A MOLD GUY'S NEW TRICKS: I use to be a mold remediator, i.e. a person who cleans up mold in buildings. Before that, I spent some time as a military police officer and worked with dogs. Some of the trade magazines advertised dogs trained to sniff out mold. I thought to myself, "I have dogs. I like dogs. This is a viable endeavor." I went to Florida where the dogs are trained, and I received a week-long training. The days were long, generally 16 hours, and were really about building a rapport with the dog and learning how to handle it properly. I've been in the mold business (www.trustmynose.com) for 51/2 years now.
SNIFF AND SEEK: There are roughly 80 dogs in the nation trained to sniff out mold. We currently have two: Barney, who is 31/2, and Sam, who is 2. Both are mutts rescued from animal shelters in Florida, and they're like family; we even take them on vacation. They are trained just like the dogs who sniff out bombs, arson or drugs -- it is all by scent. They train every single day. When we aren't on a job, I buy mold samples and hide them for the dogs to sniff out. This is important because the dogs only eat from my hand and they only eat when they are working.
SUPER SMELLERS: The dogs can quickly zero in on where mold is located, whereas that might not necessarily be the case with other mold-finding methods. For example, I did some work for a government contractor who had spent half a million dollars to find out if their 750,000-square-foot building had mold. Sure enough, it did, but it wasn't clear where exactly the mold was. So they brought me in, and my dogs were able to pinpoint the exact locations.
FUNGUS AMONG US: The EPA says that an area under 10 square feet can be cleaned up by a homeowner. And to some extent, there is mold in every home because it's a naturally occurring matter. But if a larger area is affected, it needs to be taken care of by a pro. It costs $275 for me to bring my equipment and dogs to your house, and then I charge $75 an hour to sniff out mold. I can cover 2,000 to 3,000 square feet per hour. I don't want to sound like an alarmist, but some inherent health issues are related to molds. Molds can cause allergies or even be toxic. But, more important, is that mold is a result of an underlying problem that a homeowner needs to address.
SEEPAGE AND LEAKAGE: There is no rhyme or reason to where mold grows. Generally you find it on lower levels of buildings and homes, and it's the result of a foundation leaking, or a drain pipe or any way water may have gotten in. With new construction, it's important that the structure is inspected prior to the drywall installation so if there's any mold present, it can be treated and the structure reinspected. The best advice that I can offer to control and eliminate mold is to stop sources of moisture. Run a dehumidifier. Use the air conditioning to dry out the home. If you lose a shingle on your roof, replace it immediately.
-- As told to Karen Hart
Adapted from EPA's Web site (www.epa.gov/iaq/molds/moldguide.html):
* In most cases, mold will not grow if water leaks or spills are dried within 24-48 hours.
* Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
* Make sure the ground slopes away from the building foundation.
* Keep air conditioning drip pans clean and the drain lines unobstructed and flowing properly.
* Keep indoor humidity low. If possible, keep it below 60 percent relative humidity. (Ideally, it would be between 30 and 50 percent.) Relative humidity can be measured with a meter, a small instrument available at many hardware stores for $10-$50.
* If condensation or moisture collects on windows, walls or pipes, dry the surface and reduce the moisture or water source. Condensation can be a sign of high humidity.