A silent killer within your walls? | Volunteer Mold and Indoor Air Quality
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A silent killer within your walls?

Drip, Drip, Drip…

I recently purchased a fourteen year old home to “flip” in the Knoxville area.

Being a professional in the building and home inspection field for more than a decade you would think I knew precisely what I was getting into.

Well not exactly.

The home was purchased from an estate. It seems that an elderly gentleman lived there for several years prior to passing away from unknown causes. The family believes that he was found within in a few hours from the time he passed away in front of the TV late one night. Rest in peace.

When I first entered the home I noted a tell tale musty odor. Not a heavy smell just a noticeable odor.

Ok I thought…….We have some mold in here. In a few hours after performing a professional home inspection I had a good list of items. Most notably were three areas of apparent water penetration as evidenced by “stains along the perimeter of the ceiling”. No wall stains. It had vinyl wallpaper throughout.
Additionally I noted a “soft spot” on the floor around the Master Bath commode. Possibly a leaking gasket… Maybe or maybe not but easily repairable.

After taking possession of the home my son and I began to remove the 14 year old carpet in the living room and noted hidden floor damage directly below the stained ceiling above. The damaged area was roughly a 12 by 4 inch area of sub floor. This floor damage would not have been identified without removing the carpet. The damaged flooring and presence of vinyl covered wall board led me to remove the section of the wall directly between the stained ceiling and soft floor area.

Yep you guessed it.

Saturated insulation and black slimy mold galore. We quickly suited up in our professional protective equipment including rubber gloves and full face respirator and removed all of the contaminated material from within the wall. A day later we had the wall reinsulated and finishes completed. That was easy.

Now on to that soft floor in the Master Bath commode area. First commode removed. The I started to pull up the vinyl flooring. Wow mold galore. I immediately left the home and put on my protective gear and proceeded to remove the vinyl floor covering in the small commode room. Roughly a 3 X 6 foot area. Twenty (20%) percent of the sub floor had collapsed and was occupied by a large active, and somewhat pissed off, colony of ants.

Quick hand me the Raid.

The ants quickly succumbed to the spray of death. What remained now was a mass of mushy once a 5/8 thick sheet of structure board and soaking wet insulation. Oddly, the area nearest the flange around the commode was in fair shape. So where was the water coming from that had caused all of this?

I quickly began removing wall board and there it was a large thriving community of pissed off ant and a mold growth that even I was stunned to see. The wall insulation had been partially consumed and left a series of intricate nests and tunnels in its wake. The 2×4 wall studs in three foot wide area were consumed up to six inches from what used to be the sub floor. The sill plate, the 2X4 that lays horizontally on the subfloor, was completely consumed over an approximately three foot length.

I filled a garbage bag with the arm load of ruins and broke out my flash light. What caused all of this?
It quickly became apparent that the leak was on the exterior wall where some ten years ago the resident added an exterior wall outlet.

Going to the outside of the home I discovered a exterior outlet cover installed upside down and that the cover was never sealed to the exterior of the building. As a result every time it rained a few drips would get into the wall and slowly the accumulation of decomposition led to the ensuing chaos and destruction.
Now with all of the nasty stuff on the way to the dump and sanitization equipment installed I am waiting for the surrounding materials to dry out for final repairs and replacement.

See the following pages for photos: (Unless you’re squeamish!)

Photo of the first removed wall section.

Interior of wall with insulation removed. Note 2X4
Sections (Gone).

Is this what really killed the homeowner? We may never know.

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