One of the newest business niches in the insurance restoration business is growing-in more ways than one. It''s mold remediation, the removal of mold contamination in water-damaged buildings. Jim Kowalski, co-owner of the award-winning insurance restoration firm Kowalski Construction in Phoenix, says his company spotted this emerging business niche about six years ago and officially added it to its menu of services in 1998.
Mold has always been a problem in humid areas and water-damaged structures, but it''s more prevalent now, Kowalski says. That''s because new houses are tighter, allowing less moisture to escape and reducing the amount of air exchange. Moist surfaces are breeding grounds for mold, and indoor air harbors spores that spread the mold in wall cavities and elsewhere around the house.
Remediators know to look beyond the obvious for the presence of mold, too. Fire-damaged homes can develop mold problems, especially if water has been used to douse the flames. Over time, Kowalski says, even slow leaks from pipes buried under slab can generate mold problems.
Compounding the problem of lingering mold is the fact that the more a person is exposed to mold, the more severe his physical reaction to it. Blotchy skin, watering eyes, loss of appetite, coughing, breathing problems-mold can cause all this and more. The problems persist until the mold is eradicated. And the only way to ensure that the mold is gone is to use the special equipment and stringent remediation measures provided by a mold remediation expert.
Kowalski says his company uses its mold remediation capabilities to complement its restoration business. "If we go to a project and discover mold, we are equipped to take care of it ourselves instead of stopping work and bringing in another company," he says. The firm hires a testing company to evaluate the mold problem, propose a remediation protocol, and re-test the property to give it a clean bill of health once remediation is done. Involving this expert third party takes Kowalski out of the liability line of fire.
As word spreads about the effects of mold contamination, more and more property owners are becoming aware that they may have mold in their buildings and are seeking out the services of remediation specialists. After an article about a Kowalski mold removal project appeared recently in the local newspaper, "our phone was ringing off the hook," says Kowalski.
Some insurance companies now cover mold damage as standard practice, he says. Others have been slower to recognize mold as a problem they would routinely cover. But in litigation-prone California, for instance, mold remediation coverage already has become more common.
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