Chapter 4: Post Job Testing and Clearance
In this section, we will go into how a building owner can be confident that a mold problem in their building is eliminated. We will discuss post job testing techniques, suggested scheduling for post job testing, declaring an area clear and whether follow-up testing is appropriate long after clearance has been declared.
Why Mold Clearance Testing Is Important
With all contaminated materials dried out and removed, you can begin the process of testing to see if mold levels have been reduced to an acceptable level. Even when immediate signs of a mold problem appear to be gone, testing is designed to ensure the building can revert to normal operation without mold remediation equipment present and be safe for workers
Follow-up testing also allows you to prove that the property is clean for government inquiries or if the property is sold. We recommend performing an initial post-job test during the appropriate window when conditions show the issue is resolved, and then continue testing on a set schedule in the future.
Why an Outside Inspector Is a Must
Post-job testing isn’t something you can just do yourself and declare the property clean. A third-party professional inspector needs to come onsite and take samples — having the same contractor who performed a clean-up job perform post-job testing is not recommended, and it is a conflict of interest.
If the inspector finds that the issue has been resolved, they will provide you with a mold clearance report. The report will detail current saturation levels on the property and declare it safe for people to begin using the space again.
When to Perform a Mold Clearance Inspection
There are rules designed to ensure follow-up testing is accurate and that the saturation levels are in fact the result of the mold being removed, not a symptom of cleaning equipment performing well.
Air scrubbers and other remediation equipment must be off for 24 hours before a space is eligible for inspection. The examination should be done before any barriers that were in place to direct air or keep people off-site are removed. This way if the investigation reveals that there is in fact still a mold issue in the area, contaminants won’t be spread to workers, and there is minimal risk of cross-contaminating other areas of the building.
People should not have re-inhabited the space when you have the examiner come, and airflow through building should be still with windows, doors or other orifices that might create a draft or vacuum inside the building closed or shut off.
The HVAC system can be left on if your building is in an area where use of air conditioning or heating is regular. The inspector will look to ensure the HVAC systems in the contaminated area, and likely the entire building, are free of contamination.
Mold Clearance Criteria
To pass a post-remediation mold inspection, your property must exhibit acceptable saturation levels both in airborne spore saturation and from swabs and solid samples taken from materials in the space. There are no agreed-upon criteria that guarantee your space passes or fails mold clearance testing, though specific states and localities may have more specific requirements.
The Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is widely respected in the field of mold remediation for their S500 and S520 remediation standards guides. These guides, which cover remediation of water damage and mold infestation, specifically, can be purchased from the IICRC website and are frequently used in mold remediation courses.
Despite the subjective nature of a mold examination, inspectors can be extremely stringent. Here are some of the reasons that a property might fail a post-remediation mold inspection:
- Mold colonies are still visible in any part of the building.
- Post-remediation safety guidelines are not met — for example, barriers to keep people from entering the space have been removed ahead of the inspection date.
- Airborne spore saturation levels are higher than the inspector has set their criteria for.
- Building materials that were infected with mold have not been removed in a satisfactory manner to prevent re-infestation.
- Areas of high moisture concentration have not been adequately addressed to prevent mold growth in the future.
- Remediation equipment is still in place when the inspection is performed.
The inspector will perform their walkthrough of the entire building, visually examining everything, not just areas where mold was present. They will take samples, potentially from areas not included in the remediation and test areas outside of the building to check for potential cross-contamination.
An inspection should ensure your job satisfies the clearance criteria set forth by the EPA. These guidelines state that any moisture risk present at the time the toxic mold was discovered must be mitigated. Visible mold colonies should not be present, and there should be no odor of mold in the air.
Additionally, no water damage should be present on the site, and it should be ready for people to re-inhabit.
If the inspector feels your space meets the criteria to declare clean, they will provide you with a positive mold clearance report. It is also possible that along with the report, the inspector will make suggestions for additional steps that can be taken to prevent mold growth in other parts of the building.
Your Mold Remediation Report
When a job is finished, your contractor will deliver a report to you that details the condition your space was in during the initial mold inspection, and how the area was decontaminated. The report should contain detailed surface and air sample statistics showing quantitatively that the issue was resolved.
Each type of mold that was found in the remediated space should be recorded, which means the contractor should state the number of raw colonies found and SPM count found using sampling. The report should also include a record of background debris that was included unintentionally in samples.
The types of samples taken and collection methodology for each must be explained in the report. If samples are taken multiple times during the remediation process, the testing dates and general locations where samples were collected must be stated. The contractor should indicate if specific sampling methods used were deemed “non-viable,” or rendered lab results that were inconclusive.
If available, it is ful to include any additional information in your mold remediation report to your client better understand how the space became contaminated, the detrimental effects of mold that was found and what is needed to be done to maintain dry conditions to avoid future mold growth.
It is recommended that you give both a hard copy and digital copy of your mold remediation report. This document can be crucial for future property sales and health inspections. Making this document easily accessible to your customers can further increase your reputation and save you time down the road pulling old reports for past customers.