Mold remediation companies - how legit are they?

I have a 50 yr old row house. Never had a water problem... except for during Isabella, the sump pump didn't work and water backed up into the finished basement. I dried everything out and didn't think much of it.
Fast forward 5 years, and I have the house up for sale. Buyer made an offer contingent on mold test. (My agent didn't know why as she hadn't noticed anything, other than it smelled a bit musty from the house (vacant) being closed up. I have asthma to cats, dogs etc and never had a problem). Test came back "high" for several types of mold, including the stachy stuff. They also saw, but didn't test for, mold on attic rafters. Buyer bailed.
I had one company (name dropped by the home inspector who did the testing) come in. He told me the only way to eradicate it was to completely rip out all of the knotty pine and go down to the cement. $8K (reduced from $11) for that and sanding and encapsulating the attic beams. I had a second company come out. His version is that the basement doesn't need to be demo'd, that the mold is on the surface of the paneling (and that it normally feeds on wallboard etc, not wood) and can be treated by sanding and using clear encapsulant, the same as both of them propose for the attic, and it will pass the next round of tests. For $3400, including retest. Claims the first guy is just in it for the money. I'm not sure the 2nd guy is necessarily accurate (although I want him to be!) or is saying that depending on how the tests are performed, they can be "made" to say anything. He also said he doesn't believe the first set of tests, that if they were accurate, everyone would be sick, and the walls would look like the photos he showed me of someone with far less count. He says the home inspector must have done the tests wrong, sticking it directly in one of the small pockets of mold rather than testing the air. Both companies agree that the stuff in the attic may well have been there since the house was built, as back in the day, people didn't care if there was mold on the wood which had been sitting outside. Both agree the probable source was the sump pump overflow (sump was replaced during that episode, and no further problems). Oh and 1st guy claims he can see mold spores on the paneling. Second guy says he can't.
I'm trying to sort out just what IS going on and what the right answer is. I don't want to have to tear out and rebuild the "clubroom" in a house I no longer occupy if I don't have to, but I don't want to endanger anyone (or any sale!) if it truly is necessary. I have a 3rd company coming out this week. She has just seen the test results, and also feels that many home inspectors don't know how to collect the tests correctly, and says generally knotty pine doesn't need to be removed.
Sorry. Long tale, I just get so upset every time I try to tell it! What I'm asking at this point (in addition to does anyone have any thoughts on these scenarios) is - are these companies known for having a high incidence of scammers?
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There are tons of crooks in that business, mold is everywhere but only thrives in damp. You have mold from dampness or excessive humidity of over maybe 75%, you probably have some leaks to close up. Plain laundry bleach kills mold and can be used in a garden sprayer to get large areas. You must have some leaks you need to address first
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I live in humid North Carolina where we don't have basements, just crawlspaces. I had a moisture problem caused by humid air entering throught the vents in the crawlspace and condensing on the cold A/C ducts. Mold was growing out around the electrical cover plates in the house. A mold remediation company wanted $20k to fix, including gutting the upstairs to the studs and replacing the drywall.
I had a crew of day laborers come in, close up the vents, spray the underside of the house with bleach, and no more mold. Cost a couple of hundred bucks. I also installed a couple of dehumidifers down there, but once the initial moisture was gone I never turned them on again.
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wrote:

That pretty rough!
I'm in NC now and know the humidity.
Just curious. I'm sure the bleach did the mold in but I would still think the residuals of it would still be there. If you ever were to sell it that would probably be pointed out by a home inspector as possible past or existing mold issues.
Do you think it would pass a mold test? That mold test thing they probably always find "Danger! you're gonna die if you move there." to generate a $20k fix.
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Sorry guys, using bleach on porous surfaces is the worst thing you can do. It kills a small percentage of the surface mold, but then the water soaks into the porous surfaces and actually feeds future mold growth.
Do a search on the EPA site for mold remediation and read their recommendations.
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In my case, I dried up the source of the moisture and have been mold-free for maybe five years now.
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It feeds nothing, mold is killed by removing oxygen to the plant, it comes back because the invironment has not been changed. Mold only grows with excessive moisture, mold is in air and comes bak until you dry things out.
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Rick-Meister wrote:

Is varnished (or whatever it is) knotty pine considered porous? The one area of visible mold I saw (prior to the inspection and didn't even give it a second thought) wiped right off the shiny surface. This is what's confusing, two "mold remediation" companies are giving me completely conflicting recommendations. EPA guidelines seem just to address commercial buildings and schools. They say remove water damaged wood, although there really isn't that much water damaged knotty pine, except the quarter round molding which the 2nd company proposed removing prior to sanding. (And a section of paneling behind a shower stall where it leaks when the caulk needs to be replaced).
BTW, according to my real estate agent, I can't "forget" about it since we have the test results. I'm willing to remediate it, but don't want to put more money into that than necessary. The hope is that with a certificate of remediation and a second set of clean tests, no one will ask for more. I do think part of the problem is a result of removing the old carpeting (you know the old foam backed imitation wall to wall stuff when I was getting ready to sell. I suspect if there was mold, it settled in there after the sump pump episode and got scattered when that was removed. Then the RE agents recommended I put the humidifier away (ok it's ugly, but now I wish I'd left it out) and that may have grown some more. I tend to agree with the 2nd company that the amount isn't as bad as the test says, and hinted that the inspector could have an "agreement" with the remediation company. Second guy said if there really were "a half million spores per cubic meter" it would be so thick we couldn't see through it, which is why he thinks the tests were done incorrectly.
Guess I'll wait 'til the 3rd company reports in. (I actually feel better about her because her company was recommended by the insurance company).
Thanks for the responses. I just want to get this thing sold and stop paying two mortgages!!
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Usually they are not a problem. They only come to life when there is a damp place for them to settle and grow. Mould that is growing on something that is damp, dies the moment it becomes dry. Mould in the home, is the result, in the main of our living style. We breath and sweat some 2.5 litres of water vapour each 24 hours, this vapour is held in the air until the temperature drops, whereupon, it heads for the nearest cold place, usually a window, where it turns into condensation. If there is a spot that is colder than a window then it settles there. The cold spot may be a bed, wall, ceiling, furniture even the loft. Water vapour (our breath is saturated water vapour) is an incredibly tiny gas, think of it as air being the size of a football and water vapour being tiny ball bearings that move between the footballs of air. Water vapour is so tiny it can find its way into most things, it can certainly find its way through tiny holes in our woodwork. After our breath and sweat the next things that produce water vapour are kitchens and bathrooms, where things are left to dry on radiators and the extractor fans are not used and where doors are left open. There are two ways to get rid of water vapour. One. Leave the windows open and dry the place out and wait for summers warm dry days. Two. Buy and use a de-humidifier, turn it on, leave it on until the place dries out.
If you have a leaking roof or pipe the mould will be located near the problem.
From what you write I guess it down to life style. Perry
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Lee B wrote:

In case anyone is interested in the outcome. I went with the third company. The woman who heads the company put a lot of work into finding a product to use that wouldn't require disemboweling my clubroom. She came up with a product from this company - http://www.serumsystem.com /. It contains a peroxide type of solution that "boils" the mold up to the surface where it can then dry and be vacuumed off. See the video on the "products" page. I have NO association with the company. I just thought it was an interesting approach and wanted to mention it in case anyone was following. It worked, and while it bleached the paneling just a little, it was better than the alternatives! The initial post-test came back below industry guidelines, so it is technically ok, however they weren't as low as she wanted for one of the species (which tested higher indoors than out) and she is doing another round of cleaning, and paying for the retesting.
If anyone else runs into this problem, all I can say is search long and hard for a decent company. The ones I encountered ran the gamut. From the one who glibly said the only possible way to eradicate the problem was to remove all of the paneling, carpeting, ceiling etc (which probably was the easiest... and most lucrative) approach for him, to the guy who told me that all remediators had "relationships" with testing companies and could (wink, wink, nudge) get the post-test results to be what they needed to be (and even warned me that, of course, a test by another company the following week might not pass!). I'm just glad I continued looking until I found someone who actually seems reputable.
One of the biggest problems I found is that the industry doesn't seem to have much oversight. In my state, they just passed a law (goes into effect in 2010) that mold remed companies must have home improvement licenses; they don't now. There seem to be lots and lots of "air quality" and "water damage" organizations that have their own sets of certifications, although some of them sound rather like the "close matchbook before striking" types of schools. And the biggest problem is there are no "standards" of what any of the readings should be. There are only "industry guidelines" and even those don't seem to be published anywhere that the public can find them. So if one of my readings is 1500, and the outside tester says that is "within guidelines", I can't find out if I'm one spore below the limit or a thousand.
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