Mold inspection

what to do if you have a leak

what to do if you have a leak

what to do if you have a leak

You may not like the answer but here it is.  Most homes today have drywall used for their walls. IF drywall ( aka “sheetrock”) is allowed to remain wet for more than 48 hours it will almost certainly contain growth mold.  So, the trick is to dry it out as fast as possible.  Mold cannot be removed from drywall.  So you must remove the drywall.  This includes drywall that is behind cabinets and built-ins. So the answer to the question of what to do if you have a leak, is not as simple as it may seem.

what to do if you have a leak What to do if you have a leak

(typical dry-down)                               (This WAS dried down and was “fine”) hmm..

This is what a typical dry down company will do when responding to a water loss.  But what is wrong with this picture? Note that the drywall on the side of the framing members we can see is removed, while the other side of the wall the drywall remains.  If water impacts one side of the wall, surely it will impact the other as well.  So if that other side is not dry within 48 hours there will be mold growth; even if you cannot see it!

What to do if you have a leak

That can be tricky if say there are cabinets and the leak is under your sink and the drywall that became wet is behind the cabinets.  The simple rule of thumb is that if drywall has become wet for more than 48 hours; simply remove it.  If in the alternative your walls are plaster, then again that is a bit more tricky.  But as a general rule simple attempt to dry it within 48 hours.

  1. First remove all contents that have become wet from the affected area.
  2. Remove drywall and insulation from exposed areas to afford air flow to impact the wall cavities.   * if this is an older leak, or a leak in an area that has leaked before, be sure you have proper containment and separation of air space prior to removing any building materials.  If when you remove any building materials, you see discoloration or dark growth.  Stop and call a professional asap.
  3. Separate the area of the water loss from the rest of the home.
  4. remove carpeting and padding.  Discard the padding.
  5. use dehumidifiers and blower fans INSIDE of the contained area.
  6. Check the moisture level of the impacted walls comparing the moisture level of a similar non impacted wall.  I.e. interior wall facing South impacted by the loss to interior wall facing South in non impacted area.  IF there is any anomaly note after 48 hours, then abandon dry down efforts and move to more invasive measures.

It is a good idea to test surfaces that appear to be clean for mold.  We use ATP rapid assay analysis to immediately determine if there is growth or not.

See our article on water damage handled incorrectly here   We as well have another article on water damage you can see here.


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How to make an inexpensive HEPA filter

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This article will show you how to make your own DIY HEPA filter for cleaning the air inside of your home.  It is important when removing mold, that you ensure that the spores that are released during those efforts do not distribute into other areas which could cause a problem.  HEPA filtration is what is used to catch errant spores that are released in the air.  A good commercial HEPA filter costs upwards of $1,200 dollars and the filter cartridges are about $250 each give or take a bit.  As well the “pre-filters” used are expensive.  So, they are impractical for use in typical clean up activities by a homeowner.  You can’t really rent them either.  So what do you do?

This article The intention of this filter is for any temporary clean up projects.  For the purpose of ensuring that you do not make a small problem worse, this will do the trick.

Ok, so what does HEPA mean anyhow?

HEPA stand for: “High-Efficiency-Particulate-arresting”  Meaning that a HEPA filter has holes in the filter that are large enough to allow air to pass, but small enough to catch 99,8% of all spores and contaminants and trap them.  Think of a screen door.  If the holes were too big insects would get into your home.  If the holes were too small, you wouldn’t be able to see through the screen which would defeat its purpose.  So, the openings are sized correctly for its purpose.  The same with a HEPA filter.[/two-thirds] [/columns_container]

Here is what you need to make a great DIY HEPA filter.

a typical box type fan.  A HEPA rated allergen return filter (any brand will do as long as it is allergen/or HEPA rated.  There are designations MERV ‘XX’ you may see.  Try to get a MERV 13 or higher.  The filter only needs to be large enough to cover the exhaust portion of the fan (or use 2 of them).  You can use a bigger one and cut it.  Doesn’t matter.  The important part is covering the exhaust entirely and taping that seal to the outside of the exhaust.  The last ingredient is Duct tape (no not Duck tape; but Gorilla tape works great.

  1. fit the filter(s) to the exhaust side of the fan.
  2. Tape the filters to the outside of the fan ensuring that the air that passes from the fan, is covered by the filters.  Meaning when you tape over the edges of the filter to the fan, there is no air allowed to escape from the fan that isn’t going through the filter first.
  3. place the fan ideally adjacent to where you are working and if you can, at an open window or door such that the air flow is facing OUT of the home.  if you want to be creative, you can even attach a small piece of 10 or 12″ duct material to the exhaust and then simply run that outside. Remember the air that comes OUT of the fan will be filtered, but if you create air flow drawing air from inside of the home TO the outside of the home, you have created a bit of negative pressure.  This is good because then any spores that are aerosolized during the work, will be naturally drawn into the filter and out of the home.  This will also create a stronger attraction so to say to the intake portion of the filter itself. Its complicated physics, but it works.
  4. Turn it on and viola!  A great commercial grade HEPA filter.


After you have used the homemade HEPA filter and when you turn it off, take it outside immediately, remove the filters from the rear of the fan and discard them.

A word about containment or separating the “work area”

it is important that (even for the smallest mold project) that you separate the work area. This is an entire separate topic which I will publish something on soon.  However the basic principle is to separate off the air space in the area you are working.  You can use plastic, tape closed a door whatever.  There are many methods.  The best way is to seal off the area in plastic (sort of an isolation room if you will), then buy a zip closure from your local hardware store (about $9 dollars or so) and create your entry and exit to that isolation area.  With your homemade HEPA filter running, if you can, direct the air flow out of that work area to the outside.  Viola, now you have your own containment area and negative pressure environment to work in.  More physics.. But it works.

You now have a very effective commercial grade HEPA filter for your clean up projects for under $60 dollars!  Renting a commercial one is over $60 dollars per day!