Steps for Inspecting & Remediating Your Home For Mold & Water Damage

Inspect your home or building for signs of mold and water damage. If mold and water damage is found or suspected, consider hiring a knowledgeable Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) who can determine the extent of any problems and determine next steps.

Reasons to have your home inspected for water damage, mold, and other indoor pollutants:

You have visible water damage or mold (Note: Visible mold growth, regardless of the type of mold, should be removed safely following, at a minimum, the standards laid out by the ANSI/IICRC S520).

You suspect your home might have a problem.

Your home has a history of mold or water damage, or you are unsure of the history of the home.

You or someone in the home has unexplained chronic health problems, environmentally acquired illness, autoimmune disease, or another condition that compromises your health.

You have young children or elderly in the home.

You are looking to buy or rent a home.

You are considering legal action against a third party such as a landlord or builder.

You have any of the 5 Signs of Water Damage!

Why hire a knowledgeable indoor environmental professional (IEP) to inspect and test your home?

An Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) is a general term (not a specific certification) used to describe someone who performs indoor environmental inspections and assessments of buildings. This is the person you hire before hiring a remediation company because they can provide a complete and independent assessment of what might be going on in the home. 

A knowledgeable IEP is trained to seek out sources of water damage, mold, and other indoor pollutants. This is important because water damage, mold, and other microbial growth is often hidden behind walls, under floors, and in hard-to-reach places like attics and crawl spaces. 

Even if you can see water damage or mold, the rationale is still the same for hiring an IEP. You want an unbiased and independent assessment of the entire home along with a comprehensive remediation plan that reflects what is best for you, not what is fastest, cheapest, and easiest for the remediation company. In some cases, remediation may not be advisable due to financial, logistical, or other limitations. An IEP can help you make decisions about next steps for your home. 

IMPORTANT

Unfortunately, the experience, qualifications, and skill sets vary greatly among IEPs. It’s important to take the time to thoroughly vet any IEP you hire. You cannot assume that because a person is an Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP), Certified Mold Assessor (CMA), Industrial Hygienist (IH) etc., that they are bound by certain requirements, standards, laws, or operating procedures. The information and resources below will help you find a knowledgeable IEP to help you investigate and test your home.

What does a knowledgeable IEP do?

Investigates your entire home from top to bottom, using a variety of tools and testing.

This is usually a multi-hour and multi-pronged investigation. This includes hard-to-reach places like the attic, basement, crawlspace, and HVAC system. It includes looking behind the refrigerator, washing machine, and toilets. It includes checking sinks, windows, walls, and bathrooms. It includes an outdoor evaluation of the home, looking for potential problem areas caused by poor drainage, grading, and other factors that can lead to moisture issues inside the home. 

Looks for any signs of water damage

 A knowledgeable IEP looks for any signs of water damage and will not dismiss these signs simply because they are “dry.” According to the EPA, dry or dormant mold is still a health hazard and should be safely removed. To learn more, download our free resource, “Moisture Basics.” 

Uses a variety of tools

There are a variety of tools that can assist in an investigation including moisture meters, thermal imaging cameras, and flashlights. However, an IEP should not rely exclusively on these instruments; their eyes and their knowledge are their most important tools.

Uses strategic testing

All testing methods (surface, air, dust, etc.) have specific purposes and limitations. Using the wrong test, at the wrong time, and in the wrong way can provide incomplete or inaccurate information. It can also be a waste of money. An IEP should not be able to tell you ahead of time the exact number of tests or what kind will be needed until they get to your home and begin the investigation. This is because the visual inspection, history of the home, and occupant health and complaints should inform the IEP about what they need to test, where, and why. Any testing they propose should answer a question about your home or influence your next steps. (Learn more about testing options here.)

Understands cross-contamination 

Effective remediation is not just about removing visible areas of growth and water damage (known as source areas). It should also address how the areas of microbial growth may have cross-contaminated surrounding areas such as furniture, possessions, HVAC systems, and ductwork with spores and fragments that are not visible due to their microscopic size. Unfortunately, the effects of cross-contamination are often overlooked or dismissed despite the fact that exposure to cross-contamination may continue to pose a health risk. 

Provides an independent assessment

An IEP should provide an independent assessment of the home. Unlike a remediation company, they should have no financial interest in the size of your project. Do not hire an IEP who charges a percentage of the overall remediation project!

Documents their observations and findings

The IEP should document their observations and findings in writing and with photos, and go over the results with the client. This report and discussion should help you develop a more accurate and realistic understanding of the financial and logistical commitment required to remediate and fix the problem that led to the growth in the first place. Sometimes, remediation may not be a good choice for a variety of reasons and moving may be a better option.

Writes a remediation plan

If needed, the IEP should write a remediation plan, otherwise known as “scope of work,” that is based on what is best and safest for you and your home. The remediation plan written by your IEP should follow, at a minimum, the ANSI/IICRC S520 Standard for Professional Mold Remediation.

Performs post-remediation verification (PRV)

After remediation is completed, the IEP should perform post-remediation verification, or clearance testing, to confirm that any microbial growth is gone and that remediation was successful.

General reminders about the inspection process.

The investigation of a home for microbial growth and water damage includes four key elements:

Thorough investigation of the entire home

Strategic and targeted testing

Detailed history of the home

Survey of occupant health

How do you find a knowledgeable IEP? 

Download and read “Questions to Ask When Hiring an IEP
Call at least 3 IEPS and vet them using “Questions to Ask When Hiring an IEP
Search the ACAC and NORMI websites for the following certifications. Keep in mind that certifications are minimal requirements.
  • CMI (counsel-certified microbial investigator)
  • CIE (counsel-certified indoor environmentalist)
  • CMA ( certified mold assessor)

IMPORTANT

Certifications are a minimal requirement. Just because a company is certified does not mean they implement the standards, processes, or procedures covered by that certification. Always ask for details about their process; use the questions below and resources at ChangeTheAirFoundation.org to find a knowledgeable professional.

What questions should you ask an IEP before you hire them?

How much does it cost to hire an IEP?

The cost to hire an IEP can vary greatly depending on geographical location, size of home, and qualifications of the IEP. They generally charge a fee for their time along with the cost of any testing. While they should not be able to tell you the exact number or types of tests that will be run until they get to the home, they should be able to tell you prior to the visit the estimated cost of the inspection as well as the cost of each type of test (air, surface samples, dust, etc.). 

Your IEP should provide a written report of their findings as part of the inspection process, but you should inquire whether a remediation plan (if warranted) is included or provided at an additional fee. Be sure to ask about the costs of any follow-up phone calls or emails along with the projected cost of post-remediation verification (testing). Total costs can range anywhere from several hundred dollars to several thousands. 

Word of caution: 

  • Do not let the same company do both the inspection and remediation. This poses a potential conflict of interest and is illegal in some states. If a company offers both, use them to do one or the other.
  • Do not hire an IEP who only takes a few random, ambient air samples from the center of various rooms. Sadly, it’s not uncommon to hire an IEP who comes to the house for 45 minutes, briefly looks around, takes 3-5 air samples, and leaves. This is likely to be a waste of time and money and may not provide you with an accurate picture of your home.
  • Do not hire an IEP who does not think water damage and mold in attics, crawl spaces, basements, behind walls, under floors, in HVAC systems, and in other heating/cooling systems is potentially problematic. 
  • Do not hire an IEP who charges a percentage of the overall remediation job.
  • Do not hire an IEP who says that dry or dormant mold can’t impact your health.

How can you prepare for your IEP’s visit?

  • Keep windows closed and turn off air purifiers for at least 24 hours prior to the investigation.
  • Pull out everything from underneath sinks. Many IEPs have clauses in their contract stating they will not move any materials or furniture.
  • Make sure closet floors, walls, and ceilings are not covered. Remove excess clutter from closets so they can be easily investigated. Closets are often dark, crowded, and filled with stagnant air. As a result, this can provide conditions for mold to grow on belongings and surfaces. 
  • Move furniture (beds, sofas, dressers, etc.) away from walls so the walls can be inspected.
  • Open all curtains and blinds so water damage and other issues can be more easily seen.
  • Write out a detailed history of the home and any areas of concern prior to your IEP’s visit. Be sure to include seemingly small events like overflowed toilets, leaky washing machines, etc. Don’t forget to mention any previous remediations, remodels, or additions.
  • Ask your IEP for any other requirements that will maximize your IEP’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation.

What should you do after your IEP’s visit?

Renters:

1) Will you stay and get the landlord to remediate properly? (If “yes,” continue to step 2.) 

2) Will you try to break your lease and move? (If “yes,” see our resources here and here.) Will you consider legal action? (If “yes,” see our resources here and here.)

Homeowners:

1) Will you remediate? (If “yes,” continue to step 2.)

2) Will you disclose and sell? (If so, work with your realtor to determine the next steps.)