Mold Prevention After a Water Leak (Part 2)

Mold prevention – and remediation – after any kind of leak or flood is hugely important because of health implications. We learned a hard lesson last year after the pipe connected to our outdoor faucet burst and caused water damage in my newly built craft room. In that post (part 1), we showed you how we installed a frost proof faucet to repair it and make sure it wouldn’t happen again. Now that it’s Fall, we’d like to remind you to remove the hose from the faucet – even if you have a frost-proof one, so you don’t make the same mistake we did. Leaving a hose connected during the winter is a recipe for disaster!

Molds can produce allergens, irritants and potentially toxic substances (mycotoxins) which can make you very sick. The key to mold prevention is moisture control. You need to dry out water damaged areas with 24 – 48 hours to prevent mold growth. Time is of the essence!

Signs of Water

Be aware of signs of water damage. You may have obvious signs – like standing water – but if the leak is primarily inside the walls, it might not be so apparent. One of the more subtle things I noticed was that the baseboards had come away from my once-perfectly caulked baseboards. Then I noticed the paint was bubbled right above the baseboard and when I went to touch it, the paint easily lifted and fell away from the wall.

Remove Items from Area

The clock was ticking. The first step was to remove the dresser and area rug that were directly below standing water. It was hard to say whether this was dirt or mold, but the area rug looked like there was a few spots on the back with potential mold growth. A wet dry/vac is handy for removing water.

We temporarily moved the area rug into the next room to get it out of the way, but then carried it outside to clean it. Use a cleaning solution to scrub mold away and rinse it thoroughly. Then use a wet/dry vac to remove the water once again. You can lay down plastic outside and let the area rug dry in the sun if weather permits. When the carpet is dry, use a HEPA vacuum to remove any mold spores that might be left behind.

Hubs surmised that the source of water was right above where we removed the area rug. He opened up a cabinet door and reached into a hole in the top of the cabinet to discover the water had come from the pipe leading to our outdoor faucet. The day before, Hubs had the water running for quite a while to fill the pond. There was no telling how extensive the water damage was behind the walls until he cut them open.

Hubs removed the cabinet to gain access to the wall behind it. As he was doing that, I was dumping contents from drawers wherever there was an empty surface. Pretty soon my craft room looked like a bomb had hit it.

Remove porous items such as this area rug outdoors to clean

Paint on the surface was peeling so we were in a race with the clock to cut the walls open and dry things out ASAP.

Pull the Baseboards

Everything had to come out of the cabinets and drawers so pieces could be relocated and baseboards could be removed from the walls.

Some of my stuff went into plastic bins.

But we only had a few bins, so most things ended up on top of and under my pattern table.

Hubs started pulling the baseboard closest to the leak.

Once my VW storage cabinet/desk was moved out from the corner and the baseboards were off, Hubs brought in the dehumidifier and fans (more about that later). Then he punched exploratory holds into the drywall to see how far along the water wicked along the wall cavities and into the insulation.

Once the drywall in the ‘target zone’ was taken care of, Hubs continued removing baseboard elsewhere.

He continued around the corner cutting the bottom perimeter of drywall to expose the framing and insulation. At first, his cuts were crude: he was in a hurry to determine just how far the water had flowed into the wall cavities.

As you’ll see later, once everything was cleared out Hubs cut the drywall much higher (and neater). That’s when we realized that we’d have to move the pattern table too! It was a daunting task to move everything twice, but pulling baseboard in the ‘target zone’ had to be done quickly because the faster we got the area stripped, the faster we could hopefully prevent (or remediate) mold.

Get the Dehumidifier and Fans Going ASAP

We got a dehumidifier going right away to start the process of bringing down the moisture level in the room. Dampness in the air can supply enough moisture for mold to grow and multiply so you need to bring the relative humidity (RH) below a certain percentage (ideally RH would be between 30 – 50 percent). If it isn’t humid outside, you can also open up windows.

As a general rule (flood or not), keep a humidity gauge in the home to check humidity and run a humidifier (especially in the summer) – whether or not your basement is finished. Anywhere there’s water, there could be potential mold. Water could be seeping into your basement through foundation cracks, for instance, so be vigilant about this and repair issues once you are aware of them.

To aid with bringing the humidity down further, we borrowed fans and got them blowing along with the dehumidifier.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, be sure to empty the dehumidifier often to ensure it doesn’t stop working because it’s full!

Cut Away Drywall and Insulation – Dispose

Hubs thought that the water was pretty much contained to my office area (left side of the room pictured below). Using a utility knife, he cut about 2 feet of drywall away at the very bottom of the walls all around the perimeter of the room to assess further.

Hubs also opened up a large vertical portion of the wall directly underneath the water valve as that was the path the water would have taken. When you cut out a section of drywall, make sure that you cut out a width that spans at least two studs behind the drywall. This is so you can reattach new material to the studs when it’s time to replace the drywall again – after drying out the room.

He continued opening up the drywall at floor level. He didn’t want to take any chances, so he cut a drywall perimeter around the entire room so any trapped moisture could dissipate.

We concentrated two of the fans on the wall where the leak occurred:

As you cut away drywall, inspect the back where it’s most in contact with the water. If you do see mold growing on the back then you may have to take the room completely down to studs (or until you no longer find mold growth). Mold can’t be cleaned from porous materials like drywall. Once you’ve removed wet or moldy drywall from your home, dispose of it outside.

The same goes for insulation. Insulation acts as a wick and holds the moisture so don’t even try to save it. It takes too long to dry out so remove it and throw it away. We stuffed the insulation into green garbage bags which were sealed and taken outside right away.

Hubs was satisfied that the water didn’t reach the far corner of the laundry room, but he still cut a narrow piece just to check. He got a third fan going in that section.

As you can see below, we moved my pattern table into the laundry room and that’s where it remained until the room was at normal relative humidity levels and could be put back together again.

Tag Team

Many hands make light work. With Hubs busy with damage control, I was busy carrying out the overflow from my studio and dropping it into Hubs’ mancave to give him room to work. This definitely isn’t the beautiful reveal shot you may remember of the mancave!

Everywhere was absolute chaos. To better appreciate the mayhem, look at how things got piled up in my sewing room once the area rug was moved! Whatever we couldn’t move to the far reaches of the basement (which wasn’t far at all) had to remain in every nook and cranny that was available.

Over the course of a few weeks, we let the area fully dry before installing new materials to replace the old. Wall cavities should not be sealed up again until it’s completely dry inside or you’ll only defeat the purpose of trying to prevent mold growth.

When we were ready to rebuild, it was tight quarters! Below you can see not only the things that were removed from the studio, but Hubs brought in a wet/dry vac to control drywall dust, a ladder, tools and drywall kit (which you can see in the bin in the foreground).

The damage from the leak could have been worse had we not invested in a special underlay beneath our beautiful hardwood floors. The underlay we used was DMX 1-Step; it has an air-gap dimple design (shown below) that allows damp concrete to breathe and provides room for moisture to evaporate. The design acts as a mold-barrier (remember no moisture on permeable materials = no mold)! Because of DMX, we didn’t have to remove a single plank of flooring and could rest assured that we wouldn’t have mold growth.

What to Keep, What to Dump

Remove anything that got wet such as furniture and boxes. Don’t just move wet items to another area of the house; you’ll just be spreading potential mold growth. Take them outside instead (store them in the garage). Throw away anything that couldn’t be dried within 48 hours and anything with mold growing that couldn’t be cleaned.

Unfortunately, many books and magazine that were in the cupboards were ruined as well as some craft projects-in-progress which had to be tossed.

This wasn’t the case with us, but is worth mentioning: when my sister experienced a leak in her own basement, she had wall-to-wall carpet that got saturated. The padding on the back takes too long to dry and will lead to mold growth so must be completely removed and thrown away.

Mold Remediation

We were very lucky that we caught the flood in time and were able to dry the area out within the recommended 48 hours. We didn’t have to remediate mold, but if you do experience mold growth that’s not too extensive, you can handle it yourself. To do it yourself, check out this website for more information. For anything larger, it’s best to hire a professional and perhaps even consider an insurance claim if the work is extensive and you’re not handy.

Be on the Lookout

Even if you think you’ve caught mold before it could grow, you should still be on the lookout for any signs of mold. Refer to this website for the signs of mold growth and how to kill mold.

For more info specific to killing mold on specific surfaces, refer to this website.

Putting it all Back Together

We purchased new drywall to start our repairs but before doing anything, we fixed the source of the leak and installed a new frost-proof faucet (which you can read about here). Don’t forget to remove the hose as part of your Fall prep work for winter. A frost-proof faucet is only foolproof as long as you don’t forget to remove the hose!

Doing this ourselves cost much less than our insurance deductible and who knows how quick someone would even come to our house to remove the drywall and start the process of drying out? We can also rest assured that our premium won’t go up because of a claim!

Pin this post for later so you know what to do if you ever spring a leak in your basement!

In the last of this 3-part series on water leak repair, we’ll be showing you how we put everything back together again with new insulation, vapour barrier, drywall, mud, tape, primer and finally paint.

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2 thoughts on “Mold Prevention After a Water Leak (Part 2)

  1. Oh wow that was a huge job Sara. We also had some problems with leakage and had to tear down the sheetrock from the ceiling.

    • Yes, it was a huge undertaking for poor Hubs who had just finished my craft studio. All he wanted to do was sit and relax in his own mancave and the next thing you know he had to do the craft studio all over again 🙂 Oh well, more fodder for the blog I guess. Luckily we didn’t have to do the ceiling; that’s a big job too!

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