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- proper gutter placement
- the sump pump drain pipe running out far enough away from the home
- proper slope of the ground (away from the house)
- no signs of water wicking/intrusion/damage
If the outside looks ok, then Micah goes inside to do an initial look-see while I wait outside. It must pass his visual and olfactory inspection before I enter. He uses a flashlight since water stains and fungus can easily hide and look like dust in dim lighting.
These 8 things (below) are the major places we check that play into our decision-making. Trying to find a place that will be a healing environment for our family has proven very difficult, and there are many more things to think through when hypersensitive to mold and chemicals. There are more great tips in this post by my friend Christa.
- Smell: The initial smell upon entering a home can be very telling. Any notes of mustiness, earthiness, or generic stench can signify a deeper problem. Air fresheners also make it a no-go due to chemical sensitivities (and often they are covering up some of the previously mentioned scents).
- Ceilings: We check every ceiling for signs of water damage, and especially closets. Since closets are usually closed off from the rest of the room, a leak above the closet can easily go unnoticed.
- Plumbing: In our experience, one of the most common locations for water damage is in the cabinets under sinks. Micah checks for visible mold or water damage under every sink, whether it’s the kitchen, bathroom, or utility room. Any exposed plumbing gets a once-over as well, checking for evidence of leaks or fungal growth.
- Bathrooms: To get a good idea of what is flying around in the air, Micah looks inside the toilet tanks. We have learned this will often give a visual picture of the environment. If there are mold spores in the air and/or the bathroom isn’t properly ventilated, mold will often grow on the parts inside the tank that stick up above the water. He also checks around the base of toilets, on the top edge of the shower/tub surrounds and on any calking in and around the shower/tub.
- Kitchen Appliances: Underneath the dishwasher is a very common place for water damage, and around the refrigerator and freezer seals can grow mold. The refrigerator drip pan can also be a culprit, but isn’t always readily accessible.
- Utility Room Appliances: Micah checks the water hookups behind the washing machine, as well as under the hot water heater and furnace, and also looks down all utility drains.
- Windows and Doors: Check windowsills for water damage and inside window casings and sliding door tracks for mold.
- Basement: He looks over the unfinished basement or crawlspace, checking for cracks, patches, evidence of water intrusion, or fungal growth on studs, pipes, foundation material, joists, decking, etc.
There have generally been very clear reasons *not* to rent most of the units we’ve viewed. Only two places passed the initial test and we spent extra time there to run the HVAC (which ended in disappointing allergic reactions).
Many people shake their heads and wonder why we don’t just pick a place already and bleach what’s visible to clean up the mold. We have found some cleaning tools to be useful with cross-contamination from brief exposures to mold and mycotoxins. But when it comes to living in an environment with hyperreactivity to tiny particles we cannot see, it’s like asking someone with a severe peanut allergy why they won’t go to 5 Guys restaurant after the cleaning crew has cleaned up after a day of customers. The customers spread peanut oils and dust on every surface they touch (the chairs, under the table, in the bathrooms, on the doors), and there may be peanut dust in the HVAC system. Some people react to peanuts just by being near them, and that’s the level of sensitivity we’re currently dealing with. When just being near a trigger causes airways to swell, it’s not a small thing to pick a place and try to make it work.
Where are some areas in your living space that you’ve found mold?