There is a new health concern among homeowners. It’s called Stachybotrys, or “black mold.” And it could mean a new revenue stream for contractors. But at what cost?

Concern over the health effects of black mold has spawned the creation of test kits, which can be used by homeowners to determine the presence of black mold. These kits are available through hvacr contractors, manufacturers, and retail stores.

One example of a kit available through retail stores is the “Professional Mold Test Kit,” which is available at Home Depot. Information about the kit and the health hazards it is designed to detect are available at (website). The kit is produced by Pro-Lab.

While consumers are educated on the subject, the question remains, “Who is liable for structural damage and health problems caused by black mold?” I asked an hvacr contractor and a manufacturer to comment on this new wave of products designed to test residential indoor air quality.

“We use a different kit,” said Larry Taylor, owner of AirRite Air Conditioning, Fort Worth, TX, and past president of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA). “We use Home Diagnostics from Purisys. We sell it to the homeowner, who takes the samples and mails them off, with a check, to get the test results.

“Once the results are back, then we help the consumer decide if it is just duct cleaning and mold treatment we need to do, or if they need to call in an outside mold abatement company. It has worked well for us and limits our liability in taking the test and disturbing the mold spores.”

Taylor said that selling the Home Diagnostics kit is an obvious endorsement of the product, and liabilities that may be attached to the endorsement are like anything else he sells. “It is no different than selling a condensing unit, furnace, coil, or any other product we purchase and resell,” he said. “It would either fall under our completed products, general liability, or pollution insurance coverages.

“But with the way insurance is changing, we have to always keep asking the questions.”


Robert Baker, chairman and ceo of BBJ Environmental, Tampa, FL, emphasized that consumer education is a must.

“Several of these [kits] are beginning to pop up — mostly on the Internet,” said Baker. “Without training and guidance, homeowners are unlikely to realize value from such a product, as they are likely to take the sample incorrectly, contaminate the test and get a false reading, or misinterpret the results. They do not know what to do once they get the results.

“We are preparing to offer contractors a testing device that is reasonable enough that each technician could carry one in the service truck. This will be sold through our existing network of factory reps and distributors, and our regional managers will provide training to both distributor personnel and contractors.

“Such products are the wave of the future for contractors, but putting them in the hands of the general public is like putting cans of R-22 back on the shelf at Home Depot. The end result is that someone else will make a lot more money cleaning up the mess that a lot of homeowners make. Unfortunately, in this case it is likely to be a hospital.”

In short, the mold test kits are giving consumers the choice of taking matters into their own hands, and possibly taking responsibility and liability out of the contractor’s hands.

Stay tuned.

Hall is business management editor. He can be reached at 734-542-6214; 734-542-6215 (fax); (e-mail).

Publication date: 04/01/2002