Equipment Upkeep

In the mold remediation and water damage restoration business, there’s many pieces of equipment that are vital to completing a job.  Mold Remediation will use equipment like Air Machines, (Scrubbers and Negative Air), HEPA vacuums, Fog machines etc.  While Water Damage Restoration will use equipment such as Turbo Fans, Axial Fans, Dehumidifiers and more.  So why is this important for a home owner to know?  Because without the proper upkeep of this equipment, your home or business could be subject to cross contamination, improper removal of mold, and structures that aren’t dried correctly.  Many companies new and old alike, will buy used equipment from large franchise outfits that have already used them for several thousand hours.  One location will purchase the equipment, and then sell it to a newer franchise and so on, before it’s finally dumped back into the market, where smaller companies purchase them for pennies on the dollar.  These machines have been used for several years and can log up to thirty thousand hours of use or more, and now are being brought to your home.  Is this always a bad thing?  Not necessarily.  But the chance that these pieces of equipment have been maintained properly throughout the years is very minimal.  Which brings us to another point.

Many companies even with newer equipment, do not maintain them properly.  It is completely fine for a home or business owner to inspect the equipment being used.  For air machines, new filters should be visible for each job.  Contractors who arrive to a job with dirty filters are already risking cross contamination by just introducing that machine into the home even before turning it on.  All equipment should be clean and free from dirt or soot, while fans and dehumidifiers should also be pushing out the appropriate amount of air.  When fans are nearing the end of their life cycle, they’ll tend to make a lot of noise, push out a minimal amount of air and drain your electric.  You can always get a hint of the caliber of contractor you’ve hired from the type of equipment being used and how well it’s maintained.  If they can’t maintain their own equipment, how could they do a good job in your home?

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Be Suspicious

When searching for a contractor, I always urge potential customers to check various sources instead of relying on one website.  Besides looking through the usual, Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc., I also suggest Googling a company’s owner to see if there’s anything you can find on them, but also not being afraid of using the second and third pages on search engines to see things that might have been intentionally buried.  What you also have to consider when reading reviews, is how tightly some reviews are posted after bad ones.  For instance, some companies may have four or five good reviews which were posted months ago and then recently got a set of two or three bad reviews.  Within days they’ll have a couple of new good reviews which sound a lot alike trying to push the bad reviews down the chain a bit.  Another tactic is a little more extreme, but some companies have had five to eight reviews compiled in the last several years and a couple of them may be bad.  Then out of no where, they’ll have twenty, thirty and even up sixty new reviews all within the last three months explaining how great the company is while all sounding pretty much the same.  They’ll use the same sentences like, “He always wore booties in my house,” or “they fixed the problem within two hours.”  Sure if you provide a service that’s specific some of your reviews will have similar compliments, but when you read ten reviews that all sound alike, and all are constructed within three sentences and use exclamations in the same fashion, then you know there may be a problem.  As I always remind everyone, hiring a contractor is a part time partnership and you’re allowing someone in your home and into your lives for a brief time, so you’re due diligence is what separates that from being a good or bad experience.

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They’re Everywhere

When one is gone, three more show up.  It feels that way in the restoration business and you should be concerned.  Not long ago, a one time major restoration company went out of business.  They had several trucks, ten to twelve employees and over one hundred and fifty thousand dollars worth of equipment, not to mention several locations.  But their practices of short cutting, overcharging customers and scamming insurance claims through shady public adjusters finally caught up.  That sounds like like the end of the story right?  But it’s not.  The employees of companies like this, either basic tech’s or supervisors behind the scams start businesses not long after.  They buy the used equipment off of their previous defunct employer, lease a new truck, get a new name and claim to have many years of experience.  So how do you protect yourself?

First, you can ask for a copy of their license, which you have every right too.  Contractors can block out personal information on a license or EIN form, but they should never hide when the company was filed.  Another way to find out how long they’ve been in business, is to use sites that track website analytics which usually display the date of when the domain was registered and how long the site has been up.  Lastly, ask questions.  There’s nothing wrong with asking a contractor where their office is located, if they have one, where did they previously work and can they show documentation as to the training they claim.  Remember, hiring a contractor is a short term partnership and you’re allowing someone not only into your home, but into your life.

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Varying Mold Prices

A few days ago I went into a home where the individual had mold in his crawl space and in the attic.  I was the third contractor at the property and his past two experiences were very different than ours.  After spending some time in the crawl space and in the attic and going over the process for remediation, I gave the home owner the price which turned out to be double the cost of both previous contractors and declared it would take twice the time to complete.  How’s this possible?  We’ve been in the business of mold remediation for over 18 years.  Not waterproofing, or home construction, or any other type of business who uses mold as an add on, but mold remediation and I can tell you this, if we’re taking four days to complete an attic and someone else is taking two or one and a half, something’s wrong.

Most so called “Mold Remediation Contractors,” haven’t the slightest clue of what it really means to remediate mold.  To them it means spraying chemical on a surface and then painting over it.  As I stood in the doorway hearing my price and work time is double, I simply asked, “Did you get a written estimate?”  He replied that he did and I followed with one last question, “In their estimate let me guess, they’re going to spray down the attic and crawl space with some sort of chemical, most likely what they call germicidal, and give it a wipe on the first day and then paint the surfaces the next, right?”  A smile came over his face as he asked, “How did you know?”

I explained to him that there’s so many steps missing with what they’re proposing and they’re not doing anything but painting your wood.  Hence the reason they’ll finish in four days, are half the cost, and insist on sealing the wood in white rather than clear, which doesn’t allow anyone to see if they really cleaned anything at all.  Mold remediation is expensive, and many contractors haven’t the expertise to properly handle a project and do use mold as an add on or avenue to sell something else like waterproofing services or refinished basements.  When you price out any job for your home you have to compare apples to apples of what you’re getting, and like most things, you really do get what you pay for.  As for that job, after extensive research on the customers behalf he realized what we were doing as compared to what the other contractors were proposing, and hired us.

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The Newest Trend

After 18 plus years in the restoration business, we’ve seen product after product claiming it’s superiority over the rest time and time again.  Many companies push these products onto their customers only to find out later it failed to deliver on its promise.  One of the latest trends in the mold business is companies using stain removers, but not for removing stains, but for cleaning purposes.  Stain removers can be a great compliment product after the surfaces of mold have been thoroughly cleaned and treated.  But some companies are using them as a first step and quickly encapsulating the surface right after. There’s two logical reasons for this; One is that they don’t know any better and to them this is the best form of remediation that they can offer, or Two because they really don’t care about cleaning the embedded surfaces and rather just want to cash your check as fast as possible while convincing you all the mold is gone just because you can’t visibly see it. Some stain removers do a really good job at removing stains, and could give off the appearance that they’ve removed all molds, but this isn’t true.  The cleaning process for mold removal doesn’t change because of the effectiveness of stain removers.  They are still a product only for removing stubborn stains.  Even though the mold may look to be gone, only the surface staining is truly removed and the mold will once again return in a few days, weeks or months.  So, be sure to ask questions when hiring a mold remediation contractor in regards to their methods and the products that they intend on using, because if their system is to only remove the staining so it’s aesthetically appealing, you’ll be hiring someone else later when the mold returns.

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The Connection

Recently, I’ve been fielding quite a bit of calls from people who’ve hired an extermination company to either perform a termite inspection or simply to spray for bugs and then to find out that they have mold.  The exterminator will even go as far as to tell them that they have “black mold,” even though no testing was performed to determine the species or if it is mold at all.  There’s a few issues with this sales pitch.  One, you can never determine the type of mold without proper testing, and in fact all mold, unless abundantly obvious, is suspect until tested.  Two, an exterminator is not qualified to indicate to any home owner that they have mold and what exactly needs to be done.  They can make a suggestion to have a certain section of the home checked, but they can’t tell you what should be done.  And lastly, this particular extermination company is owned by a disaster restoration company who performs mold remediation.  See the problem?

There’s a reason this company who specializes in Termites, and I’m not going to name them but if you do a little research it won’t be hard to find out who since they say who they’re owned by, is trying to upsell customers into mold remediation work.  Also, two of the last three customers who they claimed to have mold didn’t.  One customer had efflorescence while the other customer just had staining from possibly dirt. I say this over and over, but if you have a plumbing issue, you don’t call an electrician, so if you have a mold problem or a suspected area, don’t take advice from an exterminator who has a vested interest in getting more work.  And there’s a reason why real mold companies have to carry Consultation Insurance.  It’s because if we make false claims or inaccurate reports we are liable and could be possibly sued.  So taking advice from someone not even in the industry can be the worst advice you’ve ever taken.

Attic Mold Scams

Here’s a brief example of an ongoing scam that is becoming more redundant.  Attic’s are some of the highest priced forms of remediation in a home because of the longevity and cost it takes to complete the job.  They usually average 4 to 5 days and can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $12,000 depending on size, workability and construction type.  But some so called remediation contractors are pricing out large attics for ridiculously low prices.  Why?  Because they’re just painting it.  All they do is spray them down with anti-microbials, which do not remove mold whatsoever, and then paint them with stain blocking paints.  This isn’t mold remediation, and in time, the mold will grow through the coating and will need to be redone.  But the price will now cost twice as much or more, because any material the previous contractor sprayed on the surface will have to be removed.  So, be sure when pricing out an attic, crawl space, basement joist job or any other remediation project, you look into why some prices are so low, because you’re not getting a deal, you’re getting scammed.