Attic Mold Part II

lostinitJuly 10, 2010

I had made a previous thread about my mold discovery. This is a continuation of that story.

In February, I finally went into my attic after a year in the home and discovered two vent ducts had disconnected for the bathroom venting and were laying on top of the blown loose fill insulation. I also noticed some black mold on the interior roof sheathing. The mold was in spots and seemed to be concentrated near the areas where the ducts had spilled over. The builder had used duct tape and not the standard foil HVAC tape which is required. I re-attached the ducts which was a pain since the connector to the roof vents was short so I had to use zip ties to keep them in place.

I didn't see any other issues. I talked to my home inspector and he said that I shouldn't worry since the mold is only in a few spots and not spreading and that I connected the vents that there shouldn't be any more moisture problems in the attic. Also that since it was getting warm here, the dry hot air will kill any mold spores or at least prevent them from spreading.

Cut to Today, My task today was to install flooring for the attic.

I went into the attic and noticed that the mold was still where it was before but hadn't grown dark nor had spread. A good thing right? Well, I noticed that the vent duct to the furnace was disconnected and had been blowing hot air into the attic. I fixed this but I also noticed that under the first layer of cellulose fiber insulation, some kind of gold colored wood chip looking pellet stuff, it was all over. I moved some more insulation and noticed that some beams were dark colored and it didn't appear it was mold but rather that the beams had been "baked" a bit, I guess that the hot air baked the wood or perhaps maybe I was looking at mold growth. Anyway as I got maybe five feet from that area I noticed the beams were ok and looked new like they should.

However, I did not want to install attic dek flooring panels on these beams because I think they may not be structurally sound even though they are still dense and don't seem to warp or make noise when I put weight on them. Regardless, I want to remove all insulation from the area where the ducts fell over to about five-six feet to see the damage and to remove the gold looking wood chips or soot that I found to assess the damage to the beams and decide if I can clean and remediate myself or call a professional.

I'm thinking a shop vac would be the quickest way since i am the only one doing this.

Has anyone else had this problem or knows what I may be seeing here and what can be done about this? What are the gold looking wood pellet pieces that I am seeing? Also, is a shop-vac recommended for removing loose-fill insulation?


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Are you practicing "safe renovating?" lol. I can't help with your problem but, if you don't at least wear a mask you could be inviting problems much worse than this. Personally, I would be using the respirator type of protection if there were any sign of mold. Not to mention inhaling insulation particles.

Is there any sign of chewing damage to your beams that could account for the pellets you describe? You should be able to see if the pellets are localized to the area or spread throughout the attic when you remove the insulation. If it goes beyond the damage site it may have been there before the insulation was installed. Just a thought. Can you crush these pellets? Could they be animal droppings?

Was this new construction when you purchased your home? Have you talked to the builder?

I agree that further investigation is in order before covering the problem up with flooring.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2010 at 12:34PM
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I think the pellets are vermiculite which contain asbestos, forget mold..I think I have bigger problems to worry about now...

    Bookmark   July 12, 2010 at 7:25AM
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Asbestos was used commonly in many building materials until its ban (actually just restriction) in 1978. In the late 1970's manufacturers had to start finding alternatives to asbestos, which was added to materials to increase their durability and fire resistance. Even after the restrictions, some manufacturers continued to add asbestos at lower levels, and others continued to sell off their inventories. Builders continued to use the products with asbestos as long as they were around. The asbestos made a superior product, so they would choose it over the new asbestos-free formula as long as they could. Many buildings built into the 1980's still have asbestos. So, basically asbestos is everywhere.

Asbestos is safe unless you disturb it. Friable asbestos is the bad kind, which means the material is easily crumbled to dust with hand pressure. Non-friable asbestos material is hard and cement-like; it usually feels very similar to Hardipanel. That kind is quite safe unless you go cutting or drilling it. Any type of asbestos fibers can be neutralized by wetting the material you are removing.

Common materials in older homes that contain asbestos are:
1. Vinly floor tiles (the 9" ones almost always have it and the 12" ones have it sometimes)
2. Transite pipe (cement piping used for exhaust flues, easily recognizable from the waffle pattern on the surface)
3. Old plaster, stucco, thinset mortar
4. Older Sheetrock joint compound and topping mud. The sheetrock panels are usually asbestos-free. I haven't seen any positive test results for sheetrock panels, but it could occur.
5. roofing asphalts
6. Thermal insulation. Older pipe wraps contain asbestos. Sprayed on insulation and loose fills also may. The insulations are usually friable. Most of the cases of Asbestos sickness are attributed to workers in shipyards breathing the asbestos dust they created while removing insulation.

It is not that expensive to test for asbestos. You can take your own samples and bring them into the lab. Anything over 1% should be treated as asbestos, and anything over 0.1% should be treated cautiously. The disposal requirements make it so you really have to use a licensed abatement contractor to remove anything over 1% asbestos.

I would not try to remove the asbestos (if it is). Just close it up in the cavity between the ceiling and floor. It can't hurt you if it's undisturbed.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2010 at 12:04PM
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I plan on taking the vermiculite sample to a testing center for analysis.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2010 at 5:24AM
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This is definately asbestos. Apparently a mine in Libby Montana manufactured 80% of the world's vermiculite insulation. The same mine was contaminated with Tremolite a very deadly asbestos. The mine stopped producing in 1990 but it is suspected there are 35 million homes with this substance. Not to mention the EPA calling Libby site of the countrys worst environmental disaster area. Considering the fact I live in the northwest it is almost certain that this is asbestos material and should be left alone. Now the dilemma is should I pay to remove it before I sell or disclose to the potential buyer? It's not fair that the builder/seller did not disclose this but rather pumped a ton of cellulose insulation over this stuff to hide it and claim new insulation without warning of the dangers.

I have decided to limit all trips to the attic, only for repair and checkups every few months and to eliminate it as a storage area due to the presence of asbestos like fibers such as vermiculite. As for the mold I may go back and spray the Concrobrium if I discover a problem.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2010 at 7:44AM
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