Published on January 27th, 2009 | by Linda Kincaid, MPH, CIH22
Mold Testing Chicanery
A couple buying their first home spent $660 for mold testing. The roof over the garage had leaked, and there was dark fuzzy growth on a 2-foot by 2-foot area of drywall. Their mold testing and remediation company recommended immediate remediation… At an additional cost of $1500.
How much of this cost was needed? None of it. The buyers could have better used the money to buy a bucket and a sponge. They would have had ample funds left to repair their roof.
Growth that looks like mold is generally mold. Damp drywall is a perfect growth medium. Mold cannot grow without water, but any organic material that stays wet is likely to grow mold. There is no need for lab tests to confirm that mold is indeed mold.
I was shocked to hear the buyers paid $100/sample for lab tests. The lab I generally use for mold has a list price of $35/sample. My price (as a regular client) is $19/sample. The company in question made an unreasonable profit on testing.
The company also did not educate the buyers that to control mold, they must control moisture. If moisture is controlled, mold will not grow. If the water leak is not fixed, mold will re-grow after remediation.
Was professional remediation necessary? Not in this case. EPA recommends professional remediation for mold growth of 10 square feet or more. The moldy area in the buyer’s garage was about 4 square feet. They could have safely cleaned it themselves.
Should homeowners be wary of companies that do both testing and remediation? Absolutely! A testing company that also does remediation will often recommend additional work. Many regulatory agencies require “third party testing”, and homeowners should consider doing the same.
Is mold testing ever necessary? Sometimes it is a good idea. EPA recommends mold testing after large-scale remediation. An ERMI test can provide useful information to a physician diagnosing a health problem. But it most cases, a homeowner can identify mold as well as a professional.
Mold photo courtesy of EPA and Terry Brennan.