"Wet wood" causing attic mold? Ever heard of this?

dominogoldOctober 14, 2012

Quick rundown...

We are very picky buyers. For 2 years, we've been looking for the perfect home and we found it in the perfect neighborhood. It's a newer home, expensive but we can afford it, less than a year old. Everything was perfect.... agreed on a price and then the inspector found mold spreadout the attic sheathing and on some trusses throughout the north half of the attic. We were devastated.

We hired a mold inspector, who tested it and determined it was "common mold" typically found outdoors. Non toxic, and can be remediated. Inspector thought it was from wet wood left outside while the house was being built, combined with tight construction and high humidity inside last winter. Left unfixed it could grow and cause allergies. He also tested the indoor air quality of the second floor near the attic opening which checked out normal. Neither of our inspectors were able to find a ventilation issue (ridge vents/soffit vents were all correct)

We attempted to negotiate with the sellers and all they were willing to do was give us the money for us to fix it. We felt we should get a discount off the property also due to the risk of it coming back, and the risk of a future hit in resale value after it's remediated - so we walked away from the deal.

We are reconsidering and wondering if we did the right thing. Does anyone have experience with this type of situation. If mold remedation is done properly (and is non-toxic in the first place) is there a hit in resale value? If it's cleaned up correctly does it tend to come back? How can we know for sure the mold is fixed up and done with?

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I can't help with the mold and remediation, but as to cause I'm wondering if there are any plumbing vents or other penetrations from the occupied portion of the house (particularly bath rooms and kitchens where there is a lot of moisture) which vent into the attic area?

I know some builders prefer to vent into the attic rather than run the vents and exhaust fans to the outside through the roof.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 12:41PM
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HVAC equipment in the attic or even an attic exhaust fan could contribute to the problem.

If the insulation is in the attic floor joists and the attic space is unconditioned, almost any duct, pipe, or flue from the house through the roof or eave would cause condensation if not insulated, but the most serious condition would be a damaged or disconnected duct, pipe or flue. I would put a CO detector up there just to eliminate that as a possibility.

One solution is to foam the attic rafter bays and close all of the vents so the attic space is conditioned.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 6:00PM
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We had mold remediation done on our current house, and it comes with a warranty, if that gives you any peace of mind. Doesn't mean it will never come back, of course.

We had a combo of problems, which we have now (hopefully) fixed.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 6:34PM
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The existence of mold in homes, both brand new and in those that are older, in exactly the areas your inspectors pinpointed, is far more widespread than most people (and builders) would ever believe. In older homes it is usually caused by inadequate ceiling insulation as well as inadequate attic ventilation; the importance of both were not fully appreciated at the time these homes were constructed. In new construction, especially larger homes that have HVAC ductwork in the unconditioned attic, it is often caused by ductwork that is poorly sealed which allows warm,moist air to condense on the underside of roof sheathing and truss members. The other cause in new construction is poor attention to roof ventilation. One must have adequate, unobstructed eave and ridge ventilation. The causes of mold can be addressed and the mold can be cleaned.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 7:11PM
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I think you made a mistake walking away. You found the perfect house after 2 YEARS of looking and you are afraid of a little non toxic mold?

The mold can be cleaned out. If the source of the mold was wet materials at the time of the build, then once it is gone, assuming a non-leaky roof, it won't be back. Additionally, mold remediation, done fully, does not affect resale, so your thought that you needed a discounted house was silly (imo).

Maybe it is possible you will find another perfect house in this same subdivision (assuming a spec house/subdivision) that won't have these problems. Or, maybe you'll look for 2 more years. How do YOU feel about it?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 11:25PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Some people aren't meant to be homeowners. Two years of hunting in a buyers market. Two years. If that little bit of a peek behind the reality of the "American Dream" freaked you out so badly, the don't even think of owning a home yourself. You'll end up broke, on medication, and with a set for life contractor on speed dial.

And for goodness sake, don't ever visit a farm, or factory if you can't handle what goes one behind the scenes. You'll become a shut in and never leave the apartment.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 7:50AM
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Members here should not presume to understand the personal choices of other members. The OP has a right to be picky about buying a house so it should not be the ridiculed.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 8:27AM
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Nobody ridiculed anyone here, Mr. Forum Police.

The OP specifically asked if a mistake was made by rejecting the house due to the mold. It's the nature and purpose of a forum that some may be a bit frank with their opinion.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 9:01AM
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The comments were presumptuous, rude, unkind and had nothing to do with the original question. Your comment is more of the same.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 9:20AM
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Pot Kettle.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 10:20AM
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Inadequate ceiling insulation should not contribute to excessive attic moisture. Inadequate insulation might make the attic space warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer but it will not reduce moisture in the attic or substantially alter the temperature of the uninsulated roof structure. Gravity ventilation will help under normal conditions but fan driven ventilation can draw into the attic space moist air from the floor below and from outside. Ventilation does not necessarily result in adequate dehumidification. This is true in homes and in larger buildings.

Mold remediation is a complicated subject. Using bleach to clean wood surfaces is not always enough. Even dead mold spores can cause allergic reactions. The test results were encouraging but I would have them done again by another agency in different locations if possible.

Toxic mold can cause health problems in healthy people but those with asthma and other respiratory problems may have reactions to many types of mold.

In many ways mold is the asbestos of today. I have specifications on my shelf that specified asbestos in buildings the 60's. In the future what is legal good practice will not be allowed. I suspect that the entire shell of a house will be required to be insulated, i.e. no more unconditioned attics in certain climates. This would probably put a stop to the big truss-filled roofs so popular with developer-builders so the NAHB will fight it.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 10:21AM
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"In many ways mold is the asbestos of today. "

Be careful with your comparisons.

Asbestos has been made into a 'terror' issue by one large group, the plaintiff's bar seeking to squeeze every cent they can from manufacturers.

Anyone that is as scared of mold as may folks seem to have become better purchase their bubble to live in.

But make sure long term exposure the plastics used to make the bubble and filter the air is not going to be a hazard also.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 10:53AM
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jrldh, I once checked the number of posts members here have made and I found that I had posted 16 to your 1. Most of your posts were negative responses to the comments of others and containing personal insults that hijacked the thread. Your main intent at the Garden Web appears to be to punish builders and architects for trying to help homeowners but in so doing you punish the homeowners.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:08AM
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I make the comparison with asbestos because of a similar lack of understanding of the problem not because of how it is handled in court. I am a designer not a lawyer.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:17AM
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Renovator, was a comment removed? Because other than where you started, down, I don't see anybody ridiculing (or maybe you were talking about me? where I specifically said, IMO, and specifically addressed the question of whether or not they should have walked away?)

Now, it has been side-tracked. But I don't think it had been until that point.

Your answers on this forum are very helpful, but sometimes very objective. This person specifically asked both an objective and subjective question. They will get subjective answers.

This person also has not stated, at all, where in the world they are located. And, whether mold might be a normal thing in their environment (to which I'd say, mold is everywhere, even deserts will have some sort of fungus growing there. It is the nature of nature). To say that those with asthma, etc could have problems even if it is non-toxic, while true, is misleading. Those folks will have problems no matter how their house is constructed in certain environments/ localities in the world.

The OP said there was nothing found wrong with the ventilation and the suspected source was prior to the build and final construction.

HOW MUCH MOLD (do you have a picture)?

Finally, the usual way to remediate mold is actually to not use bleach (only). Mold remediation companies know what to use and would be better to hire than trying to DIY it and assume that you know that "bleach kills everything".

I do second the suggestion to get a second opinion from another mold remediation company. (Just remember they will be interested in selling their services to you).

However, I suspect at this point, in order to do that, you will need to re-enter contract with these sellers (to get access to their attic) and they may not trust you.

Finally, you may want to get the RE opinions on this matter in the buying and selling forum since at least one of your questions pertains to future resale value.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:26AM
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I see that you did post it on buying/selling forum...
for others:

Here is a link that might be useful: dominogold on RE forum

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:45AM
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All thank you for the diaglogue and those that contributed constructively to this, and I appreciate the moderator cleaning it up. I never meant to offend anyone.

We are "picky" because we already have a wonderful home that is exactly what we wanted -- custom built 10 years ago. The only problem is that our neighborhood hasn't turned out the way we wanted as the sub was built out. Our kids have no friends to play with which is a big issue for us, we have no privacy on our current lot also. So we've been looking out for a house like ours, in a different sub with many of kids and this neighborhood has that, that has more privacy.

At inspection we found many other issues besides the mold. Nothing major, but some of them would cost of us several hundred dollars to fix ourselves. The sellers were unwilling to do anything except just spray the mold with a little bleach. That's why we walked. There is a risk with taking on a property with mold. This was not just a little mold this was about 1000 sq ft of it spread throughout the sheathing and trusses. That's going to scare away buyers when we sell the house (resale value), and there's a risk that it will come back after cleaning it up. That's why we asked for a discount off the price. I think we'll get a second chance at is because I don't know anyone that would be willing to pay list price for a new house in this condition.

My original questions where:

1. If mold remedation is done properly (and is non-toxic in the first place) is there a hit in resale value?

2. Is there any data or experiences with if it's cleaned up correctly does it tend to come back? How can we know for sure the mold is fixed up and done with?


    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 12:07PM
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I see nothing wrong with your comment Kirkall.

One post may have been removed but in the one that remains Hollysprings told the OP that they were not worthy of being homeowners because they freaked out over a little mold and they should not even think of owning a home or they will end up broke on medication.

I don't object to opinions about passing up the house; I object to personal ridicule. None of us knows the circumstance of the OP. He/she might have health problems and might already be on medication or might just be uneducated about mold. Give them credit for asking the question.

The OP is a long-standing member of the forum and has owned and renovated houses. Being picky about buying a house and concerned about mold is not silly or unreasonable. If members think otherwise there is a respectful way to say it. Frankness doesn't have to be disrespectful.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 12:30PM
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I think you should ask your mold remediation company(-ies) what they will do to "clean it up".

My friend had her house remediated after a significant water leak that went undetected for some time caused mold in walls. There was significant structural stuff to fix, and then the mold remediation. Neither of these things affected resale, and in fact, they sold within 2 days of being on the market for "higher" than going rate because the basement was newly "renovated" (ie, the walls had all been redone).

Once the source of the mold was determined/stopped (leak fixed) and the mold was removed, and boraxed, etc, all was/is well.

If your mold is "common mold" like what is found outside, I do think it is irrational to think it will affect resale value. The attic space, if unconditioned, is like the outside and the air in it would permeate the interior of the house in the same way that the outside air would.

I would hire a mold remediation company that would physically remove the visible mold. Not to keep it from growing again, as that isn't what keeps it from regrowing, but to keep it from being on any future inspection. They should also properly treat the wood.

However, as stated before, assuming proper ventilation of your attic space and no water leaks from the roof, I don't see why you'd see regrowth of the mold. Can't guarantee it, but that is what your mold remediation company (and their guarantees) are for.

And, if I were the sellers of this house at this time, I'd have the mold removed before further showings. Someone else will like this perfect house for the same reasons you did. If they remove the mold before the someone else has the inspection, you will likely lose your second chance. At least, in my area you would--houses don't sit around here very long, especially if they are in good neighborhoods.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 12:45PM
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Proper ventilation of the attic and no water leaks from the roof are not necessarily enough to keep mold from growing again. To give the OP specific advice regarding that issue we would need to know more about the climate and where the HVAC equipment, ducts and exhausts are located and how they are sealed if they are in the attic. For mold to be so wide spread in the attic the problem is due to more than roof leaks and improper ventilation. Don't assume it won't come back if the reason for it is not discovered.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 1:09PM
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the OP posted--
inspector said... "wet wood left outside while it was being built; tight construction"

Without having it removed, and waiting another year/season, there is no way for you to KNOW it won't come back since they don't have ownership of the house/know the house history (although it isn't a long one).

You could go door to door in the subdivision and ask homeowners with houses built by the same builder if they have known common mold in their attics. (I wouldn't expect this to go over well with the new neighbors though).

If so, then perhaps you have a design flaw. If not, then it could be just this one house--a design flaw--as Renovator suggests, or it could be this one house and the time it was built the wood got wet and it was "sealed" in to grow until it couldn't grow anymore.

We can only all speculate, since we aren't there. But you hired an inspector, and a mold company, to get their opinions as to cause. It seems they'd be in the best situation to say whether it will come back or not.

As to resale, again, look into your local disclosure requirements. Here, there is a generic Mold statement (like a lead statement) that mold exists (in any/all homes). You just sign that you received the statement, as you would a HIPAA disclosure from your doctor's office. It is just another slip of paper, and isn't specific to the house or the house's history. It is just in the RE docs bundle. No hit to resale value. The only hit is to a house that hasn't had remediation done, and the buyer has to have it done before they can move in for toxic mold. (Those houses sit around a while).

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 8:49PM
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The end of the inspector's statement was: "and high humidity inside last winter." Until the source of the high humidity is discovered you should assume that the mold will return. A partial solution might be to apply vapor retardant paint on the ceilings of the upper level.

As I said before we can't help without knowing the climate and what is in the house or the attic that would generate high levels of humidity. But one thing is for sure: mold is the result of a moisture problem so removing the mold will not necessarily solve the problem.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:45PM
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