Photo by Kristopha Hohn

Update: When you’ve got a great idea for a home remodel, it can be tempting to rush into starting the project so that your vision can become a reality as soon as possible. But diving head first into a remodeling project without carrying out the proper prep work beforehand can prove disastrous. Damp walls can be caused by many things such as a leaking roof or rotten exterior siding, and these problems need to be taken care of before they get worse. In the worst case scenario, you’ll have completed your remodel but then down the line will have to ruin it by carrying out extensive repair work.

Before you start any remodeling project, inspecting your work site for pests and mold before you start can save you a lot of time and money in the long run. Skipping the inspection step may cost you hundreds of dollars when you find out you have to drill through that fresh drywall to treat carpenter ants or uproot that expensive new tile to remove the moldy subfloor.

The inspection efforts need to focus on kitchens, where pests are attracted by the food; attics and basements, where humidity and darkness combined are favored by the pests; and areas where paper is a source of habitat for mites and small insects that tend to attract larger pests.

You should concentrate on all factors that attract pest and encourage their growth, and here are some quick steps you can take before you call in the professionals, to ensure that your site is pest and mold free.

1. Inspect the work site for pests by carefully examining the surrounding structures. Look for holes in the walls, teeth markings, or droppings that have been left behind. Try randomly placing pest control traps out for a few days, and monitor the activity around them. If you suspect a pest problem, now is the time to take the appropriate action to stop whatever it is that’s invading.

2. There are two obvious signs that you have a mold problem — sight and smell. If you can see it, you can probably smell it, as the odor is unmistakable. But whether you see it, smell it, or both, you’ve got mold.

The first step for locating mold is knowing where to look. Inspect areas where water damage may have occurred, like roofs, exterior walls, and water pipes. It is important to remember that unless the mold is properly treated, it will reappear. Having to re-treat persistent mold after remodeling may require removing or replacing walls and insulation that you just paid to have installed!

In order to get rid of mold, identify the causes of the mold and the moisture that feed it. Then get professional advice and estimates for treatment. If there is a runoff coming from the roof, eliminate it. Fully assess the mold situation and determine what your clean-up and prevention plan should consist of, and make sure you incorporate both for a long-term solution to the problem.

Another thing to keep in mind is that sneaky mold can grow in places you cannot see, and poor ventilation can hide the smell. Alternatively, if the smell does not go away after a thorough cleaning, be sure to check behind cabinets, under carpets, and inside walls. It may take more time at the beginning, but doing a good check before the project is worth it in terms of saving time and money later. The same goes for fumigation and thermal treatments done to eradicate pests before the start of a remodeling project — these are small upfront expenses when compared to having to do the remodeling job twice.