Mold within crawlspace being challenged

Ok folks… I know what I see and what I think, but tell me your thoughts…

Back Story

  1. Crawl space in coastal region of NC, with normally high humidity and open foundation vents. This is a FSBO and she has no agent to go to bat for her.
  2. Sand floor without vapor barrier
  3. Air handler/evaporator in crawl space (which I still don’t quite personally get, aside from cost of full pack on the exterior)
  4. Some cascading of insulation, but mainly towards rear wall of crawl where water penetration is evident, along with efflorescence in block.
  5. Obvious fungal growth on floor joists, being worse on joist immediately adjacent to air handler
  6. Obvious areas of light-to-dark discoloration on bottom flanges of I-Joists throughout crawl (Suspected mold from prolonged moisture exposure)
  7. Obvious areas of light-to-dark discoloration on webs of I-Joists throughout crawl (Suspected mold from prolonged moisture exposure)
    8 ) Obvious areas of gray-to-black discoloration on sub-floor in evaluated areas of crawl (Suspected mold from prolonged moisture exposure)
  8. Obvious areas of grayish/white discoloration of solid 2x12 beams (Suspected mold from prolonged moisture exposure)
  9. Areas of water penetration, with current wet condition, along with efflorescence visible on rear block wall of crawl space, along an area no-less-than 25-30 feet in length, starting at base of block and by end of run extending up wall no-less-than 18". No evidence of current or previous standing water on large scale, but evidence of some at base of wall
    11)Seller states that they had a failure of either a hot water heater or a hot water line that went unchecked for some time. Supposedly had repairs made, with new insulation throughout crawl, as well as full treatment for mold prevention.
  10. Have recommended client to have evaluation and repair by licensed contractor(s) within their specialized fields, independent of the seller.
  11. Seller is disputing mold condition of any kind existing anywhere within the crawl space because “He wiped his hand across the wood surface and came up with nothing.”

I know what I have reported. What say you?

It’s only “apparent mold” unless mold testing was done.

You have done the report .I would not get in a discussion with any one but the person who paid you .
I think your report is OK .
Here is some info you might like .

Creating a Sealed Crawlspace - Fine Homebuilding .
I would like the crawl with no vents and a dehumidifier.

Agreed on with you about discussions Roy. This discussion was at request of buyer, just to clarify.

Agreed here as well and was stated in report as such. Explained that until testing was performed, exact conclusion was suspect at best.

Who cares what the seller thinks/says - lol? Sellers say stuff all the time…there’s a lot of emotion and $ at stake.
If they want to dispute something in a documented report, have them provide their own documentation from a qualified source.
Did you take any moisture readings? A picture or video showing elevated moisture content detected with a moisture meter would go a long way, IMO.
My reports, almost always, “prove” defective conditions and rarely, if ever, do I get call backs from anyone in the transaction disputing anything, because the reports are crystal clear on the issue at hand.

FWIW, they had better close those vents and throw the new batt insulation in the trash where it belongs. :smiley:

Agreed with all you’ve said. Main reason I have done this on here is for the benefit of the buyer. Since this is a FSBO, she only has me to be her “advocate” and the seller is naturally trying to sell her a line of bull (which is no surprise). But I told her, to provide her peace of mind that I am correct, I would put it out there for you all to pick apart as well.

On the insulation part of it, that’s definitely been a topic of discussion in the way of conditioning that space since she’s not in a registered flood zone and can close in her vents without having to pay some outrageous premium for flood insurance by doing so.

The OP did not ask about how to write an inspection report… This may be “apparent mold” to you but for the sake of conversation it is mold.

“It’s only”… Plays down the situation and is more of a liability to you then if you call that mold.

How about providing your two cents worth on how to analyze this situation rather than play word games.

I do agree with your assertion David. It is always better to air on the side of severity and recommend testing than to leave that part out, while stressing the potentiality in describing the overall problem. Not saying, nor insinuating that Nick does this, but far too often guys type in a five word statement on stuff like this and it comes back to bite them later on.

William-I think you did an excellent job collecting 10 issues which are obviously associated with one another resulting in a solid basis for further evaluation. Which is a heck of a lot more than most inspectors will do who simply see black stuff and run with it.

#1 The sellers dispute about the condition using “the finger touch test” is hardly grounds to dismiss the issue.

#2 remediation may or may not have been performed. They should be able to provide that documentation.

Remediation may have addressed mold, but it is unlikely that they addressed the problem that caused the mold in the first place which if left unchecked will continue to wreak havoc on the structure.

#3 there are a few things that I noticed that you might also consider;

Insulation of the floor was replaced. Vapor barrier was up against the floor. Though this is a common belief as being proper installation, in your particular regional area it is not. The vapor barrier should be down, not up.

You noted a mold gradient near the HVAC equipment and I also see what appears to be increased mold at the rim joist. This indicates that the source of moisture which is creating this mold situation is associated with air infiltration containing water vapor as much as it would be for observed moisture through the foundation with efflorescence.

This also leads to my concern of building depressurization occurring due to the HVAC air duct leakage. For outdoor air to enter the crawlspace there needs to be a negative pressure in the space. This can be associated with natural stack effect (there are holes in the floor and the heat from the attic will pull moisture up from below). Also supply air duct leakage causes air infiltration from the exterior, as does a leaking return located at the equipment in the crawlspace.

The other way to control moisture is to prevent its condensation which in this case is being created by the location of the HVAC and air ducts in the crawlspace area. This lowers the dew point temperature within the space causing it to literally rain in the crawlspace. This condensed moisture will not leave the space until wintertime when the outdoor air has a lower vapor pressure than the crawlspace and it will start to move back outwards.

The lack of vapor barrier on the floor should have been addressed during their “remediation” attempts, as well as removal of infected building materials.

You did your job and you no longer have a dog in this fight. It’s now up to your buyer. Good job in collecting your documentation, but always be mindful that the situation is far greater than simple “apparent mold”.

In my report, I would be talking about mold a whole lot less than I would be talking about the other things I pointed out. Mold is a byproduct of other system failures. Simply getting rid of it does not solve the problem, just addresses one of the issues of the problem.

Unless the seller is a mold authority who cares what he thinks. Let him have the areas tested by a qualified person if he wants to refute you. Hand wipe test, sheesh, cant find that anywhere in the mold assessment manuals. You reported it correctly let the seller and buyer work it out - that’s not your problem. Your responsibility is to accurately portray the conditions at hand not to hold the buyers hand.

This is a for sale by owner (I noted after the post).

Buyers tend to be more dependent upon you in these circumstances. Caution should always be utilized.

I try to be more helpful to the client in prioritizing their repair concerns but generally tell them that based upon my observations they should have the situation evaluated by a professional contractor after permission has been received by the building owner. My inspection is limited to access and inspection techniques because we don’t own the house yet and there is more to the situation I am observing and documenting than I’m capable of commenting on.

Tough situation especially being a FSBO. I would have handled it exactly as you did. I really hope they consult with a mold specialist to positively identify your findings and prescribe a real remediation effort.

There’s nothing to analyze here; inspector’s opinion is mold, seller’s opinion is not mold. Is it actually mold? Who knows, it hasn’t been tested.

I think you did your job well here. You pointed out apparent mold and the conditions were conducive to it’s growth; then, recommended testing and repair/remediation. It’s extremely likely that it is mold, but until it’s tested it’s your word against the seller’s. Unless the seller is a mycologist, your word probably carries more weight assuming you’ve had mold training/education. At this point, it’s up to the seller and buyer to work out the economics of addressing the issue.

And no, I don’t do 5 word statements in my report or play word games.

I actually wasn’t speaking to anything you’ve mentioned here, but I’ll admit my post was curt.