Monday, January 19, 2009


...without the sound of music.

My automatic audio brain alarm was trained when we owned a 1965 V-Dub Transporter (nickname "Truckin'"). That VW engine had a bad habit of bending and breaking push rods, and the driver's ear had to be attuned to very subtle changes in driving sounds.

Something that wasn't right, some subtle sound, woke me at 4AM on the morning of Christmas eve. I wandered around, searching for, and dreading to find, the source of the rapid drip-drip-drip sound. We were in the middle of a Portland, Oregon record snow storm, with lots of snow and ice on the roof. After stumbling around in the dark for awhile, I found the source - inside the closet wall at the back of the house. I didn't see any water, but my bare feet found some oozing up between the hardwood floor boards. Oh crap!

I called the insurance company (Amica - we highly recommend them) on Christmas eve day, and they had a mitigator (not like a Terminator) out on Christmas day. They opened some holes in the closet wall, found water, but also found, on the inner wall (there are four layers of drywall in the common firewall between the two townhouses), what looked like black mold. They sealed up the hole with plastic sheeting, set up an industrial dehumidifier to dry everything out, and left.

We bought this townhouse, one of a duplex, new in 2002. We had looked at older houses, but decided that we didn't want all the issues that came with older homes, including mold - Sherry has asthma and is very allergic to mold. In the days since Christmas, we've had all kinds of inspectors, mold guys, contractors, roofers, etc. out here. The mold remediation company was here yesterday and removed our closet wall and the inner layer of our neighbor's wall (i.e. 3 of the 4 sheet rock layers, plus insulation and studs) - all covered with Stachybotrys chartarum, a toxic mold.

Here's a short video of the moldy 2nd layer of our closet wall.

I guess the message here is: buyer beware. We think the problem is that the roof wasn't done properly, and there has been a chronic leak into the common wall between the duplexes. The damage is on each side of the common wall, so both owners had damage and have repair work to do. We're lucky, I guess, that we had a dripping leak during a record snowstorm that led us to discover the bigger problem. We're also lucky that Amica Insurance covers mold remediation on our homeowners insurance. We're also lucky that the damage wasn't more extensive because the mold insurance has a maximum it will pay (our project will fall below the maximum). But we need to have the roof partially redone, and insurance doesn't cover that. We've talked to the builder, and so far he's claiming that he has no liability.

We'll get through the reconstruction. In fact, the contractors will have to work around us tomorrow because, by golly, we'll be in the next room watching the inauguration of President Barak Obama.

Life goes on - but not for those particular colonies of black mold - they're history!


  1. They're alive! The walls are alive! (to be read in spooky voice)

    What a bummer! But it's good you discovered it sooner rather than later.

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