Having a home is always a never-ending job. There are always things that need tweaking, fixing, repairing, or changing. Sometimes, this job is tedious. This is how we maintain the house’s health, sturdiness, and retail value.
Today we want to discuss a situation that we have faced in the past. Of course, this is a case that we experienced through a customer and thought it would make interesting reading. We are including also links to companies that provide services and goods that you might find helpful in similar situations.
This case begins with a regular home that looked nice and fancy. It was a house where happiness and love were present among its residents. However, one day, the mother of the family coughed. It wasn’t a very important cough, but it was something that bothered her. As time passed by, her cough was more noticeable and she developed what she referred to as a feeling of a “weight on her chest”, similar to what she felt when she fell sick with seasonal flu.
After a few days, she went to the doctor. The physician noticed that there were signs and symptoms that told him she could have a serious respiratory distress problem. It could easily mean that she had bronchitis or something a bit more serious than the common flu, but nothing that needed hospitalization. Still, as the days passed, she noticed new and more annoying signs and symptoms. Her nose felt stuffy, she had problems breathing.
One day, as she was talking to her children, they realized that, inadvertently, their mother had spent over 10 minutes scratching her left arm. In an unconscious manner, she scratched her arms as if she had brushed poison ivy; red, achy welts appeared on her arm.
This meant another visit to the doctor. Now the problem was NOT a virus or… It was a fungus.
It baffled them. There was no reason for their mother to be exposed to a fungus. How or when? The answer came up one day when the mother needed to craft a Thanksgiving Costume for her youngest child. As the kid approached mom in her sewing room, he noticed a faint smell… Like a “forest” he said. When he told mom that the room smelled like a “forest”, mom dismissed the comment, thinking that it was child’s play.
Mold in the beginning, its “early stages” often remind a “forest-like” smell. This is because, in heavily wooded areas, mold and humidity are constant. If you perceive such a scent, search. It is likely you will find over one moldy spot.
A common misconception states that mold is a synonym of decay and neglect when it could just result from degraded insulation or the lack thereof. Indeed, sometimes mold is the byproduct of neglect and decay; but hoarding and clutter undoubtedly surrounded these times.
More often than not, mold appearance is just a symptom of lack of insulation or a terrible state of the insulation that was the home. Here, the home never had insulation installed before. They built the house before the ‘60s, so insulation was not a mandatory thing.
Of course, remodeling and renewals, along with any other maintenance done to the house, should have included insulation, but there is no way to know why it was not. In a practical sense, it has no relevance. The important matter is to solve the problem rather than focus on a reason for it.
So How to proceed?
The first thing is to find the mold sprout.
Empty the room to give space for supervision, search, and diagnosis. Since this was a sewing room, the sewing machine, pattern cabinets, threads, and all materials go out of the room. This person had mannequins and cabinets and small closets for all the materials and supplies she used, as well as some unfinished projects.
As each piece exits the room, make sure that you check each item for mold contamination. If mold appears in a wall behind a piece of furniture, it is likely that such a piece also shows mold signs. It could be undamaged, indeed.
Damaged and contaminated pieces of furniture require treatment, or they will contaminate the area once they are back in the room.
Fabrics also respond to mold. There are levels and degrees of contamination. In minor degrees, it is possible to just need to wash the fabric and ensure it is fully dry before returning it to the area. But where mold has settled IN the fabric, such fabric is unsalvageable. Washing it will cause the mold to leave a hole in the fabric.
Do not consider if a fabric that is evidently damaged with mold can be salvaged. It most likely can’t and by keeping it, you risk damaging any new fabrics or items you place in close vicinity.
If you have removed furniture out of the room where you found mold, remember to check the items inside the furniture. Books, fabrics, and leather are very susceptible to falling prey to mold. Moldy books or paper and moldy leather items will continue to decay once the grip of mold is upon them.
Once you have gone through the items inside the furniture, check each piece of furniture. Different materials react in different ways to mold exposure. There are some cases where mold presence can vanish through the use of sandpaper and cleaning fluids. In other cases, there is nothing to do. Wood is problematic as mold burrows its way deep in the grain and it is very hard to remove it entirely.
It is important to remove all the moldy sites, as they can cause serious health hazards to the residents of the house.
The process for each piece of furniture will vary according to each piece, the age of the furniture piece, the amount of damage (this can either be the sum of the time of exposure and the overall surface interested or just one of the two), as well as the finish it used to have (raw pieces need a different approach).
In all cases, the process is long as it needs to be carried out in a slow-paced manner.
Working with decaying materials is not something that would is a good fit for the weekend project homeowner. These require special materials, solutions, and the ability to securely dispose of any residue. None of this is plausible for the weekend do-it-yourself enthusiast. If you want to tackle such an endeavor, it would be a better idea to learn and working on this once you have successfully removed mold from the project room (in this case, the sewing room) and made sure that you do not have any health problems residue of this exposure.
Our friends from This Old House have an interesting post on how to remove mold from the furniture. It might not remove it entirely, but it can be a powerful helping hand to start off with.
The clients on our case took matters slowly and for those pieces of furniture that were heirlooms, they hired a professional service to restore the furniture to their original grandeur. It took them about 2 months, but their great-grandmother’s furniture was not lost.
Yet, not everything was good news, as they lost quite a substantial amount of fabric. AS we have mentioned before, in most cases, there is no way to adequately repair or recover fabrics once they have sustained mold damage.
One of the biggest concerns for our clients is being able to determine why did mold appear in their homes. Mold is not something that you should be ashamed of. Mold can appear because of an almost endless amount of possibilities.
For our clients, mold appeared as a direct consequence of outdoor weather and a lack of insulation in the external walls, ceiling, and basement. This allowed the humidity and cold temperature to contrast and crash against the warm ambiance indoors. With the proper surface, such as natural fabrics and materials such as wood cabinets, mold developed in a heartbeat.
We can tell you that once their home was properly insulated, they have had no other problems with mold. In their case, it was expensive as they did not take care of the entire thing themselves. There were things they wanted to recover, so they had to invest in salvaging actions.
Just like in their case, it might not be cheap for you, but considering all the repair or replacing of stuff you will need to do; it is both an important decision and the cheapest way to proceed
Correcting the problem at its core
Just like there is a problematic and ill-created perception of the reason for mold inside a house, there is also the ill-conceived notion that dealing with mold is equally simple. There are those who believe that just ventilating an area will put an end to any mold growth or development.
There are those who pile up humidity-absorbing products to absorb the excess humidity and stop mold. While both such actions are pivotal in stopping the growth of mold, they are alone not enough to revert or end with the mold growth spurt. They will not stop the damage that furniture and fabrics have sustained with growing mold.
What all these products will do is to provide support in an ongoing effort and end your financial adequacy, as they can become quite expensive really fast.
Yet, these actions do nothing to tackle the root of the problem. They merely mask the issue while giving mold and mildew time to grow, thrive, and contaminate even more surfaces and create a bigger health issue.
There is nothing you can do for a room that has no insulation and that has developed mold or mildew unless you fix the root problem. This means that any humidity absorbers, ventilation and even replacing the fixtures or the furniture itself will solve nothing unless you deal with the insulation problem.
That is why our clients skipped alternative ways to “fix it yourself the easy way” and went in ahead with the insulation check and correction. As we have mentioned, it is not the easiest nor the cheapest action, but it certainly is the smartest one.
Opening up the wall for insulation
If you are planning to do most of the work, take part with the professionals or do the entire work, you need to take things slowly and work carefully so that things are done right and you do not risk your health.
As things are removed from the room and reviewed. Discard them or send them to repair. If the room has a carpet, remove the carpet and change the under carpeting or replace the carpet entirely. Mold and Mildew can spread quietly underneath and cause problems with your floor and health.
Remember to wear safety gear. Security shoes that have electrical isolation, comfortable clothes that can’t get trapped by tools, and wear eye goggles and consider earplugs, especially if you are using heavy equipment for the installation.
Once all the movables have been removed from the room, it is always advisable that you protect your working area. A Painter’s plastic cover might work perfectly. The next step is to remove the plaster from the wall. Carefully break the wall to remove the plaster and expose the space behind the wall itself.
If the house is old enough, this space may be vacant or be insulated with asbestos. IF you suspect that asbestos might be used, contact your local fire department for information and help in processing, removing, and disposing of this material. Remember that asbestos is highly responsible for causing cancer.
Otherwise, make sure that the area is clean. If there was insulation installed (other than asbestos) check the condition of the insulation. It might be yellowish but check for wetness or clear decay. If there is an unpleasant odor or smell, do not hesitate and replace the insulation entirely.
If the insulation or the area looks wet or is currently developing mold, you will need to check any surrounding water sources, such as water pipelines and drainage. It might also be convenient for you to check the integrity of the alls themselves.
Occasional repairs might be in order. In all cases, it is a good measure to leave the wall open and allow it to ventilate for at least 3 hours. If you are starting your work late in the afternoon, wait until the next day to check and make sure the integrity of the wall is adequate and that there is no mold growth.
What type of insulation
Now comes the time when you need to decide what you want to accomplish. For some clients, keeping any potential outside moisture has been a priority. For others, it is keeping the indoor climate as tight as possible-
In other cases, the goal is to isolate the room from outdoor noises.
Naturally, all three things are possible with the right combination and material chosen. It might be a tough choice when considering the wide variety of insulation products and materials in the market. Contact us for personalized guidance.
When installing insulation in a wall, it is recommended to use batt insulation so that it can be cut down to size before installing it. When installing this type of insulation, be sure to take the right measures.
Prior to installing the insulation, make sure that all services have been properly isolated. Water, gas, and electricity should be isolated from the insulation itself. While most of the insulation materials are fire retardant, it is always advisable to take the proper measures to prevent a fire.
People think fires stay in the place where they originated. A common occurrence is that electrical fires start in one place and run all about the house following the path of the electrical installation. This means that periodically, as the fire seeks air to continue burning and expand, it will burst from room to room and that causes fire problems for the fire departments all over the globe.
This is a good reading on the subject.
So it is important to make sure that the installation of the services is properly done, even if the electrical installation is recent, it is always advisable for you to check it. It is a better idea to have a professional supervise it. This could even be the fire department, as what you want to do is prevent fires.
If you do not know where to go for this, check this link.
As soon as this step is adequately done, it will be the right time for you to proceed with the rest of the installation. Cutting the insulation batt to the right size is not a difficult task if you take the process with ease and attention.
Install the insulation carefully and take your time, this is something that can’t be stressed enough. The same occurs with you using protective gear. This is the slowest step but also the most important one as this will mark whether you need more insulation. In addition, if you plan to add over one layer of insulation to your project, settling them at a slow pace will ensure that the project is both properly and efficiently done.
If what you are planning to do is to prevent moisture to sift inside the wall, or to avoid the indoor and the outdoor temperatures crashing, you might want to add to your plan a Vapor Barrier.
It is during this time when you can choose and change the primary goal for the insulation. If you are uncertain that you have accomplished your goal, wait 12 hours and check the work you have done.
If you are satisfied, then it is time for you to move on to redoing the wall.
Redoing the wall
It is when it is the right moment to redo the wall. Setting up drywall is not a problematic thing, though it needs time and concentration, just like the rest of the process.
And just like the rest of the process, do not expect it to be over in a matter of hours Stores like home depot and similar offer you the materials needed for installing drywall in your home. In addition, they can also provide you with guidance, help, and even professionals that will take care of the task for you.
Now is not the time to rush the project. Each step takes time and has a process that must be carried out. BE mindful of the manufacturer’s instructions and, while you are not doing insulation installation exactly anymore, still keep your protective gear. We all have seen how Homer Simpson gets hurt when he works in his house and does not die, but he’s a cartoon and you are not.