Prevent Mold in a Damp Basement
LESLIE: Lisa in New York tunes in to The Money Pit on WABC. And you’ve got a mold question. What can we do to help?
LISA: Yes, I have – I’ve had water damage in my basement due to heavy rains over – I would say twice over the last year. And we had just installed new carpet with padding. And the carpet got really soaked. I mean it didn’t come above the carpet but the water got into the carpet both times. We dried it out with dehumidifiers and, you know, a wet/dry vac. And I’m just very concerned. I have little children who play down there. There’s a playroom. And I’m very concerned about the possibility of there being mold beneath the carpet and behind the walls.
TOM: Well, there certainly is a risk of that. And I have to tell you, Lisa, we – if you had called us before you did this …
LESLIE: We would have said no.
TOM: … we would never, ever …
LISA: Yeah, you don’t recommend carpet. I know. Neither did my contractor but we did it. You know what? We put in a French drain.
TOM: (overlapping voices) But you did it anyway! (chuckling)
LISA: We thought if we put in French drains we won’t have water in the basement.
LISA: So after we put in the French drains we felt secure enough to put in the carpet and we still had water twice.
TOM: Let’s assume that – best case scenario here – your basement never flooded. You’re calling us because it flooded and it got damp. I’ve got news for you. Even if it didn’t flood but it was just because it’s a basement – it’s damp and it’s moist all the time –
TOM: – the carpet will still grow mold. It will still attract dust mites. It’s still unhealthy for kids. So if your basement flooded and you’ve got carpet damage, I think this is a great opportunity for you to pull that carpet out and put down a flooring there that’s really meant for a basement.
TOM: Use a laminate floor. Use engineered hardwoods. If you want to use – if you want to use carpet, put throw rugs on top of that. But don’t put in wall-to-wall carpet in the basement. It’s just not a good idea.
Now secondly, let’s talk about the fact that you’ve got French drains and you’re still having a flooding problem. And you mentioned that it’s happening consistent with rainfall. We need to get you outside looking at your gutter system and your grading because that’s what’s causing this. You’ve got too much water collecting in the foundation perimeter.
LESLIE: You want to make sure that all of your gutters – number one, that you have enough; that you have enough downspouts supplying those gutters and that the downspouts are free-flowing and that they’re depositing the water at least three to six feet away from the house. You don’t want them dropping off the water right next to the foundation.
LISA: Right. I’ve heard that, yeah.
LESLIE: If you’ve got gutters – yeah – clean them.
LISA: And the truth is, to be honest, this year we weren’t so good about having the gutters cleaned.
TOM: And now you know what happens. (chuckling)
LISA: So maybe this year (INAUDIBLE).
LESLIE: But you know what? You’d be surprised …
LISA: They’re coming tomorrow.
TOM: Oh, good.
LISA: Yes. We …
LISA: Yeah, that’s probably one of the problems. If the – you’re saying if the gutters are clogged we’re more likely to get water accumulating?
LESLIE: Oh, absolutely. Because as the – as all of the rain water drains off of your roof and pours down into those gutters, if the gutters are full they’re going to hit that full area and just splash out. So it’s not really going anywhere.
TOM: Listen, Lisa. Leslie had this very same problem when she bought a house …
LESLIE: (overlapping voices) It’s a touchy subject. (chuckling)
TOM: … that had carpet. She didn’t put it in. It was there to begin with. She never pulled it out.
LESLIE: And I loved it, Lisa.
TOM: She liked it. She never pulled it out. But what was it? One gutter got misdirected on your house and it flooded. Yeah, it was one gutter.
LESLIE: We had one downspout that went into a pipe that directed it down the front yard and out to the street. And that whole pipe and downspout was clogged. We had no idea. You know, we were cleaning everything. We thought we were doing OK but we never snaked that downspout and you’ve got to do that. And something got clogged up. And let me tell you, it was like the exact opposite corner of our home. We had such a flood in the exact opposite corner from that clogged downspout that I came home that night to a squishy, wet basement floor and just went at it with a blade and pulled up everything. And the next day I went and bought laminate flooring.
TOM: And if your situation, Lisa, that you’ve got water – that you’ve got gutters that are obviously clogged, that has to be the problem.
TOM: So this may very well be the entire problem; is that gutter system.
LISA: Right. That probably is the problem. But now this – you’re saying just to pull up the carpet.
TOM: I would recommend it.
LISA: And I just put it there for the kids to play. It’s nice. You know, it’s so comfortable.
LESLIE: I know. And I know you love the carpet.
TOM: But you could probably file an insurance claim if it flooded because of a storm. Call your homeowners insurance company. You could probably get this paid for.
LISA: Get the carpet paid for. Uh-huh.
TOM: Sure, call an insurance adjuster. But this time don’t put the carpet back in. Put a laminate floor back in. It’s kid-proof. If you want something soft and nice for them to play on put a couple of throw rugs down there. You can always roll them up.
LESLIE: A good, fun idea for a cushy surface for kids to play on in a basement especially, go to Flor Carpet Tiles. It’s F-l-o-r. And they sell, you know, 20×20-inch carpet tiles. You can snap them together with some stickers on the backside.
LESLIE: There’s full, high-pile ones; little soft ones. And they make a great play surface. Plus if – once you put it together as an area rug, one piece in the middle gets dirty, you just replace it. And with growing kids you’re going to get messes. So, you know, you might as well do something that you can renew without a big cost.
LISA: I probably have mold down there.
TOM: (chuckling) Lisa, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.