Crawl spaces are a “hot spot” for humidity, leaks, moisture problems, mold growth, and poor indoor air quality. In fact, recent studies have shown that approximately 35-50% of the indoor air comes from this area.
As the air from naturally rises into your home from openings around pipes or ducts, walls, and cracks, it passes into the breathable air of the rooms above. It will also bring any moisture, mold spores, volatile organic compounds (VOC’S), and anything else that may be in this dirty space.
Many molds give off toxins called mycotoxins and produce microbial volatile organic compounds (MVOCs) that can affect you, your family, and or your pet’s health. If present, these toxins can easily enter into your home through any openings in the subfloor.
This will cause a musty smell to develop in the home when windows and doors are not open which will lead to poor indoor air quality and health problems. I have seen the moisture cause floorboards to even warp and subfloors become trashed.
So if you have a problem, it is imperative that you fix the issue fast before it seriously affects you and your family’s health.
For example, I was recently called by a homeowner for mold inspection in Vista, California. She had a leak in her crawl space of one of her rental properties about 4-5 days prior due to a pinhole leak in her hot water supply line that caused massive water damage to her home.
Upon walking into their home I was taken aback by the massive toxic mold smells and rotten construction materials already permeating the air. Intuitively, I quickly began taking half breathes as I always do to deal with the onslaught of toxins hitting me.
Not only was the air toxic but her tenants who happen to be her daughter and her boyfriend were very concerned because they were smelling mildew within a day or 2 of the leak and they have not been feeling well. They also shared with me that the boyfriend has been sick with a sinus infection and just went to the doctor on the day of my arrival.
To be honest, once I smelled the air and they shared these scary details with me, I knew what I would find under the house. I have done this enough times to accurately predict what I was about to find.
Here are a couple of images of the plague I discovered underneath her home when I peaked my full-face respirator mug through the crawl space access door.
If wouldn’t say that it was mold hell – but it was pretty damn close.
As you can see, the mold had already taken hold of the entire crawl space and was growing everywhere as far as the eye could see. The cause the problem with this home was from a pinhole leak in a hot water line but there are many reasons why this can happen.
When it gets this bad, my first recommendation is to remove all flooring in the home and all the subfloors because the mold will be growing on top of the 2×6 support beams and will also be growing up through the subfloors and any and all openings. You cannot treat and or kill the mold without removing the affected wood.
Unfortunately, most insurance companies never allow for this to happen because of the costs involved even though it is the safe and right thing to do. The reason being is that it can get very expensive to replace all the flooring and subfloors as opposed to just fogging and drying the area.
Here is a list of some of the problems that cause this condition;
* Broken or burst pipe
* Poorly ventilated crawl space
* Excess ground or rainwater usually from heavy rains, poor drainage, high groundwater tables, lack of or inadequate gutters, improper landscape grading, or irrigation system
* Humidity on cold surfaces
* Broken sump pumps
* Small space
* Inadequate airflow and or vents
For example, if your home is located in an area where there is a lot of rain or you’re at the bottom of a hill and the level of the water table is naturally high, it is recommended that you install a sump pump, vents, and a fan to help keep the area dry as possible. You also need to have a maintenance plan in place to check on these every couple months to make sure everything is working properly.
If you have a small space with only 2 feet of headroom, you are going to have problems getting in there to properly treat and remove the mold. Sometimes holes need to be cut through the first-floor subfloor giving you access points to the crawl space so you can kill the mold and dry the area.
As you can tell, this process is labor intensive and dangerous so it is important that you hire someone who knows what they are doing to handle this work.
Once the problem is fixed that is causing the mold growth, now it is time for the remediation plan to take effect.
Here are some of the steps we take to remediate;
* Install commercial HEPA filters in the home and crawl space to start filtering the air.
* Fog the crawl space and the entire home immediately to kill all airborne and surface mold so we have a somewhat safe space to work and we put a stop to their ability to grow and multiply.
* Once we do that, it is time to remove the mold growth on the subfloors and in the crawl space. Normally, this can be done with HEPA vacuuming, applying an antimicrobial, wiping down and sanding the wood. But if the growth is very bad and has been occurring for a long time, there may be a good chance that you should remove and replace all your subfloors.
* A layer of dirt of 6-12 inches may need to be removed as well if there is excess moisture, mud and or mold growth on the soil. You can then put fresh and dry dirt on top which helps big time on absorbing some of the excess moisture.
* Install professional-grade dehumidifiers to keep the area dry.
* Increase ventilation
After the remediation process is finished and the problems causing it corrected, the area must be protected to prevent future issues.
As I mentioned above, you can keep the area dry with a moisture barrier. vents, fans, sub pump, and dehumidifiers.
If you need help with a project in the Southern California area, please give us a call at 760-818-6830.
Moe Bedard is the founder and CEO of Mold Safe Solutions. A full-service Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) company specializing in property water damage, mold inspections, consultations, and mold remediation. If you need help with a project, please call Mold Safe Solutions at 760-818-6830.