Hi Bill

I enjoyed your hands-on understanding of the issues surrounding mold from reading your article Reasonable Steps to Deal With Mold ( Forum Discussion Board Real Estate Forum Answers Expert Advice ) in Real Estate-Realtor Times.

I am purchasing an investment property. The home is 15 years old and has been vacant for 2 years. During that time a sink water pipe leaked and soaked the carpet in one location which caused random spots of black mold on the lower portions of the Sheetrock® close to the carpet, maybe six-to-eight inches high in three or four locations. There is a full poured basement and the water from the leak ran down the walls of the basement and the worst mold is on the basement wall.

While I recognize the potential for risk, I also smell a whole new industry opportunity for bureaucrats with all the related "over kill" regulations. Can you direct me to some hands-on solutions or resources to explore how to physically remedy this situation in a reasonable and efficient manner? Thank you very much.

Andrew in NY

Dear Andrew:

There are no published standards for mold testing and treatment. California has begun the process of establishing minimums, but at this point, the only sure statement is that all indoor mold growth is potentially harmful and should be removed quickly.

Mold growth may look cottony, velvety, granular or leathery and can be white, gray, brown, black, yellow or green. Testing expenses to determine the severity of a mold situation should never be allowed to exhaust the funds needed to remove visible growth or correct moisture problems: i.e. if you can see mold, there is no need for the expense of testing -- just remove it.

Dealing with Indoor Mold -- Step-by-Step

  1. Identify and correct the moisture problem that led to the mold growth. This is the most important aspect of removing indoor mold growth.
  2. Clean and dry mold-affected areas. Even dead spores and mold particles can cause health problems, so cleaning must remove and capture visible mold contamination. While working, cover the air vents to prevent moldy construction dust from getting into the ductwork.

Scrub hard on nonporous surfaces with a stiff brush, hot water and a non-ammonia soap/detergent or commercial cleaner. Then rinse the area. Let affected areas dry for two or three days unless you choose to disinfect immediately.

  • Disinfect the area (optional) by applying a solution of 10 percent bleach and water (approximately one-half cup bleach per gallon of water) to all surfaces where mold growth was visible. Note: Using undiluted bleach is actually less effective.


Disinfectants are only effective on previously cleaned surfaces. Therefore, do not use disinfectants instead of, or before, cleaning materials with soap or detergent.Dry thoroughly.

  • Discard mold-contaminated materials. Porous materials like Sheetrock and carpeting and other moldy items should be carefully bagged and disposed of as ordinary household or construction waste.


Contractors Should:

  • Never do tear-out with occupants in the room.
  • Never cover or finish anything until the moisture source has been located and corrected.
  • Never indiscriminately apply toxic disinfectants or toxic paints.
  • Never paint over mold on wallboard or cover damp structures with any finish materials.

Source: Contractor’s State License Board, State of California

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