In 2013, I ran into a serious environmental problem on a hospitality property. Black mold lined the wallpaper and covered the drywall in a busy front office. An office whose primary occupant suffered from chronic asthma. The budget did not include the services of a certified mold mitigation and remediation specialist. So, the job came my way.
What led to the initial investigation for black mold and mildew?
A musty odor filled the room, and filtered into the hallway. The air seemed stuffy. The occupant reported constant irritation, and severe difficulties with breathing, chest tightness, itching and burning eyes, fatigue, etc.
How was the black and green mold discovered?
I pulled back a corner of one panel of wallpaper on every wall in the room. Dense black mold covered the back of each panel. Similar black and slimy green mold and mildew covered over 80 percent of the drywall itself.
What needed to happen as soon as possible?
The wallpaper had to be removed in an environmentally-safe manner. The black mold on all surfaces needed to be stopped (mitigated) from growing further. Then, the spores had to be removed completely (remediated.
Prior to treatment, what was done?
1. All small items were removed from the room. 2. The office furniture and equipment were moved into the center of the room, and covered with plastic sheeting, then old cotton sheets. 3. The floor was covered with 2-5 ply plastic sheeting, then more old cotton sheeting.
The main objectives were (1) to protect everything else in the room from additional exposure and damage, and (2) to prevent seepage of the chlorine bleach and water solution, also rinse water, onto the surfaces.
How did you protect yourself?
I “suited-up” before performing each step. The protective gear included the following: disposable hooded paper suit, shoe booties, and particle mask; disposable plastic gloves; also eye goggles, breathing respirator with an organic filter.
How was the contaminated wallpaper removed?
First, the infested area was confined from the other areas, and from other persons in the office complex. Next, each sheet of wallpaper was pulled off, carefully, from the drywall. Then, each sheet was rolled up, and placed on the floor out of the way.
Key considerations included (a) the toxic conditions; (b) density of toxic black mold;(c) amount of moisture on the paper’s back and drywall surfaces; and (d) time, budget and exposure limits.
How was the infested and contaminated wallpaper disposed of?
The paper was wrapped into 3-4 roll bundles, using masking tape. Then, per supervisory instructions, the bundles were placed into large heavy-duty trash bags. And, they were placed in the commercial solid waste dumpster at the back of the property.
How was the black mold killed (mitigated)?
1. The management-approved solution of 3 parts chlorine bleach to 1 part clean warm water was mixed in a 2-gallon garden sprayer. 2. The chlorine bleach-water solution was sprayed lightly onto one small at a time. And, it was allowed to set 8 to 10 minutes. 3. To keep the job running smoothly, the solution was applied promptly to adjacent areas. 4. Steps 1 through 3 were repeated until all wall, ceiling, woodwork, door, and trim surfaces in the room had been treated.
How was the black mold removed (remediated) from the drywall panels and other areas?
1. The black mold residue, that hadn’t evaporated, was wiped from the area, with a moist sponge. 2. On many areas, the application of the chlorine bleach and water solution had to be repeated two to three times. 3. The walls, ceiling, woodwork, door, and frame were washed thoroughly with clear, warm water, using a fresh sponge. This prevented re-infestation and re-contamination. 4. The drywall had to be inspected for left over wallpaper adhesive. Any remaining residue needed to be removed completely before proceeding. 5. All furniture, equipment, fixtures, etc. were checked carefully for any sign of black mold and mildew. None was found.
How were used supplies, materials and tools disposed of?
The plastic sheeting, cotton sheeting, heavily-used sponges, cleaning rags, etc. were placed together in large, thick-ply plastic trash bags and tightly tied closed. The disposable hooded paper suits, shoe booties and masks, also plastic gloves were placed into a separate thick plastic trash bag. Then, per instruction, all bags were placed in the commercial dumpster at the back of the property.
How were salvageable supplies, tools and equipment cleaned and dried?
Salvageable items included buckets, lightly-used sponges, eye goggles, respirator, etc. All items were washed thoroughly with strong detergent and water. Then, they were rinsed at least twice with clean warm water. And, everything was air-dried, overnight (24 hours).
How were the drywall and other surfaces dried?
A large fan was placed in the room. The door closed. And, the room was allowed to dry overnight (24 hours).
How were the drywall panels and other areas prepped for refinishing?
1. For prep sanding, I covered my mouth with a dust/particle mask. And, I wore eye goggles. 2. Products and materials used included sandpaper, joint compound, caulking, etc. 3. Tools and equipment included paint rollers, covers, frames, roller pole, and roller screen; also, brushes, buckets, ladders, etc. 4. Before proceeding, the floor, and the grouping of office furniture, were covered with clean plastic dropcloths. 5. Then, the walls, woodwork, molding, and door were sanded. Cracks were caulked and filled. Drywall irregularities were patched. Some areas were re-sanded, as needed.
Ordinarily, the removal of wallcovering is relatively easy and fast, as well as very safe. The removal of contaminated wallcovering from an environmentally-compromised area requires more time and care.
Special recommendations: Difficult-to-remove wallcovering requires special techniques and expertise. Depending on the complexity of the area’s layout and the quantity of infested wallcovering, calling a wallcovering removal specialist, with mold remediation experience, may be a wise and safer choice.
Special caution: At all times, the conditions in the area must be respected. And, the health and safety of any person that comes in contact with that area must be protected.
* * * * * * * * * * For a technical explanation, read: (your state) “Florida – Indoor Air,” Environmental Protection Agency (epa.gov), or call 1-404-562-9143