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Old 09-10-2007, 02:58 PM   #1
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Musty smell from closet after leak

In late June I noticed that my wood parquet floors were buckling in my apartment. 2 weeks later it got worse and we noticed if you stepped down hard on a wood tile, water would come to the surface. I called my landlord and reported the problem and about 4-5 days later they had a plumber come up to fix a pipe they said had a hole in it from the apartment above.

As we have twin 20-month-old boys, who love to climb into anything, we could not allow holes in the walls that they can reach to be left uncovered. The building could put anything over it, such as a wire mesh or other material to allow the walls to dry, but could not just leave it open as it would pose a potential injury risk to my children. So instead, being lazy, they decided to just plaster up the walls.

A few days later, the area they plastered and painted appeared to be staining. There was a yellowish/brown color to the area they painted. When I notified the building they said it was because the inside of the walls was still wet and without the holes open it will cause that problem until they dry. No idea why they didn't just raise the level of the holes so they were inaccessible.

A few days later, my wife was looking in the closet along the same wall and she noticed black mold running up the closet wall adjoining where the leak was. The mold looked like the typical moisture mold you see in a bathroom, which has bad ventilation. We emptied the closet; the building came up and cleaned down the walls with something, scraped and repainted.

Since all of this the floors have been replaced and they have provided a high-powered fan to supposedly dry out the walls. Not sure what this will do, as the moisture won’t just go away, right? It needs to be collected once it is evaporated from the walls. So I went out and spent my own money to buy a dehumidifier.

My problem, though, is that there is still a strong musty smell coming from the closet and eventually pervades a large portion of the apartment. I have been running a dehumidifier and that removes the smell, but once I shut it off the smell comes back. The building just keeps telling me the smell is from the walls, because they are still wet, and due to it being summer, it is taking very long to dry off. Isn't 3 months excessive though?

What I have been doing:
  1. Running the fan sometimes at night. Very loud and spreads the smell around so not really something I want to do often.
  2. Run the dehumidifier 24/7. If I keep the closet door closed it takes forever to fill. If I open the door, it fills up quickly. Not sure if this is a sign of just a moist summer in NYC, crappy windows in the apartment letting the moisture in, or a moisture problem coming from outside.
  3. Keep closet door open when kids are not in the apartment or asleep.

Now, my questions are:
  1. Should it really be taking this long for a wall to dry off?
  2. If the closet smells bad, is this typically a sign of mold? If it is, I assume I need to get a testing service in to take samples and analyze what’s going on? This is especially concerning considering my children’s age.
  3. Should the building be doing anything else?

Hopefully someone can help me!


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Old 09-10-2007, 05:49 PM   #2
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You have a problem. When a water intrusion of this sort occurs several things need to be done. All flooring needs to be removed. The baseshoe as well as the drywall needs to be removed at least 12" from the areas that are wet. The area should have been contained and a dehu put into the area until dry. Using fans in an area that is not contained can spead mold spores through out the home. Once the drydown is complete the exposed wood should be wirebrushed with an antibactrial solution. Once this is complete then the area should be tested. Mold starts to form in less than 24hours without a proper drydown. I suggest you have a serious chat with the managment of your apartment. This can cause problems not only for you but for others in the building as well. A professional will be able to take moisture readings and let you know what areas are wet.


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Old 09-10-2007, 08:36 PM   #3
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I totally agree and I am 100% sure they did not handle this right. Nothing is handled right in this building. I am also sure there is a mold issue because of the smell.

I am assuming if there is a smell then there is mold?

Unfortunately, I need to educate myself before I can go attack the management. Unless you have rented an apartment in a 400 unit NYC apartment building, you do not know how difficult it is to deal with the management unless you have a lot of facts behind you.

Am I correct in saying that this whole "smell is coming from a wet wall" is a load of BS? That the smell is mold and that a wall should have dried within 3 months?
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