Black Growth On AC Vents Makes House Sick

mold in ac vents

 

Have you ever noticed little black spots on air vents in your bedroom? How about little droplets of condensation dangling precariously, ready to fall at any moment? Here in south Florida where humidity levels reach nearly 100%, it’s not uncommon for the duct work running through attics to begin sweating, especially as they work harder during the summer months. Most homeowners simply wipe the condensation and black spots away, sometimes even going so far as to use bleach. Almost no one ventures up into the attic to investigate further. That’s exactly what the victim did in this case of the sick house.

Dwelling:     Single Family Home                   

 Category:     Mold                   

 Location:     AC Closet, Attic, Bedrooms, Bathrooms

For five years, Roman hadn’t thought much about the fact that his AC vents would start dripping condensation once in awhile. The only time it became annoying was when he would get splashed himself as he was walking underneath – not dissimilar to well-timed dive bomb of poop from a bird with a grudge. Much less dramatic of course, but you get the idea.

If it was just the water, he would simply grab a dish towel and wipe down the offending vent. It was during his wiping that he remembered to take notice of the weather, the humidity levels in particular. It seemed that his AC was just working harder because it was hotter and more humid. Still, there were times he noticed black growth on some of the vents. This prompted him to change his air filter, probably more often than he should have to, because he thought it was simply beyond its capacity.

It wasn’t until the AC vent in his bedroom closet spit on him one morning while he was getting ready for work that he noticed the black growth on the ceiling itself beside the AC vent, in addition to the same growth on the vent itself that he’d cleaned numerous times before. He decided to check near the vents in the other rooms of the house and noticed the black stuff growing not only around multiple vents, but also in the corners where the ceiling and walls met. His first thought was that he might have a roof leak.

He was fortunate that his brother-in-law was a handyman. He made the call and asked if he could come by and inspect his roof for a possible leak after explaining the situation. Later that afternoon, Roman’s handy bro-in-law was climbing around up in the attic, looking for signs of water damage or holes in the roof.

“I don’t see anything here, Bro. I mean, you got some dirt around some of your duct work and they’re sweating almost as bad as I am right now, but it’s an attic. It’s what they do. Just clean the spots with some bleach. I do it all the time.”

Grateful for the feedback and inspection, Roman still wasn’t convinced he didn’t have a bigger problem.

“Maybe I should call my AC company to come out and take a look.”

“You could do that, but I don’t think they’ll tell you anything beyond change your filter and maybe drain your drip pan or lines. I can do that for you and save you the $80 service fee. Look, if you’re really worried about it, call this guy at Mammoth. He’ll come take a look at it for free.”

The next day, Lead Inspector and owner of Mammoth Restoration, Nate Smith was on the scene. His first thought was a roof leak as well. There was no doubt that the black growth was mold. That was the easy part. The more difficult task was finding the source. This case was especially troublesome because there was mold growing in multiple rooms of the house, most near AC vents and top corners of the rooms, but there was some indications of water damage and the beginning stages of mold near the baseboards and around the tub as well.

The AC closet was upstairs. That was the first stop after he’d walked around the house, making notes of each room that had signs of damage. He quickly noticed the steady drip from one of the drain pipes, leaking directly onto the floor underneath. Following his hunch, he went back downstairs, pulling out his moisture meter as he did so. As he’d suspected, the ceiling was wet directly underneath the AC closet. Roman mentioned the previous owners having a water leak in the same spot years before and had the ceiling patched up.

The AC closet was definitely a problem, but not the source of the mold growing in multiple rooms. He went around each room, testing for moisture on the drywall. Each time he got a positive reading back, but not high enough to be a leaking roof. He resigned himself to the fact that he was going to have to climb around the attic to even begin putting this puzzle together. Roman had a previous engagement he couldn’t get out of, so Nate had to stop his inspection and return the next day.

Nate remembered to pack a change of clothes the next morning in anticipation of being in the attic for awhile. There’s nothing he hated more than not being able to find the source of a problem. It was his specialty after all. Once in the attic, he zeroed in on the ducting leading directly to the vents. While a little sweating wasn’t uncommon, it was an indication that the AC system wasn’t working as intended.

He pulled back the insulation for the first vent, revealing the metal brackets holding the vent in place. Not only did he immediately identify that the duct work was allowing air to escape into the attic, but he also noticed the small stream of water trailing its way down the bracket down the the supporting framework of the house.

And mold. Mold growing on the fibers of insulation stuck to the metal bracket. Mold growing on the back of the insulation sheet itself, and of course, mold growing on the wood and drywall for the ceiling. Like a spelunker eagerly following an underwater stream, Nate quickly worked his way through the maze of duct work, pulling up insulation as he went to each vent. He felt the familiar rush of excitement at cracking this case. But a sadness began to fill his heart as he was putting the rest of the puzzle together.

Conclusion: The sense of sadness Nate felt was because he realized that nearly all of the duct work in Roman’s home is going to have to be replaced. Yes, attics are humid and some sweating may happen from time to time. But what he’d realized is that none of the duct work had been secured properly. There was a handmade bracket made of 2×4 beams for an odd angle for one of the ducts. There are parts specially made for such angles to ensure no air escapes into the attic space surrounding it. Just like there are connectors for each vent to prevent the same thing. Apparently, the contractors who had installed the duct work had cut some corners to save money. The air escaping into the hot, humid attic caused all of the duct work to sweat to the point of dripping profusely, creating pools of water as they dropped onto the attaching vent brackets. Gravity took care of sending the water down the walls and ceilings, creating the ideal environment for mold to grow.

 

2 Story Townhouse Destroyed In 2 Hours

Water Damage

If you’re a property manager or rental listing agent, a nightmare scenario would be finding major damage to the property on the day you’re showing your available listing to a potential tenant. The same could be said if you’re a potential tenant having looked for weeks for the perfect place to make home for the foreseeable future. That’s exactly what happened in this case where the victims watched in horror as two hours was all it took for water damage to completely destroy this would-be home.

Dwelling:     Townhouse                   

 Category:     Water                   

 Location:     Whole House

Flower hung up the phone with a smile on her face. She had just booked a visit with what seemed like the perfect couple to rent her townhouse in Pembroke Pines. This was one of many units she owned and rented, and she prided herself on the discerning criteria she outlined before she’d even show a unit to someone wanted to rent from her. Only twice in 10 years of managing her own properties had she shown a property to someone that didn’t end up renting. She was a busy woman and taking the time to show a property required a valuable number of hours out of her day. If they don’t qualify or decide they don’t like something about the property she’s showing, it was time wasted for both parties. She knew her time was worth a lot and she assumed everyone else’s was too!

As Flower was forwarding her office line to her cell phone and preparing for the two hour drive from Stuart to Pembroke Pines, a wave of despair suddenly hit her about the upcoming visit. She paused and slowly sat back down as she tried to figure out what she was feeling and why. She pulled up her file on the potential residents and reviewed everything.

They were perfect on paper.

She then replayed the conversations she’d had with them over the past few days and couldn’t identify anything that should be setting off her internal alarm that had served her so well for so long. Outwardly shrugging it off, but still unable to shake the feeling internally, she gathered the rest of her things, locked the office and started her drive.

As was her custom, she spent most of the drive on the phone, following up with other potential leads or checking in on her current renters. She had a reputation for being a proactive property manager and landlord – a reputation that allowed her to rent out to higher-end tenants that expected a higher level of service. Still, that feeling of unease persisted. No matter what she did to distract herself, she couldn’t ignore that nagging feeling of impending doom.

When she was five minutes away from her destination, and an hour before her scheduled showing, she got a call from her handyman for all of her properties in Dade County. he’d been her guy for at least half of her time owning and managing properties.

“Hi Dave! What’s up?”

“Mrs. Flower, I just pulled up to the townhouse on 11th Street that you’re showing today. I got bad news – the toilet upstairs…it broke!”

“What do you mean it broke?”

“Water….everywhere. When I opened the door, I stepped into a big puddle of water. I heard water gushing from upstairs so I ran to the bathroom and saw the water spilling from the hose to the toilet. It’s turned off now, but it’s been flooding for a couple of hours it looks like!”

Suddenly, her feeling of despair made sense. She believed the universe possessed a cosmic power,not dissimilar to shock waves emitting from the blast of a bomb. They occurred during significant events in all of our lives, both the good and the bad. If we pay attention and really tune into the things in our lives that mean the most, we can feel them.

Her first career had crashed, hard – as had the rest of her life. Or so it seemed at the time. Her marriage had disintegrated in front of her eyes, and she didn’t even notice. Not that anyone was more at fault more than the other. It just happened because neither one of them were paying attention. When she noticed, it debilitated her. She spent nearly every waking hour consumed by self-doubt as a wife and mother. Things at work fell apart, quickly. She was a legal secretary at a mid-size law firm. The tasks of preparing case files, writing various correspondence to clients, lawyers and judges amidst a myriad of other jobs that were part of her job, became too much to handle. She didn’t blame them for letting her go.

Four months after involuntarily becoming a stay-at-home mom, she met a woman at Dunkin Donuts when she was getting coffee one  morning. Flower nearly ran into her, probably spilling coffee over both of them, had Sara not been paying attention and stepped out of the way.

“I’m so sorry!”

Sara smiled, “Don’t worry about it. I saw how indecisive you were about what kind of coffee to get and figured you were distracted. I’ve been there myself.”

Slightly taken aback, Flower asked, “Why do you think I’m distracted just because I had trouble picking coffee? I like different drinks based on my mood.”

“And what is your mood today?”

“I…I don’t know. I guess that’s why I got a plain black coffee.”

“Exactly. You’re unaware of YOU”,  she said, gently pointing her figure in my direction.

They’ve been best friends ever since. It was Sara who helped her down the path of enlightenment about how we’re all connected. Every human, animal and plant in the universe. Every decision a person makes in their life sends out a shock wave. Some are bigger than others, but they happen – impacting the lives of everything around us in some way. Pay attention, and we can feel them.

Flower was dialed in to the things that mattered to her. Herself and her family. She and Miguel wanted to retire and travel as soon as their youngest graduated college. They had 8 more years. Putting two kids through college and retiring at the age of 55 wasn’t cheap. Her career as landlord and property manager not only provided substantial income to contribute towards her future, but afforded her the ability to be present for the important events in her children’s and husband’s lives. Paying attention is what allowed her to feel the shock wave of the water flooding the property she was showing today.

The car behind her honked, snapping her back to the moment. As she started driving again, she asked, “How bad is it?”

“It’s bad ma’am. Everything is wet upstairs, and most everything downstairs. The ceiling is already starting to droop and break.”

“Crap”, she exclaimed. “I’ll be there in two minutes.”

Already the wheels were turning as her brain quickly ran through all the ways this was bad. The most obvious being the physical damage to the property, which sounded substantial despite not having anyone living there currently. At least the place was empty.

Then she thought about the lost revenue from however long it was before she could move someone in now that major repairs were going to have to be done.

“No sense stressing about it.”

As she pulled into the assigned parking for the corner unit townhouse she called her long-time insurance agent.

“Robin, this is Flower. I’ve got a major situation at the property on 11th Street in Pembroke Pines. I’m walking into the unit right now but my handyman told me that a water line broke in the upstairs bathroom. Can you help get the claim filed and get someone out here to help me?”

“No problem, Flower. I’ll have our restoration company call you when their on their way then call Citizens to file the claim.”

Robin, and the rest of the agents in the office, have used Mammoth for years. In fact, their marketing manager had just stopped in the week before. She quickly found his number and called him directly.

Conclusion: Twelve minutes after Flower hung up with Robin, Mammoth’s lead water team, Guns and 6-7, were headed towards Pembroke Pines. The source was identified as the connector for the water supply line to the toilet. The team used more equipment than suggested by IICRC standards, but doing so enabled us to save a significant portion of the drywall and ceiling. The extra equipment was used to funnel air into and dehumidify the narrow space between the first and second floors. Mammoth’s marketing manager has passed along information to both Flower and the adjuster about the possibility of subrogation for this claim.

If you’ve had water damage caused by a water supply line in your home, read this article, “Water Supply Line Class Action Lawsuits for Leaks, Burst Lines“.

 

Water Damage Restoration Gone Wrong

ceiling_leak

Ask  condo owners about their property managers or associations and you’ll likely get a few emotionally charged responses accompanied by stories how awful or wonderful they were during a catastrophe. In this case, the property manager seems to have been well-intentioned by calling their “go-to” restoration company when an owner recently had a flood on the second floor, but the results ended up costing the parties involved thousands of dollars in expenses that could have been avoided. This is the case of water damage restoration done completely wrong.

Dwelling:     Condo                   

 Category:     Water                   

 Location:     Kitchen, Dining Room, Living Room

What should have been a mildly annoying intrusion from an unwanted visitor for our unfortunate condo owner ended up leaving her with what could be many months of frustrating back and forth between two insurance carriers, a property manager and home owner’s association. Many of the headaches yet to be endured could have been avoided had we only been contacted sooner.

It all started when a couple of birds decided to make the victim’s attic their new home for the sake of hatching a couple of eggs. Any animals or pests nesting in the attic carry with them the potential for insects or diseases, requiring your home to be fumigated. Our condo owner got in touch with her property manager and advised them of the problem. The response was very quick, setting up an appointment for later that day. The maintenance supervisor for the property led the pest control specialists into the attic access. It didn’t take long to find the nest that had been built by the unwanted inhabitants, but it was after carefully navigating through the tight space. On the way back, the specialist tripped over the pipe for the sprinkler system that was covered up by insulation. We’re sure you can guess what happened next.

It only took a few minutes to locate the emergency shut off valve to that part of the system, but not before the broken pipe loosed enough water to create a pretty cool looking waterfall into the owner’s living room. The water ran along the ceiling to the crystal chandelier hanging in the dining room, creating a multitude of tiny rainbows as each drop of water fell to the floor.

The victim’s son, thinking quickly, grabbed a couple of large trash bins from their patio and placed them on top of the table. Within a minute, the water was shut off so the flow of water slowed to a trickle.

The maintenance supervisor immediately ran back to the victim’s unit to assess the damage, pulling out his cell phone as he ran. Upon seeing the cracked ceiling and water spreading all over the floor and furnishings inside the unit, he called the company with whom the association had a service contract. They showed up with equipment ready to remove the standing water and dry out anything that could be salvaged.

Or so the victim and her son thought.

The irritating inconvenience of birds making a home in their attic had quickly become an all out nightmare, and getting worse by the minute. The water damage company started haphazardly moving furniture around, leaving scrape marks across the floor, scratching the wooden coffee table and laying an expensive oriental run across the iron railing of the patio. After everything had been moved, the technicians then proceeded to knock holes every foot or so in the drywall above the baseboards around the room.

Helpful Tip: In most cases, condo associations are responsible for the drywall and anything behind the drywall in each unit. Texturing and painting the drywall fall to the homeowner. If you live in a condo, be sure to thoroughly read through the association responsibilities.

That was the case in this situation. So, the water damage company, under contract and contacted by property management employees, were tasked with ensuring the drywall got dried out. Little to no care was shown about the personal property damaged throughout this ordeal.

The following day, the water damage company came back to monitor the equipment and see how the dry out process was progressing. It was at this point the homeowner pointed out some of the damage that had been done to her furniture. She also pointed out that her rug was starting to smell and there was an orange, rust-like discoloration starting to appear on her rug.

“Ma’am, I’m going to be honest with you. You may want to call someone else out here. We were tasked with making sure the drywall was saved as our top priority.”

Taken aback by the brazenness with which the technician shrugged off the additional damage in her home, she immediately called her insurance agent. She quickly explained the situation to her agent and asked for guidance. Not surprised by the sequence of events, the agent advised our homeowner that most likely she would need to file a claim with her insurance, who would in turn go after the pest control company’s insurance for the damages. The first thing, however, was to get someone out there that could start the process of righting this disaster of a situation.

Enter Mammoth Restoration. Our lead water team, Rees and Six-seven, were dispatched to the scene. Having been briefed by our dispatcher, Jimmy, they guys knew they were walking into a bad situation with a frustrated homeowner. And it sounded like she had every reason to be upset, besides the obvious issue of a major leak in her home.

The first thing they noticed upon entering was how high the humidity was. The previous company had left 6 axial fans, which is appropriate for drying out a “top-down” flood, or one that leaks down from the ceiling or room above for the lay person. But what they didn’t do was direct the flow of air directly into the ceiling itself to facilitate drying out that space, nor did they leave a dehumidifier – an essential part of the drying out process.

Without a dehumidifier to absorb the excess moisture in the air being generated by the fans, the humidity just hangs in the air, like an invisible storm cloud inside the space. What’s worse is that it can spread to the unaffected areas of the house, in some cases, causing damage to prized possessions like this signed Mickey Mantel jersey that got ruined from an improper water damage dry out.

Despite their respective sizes, the 6’7″ giant and hulking 245 lb power lifter clamored up into the attic to assess the damage there, along with the wood flooring in the living and dining rooms inside the unit. The main issue that had not been addressed by the previous company, was the wet insulation in the attic. Wet insulation, along with the already humid environment of the attic space, creates the perfect breeding ground for mold.

Conclusion: After explaining the potential hazard with the wet insulation, the improper set-up and lack of correct equipment and what could be done to possibly save the wooden floors that had yet to be addressed, the victim desired to hire Mammoth right on the spot. The first restoration company was called in to remove their equipment. Rees and Six-seven placed a drying mat for the floor and set up the equipment to properly dry out and regulate the humidity inside the great room. They got the insulation removed from the attic and set up a tube using plastic sheeting that directed air directly into the attic space for proper dry out. The undamaged personal property was moved and contained and affected personal belongings were moved to our in-house storage facility for proper cleaning.

Water Heater Leak Destroys Home During Two Day Vacation

water-damage

It’s not unusual for a family to sneak out of town for a little R&R during a weekend getaway. Make sure everything is turned off, all windows and doors are closed and locked, then take your pets to friends, family or a boarding facility. For most of us, this is as far as we go when preparing to leave our home for any stretch of time. Our latest victim learned the hard way that even a short, two-day absence can be enough time for water damage to destroy almost his entire home. This is the case of the homeowner who got a wet welcome home.

Dwelling:     Single Family                  

 Category:     Water Damage                   

 Location:     Whole House

Irony is a highly subjective topic. Being that as it may, we find it ironic whenever a catastrophe happens to someone who works within the insurance industry since most of our cases involve submitting claims to home insurance providers. The victim in this case happens to be an agent himself. He and his wife left town for only a couple of days but came back to an unwanted wet welcome.

The first sign that something was amiss was the steady drip of water coming from the ceiling in his kitchen. The victim immediately ran upstairs to inspect the room above the kitchen. As soon as he grabbed the banister to help turn the corner and keep his momentum he felt and heard the telltale “squish” of wet carpet under his feet. That slowed him for a brief second before he finished his ascent to the second floor. At the top of the stairs, he gathered his bearings and ended up facing the hall closet which housed the water heater. A pool of water was seeping out from underneath the closed door. Thinking quickly, he flung the door open and found the water valve to the offending appliance and turned the handle counter clockwise until it would turn no more.

Being an insurance agent and having helped his clients through similar situations, he knew that a mop and bucket wouldn’t be enough to get his two story house dried out. He called the emergency service number for Mammoth because he and the owner of Mammoth, Nate, have been longtime friends. He was put in touch with our lead water inspector, Maurice – Rees for short. There are those who call him “Guns” as opposed to his real name because he has trouble fitting through standard doors without having to turn sideways. He attributes his size to power lifting and has quite the entourage at all of the five or six gyms he visits regularly.

Rees arrived on-scene with his partner, Rob. Rob is 6’7″, which is what all of us at Mammoth and most of our customers call him – six-seven for short. As the victim opened the door his eyes widened as he looked up at the two hulking figures standing in his doorway.

With his customary politeness Rees said, “Good morning, Sir. We’re here from Mammoth. I spoke with you on the phone a bit ago.”

Still taking in the sheer size of the men in front of him, the victim, chuckling, asked, “What are you going to do, scare the water out of my house? It’s a good thing this leak isn’t coming from the attic. You boys are so big I don’t think you’d fit up there.”

“That’s what we’ll do if we have to”, Six-seven quipped. “That’s our secret…we show up and water just seeps into whatever hole in the ground it can find.”

The victim welcomed them in and walked them through his stages of discovery, giving Rees a visual of what he’d been told over the phone. Puddles of water covered the tile and wood flooring on the first floor and the paint on numerous walls was bubbling as often happens when it gets wet. They sloshed their way upstairs and the victim showed our water team where he’d shut off the line going to the water heater. Six-seven reached down and did a quick turn to make sure the water was all the way off. Rees saw immediately that the water tank was old and seemed as if it was the original one installed with the house. He knelt down after pulling his flashlight out and examined the area under the tank.

“Obviously this is the source and needs to be replaced. Unfortunately, it looks like there’s some significant damage to the flooring under the water heater that will require pulling up part of this floor and putting down a new one.”

Summary: Because the water heater was so old, it had actually rotted through. That, coupled with the cracked pan, is what led to the waterfall down the stairs and kitchen ceiling. While our team was removing the baseboards and casings around door frames to begin the dry-out process, it was discovered that water was still actively leaking from the water tank. The ball inside the shutoff valve was also broken. To make matters worse, the victim didn’t know where the water main to the house was located. In searching for it, it was discovered that the association had some new landscaping done awhile back. The crew doing the install had covered up the main shutoff to the house with plants and several inches of mulch. It took five hours and finding the original blueprints from the association before the water was completely shut off.

There are two major lessons to be learned from this unfortunate series of events. The first should be a no-brainer but we see it all the time: know where all of your water shutoff valves are located. Each water source (i.e. sinks, tubs, dishwasher, etc) has a water supply line with its own shutoff valve. There is also the main shutoff valve to the whole house. For single family homes, these are usually located outside. Condos and townhouses may have them inside the unit. The second lesson is that perhaps it’s not a bad idea to shut the water off to your house if you’re going to be gone overnight, and especially if you’ll be gone for a week or more.

If you’re unsure of where you shutoff valves are located, call Mammoth and request a courtesy walk-through. We’ll find the valves and mark them with bright red tags so that you can find them easily in the future should the need ever arise – all free of charge.

 

Bathroom Leak Destroys Two Story Historic Home

black_mold_kitchen

Few neighborhoods offer the eye-catching structures as does West Palm Beach’s historic district of Grandview Heights. Homes built prior to the 1930’s often boast beauty and curb appeal unlike what you would find in more modern construction. The downside is that hidden damage isn’t always easy to find, especially a slow water leak that allows mold to erode the home from the top down. This is the case of how a bathroom leak destroyed a kitchen.

Dwelling:     Single Family                  

 Category:     Water Leak, Mold                  

 Location:     Guest bathroom (upstairs), Kitchen (downstairs)

The victim in our most recent case bought his house nearly three years ago – a beautifully remodeled Spanish style single family home built in 1925. It wasn’t long ago that the victim noticed a stain on the ceiling of his kitchen, right above the sink. He’d thought it was an old water stain that he’d simply missed and that the previous owners went over with a thin coat of paint. Our homeowner isn’t one to take chances with his half million dollar investment, however, so he called his friend who works in the home construction industry.

After a quick social visit for the sake of seeing the damage first hand, they both decided it might be best to bring in a mitigation company to make sure it’s old damage and not current.

Nate, the resident mold specialist, lead inspector and owner of Mammoth, is assigned to the case.

He couldn’t help but admire the layout and beauty of this historic home as he walked to the front door. Over almost 20 years, and thanks to many upgrades plus one expansion, this property has risen in value from just under $144,000 in 1997 to nearly $500,000 when the current owner bought it in 2014.

Nate walked through the foyer towards the back of the house. The kitchen is to the right, halfway towards the back. He saw the offending water stain and immediately reached into his bag of gadgets, bringing out his moisture meter. He pointed it towards the affected area and called to the homeowner, “You may want to come see this. You see those purple areas surrounded by orange on the screen?”.

“Sure do”, he said. “What’s that mean?”

“That indicates a difference in temperature. In other words, it’s wet. You have a water leak somewhere up there.”

“Well, that would have to be the bathroom I reckon. It’s directly above us.”

“Let’s go take a look”, our wanna be inspector gadget said as he grabbed his bag of goodies.

Nate knows that a common problem with top down leaks like the one in this case often stem from the shower or bathtub. He quickly scanned the shower walls and base of the tub. He noticed one of the primary indicators of a plumbing leak behind a wall between the right side of the tub and the vanity – separation of the baseboard from the wall.

After gaining permission from the homeowner to perform an aggressive inspection to determine the scope of damage, our inspector removed the baseboard and cut out a small section of drywall only to have his, and the homeowner’s worst fears confirmed…

Mold.

While it’s impossible to determine the age of mold or the type just by looking at it, he had a feeling this had been going on for some time. After watching his dad clean carpets for Stanley Steamer and work his way up to water mitigation then selling Puroclean franchises several years later, and with more than 10 years in the field himself, Nate has developed what can only be described as an acute “awareness” of all things mold related.

He performed a quick check of the fittings to the nearby sink and didn’t notice anything wrong. He then turned his attention back to the shower and noticed some buildup around tub faucet. With his Spidey Senses tingling, Nate set to worth removing the faucet by rotating it counterclockwise. He was met the remains of the plastic that used to be part of the faucet clattering into the tub.

He looked up at the victim with a pained look on his face and said, “You may want to contact your insurance company and get a hygienist out here to test your whole house for mold.”

Summary: The homeowner took Nate’s advice and ordered the mold test. Extremely high levels of stachybotrys, more commonly known as “black mold” were counted by an independent lab analysis. There were more than 17,000 spores of the toxic fungus found in his home, which means it was growing for quite some time. “Stachy” as those in the industry like to call it, takes 30 days or more to grow.

The broken pieces of plastic was a stopper that is usually wrapped around the copper piping to prevent water from running into the wall cavity as the faucet redirected it down and out into the tub. With that piece broken, water had been dripping behind the wall and down to the kitchen below. After mold testing confirmed the presence of mold in the kitchen as well, it was discovered that not only the bathroom wall, but the wood floors and walls behind and under the kitchen sink were completely rotten and infested with mold.

 

Home Buyers Remorse

Buying a previously owned home in Florida, whether it’s your first or your third, can be a risky undertaking. Even the most seasoned home inspectors can miss the telltale signs of mold that can lead to headaches for the new owners if they’re not looking specifically for them. This is the case of home buyers remorse, just over a year into his purchase.

Dwelling:     Single Family                  

 Category:     Mold                  

 Location:     Office

The unsuspecting victims in our case purchased their home a little more than a year ago and for the past few months, have been plagued by persistent coughs, sneezing and other symptoms resembling asthma. Add to that the wood flooring in their office seemed soft and had too much give.

After doing a little bit of research online, they decided to call Integrity Mold Inspections on suspicions that they had mold.

Testing revealed elevated counts of Aspergillus, Cladosporium and Chaetomium in their home office.The results weren’t surprising due to the issues mentioned previously since moving into the house, but were surprising based on the fact that they had not seen any evidence of water damage anywhere.

Enter Mammoth Restoration.

Nate, the owner of Mammoth, and a true detective when it comes to piecing together the mystery of identifying the source(s) of mold, was the specialist on the case. Having the hygienists’ report certainly makes things easier when it comes to finding mold, but often does little to help identify the source.

It took no time to pop off the baseboard under the window in the office (pictured above) and find visual confirmation of what the air quality test already told us. Nate and his apprentice, Derrick, set to work inspecting the wall under the window. None of the usual signs of a leaking window were present. Nate decided to cut a small hole in the drywall surrounding the duct system above and to the right of the window and use his borescope to inspect the drywall and insulation between the floors. He had a theory that perhaps the second floor window above the office was the culprit.

While he was doing this, Derrick was on a trail of his own by further inspecting the dry rotted wood flooring. He noticed that the damage seemed to be just as bad near the entry to the room, opposite where Nate was doing his investigation between the floors. Like a blood hound in pursuit of an escaped convict, Derrick followed his nose through the door way and around the corner to the laundry room – left adjacent to wall shared by the book case whose back wall was infested with mold.

He peered behind the washer and dryer, noticing a slight separation of the baseboards under the water lines for the washing machine. He also noticed a very sloppy paint job that only went part way to the floor near the corner where the office and laundry room shared a wall.

He inquired about the paint job, to which the victims replied they had done no painting in the laundry room since moving in. On a hunch, Derrick took a small rubber ball like the ones you used to be able to buy for a quarter at any grocery store vending machine and walked back towards the office. He set the ball down on the floor, careful not to give it a push at all. His hunch proved correct. The floor was slightly uneven and tilted towards Nate as he was stepping down from his ladder.

“The drwyall between floors is clean. I can’t see any evidence of water damage coming from the window on the second floor either”, Nate exclaimed.

With a slight smile Derrick said, “I think I found the source, boss.”

Summary: It seems as if there had been a pretty significant leak prior to the house being sold, either from the water pipes behind the wall or from the washing machine itself. As is often the case, the previous owners seem to have made a good faith effort to remedy the problem on their own, going so far as to remove some wet drywall and repainting. However, the lack of proper drying added to the sloping floor that allowed water to flow into the next room unnoticed, has left these new homeowners with possibly tens of thousands of dollars in mold removal and reconstruction expenses.