Advice Wanted- Mold on Walls

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by whodunit, Dec 20, 2004.

  1. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,028
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2004
    Location:
    Idaho
    We have been having a problem with mold or mildew (white, greenish, and pinkish) growing on our walls, especially in our two bedrooms behind things, i.e. headboard, dresser, etc. This happens mostly on the exterior walls, in the corners, but also in the windows. They are double-paned, vinyl.

    I don't know too much about this type of thing, but I have done some research and it looks like this happens due to too much moisture (humidity) plus not enough air circulation.

    I'm also under the impression that part of the moisture problem is from condensation, from the inside temp being warmer than the outside temp, and it is worsended by the fact that the walls may not be insulated.

    I did check under the house. We have a partially dug-out basement and I can see to the foundation which is cinderblock. The soil on the inside of the foundation is completely dry. The floor is garvel and soil, and is moist. We have a hole with a sub-pump down there and it rarely runs.

    When we discovered the problem, I washed those areas of the walls with a strong bleach solution and we made an effort to strike it with Lysol now and again. We were also running a dehumidifier all the time and that seemed to keep the problem at bay.

    We recently got our electric bill and decided to cut down on the dehumidifier use due to the cost.

    Now the stuff is back.

    Any thoughts from those of you who know about this type of thing would be most appreciated. We are looking for advice on how to actually fix the problem, not just deal with it.

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Becky H.

    Becky H. Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    720
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2004
    Location:
    Mississippi
    Humid south is not where I'm originally form. I have never seen so much mold and fungus in my whole life than I've seen here. The rental home we lived in before we purchased this one had so much mold it was making me sick. I sympathize with you!

    Air purifier. Run it after you use a hepa vacuum over everything in the house. I know you want to keep the energy bill down. but you have to use these two things to get rid of all the mold first.

    The thing about mold is all the spores that you can't see. You found out how to kill them. But you didn't kill the ones that are still all over the stuff in your house. They become airborne so easy. So do that to eliminate all the spores first. You won't get them all but you won't be infested with it then either. Regular cleaning few times a year like this will help.

    Bleach is the way to kill all the mold. It needs moisture and an organic substance to feed on. It may be just eating the wall or just any dust that settled on the wall.

    When I used to work at a window/glass shop I learned this about humidity. It will condense on the inner warm part of the house when it is much colder outside. New homes have a significant problem with water condensation on their windows, because new homes are otherwise "air tight." To help you, old home or new no matter, you need to crack a window open to allow some of the moisture to escape to the outside that way. One window, then with a storm window on outside not cracked, will help you in the room taht you are trying to keep the moisture from building up on that particular wall, hence with all the moisture, the superb environment for the mold to grow.

    Even with air circulation, if there is moisture in the air, it will just make the mold grow somewhere else, get rid of the moisture is ideally what you need to do, and then air purify, hepa out whatever spores you still have left in the house. Good luck.
     

  3. Clara Bell

    Clara Bell Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    But what do you do if you live with keeping humidity inside and out much the same. The only time I turn up the heat is when the kids are coming home.
    Be careful mixing those chemicals.
    I have springs running under this house, so mold is something I'm learning to deal with. Water is life, and brings much moisture. and other things.
    Its a trade off.
    Might need to start thinking about the grounds around your home. Getting the water to shed away from the foundation.
     
  4. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

    Messages:
    28,248
    Joined:
    May 20, 2004
    Location:
    SE Missouri
    The walls are sweating because they are much cooler than the room air, like a glass of ice tea on a warm humid day. The solution would be to really insulate those walls. Obviously, in Idaho in mid winter, you aren't going to want to start ripping out walls, tho. My first thought would be to get either some styrofoam board or some foil/bubble insulation and insulate those walls on the inside. You can fir out the wall with 1x2's and put sheet rock over the insulation. It would cut down on your heating bill while making the room warmer as well.
     
  5. jack_c-ville

    jack_c-ville Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    144
    Joined:
    Feb 19, 2004
    Location:
    Virginia
    Run the dehumidifier. Period. The extra cost on your electrical bill is pocket change compared to what it can cost to get rid of a really serious mold problem. Note that in most cases coverage for mold damage is excluded from your homeowners policy. This is because of the astronomical costs that result from mold damage and the fact that it is usually caused by poor maintinence, unlike an unexpected occurence such a fire.

    Depending on the type of mold and how bad you let it get, this can cause serious health problems. Nagging little respiratory ailments that never seem to get better. It gets worse and worse over a period of months or years.

    Completely getting rid of it is going to be very difficult. If that humidity returns then the mold won't miss a beat. You need to clean more than just the walls. Mold puts out billions of tiny little spores that are now everywhere in your house. At a minimum, wash every piece of cloth in the house in some kind of solution that will kill the spores. Carpets and rugs, too. If you have wall-to-wall carpet then it may have to be entirely replaced (ideally with a type of flooring that does not act as a huge filter that traps every nasty thing it comes in contact with over the years). There is a whole lot more to this process than I can even describes.

    If nobody in your house is experiencing health problems from the mold then you may just want to keep the humidity down rather than go through the serious effort and expense of permanantly getting rid of all the spores.

    Certainly get your walls properly insulated as soon as you have the money. This will help with the moisture problem and is a much better way to cut down on your energy costs than shutting off the dehumidifier.

    -Jack
     
  6. FrankTheTank

    FrankTheTank Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    366
    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2003
    What about installing a exhaust fan (the bathroom ones). Just run that a lot and i would think you should be able to vent a lot of the moisture out...lay off showers too, they seem to really moisten the air compared with a bath...good luck...i'd rather live with some mold then a chain smoker...:)
     
  7. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    14,953
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    Wow, you're in Idaho and you're running a dehumidifier in the winter!?!? In Minnesota it's just the opposite. The indoor winter dryness is an extreme problem with most homes. We scratch all winter long due to dry skin (its really not the woolen longjohns that make us itch!)
     
  8. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

    Messages:
    28,248
    Joined:
    May 20, 2004
    Location:
    SE Missouri
    Another thought; people who heat with propane (especially wall heaters) frequently complain about excessive moisture in the home. Don't know if that is your case or not. Forced air or a wood stove usually is more drying.
     
  9. ed/IL

    ed/IL Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    208
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Mold that comes back after cleaning is an indication that a source of moisture has not been removed. The moisture is getting in somehow. How is your roof? Ice dams in rain gutters can cause roof leaks. Perhaps a vapor barrier on the basement floor. Dry wall is cheap. If you are handy rip the walls open and see what it looks like inside. I bet it is nasty. It is a lot of work but you have to get this dried out and the moisture problem solved. Mold will reappear until its source of moisture is removed. Cleaning in only part of the fix. If all fails you will have to hire a pro.
     
  10. Paul Wheaton

    Paul Wheaton Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,443
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    missoula, montana
    I remember living near the coast and getting mold on some windows. A friend told me that everybody leaves all windows ope a quarter of an inch througout the year so they don't have the mold. I did that and it all went away.

    I'm now about ten miles from Idaho and have no problems like that. But then again, my place has pretty good insulation.
     
  11. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    Messages:
    10,854
    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    Zone 7
    You mentioned in your post about the unfinished basement and the sump pump and the gravel floor. I will wager that much of you moisture is coming from the ground. Here is a cheap fix. From a agriculture supply store buy some thick black plastic sheeting. Cover the gravel floor entirely with this plastic, place a few stones on top of the plastic to hold the plastic in place. This plastic will act as a vapor barrier preventing the soil moisture from rising. Here in the humid south it is mandatory in new construction to employ a vapor barrier, such as I described, in the crawl space. Unless you are using an unvented gas heater or you have major roof leaks the vapor barrier will fix you problem and you can put the dehumidifier in storage for the winter.
     
  12. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,028
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2004
    Location:
    Idaho
    Thanks for all the responses.

    As far as humidity goes, our house is just over 1000 sq. ft. and we have two adults, three children, and two dogs breathing 24 hours a day (hopefully!).

    We likely average two showers and a bath a day. The diswasher runs once or twice a day. The clothes washer runs several times a day.

    I'm sure all the above contributes.

    As far as we can tell, what we thought was sheetrock may be more like some type of compressed board and it may have actual wood boards underneath it. I believe the walls are 6 inches throughout the house, including interior walls.

    We are unsure about the insulation. It was built in the 50s and was heated with wood, so the builder may have decided not to insulate. We now heat with a Toyo, but want to go back to wood.

    I kind of like the idea of furring out the walls and using styrofoam insulation with actual sheetrock over it, but we would lose a small amount of floor space wouldn't we? Also, would it solve the wall-sweating problem? Would the R-value be okay?

    If we wanted to insulate, short of removing the compressed board and wood boards, I guess we would have to bore holes and blow it in. We can't do it from the outside since the siding is probably asbestos and it is in good shape overall. I have a feeling messing with it would cause problems and we can't afford new siding.

    I guess moisture could be coming up from the ground, but like I said before, it's very dry down there, where the soil meets the foundation and it's only the exterior walls that seem to be sweating.

    For now we are running the dehumidifier more, especially during showers.

    I also need to talk to the former occupants, who live across the street now, to find if they ever had this problem when they lived here.

    As far as circulation goes, there is little in the bedrooms. We are basing this on the fact that the floors are much cooler to the touch than the livingroom where the Toyo is, so we don't think that the heat is getting back there. We have considered setting up some ype of fan, but it's hard to find fans at many places in the winter.

    More thoughts are welcome.
     
  13. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    14,953
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    For every gallon of kerosene that you burn in that Toyo, you're putting 1.1 gallons of moisture into the air....that's equivalent to the moisture from 16 showers!

    If you're not gonna burn wood, get yourself a vented heater.

    Case solved....
     
  14. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    Messages:
    10,854
    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    Zone 7
    I agree with Cabin Fever that your heater is your main problem but I need to ask, Where does the clothes dryer vent ?
     
  15. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,028
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2004
    Location:
    Idaho
    Amazing!

    Just to be clear, the one we have vents the exhaust to the outside. Is there another that has some type of other vent? I don't know much about this type of thing.
     
  16. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,028
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2004
    Location:
    Idaho

    The dryer vents to the outside, I believe.

    The bathroom vents into the "attic", believe it or not. We are not using it much more than for, how shall I say? Odor. :haha: Wife didn't see any problems when she was up there recently.

    We run the dehumidifier while showering and for 30 minutes or so afterwards.
     
  17. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    Messages:
    10,854
    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    Zone 7
    You need to trace the vent line from the clothes dryer and verify exactly where the vent dumps. Also check to see if there is a hole in the vent hose and look at how well the hose is connected to the dryer itself.
     
  18. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,028
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2004
    Location:
    Idaho
    We are leaning toward putting a wood stove in the hand-dug basement and installing a grate to allow heat into the house. This grate would have some type of filter over it to help with dust. I think this would solve out humidity problem and we will look at insulating the walls when we have the time and money, as well as when we want to commit to doing some extensive remodeling.

    Our reasons for the wood stove in the basement are that it would save spcae inside the house (1020 sq. ft. with five people), it would eliminate the dust from the wood stove inside the house, and it would eliminate all the debris and bugs from storing small amounts of wood inside the house.

    I also have an old access with a lift-up door that I could repair and install a slide down to the basement for bringing wood to the stove. We could store the wood outside this door (it would be partially covered by the eaves) and send a few logs down at a time when needed. This would eliminate having to carry the wood down the stairs.

    The only difficulty I can see is where to put the stove pipe, as we don't want it coming through the floor and into the ceiling. We have a couple options for placement in the basement, but I don't think any of them would involve a straight stove pipe. Is that a problem?

    My wife is pretty knowledgeable about wood stoves since she grew up with one, but any thoughts about this plan would be welcome.

    By the way, my wife has been talking about radiant heat because the floors are always so cold. A wood stove under the floor ought to keep the floors nice and toasty.
     
  19. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

    Messages:
    14,953
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Location:
    Between Crosslake and Emily Minnesota
    You can have elbows in the chimney. But just don't have more than two 90º elbows total in the stovepipe and chimney system.
     
  20. whodunit

    whodunit Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,028
    Joined:
    Mar 29, 2004
    Location:
    Idaho
    I'm envisioning two. Up out of the top of the stove, then 90 degree elbow, to the a wall or foundation, out of the wall, then 90 degree elbow.

    I've heard something about there having to be a radius of nothing within ten feet of the stove pipe, measured from about two feet from the top, in order for it to draw correctly. True?

    Are there any concerns abut height, since of course the taller we go, the more expensive and the less secure (we do get some high winds from time to time).