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Hey all. Long story short I have discovered by an air quality test a mold issue in my basement. Pretty much the basement is going to be gutted. I am worried about the foundation work they are going to do. I have a stone foundation with crumbly, brittle, sandy layer on the interior wall. Apparently this is normal? Apparently this inside layer was applied to hold the mortar between the stones in place? Not exactly sure but the company is going to be scrapping the foundation walls and im sure get all the sandy, crumbling material off. Then they are going to apply antimicrobial coating, etc for the mold issue. Do I have to tell them certain techniques with a stone foundation or do the stones need re-appointing or mortar mix added or anything? Just don't want to have a foundation structure issue in the long run. here is a pic or two to show what the walls look like currently before the job gets underway. Thanks for the insight on my foundation! I need all the info I can get!!

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Hold it a minute.....

Explain what's going on here in simple bullet points.

Who did the test?

What were the "test" results?

Did the tester recommend the "repair"?

How did this "problem" come to light?

Has the source of the moisture that's allowing mold growth been identified? (It's obvious, but I'd still like to know)

From your initial explanation/question/existential cry into the wilderness, it sounds like a bollixed up solution to a problem that may not exist. Calm down and explain what's going on as clearly as possible.

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1: There was a water issue in the past. the gutters were bad and the sidewalk grade was incorrectly sloped. (these issues have been fixed and I have not seen any visible water/leaks/dripping in the basement for a good 6 months now.)

2: Someone stated they smelled musty/moldy odor on fabrics, etc witch prompted me to get it looked at tested.

3: Americas best clean and restoration came out and did an air quality test (on the main home level, as that is where we spend most our time, as they are certain mold is in the basement, made sense to test where we live mostly for health reasons)

4: They sent the air test to an outside laboratory and came back with elevated mold spores of Penicillium and Stachbotrys (witch is apparently a pretty bad one.)

5: They looked over the basement and said more then likely is mold behind the drywall, baseboards, etc. and he (with his hand) broke off a chunk of the loose, sandy crumbly debris that looks like it is layering the foundation stones and the smell of that material was very musty, odor, mildew smell to it. Since the air quality test came back the way it did, they think possibly of mold growth under the carpets, etc as one there is a mold problem it usually on get worse.

6: I have a 5 year old daughter and health issues with molds causing some major health issues is concerning so I want this fully corrected.

7: They also suggested cleaning and HEPA filtering the furnace vents and ductwork as mold spores possibly are getting transferred around through the HVAC system.

That's pretty much the story in #'d points. hope this helps a little bit and im mostly trying to figure out the scrapping of the foundation walls as that definitely needs to be done based on the smell of that piece he showed me. I just don't want the foundation stone underneath or anything to be compromised. Thank you for your help

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1. You fixed the problem. Good.

2. Where any of these musty fabrics in the basement prior to the repairs? Launder or dispose of them.

3. Spore counts and species identification don't generally mean a whole lot. ONE sample, or samples of one location are meaningless.

4. The lab grew mold from the Spore in the sample. Only two species is odd. Elevated as compared to what? There are no established base line data to validate this statement.

5. If the basement is partially finished and that stuff got wet it all needs to go. If the carpet and baseboard are not in the basement, we'll then I can agree with them there is mold on that stuff. There are 60 to 80 million mold spores on every square inch of the planet. Have been for millions of years. Will be for millions more.

6. There is no concensus that there are any mold born illnesses. People with compromised immune systems or specific allergies may be affected by mold. If this is the case you need medical advice.

7. Your furnace is no doubt an effective mold spore delivery system. A HEPA filter will only be effective if your ductwork is sealed, and you change it often.

Why would you let a cleaning company modify the thing that is holding up your house? You need a second opinion, and a new clean up company.

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I sincerely hope we did not scare him away. This is a classic case. I wonder how long the "mold" person would last with the likes of me. Jim, Jim, Kurt, Tom and nearly any other inspector on this forum!

I have never heard of scrapping walls, much less removing spall to get at mold. I use spall only for Jim and Kurt's benefit.

To the original post: listen to everyone that posted a reply. Get rid of the crook that sent the sample to the lab and told you there is toxic black mold in your house. I could have told you that from 500 miles away and it would have been free.

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the base line data to validate this statement (that mold is present) is the control they placed outside. they ran the test inside the house and outside the house.

Yes, there is mold spores naturally all over the world, but the lab results came back showing many more spores inside then outside. and it also showed mold spores inside that didn't even exist in the outside air. So there is no doubt that mold is growing in the house.

Are you guys saying that I should not let this mold remediation company remove the mold? they did spot tests also on the spall which came back high counts of mold spores. I guess I am not sure why I should leave mold growing in my house? Why would I want to leave the "spall" (thanks for the new term) on the stone wall when it is musty smelling and all over the bottom floor. I am really interested in why this is on the wall?! if they scrap it off, is this ok? does this terrible smelling, old, dirty stuff all over have anything to do with stabilizing anything? its so weak and brittle im sure there is no use for it being there only to be the home for mold spores to grow. Thanks again for the help as I try and figure this out.

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Mikeyjw,

The reaction you are getting here is because many of us have seen the antics of the "Mold is Gold" group of people. Mold is not a new problem but within the last few years it has become a major issue in the real estate market, partly because of the hype of companies that are making lots of money on mold.

I am not a mold expert and many of the people that claim to be mold experts have certifications that are bogus. There are people that go to a seminar, receive a certificate, and then go into the mold business. This cannot be compared to the scientists that spend a lot of time trying to determine how mold affects people and how to quantify exposure risks and which people are most affected by certain mold types.

I think the most important thing that you should take out of this thread is that you should not instantly react and spend a lot of money repairing a problem that may not be real or may not be as bad as it seems because the company doing the testing is not a neutral party.

Regarding your stone foundation I recommend that you contact a qualified mason to determine the extent of the damage and get an estimate for repairs. I would not rely on a "Mold Specialist" or opinions derived from your photo posted on the internet to evaluate your foundation.

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Thanks Steven for the reply probably the most helpful yet! I actually found some great information on this project after hours of research. I didn't realize there was a "mold is gold" epidemic that existed so I guess I can see what's going on here.

but if the basement smells musty, mildew, mold smelling, there was history of water leakage, there are visible signs of mold, contact mold testing and air quality testing came back detecting mold... I don't think im getting low blowed by a "crooked" remediation company. I don't know how I could be wrong on that? lol

I found a great video of removing the spall and decayed mortar, dirt, debris that is all musty and housing mold/bacteria from getting wet in the past. some people pressure wash or some people scrape the walls. re-pointing does not look like it will be too much of an issue as most of the rocks are pretty solid and secure. I guess I will find out if there are crevasses or joints that need re-appointing after the walls are cleaned up. I just want the mold gone and im trying to be diligent so I don't get screwed over. So im not too sure what all the fuss is about by I am learning a lot about my stone foundation now. lol

I have found that you should not paint stone field foundation walls as you don't want a barrier that traps water inside. I am just concerned about them applying a antimicrobial coating on the walls and if that is ok or not. It would be GOOD as it would kill and inhibit mold growth but I don't want it affecting the foundation. I guess ill research some area masons and have a chat if nobody really knows.

Thanks!

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the base line data to validate this statement (that mold is present) is the control they placed outside. they ran the test inside the house and outside the house.

Yes, there is mold spores naturally all over the world, but the lab results came back showing many more spores inside then outside. and it also showed mold spores inside that didn't even exist in the outside air. So there is no doubt that mold is growing in the house.

Mold spores won't start growing in the first place without adequate moisture and they need a higher relative humidity than we do. So if the relative humidity in the area is high, you're wasting your dough on remediation. It'll just come right back.

If the moisture intrusion is small, maybe all you need is ventilation, dehumidification or even a little AC/heat from the house. Large intrusion rates might be easier solved by sleuthing the source of the water intrusion, moisture intrusion or condensation then correcting it. Afterwards, a little maintenance with ventilation, dehumidification, AC/heat might take care of the rest.

Only after this is done should you ok the remediation and only if the spore count still rises. That might happen despite normal humidity levels because mold only needs higher moisture to begin reproducing. Once started, depending on the species, it might continue to grow when humidity returns to normal. You have to remove it or encapsulate it to stop it.

Are you guys saying that I should not let this mold remediation company remove the mold? they did spot tests also on the spall which came back high counts of mold spores. I guess I am not sure why I should leave mold growing in my house? Why would I want to leave the "spall" (thanks for the new term) on the stone wall when it is musty smelling and all over the bottom floor. I am really interested in why this is on the wall?! if they scrap it off, is this ok? does this terrible smelling, old, dirty stuff all over have anything to do with stabilizing anything? its so weak and brittle im sure there is no use for it being there only to be the home for mold spores to grow. Thanks again for the help as I try and figure this out.

I have a mold detector I carry with me at all times. It's my nose. If I don't smell it, I don't worry about it.

That's my two bits.

Marc

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You've got combinations of stuff that guarantees you will always have mold growth.

1) Old stone foundation. I don't care how dry you make the exterior, you're always going to have some amount of moisture in the wall as there isn't any damproofing on the exterior of old stone foundations. Wet moves to dry; damp soil will readily transfer moisture from the exterior to the interior.

2) You didn't tell us in the first post that you've got drywall, framing, carpeting, and other finish materials in this old stone foundation basement. It's all organic material, i.e, mold food. Putting mold food into an old stone foundation basement guarantees mold growth. As soon as you place all that vapor absorbent material against the old stone foundation and on the concrete floor, you restrict vapor movement, moisture accumulates, and mold grows.

3) No amount of chipping, cleaning, pointing, fiddling, or fussing is going to rid the property of mold. It's always there. Giving it food and water will make it grow. You probably can't get rid of the water (or vapor), but you can deprive it of food. That means you tear out the basement and you certainly don't live down there. Sorry to break the news to you.

You can't finish old basements like yours and think it's going to ever be mold free. I see this on an almost daily basis, including today. All that moisture that migrates into your house used to evaporate harmlessly into the house atmosphere and dissipate. When you wrap the foundation in absorbent and vapor retardant materials, the moisture accumulates, and you get mold.

A couple additional points.....

The type of mold is immaterial. The fact that anyone is making a big deal out of any particular type of mold indicates these folks are shysters.

The fact that these shysters are also trying to chip and scrape their way to a mold free property without informing you of the impossibility of your making an old stone foundation finished basement mold free....means they're even stupider than I originally imagined.

I think you got a real problem, but these folks aren't helping you. They're ripping you off.

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Regardless of the mold, periodically the interior of stone foundation walls need to be reparged with a new masonry layer (similar to stucco). That prevents the loose mortar from eroding between the stones and it cuts down on moisture penetration though the foundation walls. It looks like the walls could stand to be reparged. That would be a job for a masonry contractor. Don't hire a mold contractor for that because they will probably sub the job to a masonry contractor.

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A disagreement on that one.....

Parging does next to nothing to reduce moisture migration through the wall; plugging a leak from the inside is backwards and the usual cement used for "parging" is absorbent and conducts moisture quite nicely. We know moisture moves through cement like thin shit through a tall Swede. If cement didn't conduct moisture, there wouldn't be any need for damp proofing foundations, drainage plane mats, or any other moisture proofing of foundations. The simple presence of entire industries devoted to keeping moisture from migrating through concrete should be proof enough that cement isn't waterproof.

There are a lot of ways for correcting and controlling moisture migration through old stone foundations, but parging definitely isn't one of them. The term parging, like tuckpointing, has been bastardized to mean smearing any kind of cement on any kind of masonry.

Parging was originally a high lime content mortar that acted more as a poultice for "nourishing" the old masonry than as a moisture barrier. The lime acted somewhat as a moisture barrier.....he miracle of lime and carbonatation (not carbonization, that's for fizzy drinks), slowed moisture migration, but it didn't prevent moisture moving into the foundation. Time and ignorance eventually eliminated lime and folks imagined there was some kind of magic to new mortars that kept out water. I don't know why they thought this. No one ever used to think this.

For reasons I do not understand, engineers like modern mortars. Modern mortars, applied to old stone foundations, have little use other than keeping the old sandy mortars from sifting out of the walls and to stabilize the foundation. That's about it. Moisture reduction....nope. They make people feel good though because it's all nice and clean looking.

Today's parged stone foundation.....pretty wet, but with lots of pretty new cement smeared all over it......

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The picture in the OP looks like most of the thousands of stone foundations I've seen although several hundred look worse. It's completely normal. http://historicbldgs.com/stonefoundations.htm

Most of my clients get it but some folks just aren't the right type to live in and maintain an old house. These are the ones that call in a panic asking me to rush over and see their "crumbling foundation", when it's only some random flaking of the coating.

I'm starting to just ignore people that only want us to confirm their fear of mold is valid. I don't have patience to unbrainwash homeowners or even discuss it anymore with inspectors that fall for the crap spewed at the mold-is-gold seminars.

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You can't finish old basements like yours and think it's going to ever be mold free. I see this on an almost daily basis, including today. All that moisture that migrates into your house used to evaporate harmlessly into the house atmosphere and dissipate.

I do agree with you the previous owners should not have put drywall up in front of the stone foundation essentially sealing it from any airflow and not allowing circulation and allowing moisture to dissipate. the basement has been "as is" since I bought the house.

They are essentially gutting the basement and taking out all materials that are "food for mold". They are going to HEPA vac and HEPA filter under negative pressure and get all of that junk out of there. So I'm left with an empty stone foundation basement down there. that is the goal and fine with me as nobody lives down there except for laundry and space for utilities.

that will open up the whole area for dehumidification, as well as the block windows that have block window units for fresh air circulation, sunlight, etc. with the water intrusion issue fixed, there should be minimal moisture weeping in through the stone. I understand that there will ALWAYS be moisture moving from outside (wet) to inside (dry) but with the major water issues fixed and opening up the room to fresh air, circulation, etc that should improve the mold situation drastically and I think that is hard to argue with!? cant have much of a rebuttal on that?

That leaves me with the sh** looking, smelly, mold infected decaying mortar spall. many old stone companies power wash/scrape these walls and repoint if that is even needed (which will further help moisture from getting in).

How is doing all that going to rip me off and still leave me with a mold problem. How can one even say that all this wont drastically help this mold problem? Seems like it will essentially fix the problem?

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The picture in the OP looks like most of the thousands of stone foundations I've seen although several hundred look worse. It's completely normal. http://historicbldgs.com/stonefoundations.htm

Most of my clients get it but some folks just aren't the right type to live in and maintain an old house. These are the ones that call in a panic asking me to rush over and see their "crumbling foundation", when it's only some random flaking of the coating.

That was only once picture. here is another of black colonizing mold near the bottom left. its not the "crumbling foundation" that's an issue I realize after many, many years the mortared joints erode due to freeze/thaw and moisture seeping through. The crumbling spall I understand is normal. What's not normal is when you take a piece of grit off and almost pass out from the moldy odor. What's also not normal is black mold showing up on the crumbly walls. if mold growth like that is normal, and you've seen hundreds worse, then man that's scary after what the CDC says about side affects of mold.

I would also never be able to sell my property with the walls looking that crumbly and decayed and with black residue and mold on it. Its not uncommon for the walls to be "maintained" and cleaned up and repointed if needed. I don't see how that could be a bad thing, especially if it helps the mold issue and air quality throughout the whole house. So this is more then just normal random flaking it appears.

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How is doing all that going to rip me off and still leave me with a mold problem. How can one even say that all this wont drastically help this mold problem? Seems like it will essentially fix the problem?

One can say all of what I've said because we're getting information in bits and pieces and I'm commenting on what information I have available. It's why I asked you to break it down into parts so we could figure it out.

I still think they're ripping you off because of what Tom said and Kibbel reiterated and clarified. It's a stone foundation. Chipping and diddling around with it isn't going to change the equation of dozens of millions of mold spores on every square inch of it. Biocides, as much as we like the idea of them, aren't all that effective; go ahead, pay for it, but it's not worth whatever you're paying. You could do the same thing with a dollars worth of bleach. And, however much water is part of their application immediately becomes the basis for more mold collection and growth. IOW, biocides don't do much in the long, or even short, picture. Whatever mold they "remove" will instantly be replaced because mold spores are floating around everywhere all the time in great profusion.

Tearing out the current finished basement will help and get it to the point where you can, more or less, control it. There are methods for finishing your basement so it is clean and reasonably mold free. Some of us could describe those methods if you're interested, but they're not cheap and there will be some disagreement amongst those of us that would comment. But, there's ways to do it.

I think you're confused because what you're hearing in here contradicts what you're reading in popular media and being sold by shyster morons jumping on the next big thing and trying to drag a buck out of it. What we have to say is boring. No sensation, no craziness of weird people, no multi million dollar lawsuits, etc., etc. The actualities of mold are pretty simple and basic. Simple and basic doesn't sell newspapers or get folks unable to find useful work a paycheck. IOW, what you're hearing in popular news media and sales pitches is self serving tripe.

Mold is not good. It can be bad in varying ways, but it's only bad in very high concentrations, which you may have had and that you're now getting rid of. There's also the possibility that member of your family may be in the infinitesimally small percentage of the population that are genetically predisposed to have major problems with small amounts of mold, but that's something to pursue with your doctor, not a mold removal contractor or a bunch of home inspectors.

So, you and your family are probably going to be just fine. Just don't waste a lot of money on crap that morons in the mold business are selling you.

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A disagreement on that one.....

Parging does next to nothing to reduce moisture migration through the wall; plugging a leak from the inside is backwards and the usual cement used for "parging" is absorbent and conducts moisture quite nicely. We know moisture moves through cement like thin shit through a tall Swede. If cement didn't conduct moisture, there wouldn't be any need for damp proofing foundations, drainage plane mats, or any other moisture proofing of foundations. The simple presence of entire industries devoted to keeping moisture from migrating through concrete should be proof enough that cement isn't waterproof.

There are a lot of ways for correcting and controlling moisture migration through old stone foundations, but parging definitely isn't one of them. The term parging, like tuckpointing, has been bastardized to mean smearing any kind of cement on any kind of masonry.

Parging was originally a high lime content mortar that acted more as a poultice for "nourishing" the old masonry than as a moisture barrier. The lime acted somewhat as a moisture barrier.....he miracle of lime and carbonatation (not carbonization, that's for fizzy drinks), slowed moisture migration, but it didn't prevent moisture moving into the foundation. Time and ignorance eventually eliminated lime and folks imagined there was some kind of magic to new mortars that kept out water. I don't know why they thought this. No one ever used to think this.

For reasons I do not understand, engineers like modern mortars. Modern mortars, applied to old stone foundations, have little use other than keeping the old sandy mortars from sifting out of the walls and to stabilize the foundation. That's about it. Moisture reduction....nope. They make people feel good though because it's all nice and clean looking.

Today's parged stone foundation.....pretty wet, but with lots of pretty new cement smeared all over it......

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tn_2016316221019_DSCN8996.jpg

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I can't really disagree with you other than to say that basements where the parging is in good condition (not from lack of deterioration, but from replacement) almost always seem to be far less damp.

Also, quite a bit of deterioration of parging usually does not bother me too much, but when the sand/lime mortar starts to pile up on the floor these walls can end up with structural problems that are expensive to fix.

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They do seem dryer; I'll grant you that. That is, until it peels off and you see what's really going on under there.

They're damp. Almost all of them.

We have some around here where the soils are sand, like pure silica sand dune sand, remnants of the Ice Age glacier. Those guys are just fine and dandy. Dry as a bone.

Then, there's others built in areas that are filled in swampland and a city built on it. Those boys are a mess, and all one can do is slather them to keep the sandy mortar from sifting out.

No one size fits all with stone foundations. But, most of them are damp.

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