The Mould Show

What to do if you find mould in your new home during construction?

June 13, 2020 Dr Cameron Jones Episode 51
The Mould Show
What to do if you find mould in your new home during construction?
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The Mould Show
What to do if you find mould in your new home during construction?
Jun 13, 2020 Episode 51
Dr Cameron Jones

It could happen if there's been a lot of rain, a delay in  the building process, or if timber has sat out in the elements for too long before being covered?  Mould, mould and more mould...what do you do if you find this?  Well - this episode will cover this important topic.  Firstly: relax...it might not be as bad as you think!  Discuss the matter with your builder.  Discuss your health and safety concerns.  Discuss your asset value concerns and implications that mould might have for building integrity.  This episode will cover what we recommend.  Document, document, document is really our best advice.  When in doubt: test, test, test.  Remember the principal way to deal with mould is: SOURCE REMOVAL. 

Show Notes Transcript

It could happen if there's been a lot of rain, a delay in  the building process, or if timber has sat out in the elements for too long before being covered?  Mould, mould and more mould...what do you do if you find this?  Well - this episode will cover this important topic.  Firstly: relax...it might not be as bad as you think!  Discuss the matter with your builder.  Discuss your health and safety concerns.  Discuss your asset value concerns and implications that mould might have for building integrity.  This episode will cover what we recommend.  Document, document, document is really our best advice.  When in doubt: test, test, test.  Remember the principal way to deal with mould is: SOURCE REMOVAL. 

Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Dr. Cameron Jones and I'm an environmental microbiologist. Now, I apologize for the delay in getting to this week's live stream for The Mould Show, but I want to talk about something very important, especially in Australia, as we are moving into winter.

We get calls very often talking about water damage to new home construction. And I started my morning this morning, bright and early, going to a pair of townhouses that have been water damaged and the owners of the townhouses, not very happy because mould started appearing on a lot of the framing timbers. And so I want to talk to you today about this important topic and essentially what we're going to be focusing on is what do you do about this when you discover mould growing on these framing timbers? Do you just hope for the best? Do you hope it's going to go away or do you do something about it?

And certainly as an environmental microbiologist, we're always concerned when customers call up or clients call up complaining about the appearance of mould on framing timbers, because it's not going to go away simply because you sheet the building over with plasterboard and paint the walls. Do you want mould inside your walls, inside your wall cavities, inside your roof forward? Just because you can't see it, if mould gets in during the building process, this is going to be a disaster or a potential disaster down the track.

And so I'm going to tell you some tips and tricks that I've learned over the last decade with regard to how new homes should be approached, especially when there is concerns about mould, because I know that this is a very contentious issue. Obviously people are very concerned about the future of their home and the potential for illness. And similarly, the builder also is mindful of undertaking any works that may not be well-matched to the extent of the problem. So I want to discuss some of this today.

So let me get on to this. So what happens? "Help!" This is the start of the telephone calls that we often get. "I've discovered mould growing on some framing timbers, what do I do?" Well, immediately, you want to bring this to the attention of your builder. You need to talk to the building supervisor and possibly someone more senior who is responsible for site supervision and tell them that you're not happy about mould appearing on some of your framing timbers. And obviously I'd encourage you to document wherever possible. Essentially, what I want to show you is what does this look like under the microscope? Because in many cases, when we're talking about mould damage to framing timbers, we're talking about something which is highly visible.

So once it's visible, it could be a lot more serious. And certainly when we use these things called tape lifts, which we've talked about at length, this is what it's going to look like when we actually look at this under the microscope. And this is from a frame inspection that I did a couple of weeks ago, and this is the mould mycelium and spores, which are visible at 400 times magnification under the light mic.

... thing is it? So the first thing you need to do, if you observe this during your new home construction is to work out what is the extent of the mould damage? And you might need some specialized experts like a building inspector. An independent building inspector, I encourage you to always employ in these situations in order to catalog the locations and extent of damage and whether or not this impacts on the structural integrity of the frame or any other building element. So that's very important to determine the extent of this.

The next thing you must do is document, and you must put all your concerns in writing. And I know that this is really complaint 101, but it's really important to not just talk about it, but make sure you have a very good diary identifying the times and who you spoke to and what you were complaining about and what the response was and all of that relevant information, which could become very important down the track. All of your concerns are important. Obviously you might have health and safety concerns. You might be concerned about damage to the asset value. There may even be potential insurance issues down the track, and obviously you might be concerned about the race to conceal what you consider to be building defects.

All of these are true and valid claims, but you definitely need to work out which of the claims have number one priority. And I would encourage everyone to keep the lines of communication open, because it's much better to discuss your issues and come to an agreement rather than race headlong into a legal battle, which may mean that all parties end up suffering and you don't end up with a nice new home that you want.

And what I want to show you now is to suggest that you always only engage, or you really only need to engage experts to help you document your concerns. It's up to you. You don't always need to do this. It may be possible for you to just have a good dialogue with your builder and come to an arrangement about how best to solve your health and safety and asset value concerns.

Now your remediation options. What are your remediation options? Well, if we end up referring to the standards that are widely used in Australia and accepted worldwide, they will come down to source removal of mould-affected building elements. It's not satisfactory to apply buyer science or chemical disinfectants to timbers. If they've been significantly water damaged, you will need to remove the mould so that the mould spores and mycelium you saw in those photo and micrographs is no longer present and no longer has the potential to multiply and regrow. If those framing timbers ever become wet and they could become wet long time down the track, if there is a plumbing breach in your new home, you might have a bathtub overflow. You might have a washing machine, which one of the hoses might come off. A small amount of water seeping through plasterboard wetting your timber frame could start the cycle of mould growth all over again, perhaps many years later. And remember that mould spores can remain dormant and can easily become reactivated years and years later.

So I want to show you a few videos because this morning I did something called a post-remediation verification at a set of townhouses, which have been remediated very well. And whilst I am currently incubating a lot of the samples and have yet to do the microscopy on the samples, I'm satisfied that the visual inspection demonstrates that the builder has done an admirable job of employing someone very competent and capable of performing source removal with the best intentions under the standard. And so I'm going to play a couple of these videos now because they do a better job of exemplifying what I want you to think about when you're considering how best to deal with this.

Hello, my name's Dr. Cameron Jones and I'm an environmental microbiologist. And I'm at this building site doing a mould inspection and I'm doing this at the timber framing, because the owners were concerned when they were doing some regular site inspections of what's to be their brand new home. They're looking forward to moving into it, that they found that a lot of the framing timber show signs of quite extensive water damage and mould had grown on many of the... Though, the builder has undertaken a mould remediation and I'm in here doing a post-remediation verification is a very important step to make sure that all the framing timbers have been remediated properly.

And so what we tend to do is that we use a range of tape lift and also RODAC Contact Plates. And they allow us to do two things. So firstly, examine the framing timbers after they've been remediated. And they've been remediated by a combination of sanding, as well as media blasting followed by HEPA vacuuming to remove a lot of the debris. And then before they've been encapsulated, we have to come in and do something called post-remediation verification testing. And as I said, that involves sampling these base plates and a lot of the noggins and horizontal and vertical timbers. And we use two types of tests.

So the tape lifts allows us to look at the wood fibers under the microscope to see whether or not there is any evidence of fungal growth. And then the RODAC Contact Plates allow us to see exactly what is growing on these framing timbers. And in that way, we can work out whether or not the remediation has been successful and that then the builders can continue to sheet up and fit out this property. Hopefully it will be a very happy home and it's very important that builders do the right thing. And whenever consumers are concerned about water damage, that they jump onto it and address the problems. And don't cover them up behind plasterboard because you don't want a hidden mould problem in your brand new home. Anyway, hope this has been informative and see you next time. Bye now.

Now, you probably want to look at the results after the treatment of the frame. So I'm going to come over here and I'm going to show you some typical examples here. Just going to turn this camera. And now, all of these base plates and a lot of the horizontal and vertical framing timbers and noggins were water damaged. And you can see where they've been remediated. And again, these are all the areas that we want to test as part of post-remediation verification to make sure that there is a very strong probability that there is not an unreasonable amount of mould left at this property. And so this is example of what we do.

And when I say not an unreasonable amount of mould, part of the visual inspection component of any onsite mould inspection, I want to make sure that I can't see any evidence or mould. And then in conjunction with the tape lift, any other tests that I might do, I want to be sure we're back to what's called a normal mould ecology. And so part of the process today is to do that visual inspection on both the ground floor and upper floors of both of these townhouses, and then simply walk around and catalog all of the areas that have been treated. And in this way, you get a very strong impression about the likelihood of the remediation having been a success. Because you actually want to make sure that work has been done and it's visually evident. And that's why it's very important to do this type of post-remediation verification before builders continue to beat up, frame up and put plasterboard into the property.

So you can see that that demonstrates post-remediation verification on a property that was water damaged, did have visible mould and has been remediated by a professional remediation contractor. So what are the four steps that you need to write down and make a note of? Well, number one is that someone needs to do a visual inspection and they should be independent to the owner and the builder. Quantitative testing may or may not be required. If it is required, this should form part of something called the pre-remediation assessment. And then following remediation, there should be something called post-remediation verification. Post-remediation verification is very important because it validates the remediator's work and it demonstrates the validity of the process for the builder as well as to the client or the consumer. And it is something which should be performed and is required as part of the standard for water damage and mould remediation.

Now, the take home message that I'd like to leave you with is get it tested, get it tested, get it tested. Photographs and videos, especially those that you might take yourself whilst they're emotive, they only tell part of the story. Now you may need to employ the services of experts. Certainly our company, Biological Health Services can provide you with guidance and onsite inspections and assessments. I can be engaged for consulting opportunities as well. We also sell a range of tape lifts, and these are the types of diagnostic tests that you should be asking for in order to show whether or not your water damaged framing timbers have been successfully remediated for mould. They're very easy to use. Occupational hygienists and environmental microbiologists like myself, use these all the time, but increasingly building inspectors are using them as well.

And so ring up your building inspector and see if they'll do a tape lift frame analysis for you. I hope that's been helpful. No one wants a brand new home that's full of mould, especially a brand new home that didn't need to be full of mould, because the remediation is in a sense removing the top most layers of wood that have been water damaged and show mould growth, and then you're back to the frame that you should have gotten originally. In any case, I'm happy to talk about this further. I hope you have a great week and bye for now.