......Are the only types of fungi that should be visible in your home. Period. If you see any others it's time to call us. Now!!!
So I was under a house here in the Grand Strand area yesterday at the beckoning of a partner company to look at some insulation that was damaged by a dishwasher leak in the kitchen above. Even though the request was rather specific, my standard protocol while in a crawl space is to take some wood moisture content readings and snap a few photos. A wood moisture meter is called a Protimeter (shown here). It has two pointed metal electrodes designed to slightly penetrate the wood surface. Once activated the device sends a current from one electrode to the other, and since water is an excellent conductor of electricity the faster the circuit completes the higher the moisture content of the wood. And the higher the moisture content - typically in excess of 20% - the greater the likelihood of mold/fungus growth, termite infestation and related issues. Well, when I stuck my Protimeter into the pictured joist I heard a crunching noise and felt no resistance as the electrodes easily and fully buried themselves into the wood. One good whack with a hammer and that brittle wood would have splintered before my eyes, yet this joist - and I'm sure it was not the only one in such condition - is a component of the structure that supports the home above!
This is not an uncommon condition to our region's crawl spaces due to the humid climate, high water table and heavy rainfalls that provide so many opportunities for excessive moisture intrusion, but when it gets to this point the resulting costs to salvage the structure can be debilitating - a ton of cure that could have easily been avoided by a few ounces of prevention. If you and/or a relative/friend/neighbor have a crawl space, for the love of the home's longevity and the health of its indoor air environment find out what - if anything - is going on down there. And in all cases, "if you see something...or smell something...SAY SOMETHING!"
Don't let this happen to your home.
We're into some beautiful weather here in the SC Coastal Region! Spring flowers are in full bloom, the trees are filled with leaves again, area golf courses are looking gorgeous, and I'm having to mow down those fast growing weeds in my front yard with alarming regularity! This has also been a very active season for pollen with no end in sight - at least not in the near future. The warming weather outside at this time of the year also brings with it an increase in humidity, and that means elevated moisture levels once again in those crawl spaces beneath our homes. I won't bore you with the science, but rest assured that if you have a vented crawl space in our region of the country it is now likely getting damper, and this means a bloom of another kind down there in the form of molds and fungi. Here's some pics of nature's other Spring colors that we've recently observed beneath area houses...
Given the naturally occurring bottom-to-top flow of air in a structure, one can rest assured that some of the air inside our homes - as much as 50% - has made its way upstairs from the crawl space. Since many of the spores that cause this colorful growth in the dark, damp underbellies of area homes are themselves allergens, before y'all go locking yourselves indoors to avoid the pollen outside it might be a good idea to know exactly what you're breathing in there. Beyond indoor air quality concerns, it's also important to note that some of these molds and other fungi found in crawl spaces can and do eat away at the wood joists and subfloor, thereby posing a threat to the structural integrity of a home over time.
For your own peace of mind, at the very least you ought to know what may be blooming under your home, whether or not it needs to be addressed, and if so what your options are in that regard. Crawl space work is never high on a homeowner's priority list, but a fresh, mold- and moisture-resistant crawl space will be highly supportive of a healthy environment where we can enjoy for years to come those more desirable home improvements that we can actually see and touch!
Apologies to far more attractive Jennifer Garner for borrowing a piece of her credit card commercial pitch, but seriously if Moldy Mike the Fungi needs to dress up like this to crawl under your house (he must), and if up to 50% of the air in your house at any given time was once in your crawl space (it was), then shouldn't it make sense for you to be fully aware of what's happening down there???!!! (it does)
For the love of family, health and home, please please please make sure you know the answer to this question!!!
Here in the coastal region of South Carolina - and throughout much of the state - we have just endured a persistent, relentless, near-Biblical weather event. The good news (ha ha - no Biblical pun intended) is that we're told we should be able to enjoy the next thousand years without another similar occurrence. The bad news? Well, beyond the many tragic flood-related stories from around the Lowcountry and Palmetto state, our ground is absolutely saturated, and all that water at and below the surface is finding its way into many an already damp crawl space. In a season when vented crawl spaces in our area should typically be enjoying some natural drying conditions after a warm, humid summer wreaked dew point condensation havoc on them, they are instead brimming with moisture - and a resulting mold and fungus bloom of epic proportions is nearly inevitable for many homes built upon these damp, stagnant Petri dish environments.
So as we begin the arduous process of cleaning up the mess we've been dealt, tend first to that which is of primary importance to you - your family, your home, your grounds - but please do not neglect that which is brewing beneath the house which, if left unchecked, can lead to serious structural and personal health problems for years to come.
We wish our fellow South Carolinians all the best in your cleanup and recovery efforts. Please do not hesitate to call on us if we can be of any assistance in drying out your crawl space and making your home healthier and more energy-efficient for years to come.
Is mold lurking in the house you're thinking about purchasing. Don't rely solely on that pricey home inspection report to disclose its presence. Sure, the inspector might make mention of mold if he or she encounters obvious visible evidence of it, but you should not expect them to go out of their way looking for it. Many of them do not even include a visit to the crawl space as part of their normal inspection routine. Ours certainly didn't - and we did not understand the repercussions of this omission until it was too late - but had he ventured underneath the house at that time he would have seen (and smelled) prolific mold growth without having to crawl much further than the access opening.
Do yourself a big favor before you buy. Make sure you know what you're getting into. If the house has a crawl space then be sure that someone has a look at it specifically for mold growth, standing water, condensation (especially on cold surfaces during the summer months) and opportunities for humid air and/or water to penetrate though outside openings and ground moisture to enter via gaps or tears in the vapor barrier (if one even exists).
The presence of mold or moisture issues in an otherwise structurally sound house is not necessarily a deal-breaker as in many cases these can be effectively resolved by experts in the waterproofing/moisture control and remediation fields, but knowledge is power - and in the case of a prospective home buyer such power can be a valuable negotiating tool if you still desire to purchase the property.
Have a look at this article for more information and tips: http://aspenenvironmentalservices.com/mold-hiding-home-buying/
These are some pics I took in the vented crawl space of a 4-year old home in our area! There's all sorts of gnarly organic growth, insulation is rotting and falling from the joists, the floor above is collapsing in two places due to wood rot and the entire living space wreaks of musty odors. The unfortunate homeowners face a hefty bill for remediation and structural repair. This all could have been prevented. Had a basic measure of common sense by those who ran the HVAC ducts through the trusses and then installed insulation underneath been deployed in conjunction with an effective sealing and conditioning of the crawl space, there would have been no reason for us to visit this home. Instead, they created a condensation-rich "dead zone" that was exacerbated exponentially by the constant intrusion of humid outdoor air through the foundation vents and ground moisture via exposed earthen crawl space surface.
It is imperative to know what is going on in your crawl space before it affects your health, your home and your wallet!!!
Coastal Dry Home
Our own personal experience with Sick Home Syndrome led us to a solution that worked very effectively for us. Our business, website and blog exist to help you understand and resolve your home's indoor moisture and air quality issues.