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Remodeling the Basement, Mold Concern...


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I've been clearing out my basement and simultaneously have been getting sick- congestion, headaches. It may be coincidence as my kids expose me to much when they get sick from school/daycare. Also, I get sinus infections for as long as I can remember.

I live in a 24 year old Townhouse in Eastern PA that I've been in since new. I've been clearing out the basement, which has been used for storage to make it into a playroom. Nothing fancy; I intend to Drylok and paint the cinderblock walls, insulate the rim joists with rigid foam/spray foam, and spray paint the ceiling joists.

I removed fiberglass batt insulation from the rim joists, paper side toward the firewall/plywood side and discovered what looks like mold on the joist and firewall. I'm surprised to see this as it isn't exceptionally moist down there and the majority of it is on or near the joists close to the common wall to my neighbors on both sides and not near the exterior walls. I have a dehumidifier down there, but have not always run one.

Based on the pictures can someone tell me if this is mold? Last week I sprayed two applications of Moldex to it with a pump sprayer just in case. I intend to sand the rough spots, prime and spray paint the wood for a modern unfinished ceiling. Also, I've been scrubbing the cinderblock with white vinegar mixed with hot water to reduce the efflorescence for the Drylok. I've been wearing a respirator when down there, but it's a 3m one intended for paint, I'm not sure if it's sufficient for mold.

This week I'm also going to check the attic as well. At one time there was a leak from our ridge vent. The roofing contractor that replaced our shingles said the wood was good and didn't need to be replaced, but I want to be sure. Any suggestions are appreciated. We are also going to search out a local environmental testing & remediation co, but I wanted to get feedback here first. Thanks!

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I've been clearing out my basement and simultaneously have been getting sick- congestion, headaches. It may be coincidence as my kids expose me to much when they get sick from school/daycare. Also, I get sinus infections for as long as I can remember.

I live in a 24 year old Townhouse in Eastern PA that I've been in since new. I've been clearing out the basement, which has been used for storage to make it into a playroom. Nothing fancy; I intend to Drylok and paint the cinderblock walls, insulate the rim joists with rigid foam/spray foam, and spray paint the ceiling joists.

I removed fiberglass batt insulation from the rim joists, paper side toward the firewall/plywood side and discovered what looks like mold on the joist and firewall. I'm surprised to see this as it isn't exceptionally moist down there and the majority of it is on or near the joists close to the common wall to my neighbors on both sides and not near the exterior walls. I have a dehumidifier down there, but have not always run one.

Based on the pictures can someone tell me if this is mold? Last week I sprayed two applications of Moldex to it with a pump sprayer just in case. I intend to sand the rough spots, prime and spray paint the wood for a modern unfinished ceiling. Also, I've been scrubbing the cinderblock with white vinegar mixed with hot water to reduce the efflorescence for the Drylok. I've been wearing a respirator when down there, but it's a 3m one intended for paint, I'm not sure if it's sufficient for mold.

This week I'm also going to check the attic as well. At one time there was a leak from our ridge vent. The roofing contractor that replaced our shingles said the wood was good and didn't need to be replaced, but I want to be sure. Any suggestions are appreciated. We are also going to search out a local environmental testing & remediation co, but I wanted to get feedback here first. Thanks!

The vast majority of cases where people come into elevated mold spore counts are uneventful, but incidents where folks with certain sensitivities happen to come into contact with the right species of mold or mycotoxins can sometimes have disastrous effects.

You've taken measures already and yet still have concerns. In the off chance that you've actually come upon a hazardous combination, it might be smart to simply go straight to a mold consultant, skip the remediator and mold inspector, and get to the bottom of this thing pronto. It's going to cost you though. Sometimes that's the price of peace of mind, the price of something done cautiously.

Marc

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Anything is possible, but the pictures are telling me it's relatively minor stuff going on. Go ahead and get a "mold consultant" if you feel it's necessary, but be prepared to go down a long road that takes you someplace you could get to really simply on your own.

Everyone finishes their basement wrong. Sticking insulation up in the rim joist like they did (sloppy and near worthless) guarantees you're going to get dew point, which means water, which means some mold. Yes, finishing basements like this is code required in most instances and yes, everyone does it this way. We happen to have enough independent studies nowadays to inform us that the building codes are wrong in lots of instances and the fact that everyone does it this way doesn't mean it's right, only lamentable.

In case you don't know this, mold is covering everything already. Introduce moisture, the mold grows.

All the stuff you're doing (tear out, fiberglass insulation crap floating around, cleaning, etc., etc.) with a crappy 3M respirator pretty much guarantees you're going to have headaches and sinus issues.

Get a decent respirator, i.e., dual F or G100 full face mask. Set up a negative pressure fan when you're doing tear out (or anything, really). We set up negative pressure for every job just to keep airborne irritants and crap to a minimum. A $15 box fan in a window is fine. Get some work clothes, preferably coveralls. Take them off when you're done working and launder them. Don't drag all the construction contaminants up into your living area.

It's really pretty simple. You're not doing anything you ought to be doing, you're suffering, and now you're blaming mold. Mold may be what's bothering you, but my guess is you've got dirty construction site-itis. Do not, repeat, DO NOT emulate any of the stupid crap you see on HGTV. The morons doing those jobs are spreading dangerous misinformation about how to tackle interior remodeling.

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Why do you think you need testing? You got some mold. Some of it is from when the lumber was sitting in the lumber yard, some probably because the rim joist insulation was installed wrong and worthless.

Here's a certainty. If you "test" for mold, you will find mold. Mold is covering everything in your house including the computer you're currently typing on.

Mold testing doesn't provide useful information. The EPA, the CDC, various industrial hygienists associations, and anyone that's studied the topic scientifically will tell you testing is silly. It will send you down a red herring trail.

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Thanks Kurt, I appreciate the advice. I probably don't need a test then. Believe it or not there doesn't seem to be a lot of useful information out there on the subject. Thanks for looking at the pics. I wasn't even sure if this was mold. I didn't expect to find any based on house history. What is in the pics is really all there is, I'm not concerned its serious then.

Couldn't agree with you more on the HGTV stuff, actually I've never even seen the network. My guess is the reason for the emphasis placed on inspections now is because of the DIY movement of the housing boom. Unfortunately, most contractors do so much wrong too, which makes intelligent and capable homeowners like me believe that I might as well do it myself.

For example, truss uplift can be found in every home in my area built in the last 25 years. If the builders would just use the clips that the truss manufacturers recommend, the top plate would float and the ceilings would be fine. Unfortunately, the builders don't understand the engineering of the truss and screw the top plate into the bottom chord "the way we always have" and as a result the ceilings crack and the nails pop with every change in season.

Anyway, do you recommend another method than using rigid foam in the rim joist? Do you know of a better way that won't trap moisture. Thanks Kurt. You ARE a very serious gardener.

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Believe it or not there doesn't seem to be a lot of useful information out there on the subject.

Oh, I believe it. Do we ever believe it. Mold disinformation is big business.

My guess is the reason for the emphasis placed on inspections now is because of the DIY movement of the housing boom.

Sort of, but it's a lot longer than that. The real messes started in the late 70's, through the 80's, and well into the 90's and 21st century. The building industry underwent a ground swell shift, trade education was killed, and the result is a lot of guys out there with not a clue about what they're doing.

Anyway, do you recommend another method than using rigid foam in the rim joist? Do you know of a better way that won't trap moisture. Thanks Kurt.

SPF. Spray Polyurethane Foam. I'm a big fan. Expect that there are other's that think it's wrong, but not me. I love the stuff. Great in the rim joist.

I'm reading some stuff about separation and cracking in some roof structures that were SPF'd, but it's not entirely clear if the problem was the foam or the application.

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Thanks for your input Marc. Can you confirm that what is in the pics is mold?

If what I've done is sufficient, that's peace of mind enough. More curious about having a test done for what I can't see.

Only a lab knows for sure but I'd be surprised if there was no mold in any of those pics.

A mold consultant teaching a recent CE class said he has never checked a house and failed to find some mold growth in it. If challenged, he'd go to the air conditioner indoor section and there it would be. This is coastal Louisiana where everyone has an AC.

Marc

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