to growing need for mold detection
by Robyn Friedman, Special to the Sun-Sentinel
Posted November 10 2003
Mold is turning into a big business in South Florida.
Conduct an Internet search on the words "mold" and "South Florida,"
and you'll come up with Web sites for hundreds of businesses touting
their services, from attorneys to allergists to inspection
companies. There are horror stories about mold in schools, in homes
and in commercial buildings. And mold claims are proliferating, due
to the national attention given to cases in Texas and
Mold inspections are becoming increasingly
popular when people purchase homes, joining structural and
wood-boring insect inspections as contract contingencies. And
companies are responding to the increasing demand for both
residential and commercial inspections.
"A lot of our clients
have a mutual problem with mold, be it an institutional client, an
industrial client or a residential client," said Dennis Giordano,
president of Calvin, Giordano & Associates Inc., a Fort
Lauderdale-based engineering, surveying and planning firm. "So
because of that and all the publicity about mold, we felt it would
be a good venture for us to get into."
The firm recently
established a Microbial Assessment & Indoor Air Quality Division
to provide clients with inspection services and advice on
remediation. Giordano plans to steer clear of remediation, other
than providing guidance to his clients. "That way, we'll be
perceived as totally neutral," he said.
The firm plans to
serve its mostly commercial clientele, which includes builders and
developers. "We'd like to be proactive and work with our
developer/builder clients to help them determine beforehand what
design and construction activities they can take to ensure that
there isn't a mold problem," Giordano said.
The firm will
utilize equipment such as handheld moisture meters, laser particle
counters and infrared thermometers, in addition to air samples, to
determine the presence of mold spores, said Jeremy Ferderber a
Calvin, Giordano environmental scientist who specializes in indoor
air quality. Ferderber holds certifications from the Indoor Air
Quality Association and the Association of Energy
Giordano said the firm has already done a few
inspections and that business is picking up. He plans to market the
new service to the firm's existing clients and anticipates that the
new division will increase billings by $150,000 to $200,000 in the
first year. Giordano stressed that his focus is on preventing mold,
rather than on exposing mold for litigation purposes, and he thinks
that the potential market for his services in South Florida is
large. "If you're going to be in the mold business, this is the
place to be," he said.
Another firm focusing on the detection
of mold, but more for the residential market, is Miami-based Mold
Detection Services Inc., which launched in January and conducts
inspections using high-tech equipment as well as two female
"They've been using dogs in Europe for 20 years that
detect mold and replace human inspectors," said David Leshner, the
firm's president. "We trust dogs for bombs, drugs, arson,
agriculture--why shouldn't they be trusted for
Leshner's two dogs, Tootsie and Snickers, have each
received 1,000 hours of training and are certified in mold
detection. They are trained to sniff through walls to pinpoint
exactly where the mold is. The dogs cost $15,000 each.
are the best piece of equipment I can use," said Leshner, who owns
the business along with his sister, Jennifer Leshner. He charges 15
cents per square foot for a dog inspection; follow-up sampling costs
$75 per sample. An inspection of a 5,000-square-foot home recently
took the two dogs a total of two hours.
"We were able to
pinpoint all through the house where the mold was," Leshner said.
"Every time we've done a sample where a dog has alerted, they have
never missed once. There has always been mold found." The dogs alert
to the smell of mold by sitting down.
About 20 percent of
Leshner's clients are home purchasers; the rest are people who
already own homes who want to check for mold. He expects his
purchaser clients to increase to 80 percent within the next year due
to his marketing efforts to brokerage firms.
that the dogs offer advantages over traditional mold testing. "The
dogs point with their noses within one foot of where mold is," he
said. "Most of the other companies take air samples and then do
invasive testing, drilling holes through the walls and taking
samples. But before we do our first sample, we already know exactly
where in the wall the mold is."
Zachary Jacobs, who lives in
Miami, has hired Leshner to do two mold inspections for him. The
first time, he had a potential rental house inspected, and it had
such high counts that Jacobs decided not to rent it. He also had the
dogs inspect a home that he recently purchased.
part about the dogs is that the inspection is quick--you get an
instant reaction," Jacobs said. "Besides, they're both totally
Robyn A. Friedman is a freelance writer. E-mail real
estate items or tips to email@example.com.