar circumstances: please tell me about your experience, what you wish you'd known, and advise me whether the second guy's contract sounds like BS or standard stuff.

I am in California if it matters.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I paid about $2000 for ServiceMaster to cleanup a basement leak, dry it out, and all of that. But they are a franchise, so who knows if your local franchisee is good and trustworthy. Have you looked at Angie's List for recommendations?
posted by COD at 7:19 AM on October 3, 2011

I actually just saw someone using a Dry Ice Blaster just down the street the other day. They were using it to remove graffiti from brick. If the advertising copy on their van is to be believed, it's the new thing in 'green' cleaning.

In my own mold experience, I was getting sick long before the mold was visible on the exterior of the walls. My then-landlord's solution was to just paint over the stains; I would recommend against that route.
posted by nomisxid at 8:07 AM on October 3, 2011

Also be aware that ServiceMaster/ServPro/various mold removal companies are in the business of fearmongering, which makes them money. I'd consult your house insurance representative (who, of course, is in the business of NOT giving away money), who will probably tell you almost the exact opposite of what the contractors are telling you. Split the difference.
posted by kuanes at 8:11 AM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

one thing mold doesn't seem to like is wind. I'd get an oscillating fan and place it in the center of the room and run it all summer.
posted by any major dude at 9:10 AM on October 3, 2011

A dry ice blaster is a good way to go, in that the residue is carbon dioxide. You have to clean up whatever you blasted from the surface, but not the media. I deal with mold remediation as part of my job.

What I would do: If the leak is fixed, then isolate the area until it is completely dry. Then, for this small a surface, I would spray bleach on it and scrub or scrape it the best I could. Then paint it with something like Kilz. There may be some viable mold spores left under the paint, but they would need to get wet again in order to propogate. And you fixed the leak, and the chances of another leak or water intrusion here are slim.

So this can be a DIY for far less than you would pay, and the results would be similar.

Again, mold needs water to live, and you have taken the water out of the equation here, and removed as much as possible with bleach and elbow grease.
posted by Danf at 9:18 AM on October 3, 2011

one thing mold doesn't seem to like is wind. I'd get an oscillating fan and place it in the center of the room and run it all summer.

Isn't this dangerous if the mold is of a type that gives off toxic substances? Not to mention you'll be spreading the spores all over the place.

We just had 2 walls in our house torn down, insulation removed, dried out, and rebuilt due after ice-dam leaks over the winter soaked everything. The insurance company dictated the general contractor in charge of the work, and honestly I'm not convinced they knew what they were doing. I'm sure they were the lowest bidder our insurance company could find. Now every weird smell, every time anyone in my house gets sneezy or headachey or whatever, I wonder if they did a crappy job and the mold is coming back. The moral of my story is to keep looking until you find someone you trust to do the job right. It sounds like you won't loose a lot of sleep over $1k vs. $2k, but it really sucks to be constantly wondering if the mold is still there.
posted by vytae at 1:36 PM on October 3, 2011

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