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Thread: Mold on lumber used in a new construction

  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2002
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    Question Mold on lumber used in a new construction

    hi all,

    my husband and i have recently purchased a home that is part of a new development. since the house is still under construction, we had the opportunity to look at the house before the drywall is put in place. throughout the house, we noticed that molded wood has been used. we were wondering if any of you has any suggestions as to how much we should be concerned with having molded wood in the house. is this normal? does the fact that the builders use lumber with mold growing on it show that their quality of work is not very good? would the presence of mold cause structural or health problems in the future?

    thanks in advance for any info you could provide me.
    Know God Know Peace. No God No Peace.

  2. #2
    Hi. I was intrigued by your question, in part because we are in the process of expanding our family room and could come up against this same problem.

    Anyway, I searched the internet for "mold and lumber" and found quite a bit of material out there about it. As it turns out, most of the sites listed were either lumber associations or mold inspectors, meaning that most of the information I found was biased - guess who thought it was a problem and who thought it wasn't a problem???

    I listed a couple of examples of what I found - it's rather lengthy, but it may help a bit (or perhaps muddy the waters further???). At the bottom of the page is an article from a Las Vegas publication that probably is the least likely to be biased. Good luck!

    Q: What about mold growth and treated lumber? (from a lumber association)

    A: As science continues to combat media reports about an unsubstantiated and perceived epidemic of “toxic” mold in homes, those in the lumber industry continue to work diligently to educate builders and consumers that mold on lumber, such as sap stain mold, is naturally occurring and not a new phenomenon. There is no evidence to suggest that mold on lumber is a concern in the building process. However, there is still the fact that the market based on consumer demands is requesting mold free lumber.

    It is NLBMDA’s understanding that there are some chemicals on the market and in use that contain “moldicides” that may help to decrease the occurrence of mold growth from the point of production to delivery to the jobsite. NLBMDA is working to educate members on all issues related to mold growth on lumber. We have been informed by the producers of the new alternatives that a great deal of research has been done and continues to be done to ensure that new alternatives will not contribute to concerns already being expressed through market demand for “mold free” lumber.


    New Home Mold Inspections

    If it looks like mold growing on the lumber during construction this should be tested and treated before the interior dry wall is installed. We like to inspect the home when its in the frame stage of construction and the roof is dried in this will allow us to inspect the home for mold, and treat the mold infected areas. In some cases it wise to remove mold infected lumber and treat the building with our Mold Killing Treatment. Building a home with mold on the lumber is like installing a time bomb that will go off when water is added, Its better to be safe then sorry at this stage of the game.

    Re: Heavy mold on framing studs in new home
    From: Phillip Stojanik - Pro Check Inspection Services
    Remote Name: 24.162.27.224
    Date: 10 May 2002
    Time: 21:16:15
    Comments
    It is not unusual to see mold 'freckles' on new lumber regardless of the lumber's grade or quality. Lumber always starts out at the mill with a very high moisture content that is conducive to mold development. The process of moisture removal for new sawn lumber is a science all its own but the general idea is typically to get the moisture content at or below 19% by weight before shipping. Unfortunately, a moisture content even as low as 19% makes the lumber conducive to attack by saprophytic mold species which would normally be the beginning of wood decay in nature. Usually what we see on new sawn lumber is a discoloration of the wood that is the result of the very beginning stages of mold development. This typically appears as black or greenish specks (freckles) on the lumber. As the lumber dries further, there is not enough moisture to sustain the mold and it becomes nonviable. What is left behind is usually a discoloration caused by mold that tried to take hold and facilitate the decay of the wood. Here is what you need to do to see if what you have is a problem. First. try wiping the "mold" off with a clean white rag. If it can not be wiped off and the rag is not discolored by wiping at the apparent 'moldy' areas, then what you have is most likely just the discoloration mentioned above with no real viable mold growth remaining. If this is the case then chew your builder out for using low quality lumber that has not been properly protected from the elements during shipping and storage. But don't be overly concerned about an ongoing mold problem. If however, when you wipe the "moldy" lumber you get a residue on your clean white rag that is the same color as the "mold" you wiped...then you probably do have actively growing mold colonies. This would indicate excessive moisture content in the lumber (perhaps resulting from lumber that was left exposed to the elements during or after shipment). Even still, don't panic...there is something that can be done to salvage the situation. Your builder will probably not want to do it...but this is what should be done. Treat the affected lumber with a biocide to kill the fungal growth. There are products available for this purpose or you could use a 10% bleach and water solution. Once the mold is killed, the lumber has be allowed to dry. This should not be a problems in Palm Sings where the humidity is typically low but be prepared to replace any lumber that warps during the drying process. What you will want to do is check the "treated" lumber for moisture content with a moisture meter (You can get a relatively inexpensive pin probe moisture meter for around $50). When the lumber is at an acceptable moisture content it should be painted with an alcohol base non-pigmented shellac. If you would like more information, feel free to contact me directly via email at inspector@procheck.cc


    Sunday, September 29, 2002
    Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal
    HOME CONSTRUCTION: Breaking the mold
    As litigation rises, homebuilders working to stamp out spore of the moment



    By HUBBLE SMITH REVIEW-JOURNAL </about/print/rjstaff.html>

    James McCrossan was closely examining the framing of his first new home in Las Vegas Valley when he noticed what appeared to be mold on several of the wooden studs.
    It was black and it flaked off at the touch, only to reveal more layers underneath the affected area.
    McCrossan was deeply concerned. His wife had suffered a severe reaction to mold at a previous rental home in the valley.
    He called the Clark County Building Department and was told that building codes have no mold regulations to enforce. A building official recommended that he hire a private company to treat the mold before the contractors put up the Sheetrock.
    "There is a very strong possibility that I will never have any problems stemming from the current conditions," McCrossan said.
    Still, after contacting the county building department, he said he was surprised to learn that the codes don't even address the issue.
    "With more reported links to health afflictions associated with mold spores of unsuspecting homeowners, this seems irresponsible," he said.
    Steve Hill, president of Silver State Materials and chairman of the Coalition for Fairness in Construction, said mold may occasionally be found on lumber shipped into Las Vegas, but it's nothing to worry about.
    There are several thousand types of mold, he said, most of which pose no health risks.
    "Only one or two types are actually harmful to people, and quite often it's not the kind that's found here," Hill said.
    Despite working in one of the nation's driest climates, Nevada's home-building industry in recent years has become the target of an increasing number of lawsuits filed over moldy wood.
    "Yeah, it is becoming more of a problem," said Thomas Miller, a California attorney regarded as an authority in construction defect litigation. "Las Vegas is a high-growth area with mass construction going on and low quality of construction. We've seen significant evidence of construction defects."
    Miller said the public has become better informed about health problems caused by mold, which has led to more reporting of respiratory illnesses, dizziness and nausea.
    "If you move the homeowners away from their environment, these problems tend to go away and diminish with time. Now you've added the injury component to the property damage claim," Miller said.
    Hill said: "It's something that the industry is going to have to address because it is a serious problem for some people and I don't know who should be responsible for that,"
    Homeowners' insurance policies are excluding mold coverage, as are contractors' insurance companies, he said.
    Although trial lawyers are adding moldy wood to their list of construction lawsuit targets, the construction industry believes educating the public about the true nature of mold and what to do to prevent it will help offset the rising tide of litigation.
    The Nevada home-building industry is taking aggressive measures aimed at restricting mold growth, while encouraging homeowners to do their share to retard the growth and spread of mold.
    Home-building representatives adamantly contend that moldy wood does not constitute a construction defect, despite arguments raised by trial attorneys.
    "There is no mold crisis in Las Vegas," said Monica Caruso, spokeswoman for the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association. "This is the attorneys trying to generate a new revenue stream for themselves, a way to get more lawsuits. Attorneys are running out of construction defect issues. Now they're trying to push these mold cases."
    She said the presence of dust mites is much more likely to cause allergy symptoms in the home.
    "It's important to understand that mold is not a construction issue. It's a moisture issue," Hill said. "Mold needs moisture to grow, sure, but not necessarily a lot, just some. In any house there's a certain amount of moisture. If there's a plumbing leak or a drip, that can facilitate growth."
    Much of the moisture comes from landscaping, Hill said. A sprinkler can get turned and throw water back at the house, on the wall and window frames, which allows mildew to begin to grow.
    Miller said only about 5 percent of mold lawsuits list sprinklers as the cause, while 90 percent of the cases are from leaking roofs and windows and second-story decks that are nowhere near a sprinkler.
    Ron Lynn, building inspector for Clark County, said he's seen some mold on construction sites in the valley, but not much.
    "Everyone in construction sees mold on wood occasionally, sometimes when a bathroom is being renovated or some leaky pipes are being fixed," he said.
    "Mold is certainly not something you want in the home. It's strange because we have a heightened sensitivity to it here. You go back East where they have a lot of basements, it's there. It's been around a long time."
    Lynn said he's unaware of any building codes nationally that deal with mold, though he believes there will be discussions in the coming year about it.
    The building department looks at fire and life-safety issues in construction, and the problem with adopting mold regulations is experts have different views on how harmful it is, Lynn said.
    "It's very fertile ground for construction defect (lawsuits) because it looks very bad, but I don't think the impact has truly been quantified," he said.
    The construction coalition recognizes that mold can be a problem in residential and commercial construction, and is trying to educate the public about the different kinds of molds found on wood. It also notes that Nevada's dry climate will probably kill most molds before they can grow and spread.
    "Every house is susceptible to mold growth in one way or another," said Richard Thomas of Gary G. Day Construction in Las Vegas and past president of the Nevada Framers Association. "At one point in time, almost everybody involved in the home building industry has run into a problem from potential homeowners over mold."
    Thomas said the two prevalent forms of mold here are aspergillus and penicillium, neither of which is conducive to growth in the valley's dry climate.
    Black mold, which feeds off the organic compounds in building materials, is the result of a water intrusion of some sort such as a leaking pipe or other source, including lack of homeowner maintenance
    Black mold has garnered national media attention for allegedly causing illnesses among homeowners across the country. Hill said there were 1,300 lawsuits filed in Texas in 2001 related to mold.
    Thomas acknowledged that black mold may lead to illness if undetected or if the source of water intrusion isn't fixed.
    In contrast, the aspergillus and penicillium forms of mold are more common and are far easier to eradicate, he said. Builders can eliminate these molds simply by cleaning the wood with commercial mildew removers, or a solution of household bleach and water.
    "With all the research information available, we were unable to find one recorded case of adverse health effects resulting from these two molds on lumber," Thomas said.
    Builders must also work with homeowners to ensure there are no sources of moisture in the home, Thomas said.
    Some builders are including provisions in their sales contracts requiring homeowners to keep landscaping and water sources away from foundations to prevent water intrusion and, possibly, a mold problem, he said.
    "You don't see trapped moisture until you see the mold," said Ian Simon, owner of Odor Masters, a Las Vegas company that detects and removes mold contamination. "It's very prevalent. You've got a lot of new homes, new construction."
    Homeowners need to be wary of companies that treat mold, Simon said, as some are charging $20,000 and more for a job that should only cost $1,000 to $3,000.
    "A lot of companies out there are preying on fears of homeowners and people are getting ripped off," he said. "These guys are just running amok. Mold companies right now are like auto mechanics of yesteryear."
    Spearheading the home building industry's efforts to reduce construction litigation and rein in liability insurance costs, the construction coalition is seeking legislation providing builders and contractors with the "right to repair" deficiencies in housing construction, before lawsuits prevent contact with homeowners and access to homes to make needed repairs.
    The coalition also is asking legislators to develop a "fair definition of construction defect" to help curtail unwarranted lawsuits.
    Defining defects and granting the right to repair will let homeowners receive prompt home repairs while avoiding lengthy lawsuits, the coalition contends.
    Caruso noted that Nevada's construction litigation epidemic and its resulting insurance crisis flies in the face of a recent independent study by J.D. Power and Associates that ranked metropolitan Las Vegas third in overall new-home buyer satisfaction among 16 U.S. cities.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2001
    Location
    Oxford CT
    Posts
    758
    When we built our house we noticed black stains on the lumbar that was used for the ceiling in the basement which my DH said was mold. He said that it probably got moldy in the lumbar yard while it was being stored. That was three years ago. The mold stains remain but they never got worse and we never had a problem. I think the mold you have to be concerned with is the kind that grows on wallboard and is caused by leaks that go undetected. We had a wonderful builder that really went the extra mile when he built our house and I know if he thought the wood was bad he wouldn't have used it. We never had any structural or health problems from this "moldy" wood.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
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    Lone Star State
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    Personally, if it bothers you, I would probably do nothing more than have the boards wiped down with a solution of bleach and water and then thoroughly dried before the walls are closed in. My main concern would be to make sure the boards are all dry and sound -- no rotting. The mold and mildew spores are in our air all the time, and it is impossible to get rid of them all. What you want to do is not give them any damp, dark places to thrive in -- such as what happens when you get a water leak between the walls.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2000
    Location
    Amsterdam
    Posts
    2,239
    Crazy timing as I happen to be staying with my aunt and uncle and my uncle owns a lumber yard. He says that it depends on what kind of mold it is. He says that it's not uncommon for lumber to get mold on it, but as long as the wood dries out it's not a problem. However, he does say that you should have it checked out to determine what kind of mold it is and to make sure that the wood is dry.

    Hope that helps a little.

    Emily

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