Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Moldy Mess

As I mentioned in a previous post, Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc in our area last year. The basement, which rarely gets much water, suffered 3" of flooding. The fallout from all that water in a basement that wasn't refinished properly by a former homeowner was mold.

I'd put so much love, effort, and money into the Neglected Nest after Mr. Nest moved out that I couldn't stomach putting more into it when I thought it wasn't going to be mine anymore. I also couldn't afford it once I moved into an apartment and was knee-deep in divorce hell. So the water got sucked up by the shop vac, but the moisture continued to be sucked up by the drywall. By the time I was able to take back the Neglected Nest, I had quite a mess on my hands.

I started calling around to mold remediation contractors to see what I was really dealing with. There are a lot of hacks out there, folks! I'm so glad I got lots of quotes because, in the end, I got exactly what I needed and feel very comfortable with what I paid. The first guy told me it would be $12,000-$16,000 to rip it out, treat it, and haul the debris away. He said the mold was starting to spread to the ceiling. The next guy said $8,000 and the mold had only spread 4 feet up the walls. The next guy was ideal, but not in the budget. They wanted $7,300 to rip everything out, put in a french drain and a commercial grade sump pump, haul away the debris, and guaranteed the work for 25 years. It was the first company that actually talked about addressing the problem, not just cleaning up the aftermath. I plan to save my pennies and have them come back next year to put in the french drain and sump pump.

In the end, I went with a one-man company that charged me $2,300 to treat the mold, seal up the affected areas, and use a preventative biocide to keep it from coming back (of course, the only way to really keep it from coming back is to take care of the cause- water leaking into the basement). This meant though that my Dad and I had to put on our work gloves and heavy duty masks rip all that nasty stuff out ourselves. It took us about 3 hours from start to finish to rip it out, bag it up, and grab a beer. Not too bad.

When we started ripping it out, we quickly realized that it wasn't nearly as bad as anyone thought! The mold was mostly at the bottom and had- at most in certain areas- crept up about 8". In some areas, I didn't have to rip out any of the drywall. So I now have the satisfaction of taking care of the problem myself (well, somewhat), and the peace of mind that my daughter and I can live in the Neglected Nest without mold and the hazards that come from it.

You can see how far up the mold had grown on the outside. The inside looked worse as you'll see a little further down....

 You can see how nasty the studs look toward the bottom:


There was SO MUCH ROT! Once we tapped it with the crow bar, it all just came right down.

This is what we found under the drywall. Nothing to do to with Hurricane Irene, but an obvious quick-fix from a previous owner. 

This is what the basement looked like after we finished.

 This is all the nasty, moldy drywall before we bagged it.

It took 17 heavy-weight contractor trash bags!

And these are the "After" shots, once the mold expert came in and treated the area. It smelled HORRIBLE  for about a week!

There are still some areas that will need a little work. Did you know that mold on wood can be treated and doesn't have to be thrown out (in most cases)? I was thankful for this news. Although I still trashed a lot of the really moldy, rotten wood baseboards, some were salvageable.

This was from the door frame of the bathroom that we renovated in 2008. I was able to save all of it from being trashed!

The bottom line: If you have- or ever have had- water in your basement, have an expert come out to inspect it. Mold is a serious situation and can cause migraines, allergies, respiratory infections, and can even begin to grow inside your body if inhaled long enough. But cleaning up the mess is fruitless if you don't address the cause. In my case, one of the biggest reasons for the water in my basement is because the driveway that runs right along the side of the basement wall has been in terrible need of repair for nearly 8 years. It was a "priority" when Mr. Nest and I were married, but not enough of one over new computers, a flat screen tv, and other material items. Well, I'm paying the price all these years later.

A new driveway will be going in next week, which will reroute water away from the house and out toward the street. It will cost me $1,400 (it's a shared driveway, so that's my half of the total installation cost). As I said earlier, I'm hoping to install the french drain and sump pump next year for $4,200. Those two efforts should address the root cause of the problem, and, hopefully, I'll never have to deal with this again. Had I taken care of these two issues years ago when I found out about them, I could have saved myself $2,300 in mold remediation costs. Oh well, lesson learned and now it's water under the bridge- and out of my basement!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Reading over my last blog post, I am stunned by how drastically my life changed almost as soon as I hit "Publish." I was so focused on finding the bright spots and staying positive during a really traumatic life-changing events, that I didn't see what was coming at me. The long and short of it was that the divorce took a lot longer than I expected, got uglier than I expected, and forced me to move out of the Neglected Nest. I went into Survival Mode and made decisions for my daughter and me that felt best at the time. The house, the bills, my own well-being all sorta took a backseat. About two weeks after that post, after my life turned upside down in unimaginable ways, I moved out of the Neglected Nest and into a small apartment a few blocks away. It was a very dark time in my life, though I tried to continue seeing things in the same sunny way I did in that last blog post. Reality was much different....

Initially, I couldn't bear to go back to my house. I waiting a number of weeks after moving out before going back. Though my ex went over once or twice in the month after I moved out, Hurricane Irene dropped 3" of water in our basement and we didn't know for 2 weeks. Mold took up residence on the drywall and baseboards, and we lost many boxes of belongings (ironically, most were of old wedding memorabilia).

As I started getting more acquainted with my new life, I started contacting the invested agencies to let them know the house was vacant, although not abandoned. Our mortgage company hired a company called SafeGuard Properties to "secure" our property. From the start, our experience with them was bad. They broke into the house to change the locks without notifying us. They winterized the house, but not properly so the furnace was broken as was the tankless water heater. Though they put up a sign in/sign out sheet for anyone who entered, no one used it. Overwhelmed and feeling terribly overpowered, I caved to pressure from my ex to put the house up for sale "as is" and cried for 3 weeks straight. The day I signed the papers, I sat in my car afterward, watching the real estate agent sink her sign into my front yard, and I sobbed. I couldn't bare to go back into the house. My ex took over maintenance and "checking on things." A month later, I went back to start pulling out the rest of my boxes. I was shocked when I went in.

Someone had come into my home (of course, without signing in or out), rifled through boxes of my belongings, and painted over the mold that was evident on the drywall. Whoever had painted over the mold had used my packed up clothing! It lay in paint-covers clumps on the basement floor. Long drips of paint were dried on the windows and baseboards. Handprints and footprints were on our furniture and other surfaces. It was a nightmare! They used our paint, our brushes, our rollers, our buckets- but didn't clean up at all! It was a huge violation. The cover-up also meant the realtor's license was in jeopardy for trying to "deceive buyers." We left it untouched and in plain sight so that potential buyers would see what repairs needed to be done. It saved us from putting a disclosure in the listing and scaring off appointments that may not find it deal-breaking upon personal inspection. 

Calls to SafeGuard and to the mortgage company were fruitless. By mid-February, I was burned out. I was living in an apartment that was neglected by the landlord (no hot water for 3 months, a bathtub that had 4" of standing water in it, broken washing machines that ruined my clothing, etc.). Moving to another apartment meant coming up with over $3k in deposit money. My frustration turned to fury. I didn't want to give up my home. I didn't want to live in shitty apartments when I owned a home I loved and labored on and wanted to raise my daughter in. So I fought. I got the mortgage company to work out lower payments that I could afford. I got my ex to agree to take the house off the market and basically walk away and let me take care of the house. And I got quotes from contractors to get the mold remediated, the plumbing and electrical work that needed to be done, the driveway repaired, and the kitchen updated (like it had been planned for 5 years!).

The first week in March, the house was taken off the market, and I finally began to feel like I was back in control of my life. But within a few days I discovered that the subcontractors hired by SafeGuard had broken into the house late one evening and stole anything of value. A newer dehumidifier, some kitchen appliances, an over-the-range microwave (for the new kitchen), an old Macbook, the newer lawn mower my Dad had gotten me as a housewarming gift, a hose to my washing machine, some tools, and who knows what else. I'm still discovering missing items. I filed a police report but was told it was very unlikely I'd ever see any of my things again. Nor would SafeGuard be prosecuted since none of the subcontractors had identifying clothing or advertising on their truck. It's been a devastating, unsettling situation that has only added insult to injury in the change of life events in the last year and a half.

But I marched forward. My Dad helped me demo the basement, change the locks, and start ripping out the flooring in the kitchen. I set a move-in date and changed my address with the post office. Two weeks and $2400 later, the mold was eradicated and my daughter and I were living in the Neglected Nest again. I cried every time a neighbor would welcome me back. My heart thumped extra hard when I would write my old familiar address. Pulling in the driveway gave me a rush. I'd been a refugee for 8 months and was finally able to resume my life.

Today, I started putting my kitchen back together. A renovation that has- so far- cost me $555 and a ton of sweat, tears, and frustration. But it's mine. And with the help of my Dad, I did it all myself. No husband, no contractor, just me. It's breathed new life back into this Neglected Nest. It's breathed fresh air into this neglected homeowner. But I think this house and I are exactly what each other needed: faith, love, and dedication.