What I'm Seeing Now

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"Why Is There Mold On My Basement Wall?"

That was the question I heard over the phone when someone needing a thermal image inspection, among other things, called to find out about possible foundation leaks.  They had this problem once before and were upset at having to deal with it again.

As to foundations, it is not a question of whether it will leak.  The real question is when?   Then you figure out why.

Mold, as you know, is not the original problem.  It is a symptom of the real problem.

When you discover mold(s), you must figure out where the moisture that encourages them comes from.

As it turns out this mold problem was in fact caused by accumulating moisture, seen clearly in the thermal image.  This wall demonstrates no staining, and does not feel wet to the touch.  But the mold had a squarish pattern, exactly the same size as the purple moisture presence you see here.  The most mold was located in the lower corner, where there was the most moisture, just as you see here.

But what caused the moisture?  This problem is on the front corner of the house, 10' below ground.

Outside I saw tall trees, gutters that had no caps and debris coming out of them, a downspout that discharges onto ground that inclines toward the house, and decorative grasses and ivy that hold moisture against the house. 

Let's get poetic with a little song (remember to make the creeping movement with your fingers as you sing):

The itsy-bitsy water went down the water spout,

And had no where to go when it finally came out.

Down, down the wall it would go on every rain,

Til the itsy-bitsy mold could all come out again!

My recommendation:  If you don't solve the cause of the problem the first time, it will happen again.  It is best to have downspout water diverted to discharge as far from the foundation as the landscaping makes possible.  That, and properly inclining soil so water is encouraged to flow away from the house, will go a long way toward keeping a basement drier.

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 20 commentsJay Markanich • August 27 2010 06:33AM

Comments

Great reminder, Jay.  Water penetration can come from LOTS of different directions and sources and looking UP is often the start of finding the solution!!!

Posted by Wallace S. Gibson, CPM, LandlordWhisperer (Gibson Management Group, Ltd.) about 8 years ago

So many homeowners let this problem get out of hand before they do anything about it. Once again good advice.

Posted by Diane Williams about 8 years ago

This source of water was a long way from the problem Wallace!  Start down, look up and trace your way back!

Diane - you'd think that having it "solved" once they would know what to do to prevent it from happening again!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay, really appreciate what you have to say about this issue.  We experienced this on a much greater scale.  What begs to be said here is that you have to be so careful and realistic about the remedy.  While I was doing a lease/purchase, the owner/landlord was so intent on getting her insurance company to bear the cost of remediation that she went down a road which led to thousands of dollars being expended and still no resolution.  Her lack of proper maintenance had greatly contributed to the problem which had been on-going for a number of years.  The people she brought in had elaborate, very expensive solutions which did everything except correct the problem.  These so-called experts jumped on the money wagon and the insurance company was along for the ride.  This was a wonderful home in Warrenton and we were sad to have to leave it, but the whole matter simply grew like grape nuts.  Thanks for your post.

Posted by Tish Lloyd, Broker - Wilmington NC and Surrounding Beaches (BlueCoast Realty Corporation) about 8 years ago

Tish - I hear you!  These waterproofing companies sometimes kill ants with sledge hammers.  This particular house HAD HAD a "professional" fix a couple of years ago.  They did nothing to address the gutters, plantings, soil incline or downspout discharge.  I could not see anything that they did really!  And I bet it was very, very expensive...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

I offer the same perspective as yours on mold to anyone who is inquiring about their "mold problem". Trish's experience is not unusual from what I have heard. These mold clean up companies come in and remediate the mold, but rarely solve the moisture problem. And like she said the costs are close to criminal.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 8 years ago

I really need to get one of those infrared cameras Jay. Sometimes a little common sense goes a long way. If you live at the base of a hill you may have water issues.

Posted by Randy Ostrander, Real Estate Broker, Serving Big Rapids and West Central MI (Lake and Lodge Realty LLC ) about 8 years ago

Water water water.  The biggest culprit in most basement issues.  Proper exterior drainage can solve a lot of issues before they become big problems!

Posted by Cindy Jones, Pentagon, Fort Belvoir & Quantico Real Estate News (Integrity Real Estate Group) about 8 years ago

Met with a potential seller a few nights ago, and they said in the Spring thaw they get moisture in one corner. I looked the deck was over it.

I asked him how long it had been since he had climbed under the deck which was only a few 12 inches off the ground and re graded. never

 

Posted by Missy Caulk, Savvy Realtor - Ann Arbor Real Estate (Missy Caulk TEAM) about 8 years ago

Mr Jay,

I have no idea why you have that problem. I am checking in from Alaska where I am taming a large stallion. Best of wishes.

Nutsy

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) about 8 years ago

Jay - Few builders and almost no homeowners understand the importance of maintaining proper drainage.  Usually, if the drainage problem is solved, there is no water problem in the home.

Posted by John Mulkey, Housing Guru (TheHousingGuru.com) about 8 years ago

Great photos Jay.  Good way to demo to the client what the problem really is.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) about 8 years ago

Jim - I had one not long ago that was a disaster.  The mold company did not remove all the affected material from the basement, simply sprayed everything and then tracked the basement dust through the rest of the house.  And they weren't cheap!

Nothing's stopping you Randy!  However, if you intend to use it, get lots of training and do lots of practice!

You are right about that Cindy.  Water is THE killer of houses, inside and out.  And outside, why not divert it away from the house?

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Missy - gee, could that be contributing to the problem?

Nusty - I am pleased to receive a post card from Alaska!  How every did you get that bear, um, stallion, to walk on water?

John - and things continue to get worse and worse.  We learn from history that we learn little from history.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jack - often I ask the client to look over my shoulder and see what is good and what is not.  It is very instructive and many clients have become missionaries for me!  They talk all around and my thermal camera is the topic!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

Jay, great post, I was going to do a post on that 'new fangled' thermo imaging that's being used. It's a perfect example you've shown.

Posted by Lyn Sims, Schaumburg IL Real Estate (RE/MAX Suburban) about 8 years ago

Oh, thats a thermal image, just thought it was a bad paint job. 

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) about 8 years ago

Lyn - this kind of thing is otherwise invisible.  The images really are definitive.

Jack - Shhhhhh!  It took me forever to get those colors right...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

drip drip...was just having this conversation...cleaning it up is not the answer.....finding the cause...you betcha !

Posted by Sally K. & David L. Hanson, WI Realtors - Luxury - Divorce (EXP Realty 414-525-0563) about 8 years ago

Sally - mold is a symptom of the problem, but not the problem.  And when you get something fixed, it should be fixed right the first time.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 8 years ago

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