Stories from the Recovery: Mold – The Hidden Harvey Danger

"We just ripped carpet out of a house last week. It had been soaked from Harvey flood waters from over a year ago and you could see and smell the mold in the home the moment we walked through the door." - Sommer Harrison, BakerRipley Home Restoration Program Director

Are you aware of what’s growing around you? You should. Your health depends on it, as does your home.

BakerRipley Disaster Recovery Services does mold testing on 75-percent of the homes we are restoring as part of our Hurricane Harvey Home Restoration Program and about 50-percent of those homes end up needing some form of mold remediation.


Observed every September, National Mold Awareness Month is designed to inform, educate and raise awareness about the adverse health effects due to exposure to indoor molds. From allergy-like respiratory symptoms to even cancer, mold has the potential to inflict severe harm on exposed individuals.

70-year-old retired Parkhurst resident, Addie Mae Collins, never expected to find mold growing on the interior and exterior of her home of 27 years months after Harvey hit. Her 1958 home took on three feet of water and once it subsided, she got straight to work to clean and repair it. She paid a family friend a small amount to work on her house in order to stretch her FEMA money.

“We thought ripping out the wet insulation and spraying the mold with bleach would fix it, but it didn’t,” Addie Mae said. “I bought about $100 in bleach, new insulation and sheet rock to install with the FEMA money I received. I left my kitchen cabinets and some of the hard surface flooring, thinking they were fine.”

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you should not use bleach to clean up mold and it is possible that the material under your floors could be a breeding ground for mold. You can read more of their frequently asked questions on mold here.

“By the time Addie applied and got approved into our BakerRipley Home Restoration Program, active mold had grown behind all of the new sheet rock installed and under the flooring,” Sommer said “We had to rip it all out and start over in order to make it healthy for her to live in again.”

Over the past year, there have been many lessons learned from Harvey; getting everything dry as soon as possible is one of them.

“As soon as items get wet, your furniture, your clothes, the dry wall and insulation, you have a potential mold problem,” BakerRipley Construction Project Manager Dennis Wood said. You have to get it out of the home right away and start drying it with fans and the air conditioning to pull the moisture out of the air.”

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During mold remediation, the house is visually inspected and indoor air samples containing mold spores are collected.

“Those spore samples are then tested in a lab for mold and we get the results back to see what areas need to be cleaned, treated and painted with microbial paint to keep the mold spores out of the air,” Dennis said.

The house needs about 48 hours drying out before being tested again to determine it is mold free. This process can take up to one week, depending on the size of the house and amount of mold found.

When BakerRipley works on homes with mold, we follow the Mold Remediation Guide from our partner SBP.

After some recovery work, we are happy to report Addie Mae’s home passed a mold inspection test and is now moving into the rebuild phase, installing new insulation, sheet rock, cabinets, countertops, paint, flooring, as well as new furniture and appliances from our Unmet Needs Program. During this time period, Addie Mae also received temporary housing assistance as part of our American Red Cross partnership, which provides our neighbors a safe and health place to stay while repair work is completed.

“I can’t wait to be back in my home so I can cook family meals in my new kitchen,” Addie Mae said with a glimmer of hope in her eye now that she’s in the final stretch of her recovery.