There are basically three different sets of protocols (procedures) used, depending on how long the area has been wet. Visible mold can appear on wet surfaces within 72 hours (within 24 hours in the case of “black water,” e.g. a sewer backup).
First protocol: When the area has been wet for less than 24 hours our aim is to prevent mold growth in the first place. This requires swift response and rapid dry-out to reduce moisture levels below the minimum required to support mold growth. Procedures include extracting excess water, treating wet surfaces to inhibit mold growth during the drying process, opening wet wall cavities and utilizing high velocity air movers and high capacity dehumidification equipment to rapidly dry the structures and materials involved. After 24 hours the above protocol is still used, with the exception that a careful inspection of all exposed surfaces is made to determine if there is visible mold growth. If mold growth is found the next protocol is implemented.
Second protocol: When the area has been wet more than 72 hours special protocols are implemented. Rapid drying is still important to minimize the areas of mold growth (and the areas that will require replacement of structural materials), but in these circumstances containment and special filtration of the drying area is essential to prevent cross contamination of adjacent areas with high quantities of mold spores.
Third protocol: When the area has been wet for a week or more there is little to be gained from drying the structure. The mold is already widespread and the best thing to do is utilize standard mold remediation protocols, which include drying of all remaining wet structural members after all mold impacted materials have been safely removed while under negative air pressure containment.