Environmental testing

Are you concerned about air quality, the presence of pollutants or other hazards, or the general “health” of your home or building and don’t know who to call? Look no further than the trained professionals at Branch Environmental, Inc.

Branch Environmental performs all types of environmental testing, including:

• Indoor air quality
• Asbestos
• Lead
• Mold
• Pollutants
• Odors
• General site assessment to determine the health and hazards of a building

We perform testing for any and all types of residence, business, and public facility. We frequently serve:

• Homeowners
• Renters
• Businesses
• Industrial facilities
• Hospitals
• Schools
• Film industry facilities
• Property management companies

No matter what, when, or where the environmental testing is needed, Branch is the one source for all of your environmental testing needs. Our company has extensive experience in the construction industry and a thorough understanding of building systems. We know where to look for potential hidden problems. Our environmental testing services go beyond conventional monitoring to include a determination of the cause of the problem as well as a solution to correct it.

Our people have the right experience to perform the testing you need in a timely and professional manner. We work with some of the best labs in the industry to obtain accurate results at an affordable price. When it comes to environmental testing, Branch offers the best value for your money.

Learn more about the importance of air quality and the dangers of certain molds, or just contact us with your concerns. We’d love to hear from you.

As industry leaders, it is our mission to ensure that our customers are as educated and informed as they want to be about mold-related issues, and that they can find trustworthy information here on our site.

We’ve created this Mold Resource page to help customers understand the process and methodologies of our mold assessment and remediation processes, as well as to connect with other relevant resources that we have developed.

 

Before Assessment

If you have discovered mold or smell a musty odor in your home, call Branch Environmental for a fully trained and experienced mold assessment technician to conduct a thorough whole-home mold inspection.

Prior to your appointment, we will email you a photograph and biography of the technician that will be inspecting your home so you will know exactly whom to expect. Please be prepared for your home inspection by moving any furniture or belongings that obstruct the area of concern and ensure that access to the crawlspace and attic are available.

The most important points to keep in mind are:

• Exposure to mold can lead to serious health issues. The more you are exposed, the more you are at risk.
• An experienced professional, like the staff at Branch, is your best choice for assessing and remediating mold in your home.

More Resources:

 

During Assessment and Remediation

One of our trained technicians will inspect your entire home and determine the extent and cause of the mold problem and will discuss options for correcting the problem and cleaning the mold.

Your inspection report will include pictures of the affected areas, a description of the mold problem, an explanation of the causal factors and the steps we recommend to correct the problem. We will provide a free estimate for correcting the contributing factors and remediating the mold using the best methods for your specific situation.

The most important points to keep in mind are:

• We inspect your whole home in order to identify the underlying cause of the mold and any other factors that could negatively impact indoor air quality.
• If the moisture or ventilation problem that caused the mold growth is not corrected, then the mold will return. Simply cleaning the mold is not the solution.
• We provide you with the best solution for mold remediation by tailoring treatment to your circumstances.

More Resources:

 

After Remediation

Once the mold remediation is complete, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that the problem has been corrected, the mold has been removed and Branch stands behind their work with an industry leading five year warranty.

The most important points to keep in mind are:

• We strive to leave your home better than we found it by thoroughly cleaning and removing any indication that we were there other than the lack of mold.
• We fully warranty our work for five years with a written guarantee.
• Your final payment is not due until after the work is completed and you are completely satisfied.

More Resources:

Interested in learning more? Check out our most recent posts about mold or contact us!

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drywall mold

Maybe you found it yourself, or the plumber you called to fix a leak found it, or the technician servicing your HVAC unit found it, but no matter how the mold was discovered, you have it. If you’re familiar with our blog, you know that the first thing to do when cleaning mold is to fix the moisture problem that led to the mold growth.

Customers often ask, “Can I clean the mold myself or do I need a professional?” Our answer depends on how extensive the mold problem is, what building materials and/or furnishings and belongings are affected, where the mold is located, and whether or not you mind being in confined spaces such as your crawlspace or attic.

The Size of the Job

The more basic answer is that most DIY-savvy homeowners can effectively tackle smaller-scale mold problems in accessible rooms like the bathroom or closet. The EPA determines the scale of mold remediation projects based on the size of the affected area.

The “small” remediation category refers to mold-infected areas within 10 square feet. “Medium” remediations treat 10 to 100 square feet. And, you guessed it, “large” remediations cover more than 100 square feet of mold-infected area.

Most medium and all large mold problems are best left to a professional. Even small mold problems in hard-to-reach areas such as crawlspaces and attics are best left to professionals. It’s also important to keep in mind that what may appear to be a small mold problem on the surface may in fact be a large problem that extends into the wall cavity or subfloor.

Containing the Remediation

Anytime you’re cleaning mold, care must be taken to minimize the process’ impact on occupants and unaffected areas of the structure. Areas where mold will be removed should be contained using 6-mil polyethylene sheeting. The containment should be maintained under negative pressure and vented outdoors to prevent the spread of mold spores. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with serious health concerns are particularly susceptible to the effects of mold exposure.

To set up proper containment and maintain it under negative pressure, we need specialized equipment and heightened attention to detail. This is one area where the experience and knowledge of a professional can really pay off. The last thing you want to do when cleaning mold in one area of your home is to spread the spores to other, previously unaffected areas of your home.

Be sure to consider the benefits of hiring a professional with the right equipment and experience when faced with a mold remediation project in your home. And please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions!

The Environmental Institute

At Branch, we feel that the more knowledge we have, the better our customers fare. Whenever we feel like we know all there is to know about what we do, it’s time to re-hit the books. So off to mold school we go!

The Course

This month we headed to the Environmental Institute in Marietta, GA for a 3-day seminar covering mold assessment and mold remediation in buildings.
The course was broken up into 20 sections, during which industry experts used visual aids and lectures to cover each topic. In addition to the traditional teaching methods, we used case studies and a hands-on workshop so that we could put what we learned into practice.

The main focus of the course was, of course, mold, and possible moisture sources among various building systems and HVAC systems. We covered mold remediation planning, remediation techniques, and project monitoring, as well as practical information like personal protective equipment and building operations and maintenance.

The Takeaway

We’ve been in the business for a while, so we’d hoped to come away with at least a gem or two. And we certainly did.

We learned that air sampling to detect a mold problem will almost always yield inconclusive and confusing results unless the technician employs an extensive sampling protocol. Unfortunately, it is often cost prohibitive to the customer for a mold assessment to include a properly designed air sampling component.

A thorough mold inspection covering the whole structure will usually produce superior results compared to a less thorough inspection coupled with limited air sampling.

How Our Ongoing Education Helps You

Since there are no federal regulations for mold assessment and remediation, there is potential for individuals and companies to advertise and perform mold assessment and remediation when they have not actually had any training to do so.

Our customers have peace of mind that Branch employs fully-trained and experienced mold inspection, assessment, and remediation technicians.
Branch wants to be on the forefront of the industry, and training like this course is one thing that will get us there. We do everything we can to better serve our customers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we would like to take this time to reflect on all the reasons we have to give thanks. God has blessed us abundantly over the past year.

We are thankful for our customers and the opportunity we have had to serve each and every one of them.

We are thankful for all of our dedicated team members and the hard work they have put in to serve our customers and make us better. We are more focused than ever on delivering the absolute best service we can.

We are thankful for our families, for their smiles, for their encouragement and their love.

We are thankful for this great community that we are a part of.

Our hope is that you and your family slow down, take a timeout from the busyness of life, and have a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving.

mold faq image

Are there any federal regulations or safe exposure levels for mold?

No, and because mold isn’t regulated by any federal agency, no safe exposure levels have been determined for mold.

Can mold cause health problems?

Mold can cause a host of health problems. People most at risk are young children, the elderly, pregnant women, and people who are immune-compromised or immune-suppressed. Some health effects related to mold exposure include allergies, asthma, dizziness, fatigue, headaches, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, infections, nausea, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

Mold is a sensitizer, meaning that the more a person is exposed to mold, the more of a reaction they will have. Some people are allergic to the glucans that make up part of the cell walls of mold. Many molds can also produce microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) that act as irritants. Some molds produce mycotoxins, which can be highly toxic if ingested.

How do I know if I have a mold problem?

It is best to hire an experienced mold inspector to identify a mold problem and determine the cause of the mold. Mold may be white, tan, brown, black or any number of other colors. Mold is often confused with dirt, dust, soot, or other contaminants.

How do I get rid of mold?

Eliminating the source of excess moisture will cause the mold to go dormant. The mold needs to be physically removed because even dead or dormant mold can elicit allergic reactions due to the glucans and mycotoxins.

Mold can be removed by damp wiping with a mild detergent solution or a biocide. Choices of biocides range from non-toxic, plant-based formulations to highly toxic chemicals. Other methods of mold removal include sanding, soda blasting and dry ice blasting.

Do I need to sample/test for mold?

Unless you are interested in determining the exact type of mold present, sampling is not really necessary. Sampling is beneficial if you are not sure whether or not a substance is mold.

Air sampling in particular can be misleading if not performed correctly by a trained professional. Most air samples will contain mold spores, no matter where the sample is taken. The presence of mold spores in the air does not mean that you have a mold problem.

Is bleach safe to use for cleaning up mold?

Experts, including the EPA and others, do not recommend the use of bleach to clean or remove mold. Bleach is highly toxic, can corrode building materials, and is not effective at penetrating porous materials such as wood to get to the “root” of the mold.

In general, a mild detergent solution such as Cascade® automatic dishwashing detergent or a non-toxic biocide such as Concrobium® is the best choice for cleaning molded surfaces.

How do I clean/remove mold?

The most important step is to identify and correct the source of excess moisture. The source may be a leaking roof, plumbing, or appliance, incorrect drainage, damp crawlspace, unventilated bathroom, or any number of other construction issues. Contributing factors may exist such as an improperly ventilated attic, inadequate airflow, high temperatures inside the home, or any number of other factors. If the mold is removed but the factors contributing to mold growth are not corrected, then the mold will return.

Once the contributing factors have been corrected, mold removal can begin. For small areas, less than 10 ft², the mold can be removed by damp wiping. Larger areas, 10-100 ft², need to be contained using polyethylene sheeting and maintained under negative pressure to prevent cross-contamination of other areas within the structure.

Damp wiping or blasting (if in an attic or crawlspace) are appropriate removal techniques. Areas larger than 100 ft² are best left to a professional. The minimum recommended personal protective equipment for any mold removal includes N-95 respirator, gloves and goggles.

What does mold smell like?

Not all molds produce a distinct smell. Many molds produce MVOCs which are usually detected as a musty or stale odor. Some people liken mold smells to a damp basement or an earthy or dirt smell. If you smell a musty odor, it does not necessarily mean you have mold. Likewise, the lack of a detectable odor does not correlate with a mold free environment.

What is mold?

Mold is a fungus. It’s a living organism that reproduces by making spores that are released and float through the air, much like the pollen that is produced by many plants in the spring. Mold needs adequate moisture, an organic substrate or food source, oxygen, and a suitable temperature range in order to grow and reproduce.

Some molds thrive in wet environments and others will tolerate drier conditions. Over 20,000 species exist. Some of these are relatively benign, while others are highly toxic. Some types of mold are more of an unsightly aggravation, while others are highly destructive. As molds grow, they begin to breakdown the substrate they are growing on. Therefore, it is important to check for structural damage and damaged building materials when mold is found.

Is there a difference between mold and mildew?

Mildew is a type of mold. Many people refer to mold growing in bathrooms or found in closets on clothing, shoes, boxes and other items as mildew. Mildew and mold are caused by the same environmental factors and require the same approach to cleaning and prevention.

Why do I have a mold problem?

A mold problem is really a moisture problem. Mold spores are present everywhere, outdoors and indoors. If you have mold, then you have excess moisture, possibly coupled with poor ventilation or some other contributing factor.

A mold problem is not necessarily the result of a dirty house. In fact, it is not uncommon for mold to be found in newly constructed homes even before they are occupied. Wet building materials can quickly become covered in mold if the HVAC system is not being used and the windows and doors are closed.

Where does mold come from?

Mold spores are everywhere. Fungi are actually an important component of the natural environment. Without fungi, leaves that drop from trees in the fall would never decompose. Fungi serve many important roles in the environment including the decomposition of dead organisms. Mushrooms are another type of fungi.

How do I prevent the mold problem from returning?

The most important step to prevent mold from returning is to fix the moisture problem. Additionally, maintaining adequate ventilation and routine cleaning will aid in the prevention of future mold growth.

What can be cleaned and what should be thrown away?

Most non-porous materials can be cleaned. Some porous materials, such as wood, can be cleaned.

Most porous materials, such as fabrics, paper, ceiling tiles and insulation, need to be thrown away if the mold is moderate to severe. Valuable porous items can be professionally cleaned if the mold is not severe.

Mold inspection or mold investigation?

In our last post, we explained why it’s best to have mold inspections performed by an abatement company, rather than an inspector who’ll take a fee just for assessing the situation and making a referral. Allow us to use this week’s inspection to back ourselves up!

Yesterday we were called to a home to perform a mold inspection. Upon arrival, we asked the homeowner several questions to dig into the problem.

What had she observed in the home that led her to call us? How long had the problem existed? Had there been recent changes or updates to the home?

The Problem

The mold in suspect was on the bathroom ceiling along a seam in the drywall where the joint compound had cracked and tape had come loose. The entire roof had been recently replaced and the roofer did not find any leaks that could have led to the issue in the bathroom.

Further questioning revealed that the homeowner rarely used the ventilation/exhaust fan in the bathroom. And although we observed water stains on the ceiling near the walls, they did not correlate with the mold on the drywall in the middle of the room. This is where a typical mold inspection might end.

The inspector might also collect samples and send them to a lab to identify the specific type of mold present, possibly for an additional fee. S/he would then likely refer the homeowner to an abatement contractor to remove and replace the molded drywall. But this would only be a temporary fix, and the problem would eventually return because the root cause would not have been resolved, or even addressed.

The Source

We climbed into the attic and then onto the roof before identifying the offending culprit. The attic insulation was pressed tightly against the roof sheathing and there were no baffles to allow the outside air to enter through the soffit vents and exit through the ridge vents and the newly installed powered attic fan.

 

Upon further inspection, we found that the soffit vents had been painted over and were nearly 50% blocked. The attic fan had a thermostat and humidistat so that it would run if the temperature or humidity was too high in the attic. The humidistat was set on 85%, effectively rendering it useless, as mold will grow at or above 60% humidity. The lack of airflow in this portion of the attic was resulting in elevated attic and ceiling temperatures in the bathroom, which already had a high, peaked ceiling.

The elevated temperatures caused the drywall joint compound to crack and release the tape along the seam. The single HVAC vent in the bathroom was directed at the point in the ceiling where the crack had developed. Elevated moisture levels in the bathroom due to non-use of the exhaust fan resulted in mold growth on the now exposed drywall. We also discovered mold growth on the ceiling and walls of the closet accessed from the bathroom.

The Solution

Our mold inspection identified the root cause of the mold rather than simply identifying that the homeowner had a mold problem, referring her to an abatement contractor, collecting our fee, and leaving.

We explained to her how to clean the mold in the bathroom and closet, that the soffit vents needed to be cleaned or replaced, and that the attic insulation needed to be pulled back and baffles inserted. We recommended that the humidistat on the attic fan be set to 55% or below and that a drywall person repair the seam in the ceiling.

Finally, we suggested that an HVAC vent or a door vent be installed in the closet and identified that the “bubbling” on some of the walls was due to wallpaper that had been painted over now separating from the walls.

We provided photos of the problem areas with the suggestions on how to correct them. We did not try to sell the homeowner an abatement since most of the work could be performed by the homeowner and someone with drywall experience.

Branch Environmental offers much more than a typical mold inspection… shoot, it’s a true mold INVESTIGATION!

A mold inspector will tell you that, yes, that is definitely mold.

I recently came across an article which announced that “A customer should never hire a mold abatement company to perform a mold inspection.” The author insisted that an abatement company will not perform an unbiased inspection because that company’s ultimate goal is to sell you an abatement, even when it may not be needed. Maybe that is the case with some companies, but Branch Environmental is different than most companies.

Logically, customers want to hire the best person for the job, often the person with the most experience. A person customers can trust. We all want to get the best value for the money we spend. Branch Environmental fulfills each of these considerations.

If You Have a Mold Problem, You Probably Already Know About It

Why hire a mold inspector that simply searches your home for mold and tells you whether a problem exists? True, you may get an unbiased inspection, but you will not get the benefit of an abatement company’s experience.

Honestly, in most cases, it’s not difficult to identify that mold is present. Anyone can Google mold images and determine whether they have a mold problem in their home. So why pay a mold inspector? The inspector may identify the cause of the mold, but they will still have to refer you to an abatement company.

The Branch Difference

You may be asking yourself, “So, how is Branch Environmental different?” I’m glad you asked! Branch Environmental and its sister company, Branch Contractors, have 18 years of experience in the construction and environmental remediation industries. We apply lessons learned from our experience in both industries every time we perform a mold inspection.

We employ a whole-house approach to mold inspections that involves the assessment of the major components of a home or commercial building. These components include the drainage, foundation/crawl space/basement, layout of the home, exterior construction, HVAC system, attic space and roof system.

We Determine Every Cause of Mold for Every Area in the House

A mold problem may result from one component or an interaction of two or more components. For example, poor drainage and inadequate crawl space ventilation may lead to mold growth under a home. Excessive moisture in a bathroom and inadequate ventilation in the attic space above the bathroom may lead to mold in the bathroom and the attic.

Identifying whether or not mold is present is relatively easy, but determining the root cause of the mold can be much more difficult. If you think you have a mold problem, then you want a company with a thorough understanding of all aspects of environmental remediation and construction to perform the inspection. Branch Environmental is that company.

If you want a mold inspector that can assess the problem, the source, and the solution, call us. We inspect the mold and help get rid of it, too!

Mold Can Make You Sick

People often call me to learn whether their homes or businesses have environmental issues that could be adversely affecting their health. Usually there is a musty or moldy smell throughout the building, but sometimes there is little or no odor, and people are just feeling sick.

The majority of my assessments are solely visual. I often have no need to use technical instruments or air sampling equipment in the process. I begin with a probing interview of the customer to identify their major concerns and to hear any underlying information.

My approach begins with a thorough walk-through of the entire building to get an overall feel of the place’s condition. During my walk-through I will look for obvious issues such as leaks, surface molds, heavy dust accumulation, abundant pet hair and dander, or other simple housekeeping issues. Once I have a general idea of the consistency of the structure, I then focus heavily on the area of greatest concern.

I look for things out of the ordinary, or anything that appears to be even slightly different from the “normal” area of the building. I will inspect the heating and air conditioning unit and the associated ductwork. I’ll also go down into the crawlspace to find out if the problem is hidden from view.

I’ve typically found an issue at this point. However, sometimes I cannot find any visible clues on the surface. When necessary, I will use technology to identify anything that may be hidden inside walls or in any other inaccessible points of the structure. I approach the problem determined to find the answer.

Do you or someone you know feel that you may have a sick home or workplace environment? If so, contact Branch Environmental and we can assess the building and identify the source. 

For more on the health of your home, find out if mold is making you sick!