possible mold issue?

Discussion in 'Remodel Forum & Blog' started by Ken Tannenbaum1, Dec 19, 2013.

  1. Ken Tannenbaum1

    Ken Tannenbaum1 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Catskill, NY
    We own an 1890 farmhouse in Catskill, NY which we bought four years ago. At that time, the home inspector said nothing about mold and since then I haven't seen signs of it. Now all of a sudden my wife and I talk about it AS IF we have a problem. Our conversation started because a friend said she's allergic to mold and won't visit.

    There are two areas of concern. Under a staircase, on an exterior wall, it's more humid than elsewhere and we put DampRid under there to absorb it...which seems to work pretty well. ALSO, in an upstairs carpeted small bedroom which we usually leave the door closed to since it's rarely used, it's always very musty. That room is adjacent to the bathroom. I haven't seen mold in EITHER area, under the aforementioned staircase or in the carpeted bedroom. I've read that mold exists in every house but how can I tell if I have a problem that might cause illness? I read that mold test kits aren't good and hate the idea of bringing in a pro if I don't have a problem. Our house is built on a dirt floor with a well-constructed concrete wall buffering against water flow from a hill on one side. It get's a bit wet down there but I don't even turn on the dehumidifier since there's so little actual water that comes in.

    Any thoughts are appreciated!
  2. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,630
    Location:
    IL
    I would start by getting a remote-reading humidity measuring device. They are often combined with a remote-reading digital thermometer. Put it various places. If you find more than 60% RH for more than a brief time, consider ventilating. Heck, get 2 and put them on separate channels if they are cheap enough.

    I am thinking if you are describing a house over a cellar. Measure humidity there. Maybe a heavy polyethylene sheet on the floor there would help. Also, adding a plastic drain to drain from behind the bottom of your retaining wall to the downhill part of the yard could be worthwhile.
  3. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,438
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Get a new friend ?

    People are paranoid now a days.


    A dehumidifier may help.
  4. Ken Tannenbaum1

    Ken Tannenbaum1 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Catskill, NY
    Hey! That is hilarious and affordable!
  5. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,974
    Location:
    01609
    Before running out and buying a dehumidifier, buy yourself a handful of cheap AccuRite humidity monitors, and put them around suspected areas. You need at least a 60% RH to have any appreciable mold growth, and over 70% to have significant growth, occuring at temperatures above 55F.

    If it's like most 1890s farm houses in NY it has either a fieldstone or quarried stone foundation, and a dirt floor. While the wicking of ground moisture through granite is miniscule compared to poured concrete, quite a bit of moisture can get into the house through a dirt floor. A ground vapor retarder and an inch of rigid EPS foam covered by a 2" rat-slab (unreinforced non-structural concrete) can take that out of the equation. If you insulate and air-seal the foundation walls at the same time it gets even better.

    If you have particular spots that always register a high RH you may have bulk water incursions related to a deteriorated weather barrier (some sort of tar paper or rosin paper over plank sheathing was typical back in the day) under the siding or a lack of window /door flashing, etc. Deep roof overhangs at the eaves and rakes make this less of an issue, but you have to figure out where the moisture is really coming from to treat it properly.

    If it's a timber framed house that was retrofit insulated with blown fiberglass or rock wool in the wall cavities there is some possibility of mold getting going on the exterior sheathing due to moisture absorbed over the winter from air-leaks on the interior side face of the wall. If retrofitted with cellulose insulation that is less likely, but bulk wetting from the exterior can sometimes create issues with cellulose.

    If you normally run a humidifier in winter to keep comfort up, STOP THAT! Adding humidity adds to the moisture burden of all of the wood in the exterior walls, and increases the mold risk. A normal and healthy (for both humans and house) to maintain in winter is 30-35% RH @ 68-70F. If as a rule it stays much drier than that in the house it's an indication of excessive air infiltration, which also creates localized mold hazards along the ex-filtration paths, so air-sealing the house would be in order. (Air sealing will save considerable heating & cooling energy use too.) In an older house there may be multiple air-leakage bypasses that are difficult to detect, so if it stays dry after you've fixed all the holes you know about, a blower-door test will find where most of the remaining leaks are.
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,032
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; hate the idea of bringing in a pro if I don't have a problem.

    Bring in a "pro", and I can almost guarantee he WILL find a problem. Bring in two or more different ones and they will also find problems, but probably different ones than the others find, unless they get together over coffee and compare notes to get their stories in agreement.
  7. Ken Tannenbaum1

    Ken Tannenbaum1 New Member

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Catskill, NY
    Hey...Mr Master Plumber! Isn't that the way of the world? SERIOUSLY UNRELIABLE. A few months ago I had our 500ft driveway paved. YOU CAN IMAGINE the bull that rained down on my driveway. Anyway, you're on the money and I get the point. If you read this thread from the beginning (it's short) this began as a way to answer a question which may have no clear answer. Our small carpeted bedroom is musty all the time and when I have the time I'll rip up the carpet and renew that room. If there's mold I'll be surprised. As for under the stairwell, unless I find mold, my plan is to continue with DampRid.

    One issue for us is that this is a weekend place and we plan to move there in two years. At that time the regularity of us being there will dictate how we'll handle this and other issues.

    Anyway, thanks for the response...it's truly appreciated.
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,032
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The mold experts have learned a lot from the asbestos and Radon inspectors as far as how to stay in business.
  9. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,630
    Location:
    IL
    A second floor bedroom smelling musty is not normal. Measure the humidity.

    Moisture could come from a leaky roof, plumbing or siding. It could possibly come from a kitchen cooking vent hood with the exhaust pipe broken in the wall of that room... but that would be very unlikely.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
  10. Dana

    Dana In the trades

    Messages:
    2,974
    Location:
    01609
    Toxic mold issues are really more likely to occur in post 1980 houses that have inappropriate polyethylene vapor barriers than in an antique like this one. (Poly sheeting has created more problems than it ever solved in US houses, and maybe even in Canadian houses.)

    But if it has locations with measurably higher moisture, you have water leaks worth rectifying. Mold inspectors are not usually the people who can tell you specifically how to deal the water leaks.
Similar Threads: possible mold
Forum Title Date
Remodel Forum & Blog Street of Dreams fires, possible Terrorism Mar 3, 2008
Remodel Forum & Blog Mission Impossible: Table Saw Oct 2, 2007
Remodel Forum & Blog Possible to replace hot-water baseboards? With what? May 9, 2007
Remodel Forum & Blog House-hunting: what signs can I look for to know if a second bath is possible? Apr 27, 2006
Remodel Forum & Blog Mold inside exterior walls, WTF!!! Feb 26, 2013

Share This Page