Homes across the region bear the telltale scars of the floods, their walls stained by water pipes reaching feet above the ground. The floodwaters not only left a visible mark, but they also left behind an ideal breeding ground for mold and an e-coli contaminated Category 3 black water sludge, said Brian Bland, a certified mold eliminator. in Florida and owner of iMold Water Damage & Mold. Restoration.
Lab-tested samples taken by iMold from 195 homes in southwest Florida — from St. James City and Cape Coral to Fort Myers and Bonita Springs — revealed feces in 190 of them.
“He’s definitely there if your house has been flooded,” Mr Bland said. “If your roof is leaking, it may be there too.”
While some home surfaces can be properly cleaned and disinfected, cabinets, trim, drywall, and any wood exposed to water should be replaced. The same goes for tile flooring, Bland said, noting that moisture will seep into its edges, eventually finding its way into new walls and causing future mold within a decade.
“Your insurance only pays once,” he said.
Removal of waterlogged surfaces should be done as soon as possible. Tony Leeber, CEO of Cornerstone Builders, a building contractor and licensed mold remediator, said insurance companies are speeding up water damage claims.
“They know that the longer the water sits, the more mold it will cause, increase the damage and result in a bigger claim,” he said. “It’s important to get in there right away and most insurance companies make it easy. We replace base cabinets, moldings, drywall and counter tops. There are also the additional problems of plumbing and electrical exposed to water.
Andrea Pelletier, client advisor in private risk services at Gulfshore Insurance in Naples, says homeowners should take pictures of water lines with a tape measure showing the distance to the ground. She also recommends taking 1 foot by 1 foot soil samples.
“The water treatment companies have been very responsive,” said Ms. Pelletier. “They’re going into houses and cutting through drywall as we can all see from the debris piling up along the roads.”
At the three-week stage since the hurricane, the DIY window has long since closed. Mold-infested drywall removal is best left to the experts to avoid even more damage, Bland said.
“People are scared of damp drywall and moisture growth, but if it’s cut improperly you scatter spores,” he said. “Mold is worse once it’s airborne. You inhale it, it is poisonous and can cause serious illness and death.
Mr. Bland advises homeowners to contain the growth by sealing visible mold with plastic and duct tape.
While the Florida Department of Health relies on the United States Environmental Protection Agency to clean up large-scale mold growth, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is responsible for granting license mold assessors and mold repairers who complete the required training and pass an exam. State lawmakers tightened mold remediation laws last year, requiring Florida licenses to conduct business in the state.
“In the state of Florida, it’s a crime to touch anything over 10 square feet if you’re not licensed,” Bland said.
Records show that Southwest Florida has about 170 individual mold eliminators with active licenses: about 20 in Charlotte, 50 in Collier, and just over 100 in Lee.
In Florida, mold assessors test and assess the severity of mold in homes. Remediators, like iMold and Cornerstone, do the actual cleaning. ¦
In the TO KNOW
What are mussels?
Molds are types of fungi. They grow in the natural environment. Tiny mold particles are found everywhere in indoor and outdoor air. In nature, molds help break down dead matter and can grow on soil, food, plants and other objects. Molds are also very common in buildings and homes. Mold needs moisture to grow. Indoors, mold can grow where the humidity is high, such as basements and showers. Molds produce microscopic cells called “spores” that spread easily through the air. Spores can also be spread by water and insects. Living spores act like seeds, forming new mold colonies when they find the right conditions.
How to identify mold?
Things that have been damp for two days have mold growing on them even though you can’t see it.
Seen — Are the walls or ceiling discolored or showing signs of mold growth or water damage?
Feel — Do you smell a bad odor, like musty or earthy?
If yes to either, it’s mold.