You’ve surely heard the phrase “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” But have you ever wondered where it came from?
The “free lunch” refers to the long-gone tradition of pubs and taverns providing a complimentary midday meal to their patrons. Of course, the offerings always consisted of food so salty that anyone who ate the “free lunch” likely ended up drinking plenty of not-free grog to wash it down. The food may have been free, in theory, but there was plenty of cost behind it.
The same applies to so-called “free” mold inspections.
The problem is this: Companies that come and do free inspections aren’t actually mold inspectors. They are mold remediators. The people who offer free services are doing so with the hope of getting paid some other way, and, in many cases, they are providing services they are woefully unqualified to provide.
An inspection, done properly, takes several hours on-site and usually costs +/- $1500, including testing, which involves the analysis of samples by an independent, third-party laboratory. The lab certainly doesn’t work for free, nor does an inspector. So somebody’s got to pay. That somebody is the customer.
A proper inspection generally represents a total investment of nine to ten hours, the byproduct of which should be a comprehensive written report documenting findings plus a detailed remediation and repair plan. This includes hours of consultation in-person, on the phone and/or by email. Trust me: a free mold inspection like this doesn’t exist.
Instead, during a “free” inspection, someone from a mold remediation company — not a mold inspection company, crucially — will come to your home and seek out a mold problem, whether you have one or not. Make no mistake, they are working their tails off to find anything that they can then use to sell you on mold remediation services. At which point you may be thinking, “Wait a second. This sounds more like a sales call…” and you would be right.
For a mold remediation company, the “free inspection” is really just a way to get their foot in the door. Your door (and your wallet).
Sometimes they even claim to provide “one-stop-shopping”—offering to do the testing before and after the remediation. This means they would be checking their own work, which is not a check at all, but rather a blatant conflict of interest. So blatant, in fact, that it’s illegal in several states, and there are many states where similar legalization has been proposed.
This kind of double-dipping has been illegal in the asbestos industry for ages, and it stands to reason that it should be illegal in all 50 states when it comes to mold, too. Eventually, it will be. In the meantime, you, the consumer, need to be aware of the landscape and protect your own interests, because there are more companies out there doing it the wrong way than the right way.
So, what does a proper mold inspection entail?
First of all, it’s usually at least a 2-3 hour commitment on-site, beginning with learning about the background of the building and the concerns of the occupants, followed by a comprehensive physical inspection of all accessible areas of the building, inside and out. Various screening methods are employed to “peel the layers of the onion” away.
Infrared cameras, laser particle counters, electronic moisture detection equipment, and many other tools, may all be utilized by an experienced, well-trained specialist. Following the first phase of the inspection, a testing strategy should be developed and then approved by you, the homeowner. Samples should be collected in accordance with industry standards and sent to an accredited third-party lab for analysis.
When the results come back, a document should be generated containing all of the observations made, including building defects, deficiencies, repairs needed, and a comprehensive remediation plan, along with the laboratory report and a written summary of the analysis, preferably in language that anyone can understand. It’s a step-by-step game plan designed to be the blueprint for restoring the property to a “normal,” healthy condition. This is how it should be.
And it doesn’t end there. An environmental consultant would then help you select the contractors, returning to do follow-up inspection(s) and testing to make sure the work has been completed satisfactorily. If more work is still required, the contractor must then come back and do what’s necessary to complete the project — at no additional charge — as many times as needed. Then, and only then, they should be paid. You’ll breathe easy knowing that you’ve actually gotten what you paid for.
Try getting all of that for free, no strings attached. Now try asking the pub to hold the salt on your free lunch. Not gonna happen.
Video: Click on the video links below to watch a very enlightening ABC News piece that looks at various mold companies and some of their unsavory tactics.
ABC News: One house. Seven mold inspectors with radically different approaches. Who do you trust?