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Caution: Hard Hat Area

Caution: Hard Hat Area

A Moldy Crawlspace Nightmare

comments (11) May 12th, 2010 in Blogs
TheTimberTailor Matt Jackson, contributor

This joist was so far gone that I was able to poke my finger right through it.
Fungi in the crawlspace.
This joist was so far gone that I was able to poke my finger right through it.Click To Enlarge

This joist was so far gone that I was able to poke my finger right through it.

I admit I was caught off guard on this one. 

Usually I can tell when I'm about to open up a proverbial can of worms, but not this time.  My current client asked me simply enough to provide wiring for a future baseboard heating unit.  Simple enough, right?  Wrong.   
A Romex wire to provide 220v for the heater needed to run from an existing thermostat location through an inaccessible crawlspace area and up into an exterior wall for future use.  After pulling back the carpet and pad in a corner of the room I cut a 16"x24" access hole through the subfloor and, flashlight in hand, ventured in to scout a route for the wire.  What I found caught me off guard.
Even with all my years in the building and remodeling trades to prepare me for extremes, this stuff gave me the heebie-jeebies!  I picked up entry level haz-mat suits to wear while working on this one.
Its tough enough to discover a problem this extensive and figure out a practical way to fix it, but there is another more troubling issue.  I had to tell my client the extent of deterioration of the floor structure, all because of the seemingly simple task of running a wire.  And I like these folks.  Must be how a doctor feels when he has to give a patient bad news? 
So I'll end up doing structural work for the wiring.  Sounds like structural wiring to me.


I'll post follow-ups as I come home from work each day... Stay Tuned




Other parts of this sags:

Aftershock: A Moldy Crawlspace Nightmare, Part 2

A Moldy Crawlspace Nightmare, Part 3: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

posted in: Blogs, Crawl space
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Comments (11)

JIMSSOLIDWOODPROD JIMSSOLIDWOODPROD writes: I am hoping to solve a problem at my father inlaw's house.
When we go there the house smells musty, have seen some spots of what looks like black mold.
The musty smell when he comes to visit is on him and his clothing, he has lived in smell l guess so long he doesn't smell it.

Years ago he changed pipes taking laundry drain water that went to septic tank, he rum laundry water soap to sump pump drain. He over the years killed his chickens and blood in water went to sump pump drain likely some sat in bottom of pit.

When you flush toilet barely flushes, hear girgle in kitchen sink water brown tint colour.
Think laundry water should be pumped to septic, so all the dirty laundry water or other stuff don't sit in bottom of sump pump pit.
Would their be any benifit to having house inspected, does anyone have idea's how to fix above smell or hire a company who can inspect or test why and where moldy musty smell is coming from?

Hoping when my wife inherits her Dad's house in the next 1-2 years that we don't have to gut complete house.
Maybe removing carpets, digging out gravel in crawling space putting down plastic vapour barrier and then new gravel may help and stop burning wet wood in woodstove, which maaybe puts moisture in air?
Please email me at or at either business email address is ok

Posted: 2:49 pm on May 17th

amazingrace amazingrace writes: Here's mine, I was hired to install and 8' wide window on the second floor. Which looked out over the roof of a kitchen addition added several years ago. When we leveled the new window it looked out of level compared to the cieling by 2". Sure enough the ceiling and floor was not level and off about three inches. I showed the client and she asked me to figure out why it was.
I went downstairs below the window which was the a 14' wide opening cut out of the previous exterior wall which gained access to the kitchen addition. I cut open the sheetrock to see what type of header they installed. I was expecting to find nothing, but surprisingly I found wood with a steel plate. The two post were 4-2x4, I went in the basement to see what the post sat on, they were sent right onto the plate. I was dumbfounded, for about an hour I kept going upstairs to the bedroom and back to the basement back and forth. I was almost ready to give up until I moved the sitting chair which was in the kitchen. It was covering the register of the A/C. Don't ask me why, but the HVAC duct install decided to cut though all of the support post of the header above to install the duct. Yes, I did replace the post, but this really makes you want to %$#&&% and _)(*^!$%
Posted: 6:29 pm on May 14th

TheTimberTailor TheTimberTailor writes: "The Gasman Cometh" is great! I can only imagine it recited in a thick Irish brogue. Surprising that I haven't heard it recited by any clients over the years considering all the "one thing leads to another" type projects they hire me for.
Posted: 12:50 am on May 14th

Blake1 Blake1 writes: I went to replace a 4 x 8 ceiling panel over a patio and under an upstairs deck. Somebody had neglected to give the upstairs deck any drainage and the water had eaten away virtually all of the structure and was very close to doing damage to the rim joist and starting on the living room.
I had to almost completely replace the structure and what was supposed to be a $200.00 job ended up costing almost $4000.00.
When people have these problems, somebody eventually has to find them and we're on the front lines. As a handyman, I find all kinds of ugly stuff.
I started a bathroom remodel and, when the lavatory base was removed, I found a huge infestation of termites.
A plumber had made some sort of mistake and had to abandon the lines in the slab and bring water in from the attic. He/she didn't crimp the lines quite good enough so the termites started their feast from the middle of the house.
Posted: 4:38 pm on May 13th

oscar_mann oscar_mann writes: Welcome to my world.. Last week was doing a re-tile of bath floor.. Old mudded floor.. Found rotten subfloor.. removed that to find rotten joists.. While replacing those I found the hot water feed was 1/4 copper with multiple leaks.. Then found there was no vent on the drain system.. Drain was dumping into an old concrete sewer pipe under the house that someone had just hammered a hole into..
Kept going back to the owner with bad news.. Owner witnessed all issues and OKed all extra work but then didnt want to pay coz it was over 2x my original bid..
Posted: 4:37 pm on May 13th

Chauly55 Chauly55 writes: Anyone familiar with "The Gasman Cometh"?
'Twas on a Monday morning the Gas man came to call
The gas tap wouldn't turn, I wasn't getting gas at all
He tore out all the skirting board to try to find the main
And I had to call a carpenter to put it back again
Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do

'Twas on a Tuesday morning the carpenter came round
He hammered and he chiseled and he said: 'Look what I've found
Your joists are full of dry rot but I'll put it all to rights'
Then nailed right through a cable and out want all the lights
Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do

'Twas on a Wednesday morning the electrician came
He called me 'Mr. Sanderson', which isn't quite my name
He couldn't reach the fuse box without standing on the bin
And his foot went through a window so I called a glazier in
Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do

'Twas on a Thursday morning the glazier came along
With his blow-torch and his putty and his merry Glazier's song
He put another pane in, it took no time at all
But I had to get a painter in to come and paint the wall
Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do

'Twas on a Friday morning the painter made a start
With undercoats and overcoats he painted every part
Every nook and every cranny but I found when he was gone
He'd painted over the gas tap and I couldn't turn it on
Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do

On Saturday and Sunday they do no work at all,
So 'Twas on a Monday morning the Gas man came to call!

Posted: 1:43 pm on May 13th

nevrsawitcomin nevrsawitcomin writes: Some projects just can suck you in before you know what is happening. I recall a repair, that started out as an upgrade, I was doing for a client/friend on his beautiful Cape Cod home sitting atop a bluff on the National Seashore. I had replaced most of the first story windows with a good vinyl clad replacement product. With just one more to go on the North side I felt I was home free as a bright day turned into a cloudy one. I removed the old window and noticed mold on the sill and a growth in between the shingles and tar paper so I pulled a few shingles. By the time I was done pulling and ripping I was down to the sill plate cutting a section of it out, leaving a gapping hole in the North side of the house. It was now about 2PM with a threat of rain and a this hole in the side of the house. I had to call in some help to make fast work of a weathering job and window install before dark. I remember thinking "what happened", this was supposed to be a simple end to the job? Never saw it coming! A little wiser but still get caught now and again.
Posted: 11:56 am on May 13th

suburbangeorge suburbangeorge writes: I find it very odd that there is fiberglass insulation that appears to be in good shape between the joists in a crawl space with no access. The insulation would indicate to me that the area had been worked on fairly recently. Whoever worked there before must not have bothered to follow codes.

In any event, your clients should actually be happy that they asked you to do the wiring and that you discovered this. The probable alternative would have involved the floor failing and perhaps injuring someone as they fell through.

Have fun. Repacing rotted structure under a bath is such nice work.
Posted: 11:30 am on May 13th

Gimmie Gimmie writes: My, my, my! What a mess. Get Mike Holmes on the job....sounds like a lot of tough to do structural work. Good luck. Looking forward to your comments.
Posted: 10:59 am on May 13th

jef_keighley jef_keighley writes: Matt:

Alas! The vagaries of renovation work! You never know what you're going to find until you open up Pandora's Box, and once open, well...I think you know!

Sounds like your going to need to look at ventilation for the crawl space so as to inhibit fungi growth in the future. You might have to look at first sistering the bad joists with new material, them remove the infected ones so as prevent the fungi from attacking the replacement joists. Chances are the sub-floor may need some attention, so it might be easiest and cheapest to remove as much of the subfloor as you need to gain working access to replace the joists.

Good luck with your 'structural wiring'.

Jef Keighley
Halfmoon Bay, BC
Posted: 10:57 am on May 13th

ChadC ChadC writes: Recently had an experience like that in my own home. Nailing up some romex clips into a beam in the basement, and the wood just crushed right in. Not what I was expecting... Haven't found fungi... rodent skeletons, yes.
Posted: 10:21 am on May 13th

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