Mold:  Another Nasty Four-Letter Word

Mold & Mold Spores


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They call it the “M” word in the insurance industry for good reasons.  First, who likes mold?  It looks nasty, smells nasty and many people are deathly afraid of it.  Second, insurance people despise mold because it’s expensive to clean up and often the mitigation isn’t covered resulting in unhappy policyholders.  According to Insurance.com, mold is covered only when there is a covered loss unless an insurance policy excludes it specifically.  

Third, mold conjures up many reactions, mostly fear. There’s a good reason for that.  People react to allergens and suffer respiratory issues.  On very rare occasions they can have serious reactions. We’ve all seen pictures of workers in spacesuits (personal protection equipment, also known as Hazmat Suits in the business) mitigating mold in homes.  Everyone’s heard stories of people getting very sick and even dying after exposure.  Mention mold and some people’s imaginations run amok.  It should be noted that there are many types of molds and many of them are benign.  In rare instances, they can threaten health, especially for people who are sensitive to them.  

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Now that we all agree mold is disgusting, let’s take a deep breath (of hopefully clean air) and review the facts.   Molds are part of our natural environment.  Outside, mold plays an important part in nature.  Leaves, dead trees, and other organic matter are broken down by mold.  Mold is everywhere.  It’s a natural progression in the cycle of life.  However, that doesn’t mean we should tolerate it indoors.  Inside homes, mold formation should be taken very seriously.  But keep in mind an important point.  Mold spores will not grow without water.  So, there must be some type of unwanted moisture intrusion.  Avoid the latter and mold will not grow.  Unfortunately, water damage cannot always be avoided.  Weather, appliance malfunction, poor workmanship, and maintenance plague many home and business owners.  Yet the best maintained and built building can suffer water damage.  Outside sewer systems get clogged and on rare occasions entire neighborhoods back up because of a city sewer pipe issue.  Today’s increasingly volatile weather can impact any structure.  

Yes, molds do have the potential to cause health problems, but here is where it gets tricky.  We have encountered many families where some people react, and others do not.  Here’s where insurance people and contractors must tread carefully.  Non-judgmental education is key to understanding.  In these situations, insurance and contractor workers explain that experts maintain that it is quite common for people to react differently to environmental conditions, as in the case of allergies.  Just as some individuals respond adversely to certain foods, like nuts, others are sensitive to airborne substances including mold spores.  

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Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores will result in several physical manifestations including sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, itching, and rash.  More significant congestion is possible.  This blog’s author experienced some repeated, cold-like symptoms a few years ago.  After weeks of hacking and congestion, plus two well-spaced trips to a doctor, no major health issues were diagnosed. Stubborn, seasonal colds were blamed.  The respiratory condition eventually cleared up in the spring when the windows were opened.  Later, in the fall, the identical health symptoms reappeared.  Sensing a pattern of seasonal issues, he thought about what changed in the household in the fall.  Could it be his wife’s humidifier which was run near her piano to keep the instrument from getting too dry? Eureka!  A mold-infested humidifier was found and suspected to be the culprit.  The machine was promptly tossed in the garbage.  In a few days, his congestion went away and never returned.  Coincidence?  Perhaps, but probably not.  

We all know colds and flu come and go.  Some persistent sicknesses stick around for a few weeks.  Allergies usually don’t dissipate unless the irritant is eliminated or controlled by either shots or medicine.  So, given persistent respiratory issues, detection of the root cause of physical symptoms is the key. The cause could be mold.  Sometimes its presence is obvious.  You can see it in varying colors, or smell it.  In some instances, there is no visible evidence or scent.  Mold may be behind a wall or in another area unseen.  Was there any water damage recently?  Did some type of unknown moisture invade the home?  When people are asked those questions by their agent or someone like Lindstrom Restoration, often the response is yes, they did, but thought they dried things out sufficiently. 

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Families who are concerned about air quality can get a professional assessment.  Yes, there are inexpensive kits that can detect contaminants, but Lindstrom Restoration advises that for health reasons and peace of mind, you employ a professional environmental hygienist to test the air in your home and do a professional inspection of any hidden mold growth.  They will provide an accurate assessment of the home’s air quality and any evidence of mold.  Lindstrom can offer a couple of recommendations for proven and trusted companies that we use routinely in our work.  

What happens if the environmental hygienist professional confirms poor air quality and discovers some hidden source of mold?  Contact your insurance agent for more information on coverage considerations.  We are not insurance professionals, but we have seen losses where there was a sudden and accidental occurrence such as an ice dam, refrigerator leak, or pipe burst where the clean-up and mitigation were covered.  If it is deemed that this wasn’t a covered loss, the homeowner will most likely have an out-of-pocket loss.  In our experience, this is the way most insurance carriers handle this.  

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Again, all situations are different so your insurance adjuster will determine what is and what isn’t covered by the policy should you decide to file a claim.  In terms of the latter, we highly recommend that you ask your agent for assistance in making that decision.  Lindstrom Restoration does not do free estimates, but we will conduct no-cost inspections to give you a ballpark assessment of what the mitigation may cost.  With today’s higher deductibles, sometimes insurance professionals will suggest you do the mitigation out of pocket and not file a claim. 

One thing should be stressed.  Mold removal and mitigation are best handled by professionals.  Well-meaning homeowners who attempt this job themselves may do more harm than good.  The last thing wanted is mold spores spreading all over the house which can happen if you don’t properly cordon off the affected area in the removal process.  According to the EPA, mold spores will not grow if moisture is not present.  But if moisture intrusion happens, all bets are off.  There is no sense in removing the mold if the root cause water problem isn’t fixed.  Check out our April 2023 blog on detecting water leaks for more information on that topic. 

If you choose to hire a contractor like Lindstrom Restoration, who is qualified and certified to do water damage clean-up or mold mitigation, check references and hire a reputable contractor who has been vetted.  Your insurance agent may help make recommendations.  Lindstrom Restoration originated in 1953 and has a long history of helping home and business owners successfully mitigate water damage and any resulting mold.  We are available 24/7/365 to respond to emergency water damage situations.  This is important as there is usually a small window of opportunity (generally 24-72 hours depending on the conditions) to prevent mold growth from water damage.  Water can seep through walls and under carpets and stay wet.  Lindstrom utilizes its expertise, equipment, and technology to test for water damage, and then mitigate it before mold has a chance to grow. 

Call us 24/7/365 at 763-544-8761, and a live person will respond.