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

If remediation is recommended, consider hiring a knowledgeable remediation company that follows, at a minimum, the practices outlined in "Mold Remediation at a Glance."

Why remediate mold and water damage?

Mold growth in nature is part of a healthy and normal ecosystem; however, mold and other microbial growth inside your home is not.  

Water-damaged buildings can harbor mold, mycotoxins, bacteria, mVOCs, and other indoor air pollutants. These pollutants can trigger a wide range of detrimental health effects beyond the development of allergies. (Learn more here.)

Since living and working in a water-damaged building can make people sick, it’s important to address the issue promptly, effectively, and safely.

Unfortunately, a default position for many homeowners or renters is to 1) stop the moisture, and 2) kill or cover the mold. Let’s look at where this approach may fall short of protecting the home and the health of the people in it.

While it is true that stopping the moisture source is a critical first step, that alone does not stop the health threat because it leaves behind any microbial growth and byproducts created by that growth. In fact, it has been argued that a dry or dormant mold colony may be a greater health threat. Once dry, it becomes brittle and is more likely to break into smaller fragments when disturbed. These smaller fragments are more easily able to bypass our bodies’ natural defenses and enter our lungs and bloodstream where they can trigger a wide range of symptoms. Plus, if a moisture source returns in the future, a dormant mold colony can begin growing again. Note: In most cases, a remediation company will not fix the underlying moisture issue. You will likely need to bring in a third party like a plumber, roofer, landscaper etc., so plan accordingly!

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as killing microbial growth either. Many of the hazardous byproducts created by mold, such as mVOCs, mycotoxins, and fungal fragments, are not living and so they can’t be killed. Even the EPA agrees that dead or dormant mold is a health hazard and should be safely removed.

Bottom line: It is critical to stop the moisture source and safely remove any microbial growth along with any byproducts created by that growth. Mold remediation should always focus on removal, not killing, spraying, fogging, or painting over it.

Why hire a knowledgeable mold remediation company?

While a homeowner or renter may be able to remove a small amount of mold growth around shower caulking or comparable situations, we do not recommend do-it-yourself remediation unless the person has proper training, equipment, and understands the full scope of work. Let’s look at why.

You may have seen recommendations from certain government agencies stating that individuals can remove 10 square feet of visible mold themselves. But where does this 10 square foot guideline come from and who was it intended for? 

The recommendation came about in the early 1990s as part of the New York City Department of Health’s guidelines on mold. According to the now updated 2008 version, this guideline is intended for “trained building maintenance staff” who would “receive training on proper cleaning methods, personal protection, and potential health hazards associated with mold exposure.” The recommendation was never intended to be a green light for an average person (who may not have a proper understanding of PPE, containment, and other engineering controls and procedures) to start ripping out mold and water-damaged building materials.

Another challenge with do-it-yourself remediation is that many people do not understand that when it comes to mold and water damage, what you see is often just the tip of the iceberg! According to Michael Pinto’s Fungal Contamination: A Comprehensive Guide for Remediation:

“If the moisture source is on the hidden side of the wall, expect to find 5-10x more mold than is visible once the backside of the material is exposed.”

So, what may look like a relatively small amount of mold growth may be just the beginning of a larger problem once walls and building materials are removed.


Mold remediation is not a regulated industry. You cannot assume the person remediating your home is bound by any professional licenses, certifications, or legal requirements. See details below on how to find a knowledgeable remediation company.

What does a knowledgeable remediation company do?

This is an important question that separates the good remediation companies from the bad. Unfortunately, since mold remediation is not a very regulated industry, there are plenty of companies using ineffective, insufficient, and even unsafe practices.

While many companies get some aspects of effective remediation correct, it always comes down to the details. This means that you, as a consumer, must have a basic understanding of what those details include.

We’ve outlined the steps to proper remediation in our free resource, “Mold Remediation at a Glance.” We strongly recommend you download this resource. It provides a detailed, consumer-friendly overview of the remediation process. It is filled with illustrations and step-by-step details so you can feel empowered when talking with professionals and when hiring a remediation company. 

"Remediation at a Glance" covers:
  • How mold is like a factory
  • Three conditions for which a building can be categorized, including "normal fungal ecology"
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Engineering controls such as containment, air scrubbers, and negative air pressure
  • Demolition and removal
  • Small Particle Cleaning
  • Post-remediation verification
  • A special note on chemical applications and remediation
  • Mold and remediation myths
  • And more!

A few general reminders about remediation:

Before you begin, download your free copy of “Mold Remediation at a Glance” to learn more about the steps involved in proper remediation along with “Questions To Ask When Hiring a Remediation Company.

Your remediation company should implement the remediation plan that was written by your Indoor Environmental Professional (IEP) and that plan should follow, at a minimum, the standards laid out by the ANSI/IICRC S520.

It is important to remove the physical areas of microbial growth and water damage along with any cross-contamination caused by that growth. Remember, a mold colony is like a factory. It is not enough to shut down the factory (the mold colony), you must remove any byproducts (spores, mycotoxins, fungal fragments, etc.)  that have cross-contaminated the surrounding area.

Remediation should always focus on removal, not killing, spraying, fogging, or painting over it. Harsh chemicals are rarely needed. See “Mold Remediation at a Glance” for more details.

It may be necessary to clean the systems responsible for heating and cooling the home (like HVACs and ductwork) along with the rest of the home and any belongings. (See step 4).  A good IEP can help you determine the extent of any cross-contamination as well as identify a plan to remove it.

When remediation is complete, be sure to have a third party such as an IEP complete post-remediation verification (PRV), also known as clearance testing or post testing. You want to ensure that remediation was successful. If your third-party IEP does not “pass” the remediated area, your remediation company should come back and reclean or remediate the area at no additional cost to the client. You can learn more about post-remediation verification in Step 3.

Never enter a containment area. Many remediation companies explicitly forbid unauthorized personnel (including you and any tradespeople) from entering the containment at any point during the process (even after workers have gone home for the night). Unauthorized personnel risk cross-contaminating both inside and outside the containment. If this occurs, some remediation companies will no longer guarantee that the area inside containment will pass post-remediation verification.  

Do not remove engineering controls until the area has passed post testing; otherwise, you risk exposing the rest of the home to any contaminants that may have been left behind. 

Be sure that all details of the project are clearly stated in writing in the contract. Do not rely on verbal, text, or email agreements. You can download our free resource Mold Remediation Contracts to learn more about what should be included in your contract. 


Mold remediation is like the wild west! In most states, the remediation company who is remediating your home is not bound by any professional licenses, certifications, or legal requirements.

Unfortunately, ineffective, insufficient, and unsafe practices are commonplace! Just because a company remediates mold does not mean they know how to do so safely, nor does it mean they will follow the general process discussed in our free resource, “Mold Remediation at a Glance”. It is critical to take time to thoroughly vet any remediation company you hire using our free resource, “Questions to Ask When Hiring a Remediation Company.”

How do you find a knowledgeable mold remediation company?

Download and read our free resource “Mold Remediation at a Glance” or watch our free Mold Remediation Mini Class Series (Coming Fall 2024).   
Download “Question to Ask When Hiring a Remediation Company” and use it to vet remediation companies. Get at least three estimates for your project.
Download “Mold Remediation Contracts” to get a better understanding of what your remediation contract should include.
Search the IICRC website for a certified remediation company. Keep in mind that certifications are minimal requirements.
Find an IICRC Certified Firm


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

What questions should you ask a remediation company before you hire them?

How much does it cost to remediate?

Remediation can vary greatly depending on geographical location, scope of work, and process followed by the remediation company. Unfortunately, remediation can be a costly undertaking, especially when you factor in repairing the moisture source and rebuilding any remediated areas.
Unfortunately, getting mold remediation covered by insurance can be complicated and difficult. Most insurance companies cap mold coverage between $2,500- $10,000 USD, if they cover it at all. Even then, the policy needs to specifically cover the type of water event, and the homeowner often has to prove the loss came from an event that was sudden, accidental and happened less than approximately two weeks prior to the claim being filed.

Before filing a claim, it is smart to review your insurance policy to see what is and is not covered. In some cases, people have found it helpful to work with a public adjuster to try to maximize reimbursement from the insurance company. 

Word of caution: 

  • Do not hire the same company to inspect and remediate your home. It’s a conflict of interest and illegal in some states. If a company offers both services, pick them to do one service or the other.
  • Do not hire a company who sprays, paints, or fogs in place of proper removal of microbial growth and water damage.
  • Do not hire a company who doesn’t follow, at a minimum, the standards laid out by the ANSI/IICRC S520.
  • Do not hire a company who doesn’t follow the general steps discussed in “Mold Remediation at a Glance.
  • Do not hire a company that doesn’t guarantee their work will pass post-remediation verification (also known as post testing or clearance testing) performed by a third party.

How to prepare for remediation:

  • Work with your IEP and remediation company to determine which belongings need to be removed from rooms that are undergoing remediation, who will remove them, and how they will be removed in order to minimize cross contamination.
  • Work with your IEP and remediation company to determine if you will continue living in the home during remediation or if you will need to temporarily move out. Generally speaking, we do not recommend people remain in the home during remediation.
  • Prior to work beginning, be sure that you, your remediation company, and your IEP have agreed in writing about the exact process, scope of work, and criteria for post-remediation verification.