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Crawl Space Mold

WOW, what a year 2011 has been for crawl space mold in Nashville, TN! If you live there and especially if you work in the real estate world, you have probably noticed a clear uptick of mold issues in crawl spaces. But do we really care? I mean after all no one actually lives down there. And few people ever go down there. So who cares if there is mold in the crawl space? Well, if you have a crawl space, you should care. Did you know that some experts say that 40% or more of the air that enters the home or building enters from the crawl space! So if you have mold in the crawl space, soon you will have mold inside the building.
At HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, offering environmental services including mold assessments as well as home and commercial building inspections, we have seen an increase in calls about mold in general. Why do you think that is? Well, I think it all started with the May 2010 flood. Those homes and buildings that may have had a mild issue with mold suddenly became very active with mold and then came the ripple effect of mold growth. Mostly in the form of people getting sick. And most of that in the form of respiratory distress.
Look at the picture below. What's wrong? HINT: What's that white stuff on the wood?

ANSWER: For now we call the white stuff microbial growth, or mold-like material. Many people quickly call this mold, but without a lab analysis we don't know for sure. Samples should be taken and sent for lab analysis. Only a trained lab technician can make the final determination if a foreign material is mold or not. To declare a foreign substance is mold based on the senses of sight or smell is a risky business. See the closeup of the material below.

Clearly something happened here to create this growth. For mold growth to occur, there must be excess moisture, a source of food (like wood), and a surface to grow on (like wood). Bingo, we get microbial growth and possibly mold. Certainly this should be treated seriously and removed if possible.

If the lab tech declares this mold, the EPA and HABITEC recommends that the mold should be removed (remediated). If it not practical or possible to remove the mold and the material it is growing on, the the mold should be cleaned (mitigated) as much as possible and then the material it is growing on should be treated with a fungicide.

But first, anytime you have a mold issue, the first thing to do is eliminate the water source. If you don't eliminate the water source, the mold issue is likely to return after remediation or mitigation. See the article Water in the Crawl Space to learn more about how to prevent water in the crawl space. Once the water source is eliminated, then you can go after the mold.

Crawl space mold can show up on the wood joists and beam or on the subfloor.


Another mold issue in the crawl space is mold growth on HVAC ductwork, as seen in the picture below.

Mold on the ductwork is especially troublesome because mold has the ability to migrate inside the insulation through small cracks in the seams or any holes. If mold gets inside the ductwork, you have the worst case scenario for mold dispersal throughout the building. Remember, mold growth is possible because of mold spores. Mold spores are microscopic particles dispersed by mold to facilitate propagation. Like weeds in bloom. Once those blooms disperse, more weeds will grow. And if you put some wind behind this process, like the air from the HVAC blower, the whole building can become compromised. Worse case scenario!

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Thank you,

Richard Acree

Comments in this article are the copyrighted intellectual property of Richard Acree, President, HABITEC Home and Building Inspections, LLC, and are intended to educate and otherwise assist home owners, sellers and buyers, building owners, sellers and buyers, realtors, real estate investors, property managers, and lenders in the process of owning, buying or selling homes or commercial buildings. HABITEC is a residential (home) and commercial building inspection company serving Middle Tennessee including Nashville, Brentwood, Franklin, Murfreesboro, Smyrna, Mt. Juliet, Hendersonville, Dickson, Belle Meade, Columbia, Spring Hill and more! In addition to building inspections HABITEC offers Environmental Services for mold assessments, radon testing and water quality analysis. Additional information about HABITEC can be found on our website at, or call 615-376-2753.

Richard Acree is the author of the HABITEC Home and Building Inspections Blog and founder of the ActiveRain Group Tennessee Home and Building Inspectors. All are welcome to join and see more blogs like this one.


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