Q & A: Black Mold in Attic

I am selling my house.  At the home inspection the inspector found that the plywood in my attic had black mold.  I have contacted two companies that deal with this.  My question is how much of a deal breaker can this be when selling or buying a house?
Mike P 9/23/08

Mike, first…don't panic.  Second, don't let a home inspector, mold inspector, Realtor or buyer panic either.  This is a VERY common problem with a simple solution.

First, what you are probably seeing is decay of the plywood sheathing caused by a lack of adequate attic ventilation.  I haven't seen your house but I've seen plenty like this in the 20 years I spent as a home inspector.  If I had to guess, I'd say your home is around 30 years old with a minimal amount of attic ventilation, most likely a gable vent, tiny soffit vents and maybe a roof vent or two.  This isn't nearly enough to flush the moisture which naturally accumulates in the attic.

If I inspected your home for a potential buyer, the only concern I would have would be the structural integrity of the plywood. If the decay is severe, the plywood may be weak and not sound enough to do its job supporting the roof and the shingles.

If all your are seeing is some black fungus (notice I did not say "Mold" because mold is not always present in the decay), I'd improve the attic ventilation by adding continuous ridge and soffit vents.

Tom Kraeutler is the host of The Money Pit Home Improvement Radio Show and the Home Improvement Editor for AOL. For more tips, sign up for Tom's free e-newsletter here. Tom's latest book, My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure, is available in bookstores everywhere and online.

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