Mold in the house we are buying

gaviota_galJuly 23, 2012

We did the escrow inspections at a beautiful house we are to close escrow on in 20 days on Saturday. Upon walking to the rear of the house with our contractor and electrician we all started smelling mold. We all know the smell. The whole house inspection man had indicated mildew on the ceiling of one bathroom and showed that it could be determined where the mildew came from. There was nothing on the ceiling, it had probably been cleaned by the sellers. Still, there was quite a smell, mild in the bathroom but very strong in the bedroom across the hall.

I went outside, around the side of the house to see what I could see. The dirt in the side area was quite damp and I noted that the area was very shady. I saw the outside door to the hot water heater closet and opened it. The drywall inside had not been primed or painted and showed signs of mold splotches. MOLD! Yikes, was my first reaction. I went into the bedroom to tell the electrician and contractor and they said, look what we found. They had removed the cushion from the charming window seat cabinet and opened the lid and there was a dry, sandy set of sand like black or dark spores scattered around the semi gloss painted interior.

The sellers are now out of state and don't want to do anything but close the sale. We will be bringing a new born baby to the house. HELP if you know a lot about mold.

I am not afraid of mold. I know it is all around. As a biology major in college I recognize that most mold is not something that would make someone ill but I discovered that it can cost $50 to $800 to get someone out to test air and the swab from the mold present to determine what type it is and the air quality.

Then we might want to start tearing out drywall and the wooden interior, etc. I want to avoid that in the house but I will have the contractor drain the water heater, drain the water and remove the heater to rip out the dry wall and will have him seal it in plastic bags and then use green board to line the area and then prime and paint and replace the heater.

But most mold simply needs you to wear a mask and gloves and wash with water and detergent and dry well quickly....I will drill a few holes in the top of the cabinet and put a nice piece of brass screening on the inside so that the box can breath and I will leave the cushion off on the first of each month. We want to put a small skylite in the room since it will be my husband's office and it is dark. I might even put 4 oz of bleach into 1/2 gallon of water and use gloves to wipe down the cleaned internal surfaces.

As for the bathroom, I will remove the ceiling exhaust and put in a new more powerful one and wash around the area on the ceiling with detergent before completing that task.

Is this a good plan or am I just wanting to move into this well maintained, beautiful house because I am having my baby any time now and I'm being naive and stupid? Please help.

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Nothing to be worried about according to Centers for Disease Control, National Institutes for Health and all other national health agencies:

Mold is mold with no 'mold' any more harmful than any other.

Clean with soap and water in most cases...

Personally I'd buy this house for the 'deal' it is and clean it and move on.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2012 at 9:20PM
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Surface cleaning probably isn't going to do it. If it's in the wall, the drywall will need removed and replaced or it'll just keep coming back. Your original plan to rip it out and replace is a good one. I'd ask for compensation from the seller for the non-disclosed problem in the closing process. They had to know, and it's illegal not to disclose it.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 9:24AM
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"They had to know, and it's illegal not to disclose it."

Depending on what state (and even county/city) is involved there may be no recourse for failing to disclose except a lawsuit.

Many of the disclosure laws are toothless.

Did you fail to look in the area (or your inspector failed)?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 11:43AM
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You have to determine the extent of the mold spread before you know how to fix it and how much it will cost. Unfortunately that usually involves destructive sampling. If the sellers will not agree to this, I am afraid that your only choices are to cancel the sale or buy a house with potentially huge repair bills ahead. Since the sellers seemed to be covering stuff up, they are not likely to agree. On the other hand. Maybe they hired hack painters to repaint the house and they just painted over stuff that they should have told the sellers about.

You also have to eliminate the causes. Likely the water heater closet was not constructed properly. Moist air is probably being drawn in from ground level.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2012 at 2:27PM
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mold needs two things
and a food source.

the paper on the sheetrock is the
food source
where is the moisture comming from.

to me..finding the moisture source
is the first thing.
fixing it so there is no longer moisture
entering or being created.
then remediation.

to replace sheetrock without addressing
the moisture source is just delaying
re-generation of mold.

in most cases it isn't as bad as
you'd thing. in rare cases it is worse.

don't freak out, or let folks use scare tatics
on you.

determine source of moisuture
stop moisture
then remediate.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 11:08AM
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You might want to post this on the Buying and Selling Homes forum for advice on how to deal with the sellers. Mold inside the house and wet soil outside tells me the issue may be more complex than you think.

I'm not a mold expert, but I would be more interested in what caused the mold rather than the type of mold it is.

To answer your question, your plan should include knowing the extent of the problem and the cost of fixing it before going to escrow.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 9:19AM
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Not to sound an alarm, but in California mold remediation requires a certification from a specialist and is a disclosure issue. After our slab leak , the dry wall wicked up moisture; two days later the insurance company commenced mold remediation. $30K later (and 12 weeks), we were able to replace the dry wall, install new cabinets, etc. Point is: that damage happened in two days of a slab leak that lasted hours. No telling how much mold you are dealing with as ours was not visible.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2012 at 11:21PM
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I am a microbiologist by training and I had a similar experience when I was buying my house. I found mold in the hall & master baths (adjacent to each other) as well as in the laundry room at the other end of the house. My realtor recommended getting remediation estimates - I ended up having an industrial hygienist assess the amount of involvement and do spore counts, and then got estimates on remediation. Ended up buying the house and then had the bathrooms and laundry gutted to the studs, cleaned up the mold, fixed the plumbing and roof leaks that were the original sources of problems, rebuilt the laundry and one bath (master is still gutted). I did get the price of the house down by $20K but in retrospect that didn't come close to covering all the costs.

Energy_rater is correct - cleaning up the mold is useless if you don't figure out where the water is coming from. I would be very cautious about buying this house until you figure out the water source.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2012 at 12:05AM
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