Mold problem is making me sick! Help!

dontcallmeshirleySeptember 29, 2007

This is the first time I've been on this forum. I've spent a lot of time on the Bathroom Forum lately. I came here because I could use some help.

I am a single woman and for years I have worked very hard to renovate my first house. It has been one thing after another. I have replaced almost everything soup to nuts. But I am beginning to hate this house. It is one story and sits low on the property and I have a crawl space which I covered with plastic and insulated. I discovered my bathtub has been leaking for a long time. It ruined the bathroom floor and this week it is scheduled to be demolished for a complete renovation.

In the past six months workers who have been in the crawl space to inspect for any damage to joists caused by a bathtub leak and found none. But they mentioned seeing a small puddle of water with no evidence of moisture. The puddle is about 6Â inside the opening and about 15Â from the bathroom. A few days ago I discovered that some clothing that I had dry cleaned and stored under my bed had molded. My bedroom sits not far above this water puddle. In the past several months I have developed a lingering cough and now my lungs hurt and I feel sick. IÂve opened all the windows and turned on the fans and am considering sleeping in the sunroom in the back of the house.

The timing couldnÂt be worse. In two weeks I have to leave town for a 3 ½ for a job training so I made arrangements for a house sitter to live here and take care of my cat. Now I am not sure if ANYONE should be living here.

Long story, short. I am upset and overwhelmed at the prospect of having to abandon my house. And in a couple days I will be spending A LOT of money on it. I'm even wondering if I should cancel the bathroom remodel which I've been planning for months. If anyone out there has gotten through this post and would be kind enough to offer some words of consolation or advice, I'd really appreciate it. :-(

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Wow, I can relate on a smaller scale. That feeling of despair can be so overwhelming. We just bought our home in April. When you own your own home you feel like it's part of the family. It's your shelter and your home, so when things go wrong, you start out feeling like you're helping your house. But when things escalate, as is your case, you feel like you must pull the plug.

From what you describe, my fear would be that you'll go through all this effort to fix your bathroom and end up finding another problem near your bedroom. Maybe it's a leaking pipe, but if it's enough moisture to cause mold on items under your bed, then what you found is probably the tip of the ice berg.

One suggestion I can give you is to check the humidity of your crawlspace. Does it have adequate ventilation? You mention that you put plastic and insulation down there, but what about ventilation? I was reading a document online that described how to properly ventilate the crawlspace. Basically it said that if you don't have ventilation from crawlspace to outdoors, then it needs to be from crawlspace to indoors. A couple vents in the floor can do the trick, and they'd have a fan that runs for five minutes of each hour. Apparently doing this helps lower your heating / cooling costs by making the crawlspace part of the living space.

If you send me a PM with your Email address I can send you a PDF document that covers this which another forum member pointed me to.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 2:55AM
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As an asthmatic, I would say definitely DO NOT ventilate your crawl space to INDOORS! Mold can be deadly. I think you need a vent hole on one side of the foundation and another at the other side. You need air flow down there. Get to an MD to diagnose your cough, invest in a dehumidifier for your home. Can you smell must? Mold? The only way to alleviate a mold problem is to dry it out, remove it and keep your basement dry. Do you live on/near wetlands? This can be impossible. If it were me, I'd have to sell.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 10:36AM
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Put the bathroom renovation on hold until you conquer the mold problem!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 10:51AM
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Thank you all very very much for giving me your input!!! It helped me destress and get control. I canceled the bathroom project today. Even after all the pains taking detail to prepare for it I feel a sense of relief and peace. However, I am still concerned about living here and that the bathroom leak going unfixed is contributing to the problem. I have lived here for 15 years and known that the upstairs and downstairs crawl spaces are poorly ventilated. To my regret I ignored it because it's not a visible problem.

sameboat, I live near the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland about a mile away from the water. My neigbors across the street have the misfortune of living over a stream so they have had major issues with mold. Maybe there is hope. There isn't an odor in my house. Also the molded article of clothing under my bed had been there for 3-4 years. It had several large spots but it could have been worse. My health has not deteriorated that much. The cough is slight but there is a little burning in my lungs that is unusual and warns me that something is up.

So, thank you kindly again. Tomorrow I start calling mold specialist. Any tips on finding a good company?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 3:20PM
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Is there any way to undo the crawlspace plastic to allow things to dry out even for a day or so? Plastic is notorious for holding in moisture (whatever else it might be helping longterm), and it might give you more peace of mind if you find it's made a difference.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 6:32PM
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lucy, thank you for that suggestion. I didn't think of that. Actually I thought the plastic was there to prevent moisture but obviously it didn't, maybe because it was not attached to the walls? Shows how I am over my head with this. But if it will help I will go there now and start yanking on the plastic. It will probably have to come out anyway for inspectors to see.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 6:59PM
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Well, I didn't get very far. I could pull one piece out but the next piece came out so far and will not budge like something heavy is weighing it down. The crawl space scares me so I've never gone in there.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 7:18PM
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I tried again to pull out and was able to extricate the first 6' of insulation inside the entrance. A huge wet mass of insulation was what was weighing it down in the spot that the workers mentioned seeing a puddle. But when they looked up they saw no source of moisture so the source is a mystery.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 8:01PM
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I have a small heater/fan. Would it be a good idea to put it in my crawl space to get rid of the mold?

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 10:08PM
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I wouldn't put a source of heat down there. I'd worry about starting a fire with the plastic. Let a professional take care of it. Don't even go down there. Is the plastic on the ground or up on the ceiling of the crawlspace? It should be on the dirt floor of the crawlspace. With a burning sensation in your lungs you shouldn't go near the basement. If your neighbor's house is over a stream, then you are on wetlands too. I lived on a lake before and will never ever again live so close to water. You cannot escape it. Also, I would ask a home inspector to check out the place - and don't forget the insulation to make sure it's installed correctly. You should have insulation under the floor (the ceiling of the crawlspace) and it has to be facing the right way. I wish you the best of luck. Most of all I hope you go to an MD for your respiratory health.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 11:10PM
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A heater/fan will not eliminate mold. You need to get someone in that crawl space to inspect it. There is some type of problem which needs to be fixed.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 11:18PM
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It happens that I work for the president of a company that owns and maintains apartment buildings. Today when I told my boss about my situation he picked up the phone and called one of his maintanence workers, who has treated mold in apartments, and asked him to inspect my crawl space tomorrow. The mold man is pretty sure the water in the crawl space has travelled from the leaky bathtub and can be remedied. I will ask about properly ventilating the crawl spaces. BTW my dear boss is billing this to his company! That was a pleasant surprise!!!

Thank you everyone again for all the great advice. Who says there are no angels in the world? Lucy, I am especially relieved to have removed the wet plastic. We are having a draught here and though is a problem for the land removing it may help to dry it.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 6:25PM
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Just an update...Happily the person who inspected my crawl space found no mold or leaks. He determined that the water that pooled was caused by clogged gutters. He dug a small semi cirlce drain lined with stone outside the entrance of the crawlspace to brake the water. I also need to reinsulate both upper and lower crawl spaces and increase the size of the openings. Thanks again for the help.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 7:48PM
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Thanks for the followup. Good to hear that it was easily resolved.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2007 at 9:27PM
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