How to safely remove mold growing in your house

September 10, 2014 17:01 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

There is mold growing in my house. I’m concerned this might be a health hazard.  How do I know whether I can safely remove it myself, and how do I find a professional, if that is required?

Consumer Ed says: 

Molds do have the potential to cause health problems.  They produce allergens, irritants, and in some cases, potentially toxic substances.  Inhaling or touching mold or mold spores may cause allergic reactions (the onset of which can be immediate or delayed), inducing hay fever-like symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rashes.  Exposure to molds can irritate the eyes, skin, nose, throat and lungs of both mold-allergic and non-allergic people.

A number of factors should be considered when you’re deciding how to approach mold clean-up.  One consideration is the size of the affected area.  In most cases, if the moldy area is less than about 10 square feet, you can likely handle the job yourself.  However, you should consider hiring a professional in the following circumstances:

  • There has been a lot of water damage and/or mold growth covers an area of more than 10 square feet.
  • The mold damage was caused by sewage or other contaminated water.  Contact a professional who has experience cleaning and fixing buildings damaged by contaminated water.
  • You have health concerns, such as asthma or allergic reactions to mold.
  • You’re unsure about how to clean a particular item (especially if it’s expensive or has sentimental value).  There are specialists in furniture repair, restoration, painting, art restoration and conservation, carpet and rug cleaning, water damage, or fire or water restoration, whom you can consult to make sure the cleaning is done properly and without further damage to the item.

Many skilled consultants and contractors provide mold inspections and remediation services. Here are some suggestions on how to find reliable consultants/contractors, and the things you should ask for when deciding whom to choose:

  • Research the mold remediation company: Ask for references, research the company on the Internet, and check for complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Ask for proof of insurance:  Reliable remediation companies should have general business liability and pollution insurance to protect you in case of a claim later.
  • Occupants should be protected:  Ask what methods will be used to protect the occupants of the structure.  Often, a containment system will be required to make sure that mold particles are not spread throughout the structure as materials are removed and decontaminated.
  • Ask what kind of training the company provides to its employees:  Ask for information about the training, education, and experience of its owners and employees to perform mold remediation in a professional and workmanlike manner.
  • Get a written inspection report:  Ask for a written inspection report, including a summary of all the areas inspected, the cause of the mold growth, how to take care of the problem, and any follow-up service on warranties.
  • Get all estimates in writing, and always get more than one estimate.  If you need to find a mold remediation company, search on the website of the American Council for Accredited Certification, a certifying body for indoor air quality professionals (including mold remediation companies): You can also search on, which has a database for certified industrial hygienists.

When in doubt, you should consult a professional.  But if you do decide to remove the mold yourself, there are several important tips to keep in mind:

  • The key to mold control is moisture control.  Mold spores won’t grow if moisture isn’t present.  If you clean up the mold but don't fix the water problem, the mold will most likely come back.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water, and dry completely. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not recommend using chlorine bleach for mold cleanup; however, if you do use bleaches, always ventilate the area and use an exhaust fan to shuttle the fumes to the outdoors.  Never mix chlorine bleach solution with other cleaning solutions or detergents that contain ammonia, because the mixture could result in toxic fumes that are dangerous to breathe.
  • Absorbent or porous materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be thrown away if they become moldy.  This is because mold can grow into the empty spaces and crevices of porous materials, and may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold.  Wear an N-95 respirator, which is available at many hardware stores and online.  Wear long gloves that extend to the middle of the forearm, and goggles that do not have ventilation holes (to avoid getting mold or mold spores in your eyes).
  • Don’t paint or caulk moldy surfaces.  Clean up the mold and dry the surfaces before painting or caulking.  Any such materials that are applied over moldy surfaces are likely to peel.


For more information about mold remediation, visit the EPA’s website at, the CDC’s website at, and the Georgia Department of Public Health’s website at

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Supplier to sub-subcontractor filing lien on house

May 24, 2012 23:48 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

A supplier to a sub-subcontractor filed a mechanic’s lien on my house.  I have paid the contractor, and he has paid all of his bills.  Yet my house is being held under a “cloud” from an unknown vendor to an unknown sub-subcontractor. The amount is just over $2,000.  What are my options when dealing with a business that is trying to intimidate me into paying twice?

Consumer Ed says: 

First, please recognize that there is a possibility this is a fraudulent Claim of Lien.  Some scammers place mechanic's liens on real property in an attempt to get money when the house is later sold, claiming that money was owed for work done on the house, which in reality was never done.  This type of scam is not uncommon.

Further, if the party which filed the Claim of Lien meets the legal definition of “a supplier to a sub-subcontractor” as you state, then a possible issue arises as to whether the supplier is contractually too remote to have the right to make out a valid lien claim. The test is whether your contractor knew of the supplier’s connection to the construction work at the time the materials were furnished.

If the supplier did make itself known to your contractor, then it becomes vital to determine if the contractor properly paid over monies ultimately owed the supplier and, if not, then you can be held responsible for ensuring that anyone contributing labor or materials to improve your property gets paid.  Fortunately, the law provides ways that you may in some cases be able to use to get rid of a claim of lien that is improperly worded or filed. If you or your attorney identifies a defect in the lien, you may be able to convince the lien claimant to cancel the lien or, failing that, you can then file a Notice of Contest.  Examples of possible defects include, but are not limited to:  not filing the Claim of Lien within 90 days of completion of the work; failure to send a copy of the Claim of Lien via registered or certified mail or overnight delivery to the property owner within two business days after filing; and incorrectly identifying the property, its location or the name of the property owner. It is also possible that either the supplier or a party in the chain above the supplier has provided a partial waiver of lien in return for receiving a partial payment, and this should be ascertained as well.

A Notice of Contest is a document which can be filed in the real estate records of your county and mailed to the lien claimant, demanding that the lien claimant file suit or have the lien expire within 60 days. Forms for the Notice of Contest are contained in Title 44 of the Georgia Code.

If you are not planning to move in the next year, and the Claim of Lien is for a low dollar amount that you do not expect the lien claimant to file suit over, then you may want to just wait it out until the lien expires on its own within twelve months.  A lot of liens are wiped out this way each year, because the party who filed the lien claim never files a lawsuit.  This is especially true if the amount of the lien does not warrant the expense of a lawsuit.

If you do intend to sell your home soon, you may want to bond off the lien claim.  The lien claim will then be against the bond instead of your home.

In any event, because the subject of mechanic’s liens is quite complex, this is especially a matter about which qualified legal advice should be sought before acting.

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Contractor won't finish home improvements

March 2, 2012 23:40 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I hired a contractor to do some remodeling on my home. I paid for the entire job so that he could purchase the supplies needed. He did most of the work, but will not finish the job.  What can I do to get him to complete it?

Consumer Ed says: 

You don’t say what kind of service agreement you had with the contractor (verbal or written).  If you have a written contract, you have a much clearer legal leg to stand on.  However, even if it was a verbal agreement, you may still be able to sue the contractor.  We strongly recommend that you consult a private attorney.

Other than suing or threatening to sue, you may also be able to force the contractor’s hand by reporting him to the State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors at or by sending a written complaint to: Professional Licensing Boards Division, 237 Coliseum Drive, Macon, GA 31217-3858.  The Board doesn’t oversee all types of complaints about contractors, but it does handle problems with fraud, deceit, gross negligence, repeated or persistent incompetence, or intentional misconduct.  If 90 or more days have passed since the contractor has stopped work without giving you a reason why, then you may have a claim that the contractor has “abandoned” the remodeling. The Board can’t force the contractor to finish the work, but it has the power to impose punitive measures that will make it difficult for him to continue working legally, such as probation, license revocation, or requiring restitution of money advanced for supplies and not used to finish the remodeling.

If you report the contractor to the Board, but he still refuses to complete the work, you can file suit to recover your money, plus damages for the additional cost of completing the remodeling.  Alternatively, you can sue the contractor to simply recover what you paid him for the unfinished work.

Finally, you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at or to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123.

For future reference, you should never pay the entirety of the agreed price in advance of having the work done.

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