Hurricane Mold Question

A past client/friend reached out to me with some questions about hurricane damage and mold on a Florida house and I wanted to see how you guys down there do things. It sounds like the house was hit pretty bad and had some interior water penetration and she’s worried about mold behind drywall. The remediation company told her they don’t do any testing and referred her to an environmental engineer. That outfit is only advising indoor air samples and she doesn’t feel that’s sufficient (and I tend to agree).

So, what’s the norm with things like this? She was hoping someone could cut out some drywall for inspection and testing or at least some moisture meter testing. Can I assume there are people to do surface sampling and testing beyond just air samples. I think the house is in the Cape Coral area and I may be looking for someone to refer her to. Thanks!

You can collect air samples from the wall cavity, a wall check.
I use a 1/4’ tube inserted in the void. It is then compared to the room air sample to make a determination.
You have to be careful & only run the air pump for 30 seconds to prevent the spore trap from getting clogged with debris like insulation, insect parts, etc. in the void.

Radio frequency moisture meters & thermal cameras can help if the areas have not already dried out.

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This is very odd, and I would question the company. I have been doing FEMA inspections since 2016. Every restoration company that I have run across does everything they possibly can to find mold. It is where they make their greatest amount of money. Also, never heard of a restoration company not opening up walls whenever there is water intrusion.

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I bet there is a lot of pop-up storm chasers trying to make a buck.

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They are like vultures. Every busy intersection is littered with yard signs for business. You can tell the good quality ones by the spraypainted information on a piece of cardboard.

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That was my thought exactly but I am surprised by the regional differences in the way things are dealt with (hence my post). In Oregon when we find “suspected” mold in an attic they skip testing and just have remediation contractors come in. When I moved to Maui a couple years ago and found mold in the attic of my prospective house the agents and sellers were totally confused and insisted on getting a test… which came out positive.

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Your post got my curiosity up about inactive (dormant) mold. I have a sister living in the same area with hurricane damage to her house as well, also concerned about mold. I found the following article online. It confirmed what I thought, that mold inside a wall will go dormant after things dry out and does not pose any immediate health issues at that point. It is more important to find the source of the water/humidity and correct that (and you would hope hurricane damage is a one-time event). If humidity gets behind the wall (again) in the future, the mold will reactivate easier and potentially cause decay and possible health problems. So, where I live in a very dry climate, mold reactivation is a small risk. In a humid environment such as Florida, more possibility the mold could stay active or reactivate.

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That’s a good article and pretty much goes along with what I’ve learned before. The way I know the person I’m asking this question for is that she owns a unit in the same building that my wife and I do in Maui that was flooded last year.

I worked for the HOA in overseeing the restoration process to be reasonably sure we didn’t leave any mold in wall cavities. The process involved cutting out drywall near the floor and higher up in neighboring units through the walls from kitchen cabinets. We also removed kickplates on cabinets to allow a view below. In the end we were able to save roughly one-third of the kitchen cabinets which I believe saved the HOA money but am not sure how all the FEMA insurance stuff came down. In any case, those owners were able to get their units renting sooner than they otherwise would have so they definitely saved a couple bucks.

I always felt the HOA was a bit over-scared since once the mold is dormant it needs a moisture source to reactivate but I didn’t want to be the one to cut the process short. They had the funds so we did a very thorough job. The year anniversary of the whole thing just passed and at the annual owner’s meeting I was happy to hear that no one had any post-flood problems, concerns or complaints from guests staying in the unit.

Here’s a video of the floor is anyone’s interested: Maui Flooding December 2021 Drone - YouTube

So, I am thinking we are saying roughly the same thing. I will attempt to summarize, including other contributions as well.

One does not need to cut into walls looking for mold if the source of a small amount of water intrusion (e.g. roof leak) has been corrected. This is because any mold in the wall will go dormant and not pose any health risks, once dry. If the amount of water is significant and/or the owner or mitigation contractor wants to be extra thorough and/or want peace of mind (or reduction in landlord/contractor liability), the owner/contractor can drill holes to fit probes that will test for the presence of humidity and mold behind walls.

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That is how I understand it, Brian.

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