Mold and HVAC issues In Huntsville

6 Replies

The SFR is in Huntsville, I think I got it for a pretty reasonable price, nothing to write home about but I am content. We completed the home inspection, insurance inspection, I looked at the property, the agent looked at the property, my property manager looked at the property, and the tenant inspected the property and found it to be inhabitable. No glaring issues of note. We had the house painted and a floor replaced prior to putting it on the market.

Then two months into the tenant living in the property, BOOM, he calls and says we have a mold problem. I was notified on Sunday via my property manager, and we immediately got to work trying to get estimates. Here we are a week later and I still don't have an estimate... is that a normal amount of time? We have had two mold companies out they say the HVAC is the issue, then we called two HVAC companies, and they say yeah the HVAC needs completely replaced and all the duct work. The unofficial first estimate is expected to be around 13,000 dollars!?!?! (That seems a bit high for a 1200 sq ft house)

The other problem (according to my property manager) is my crawl space isn't draining correctly... So no one is actually telling me the source of the moisture inside the house. Should I just hire a general contractor to come in and rehab the house? Or am I going a bit too far?

The follow on to that question is how much do you put in towards an asset that will only be worth 95 in the end?

Then the cherry on top is the tenant is starting to say things like "I'm not feeling good and I think it was because of the mold."

So anyway, just figured I would see what some of you all thought.

I don't see how new ductwork would solve a mold situation. HVAC maybe... I don't have any experience with mold being caused by a crawlspace but if that is a problem, all you need is a sump pump and problem solved. I'd run a dehumidifier for the tenants safety and comfort if the situation isn't too serious. 

@Casey Rumfelt . Ductwork can be cleaned and sanitized no need to replace.. the coil can be cleaned or replaced and that’s all that’s to that the blower motor in your furnace blow air across your cold coil that’s how you get cold air. Now the moisture issue is something that need to be addressed. But replacing the complete system isn’t the way to go.

Has the tenant said they see mold on the walls/floors/somewhere?  Or is it just "I'm coughing and I think it's the mold"?

There's a possibility that the tenant is trying to get out of the lease for whatever reason.  This requires a little tact and diplomacy on the part of your PM, but have they gently asked the tenant if that is the case?

In Kansas City, I can get a decent-quality new gas furnace and central A/C installed in a house that size for around $4,000, and a really fine system installed for $6,500 or so.  That is with re-using the existing ducts, but getting the ducts in the entire house cleaned out really well would cost maybe $300 extra, tops.

I haven't ever had to deal with a house with a crawl space, but just like with a basement, you can make sure the gutters drain away from the house, and that the soil is graded to slope away from the house everywhere.  There are other options, like adding a small vent fan to vent the crawl space to the outdoors, putting a dehumidifier in the crawl space, and having the crawl space "sealed" - basically spreading out big sheets of plastic on the ground and running them up the inside walls.

Crawl spaces can absolutely be a huge source for mold and interior moisture...typically Penicillum and Aspergillus molds. I have 15 years in the Pac NW dealing with crawl space mold. Seen it all. Two key things...drainage and a good SEALED vapor barrier are important. I’d recommend a sealed encapsulation vapor barrier, and any existing vapor barrier must be removed before it is installed. I’d contact a drainage contractor for an evaluation of what is causing the crawl space water problem and an insulation contractor for the vapor barrier plus replacement of any inevitable insulation collapse from crawlspace water. Solving the crawlspace water problem will be key to everything else. Your HVAC May be fine if it’s not having to deal with a ton of excess moisture from under the house. Worse...lowering the humidity in the house via dehumidification can draw MORE moisture in from underneath since moisture migrates from high to low. 

Second...you might consider hiring a building sciences inspector to evaluate the HVAC. They specialize in moisture issues. Have some thermography done to see if there is moisture in the walls. 

Third, was mold testing conducted? If so, what were the results? You want air as well as surface samples from any active colonies growing inside the house. Without mold test data, nobody should be mitigating anything. 

Fourth...attic inspection. Immediately. Grab a ladder and a flashlight and get your head up in there. Moisture in the crawl space will migrate to the attic via stack effect. You need to know if there is mold growth in the attic. Unchecked, you can be looking at a premature roof replacement if bad enough as the sheathing rots out. 

@Casey Rumfelt I just went through similar issue as you on my property with crawl space. I obtained an independent mold inspection company to perform air and strip tests. Do not get a mold remediation company to perform tests since they have a conflict of interest.

In my situation I had standing water in my crawl space that did not drain and it resulted in mold growth. I hired a drainage company to install french drains and sump pumps to remove the standing water.

After mitigating the moisture source, I then used mold remediation company remove the mold. Some scrubbing and chemical spraying required, and some air filtration and ventilation. The mold remediation work cost was small compared to the drain work.

I agree with the others that HVAC issues as root cause seems a bit suspect.