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Hiring a Consultant or Contractor

There are no federal regulations covering professional services in the general field of indoor air quality (IAQ). However, there are some steps that you can take to ensure that you select the best assistance available. A qualified IAQ consultant should have appropriate experience and be able to demonstrate a broad understanding of indoor air quality problems and the conditions that can lead to them. Ask questions — it's your money!

1. Proposal

Ask consultants to explain the nature of the diagnosis and/or mitigation they will perform. This explanation should include the sequence of the investigation. A general systematic approach is usually more effective than relying on extensive air testing. The proposal should emphasize observations (such as areas of visible mold) rather than measurements (such as mold spore counts in the air). Beware of contractors and consultants who want to conduct air sampling as a first step in determining the extent of your mold problem. There are currently no uniformly accepted standards that quantify how much or what kind of airborne mold is acceptable. A thorough visual inspection is the first and most important way to assess water damage and mold growth problems.

2. Experience

Ask how much and what type of IAQ work the firm has done. Identify the personnel who will be involved in your case, their experience and their qualifications. Request and contact references to verify that the consultant has helped them solve their IAQ problem.

Since some mold growth problems can be related to water or moisture intrusion, you may want to consider using a company that has expertise in this area. These companies can be found online or in the local phone book under fire and water damage restoration. You can also check with your insurance company for a listing of these companies in your area.

3. Interview

A firm needs a preliminary understanding of the facts about what is going on in your building to evaluate if it has the skills necessary to address your concerns. Competent professionals will ask questions about your situation in order to determine if they can offer services that will assist you. Be alert and check for conflicts of interest.

Find out if the contractor belongs to trade groups and follows industry standards/guidelines in conducting mold evaluation and remediation. Some professional organizations provide training, certifications, and guidance in the area of indoor environmental quality.

4. Contract

The scope of the project should be identified. Communication between you and the consultant is essential, whether in person or by telephone. The frequency of status reports and meetings should be spelled out. The schedule, costs, and written report should be described.

5. Conflict of Interest

If you hire a consultant to investigate and identify a problem in a building, that should be all the consultant does. Do not hire a consultant who also provides remediation services. Although most consultants and contractors are honest, some may interpret environmental results (which are often somewhat uncertain) to steer you toward their services.

Last but not least, make sure the occupants of the building that is being evaluated are kept informed of the progress in correcting problems. Oversee the work and ask questions that will help you assure that the work is performed properly.

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