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Old 06-06-2011, 06:56 PM   #1
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Mold found - unsure what to do??


We have a 3 story townhouse purchased in January 2010 with a few issues going on.

Issue #1:

There is definitely some mold on the drywall behind the kitchen sink and on the drywall behind the next cabinet – we just discovered this yesterday and it has likely been there a long time. It is only about a foot of mold in a line about an inch or 2 thick, but still I am concerned that there is mold covering all the insides of the walls. When we bought the house it had been sitting vacant for a while and the home inspector told us about a slow leak that had damaged the board beneath the sink - didn't mention any mold. My husband and his cousin removed the board and put a new one - don't remember seeing any mold. This new mold is along the back where the pipe comes out of the wall and has me worried it's a sign of a new leak inside the walls or even a leak from outside rain water. (There is a window right above the sink) There is also a ton of cement patching? or something around the wall and pipe and I am not sure what kind of past problem that indicates.

Issue #2:

Also in February we had a water leak through the floor in an upstairs bathroom all the way down through the ceiling in the living room. (I didn't have the shower curtain correctly and water was spilling out all over the floor. Then I guess it found a corner of the bathroom with no caulking or trim and made its way downstairs - by the time it broke through the ceiling it was quite a bit of water) We dried it out best as we could but a tiny amount of mold was found at the bottom of the wall in the bathroom. I am concerned that it is all on the inside of the walls, as well as the space in-between the 2 floors. I had a fan running on this corner for 2 days and it still grew there so it leaves me wondering what the heck is inside my walls and ceiling where it's damp and dark?

The Situation

I had a mold testing company come out (highly rated on Yelp) yesterday and they looked at everything and we ended up taking 1 air sample in the dining room below the water damaged ceiling and near the kitchen sink mold. They don’t open up the walls or anything like that to see the extent of the mold because they said that can make things unnecessarily worse. I have already paid for an inspection and testing so don’t see the need to repeat that, but feel like surely both myself and a remediation company would need more information about what is actually in my walls. Similarly, if my air quality test comes back with unsafe levels, how do I know where it is coming from? So is this something that a remediation company does before giving a quote?

I feel like I'm in a bind here. It could be 1 inch of mold on some drywall in the bathroom that is best left alone and just a few inches on some drywall in the kitchen and an easy $300 repair, or it could be an extensive problem(s) with thousands of dollars worth of remediation and repair needed but you don't really know that until you open things up and release all the spores into the air! I'm pregnant and due in the beginning of November and not sure what to do here.

My husband just wants to patch up the ceiling where the water came out downstairs, and ignore the tiny spot of mold upstairs and put new flooring, baseboards, and Kilz paint. As far as the kitchen he wants to leave it alone as well, at least for now. (We were planning to gut the kitchen and put an IKEA kitchen in sometime later this year - and when we do gut the kitchen he doesn't want remediation) He was very hesitant to even get an inspection and thinks remediation is a total waste of money. I realize that remediation is expensive and obviously I am upset too! But things happen when you own a home and I'm most concerned about the health of my husband and myself and especially the baby. I'm also concerned about leaving hidden mold in a ceiling and having a problem if we ever wanted to rent out the house or resell it.

I do understand where my husband is coming from, in a way. His argument is that the mold inspector told us if anything was in-between the bathroom floor and living room ceiling, it would be dead because there is no more moisture there. So he thinks that sealing off both ends is better than trying to find out if there is more mold and I guess opening a Pandora's box and wasting thousands on remediation that wasn't necessary because mold wasn't getting into the air. My argument is that even if it's not getting into the air NOW I still don't want it in my home, to release spores, possibly become re-activated later on, damage the structure, and creating a future liability issue. Obviously you need to disclose things like this but I know my husband and he won't want to disclose it and that we should just pretend it never happened. Well I'm not going to allow myself to get sued!

I almost WANT the air quality report to come back that we have a mold problem so that he'll listen to me and we can get it gone once & for all.


Last edited by izzyant88; 06-08-2011 at 02:14 PM.
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Old 06-07-2011, 06:49 AM   #2
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Mold found - unsure what to do??


If you're sure there is mold, open a wall and look.

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Old 06-07-2011, 08:18 AM   #3
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Mold found - unsure what to do??


A couple of observations here based on the info you provided. First thing. If you have visible mold, clean it up. Leaving it undisturbed just allows more spores to enter the air. If the ceiling is already damaged from the bath tub incident, cut it open and look inside. The best mold detection equipment you have is on the front of your face. If it looks like mold, it probably is. If it smells like mold, it probably is. Use a 10% bleach solution and clean anything visible. Second thing is to find a better mold testing company. One or two air samples is absolutely NOT the way to perform a mold investigation. He should have taken at least 4-5 inside, both close to the suspect area and at remote locations and 1 sample outside of the house. The reason is to sort of make a map of where spore concentrations are highest. As it stands now, you will get a report that says mold spores were found and this will be correct, but it will be useless information because you have no background to compare to. Mold spores are everywhere. You probably breathed in a few thousand walking to your car. Proper air sampling will allow you a room to room comparison and a comparison to normal spore levels outside. You should never expect to have lower spore levels than the outside air. That said, spore counts alone are not indicative of an infestation. They are a tool to pinpoint an area for further investigation. He should have taken the samples while no-one was inside the house to stir the air as well. (I once saw a mold clearance air sample destroyed by a worker sprinkling ranch dressing on his lunch next to a mold collection plate.) Your mold tester should also have taken moisture readings in various locations both in the area of suspected leaks and at known dry locations for comparison. A pro would also offer to poke a small hole in the wall and use a borescope to see what is going on inside the wall cavities. Another thing that bothers me is that your mold person said that if it dried, the mold is dead. That is untrue. If the area had viable mold colonies and then dried to the point that the mold couldn’t thrive, it would go dormant. It wouldn’t die. A mold specialist should know that. If the area becomes dampened again, the mold will return with a vengeance. Even dormant, a mold colony will continue to load the air with higher than normal spore levels and mold fragments. I just love when a company claims to be professional and hasn’t got a clue as to what they’re dealing with.
Another point. Just what are unsafe levels? There is no threshold limit for numbers of mold spores or mold by-products that are unsafe. Normally healthy adults have not been shown to suffer any ill effects from exposure to molds. I would not, however, expose an infant to those conditions that an adult can tolerate. Generally, mold is an indicator of other building problems that need to be addressed, such as leaks or ventilation issues.
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Old 06-07-2011, 10:56 AM   #4
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Mold found - unsure what to do??


Yelp is not one place that I would trust for "High reviews" of a company. As for the mold, there are proper ways to clean up, and there are improper ways to clean up.
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Old 06-07-2011, 01:36 PM   #5
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Thank you all very much for your comments.

Sorry, I should have clarified. He did take a sample of the air outside as a comparison and the detailed report will show that. I understand about normal spore levels. He took pictures of anything that had water damage or mold and documented each area in the report. He did have a moisture meter and used it in several places, luckily we don't have any areas of high moisture/active leaks. He did recommend air samples in other areas but we had not budgeted for so many and at the time could only afford the price of the inspection + 1 inside air sample + 1 outside air sample. I actually do trust Yelp very much and have never had a bad experience. I use Angie's List as well but there was a lack of local mold testing companies on there and none I felt comfortable with. I never hire anyone without doing research and even then I take everything they tell me with a grain of salt and look it up on my own. I already found out about "dead" vs. "dormant" and that was my concern as well - in another leak it could come back with a vengeance.

I'm waiting for the e-mailed report but he left me a voicemail this morning that the levels in the air sample were pretty low. During the inspection he took his time - and asked alot of questions - about 2 hours for a 1000sq foot house - and never tried to upsell us anything. He showed us the areas of concern and was honest with us about what we should do, that we should get it taken care of the right way, but at the same time assured us that so far what he had found was nothing over-the-top - for example in the bathroom - and it was up to us what we wanted to do. His approach was that it's not the visible mold so much that is a concern - you can see it and know what to do with it - but it's what you can't see inside the walls - that is the real problem. The testing company is not attached to a remediation company so there's no conflict of interest. I had read reviews of some places that came in for 8 minutes, poked around with their moisture meter, and charged $200 and left.

I have thought about poking into the ceiling more, but if there's something up in there, isn't it better to either leave it alone or use a professional than just disturbing it ourselves and having it release spores everywhere?

I think what we may do is have my husband's cousin - who is basically a handyman - cut out the piece of drywall in the bathroom with the tiny spot of mold and check for anything else behind it. If we see a ton, stop and get a professional, but if we don't see anything else in there, just replace that piece of drywall and continue with replacing the flooring. For the kitchen I definitely want to get a pro just because I don't know how far-reaching it could be and I like how they seal off the area. How does this plan sound?

Last edited by izzyant88; 06-07-2011 at 01:43 PM.
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Old 06-07-2011, 01:40 PM   #6
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Mold found - unsure what to do??


I side mostly with your husband. Minor mold issues in a house are incredibly common, and most are not worth worrying about. If the source of the water has already been corrected, just clean up any mold you can see with a fungicide and then repair the ceiling damage.

The kitchen sounds a bit more serious, but I still wouldn't touch it until you get around to replacing the cabinets. Once the cabs are out it will be cheap and easy to open the wall. I'd use that opportunity to strip off as much drywall as necessary to do a proper repair.
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Old 06-07-2011, 02:13 PM   #7
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The kitchen sounds a bit more serious, but I still wouldn't touch it until you get around to replacing the cabinets. Once the cabs are out it will be cheap and easy to open the wall. I'd use that opportunity to strip off as much drywall as necessary to do a proper repair.
Yeah my thoughts exactly. I hate that kitchen so can't wait to get it ripped out!
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Old 06-08-2011, 07:10 AM   #8
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Mold found - unsure what to do??


Glad to hear that the mold test guy at least performed some of what he needed to. Even if it was a little less than I would like to see, it is probably enough. If spore counts are low and he found no moisture levels that were out of line, then I would clean up any visible mold and stop worrying. The testing evidence does not point to an infestation. A one time water event, such as an overflowed tub, does not generally cause a longterm problem. A continuous slow drip inside a wall will become a mold incubator. Since you have no moisture levels out of line, that is obviously not happening.
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Old 06-08-2011, 02:13 PM   #9
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Glad to hear that the mold test guy at least performed some of what he needed to. Even if it was a little less than I would like to see, it is probably enough. If spore counts are low and he found no moisture levels that were out of line, then I would clean up any visible mold and stop worrying. The testing evidence does not point to an infestation. A one time water event, such as an overflowed tub, does not generally cause a longterm problem. A continuous slow drip inside a wall will become a mold incubator. Since you have no moisture levels out of line, that is obviously not happening.
Thank you very much! Your rational approach makes sense, and has given me much peace of mind. That day I was just caught up in the worry and getting freaked out
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Old 06-08-2011, 05:30 PM   #10
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The mold testing company that you used sounds like a professional group, well done.
Regarding the health effects of mold, it should not have an adverse risk on your health unless you are in at risk categories eg. asthma, compromised immune system or specific mold allergies.
That's not saying it is good for you, but merely that the average human immune system is able to cope with the daily onslaught of bacteria and fungi pathogens.

One other method that may help prevent further mold in the future is a roof ventilator. Cleaning mold using chemicals is like mowing the lawn, it will just keep on growing back. That is why you have to adress the source of the problem. High moisture and a lack of ventilation. Have a look at this website for roof ventilators as there is a good visual aid that show the mechanics of how they work at circulating the air around the house.
I agree with comments that you should not worry about it until you rip into the kitchen, but the roof ventilators are a long term solution if you find the house is mould prone.
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Old 06-09-2011, 10:06 AM   #11
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Hey Izzyant88,

My pregnant wife went a little crazy when she saw this...

But everything worked out fine. I just had to tear the entire wall apart, fix the roof, air seal and insulate the wall. Then put everything back together.

FYI - The EPA has some great information on removing mold here...
http://www.epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html

I followed their advice and my wife and I were fine. My baby boy, Jordan, was born 13 days ago and is healthy and happy.
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Old 06-17-2011, 12:42 AM   #12
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. Use a 10% bleach solution and clean anything visible.
We had a mould problem 2 years ago and learnt the hard way to choose carefully what we cleaned it up with. At first we diluted bleach - but found out off others that the mould will feed of any water - and come back again - which it did.

This is a professional mould cleaner which is good - depending on what surfaces you need. Pretty heavy stuff - don't imagine anything could live after being covered in it.

One of our friends who has also had mould said that they cleaned it up with pure vinegar and that worked for them.
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Old 06-17-2011, 06:21 AM   #13
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You do realize that this product is greater than 50% water as well and if you don't get things dry, the mold WILL come back. And that it is no more effective than bleach. And that it is about 10 times the price. There are hundreds of things that will kill mold. What the residuals will do to your home environment or the materials it's made of are another matter. There are certain specific steps that must be followed for effective mold remediation. Skip one and you will fail.

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