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Crystalline fuzzy substance in damp crawlspace?


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I completed an inspection the other day on a house that was built in the mid 50s. The home had a very old even odd smell to it. I got into the crawl space and found that is was very musty smelling, almost asphyxiating. The dirt floor was covered in spots by a crystalline substance that looked fuzzy, yet sparkled in my light. About half of the crawlspace dirt was wet. It didn't appear to be on any of the structure or any where but the dirt. Is this mold or something else? There was plenty of obvious moisture signs, that is why I am leaning towards mold. I haven't seen this before though.

Yes that is a damp carpet that the PO had rolled out in the crawlspace[:-crazy]

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Yesterday I was speaking with a home inspector friend in AZ, Scott Warga about sulfates in the soil attacking concrete. Apparently, sulfates can be found in high concentrations through out the West and in some other parts of the country. AZ has some major problems that are starting to pop up.

It can been seen as white crystalline deposits,kind of like what you have in your pictures. Is that what you have? I don't know, but if you look at the base of the concrete foundation wall you can see what looks like moisture is wicking up the wall and efflorescence of salts on the concrete. If this is what it is then you should be able to scratch the concrete off with ease as the sulfates make the concrete soft and to the point of crumbling. CMU blocks just fall apart.

This is a link to some good information on this issue:

http://www.understanding-cement.com/sulfate.html

This is just a idea of what you might have found. What you found looks like it has been caused by water evaporating and leaving a mineral deposit of some type.

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I don't think it's sulfates; it's probably some organic soil-born fungi that's been allowed to go unchecked.

Of course it smells dank and nauseating. Of course the soil feels wet. Where the hell is the vapor barrier?

That soil is evaporating moisture into the air 24/7/365 and they put a carpet down on top of the soil so that the carpet can retain some of that moisture and turn moldy? Kewl! Did you flip part of that carpet over to look at the underside?

Tell them to get the debris, including the carpet out of there, put down a vapor barrier and then fix the heating duct so that moisture-laden interior air stops flowing into that crawlspace and adding to what's going on down there.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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I don't think it's sulfates; it's probably some organic soil-born fungi that's been allowed to go unchecked.

Of course it smells dank and nauseating. Of course the soil feels wet. Where the hell is the vapor barrier?

That soil is evaporating moisture into the air 24/7/365 and they put a carpet down on top of the soil so that the carpet can retain some of that moisture and turn moldy? Kewl! Did you flip part of that carpet over to look at the underside?

Tell them to get the debris, including the carpet out of there, put down a vapor barrier and then fix the heating duct so that moisture-laden interior air stops flowing into that crawlspace and adding to what's going on down there.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

My clients had already purchased the home, (without an inspection prior to purchase....don't ask me why) They wanted an inspection for their homeowners insurance so I was contacted. Kind of backwards if you ask me.

Yeah I noted that all the junk down there should be removed including the carpet, home owner fixed the duct work on the spot, minus taping the connection. I mentioned that a vapor barrier should be put down, and it seemed that the crawlspace vents were too small. So I mentioned that they should look into adding more ventilation. I hope this doesn't come back to bite them in the butt. (no pre-purchase inspection)

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