Minimum necessary repairs after water damage
November 17, 2018 5:15 PM   Subscribe

We had a leak that flooded the carpet in one bedroom. Landlord sent someone to vacuum up the water after the plumber repaired the leak. Then someone to repair the drywall and paint. The latter person used a moisture meter to check for mold. The carpet has not been replaced and was not pulled up to check underneath it when this happened, but the individual doing that work seemed to be knowledgeable. I have questions.

The room in question still has a musty odor. The landlord seems to think all suitable repairs have been made. This is normally the toddler's room and I can't bring myself to let him sleep in there until I feel better about the state of it. If I push the landlord very hard we will probably end up having to move when the lease is up. I want to avoid that if I can. Strategies to influence the landlord or ideas for repairs we can do ourselves? Or is there an affordable home test I can use to check the air quality? If the air has mold and I can prove it, maybe he will do more.
posted by crunchy potato to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Dehumidifier for the room to pull any leftover humidity put of the air? Might cut down on the mustiness
posted by TheAdamist at 5:29 PM on November 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

If the carpet was soaked, I can guarantee that, at the very least, the padding under the carpet is holding moisture. And, in time, mold and mildew will ensue. The carpet should have been taken up and replaced.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:30 PM on November 17, 2018 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: I forgot to mention when I go into the room for a length of time, my eyes and sinuses start to burn. I requested low VOC paint, so I'm not sure if this is a reaction to lingering paint fumes or whatever is left of the water damage. Painting was done five days ago.
posted by crunchy potato at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2018

Yeah I would start with a dehumidifier. You want that carpet to dry out. If this was a recent leak, there may not be mold yet. An air purifier with a carbon filter will cut down on VOCs, but if it's literally eye-burningly bad then I would probably relocate the toddler until the paint smell in that room dies way down, which it eventually will. That will also give you time to see whether running a dehumidifier continuously during that period seems to have done the trick or not. If yes, then great.

If not, maybe time to call in a mold inspection from a mold remediation company; you'll have to schedule and manage and pay for it yourself, but it should be way less expensive and invasive than having the room remediated, which would be the next step.

At that point, if remediation is necessary, you'll have hard evidence to provide to your landlord. The remediation company that does your test should also be able to give you an estimate for any work that needs doing, which you could show to the landlord if you think it would be helpful.

That's how I think I'd approach this one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:44 PM on November 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

Serious dehumidifier.

Just before that, I would soak and blot the spot with Vodka, Vodka + Essential Oil (tea tree? Oregano? Oregano + Orange or Lemon?) or Hydrogen Peroxide.

Your eyes watering... Maybe that’s psychosomatic? If that area was flooded previously and untreated, you might have significant mold this fast. Otherwise, probably not. You can also pull up the rug yourself and check the underlayer. I might even replace that part of the under layer with scrap from a nearby rug store and dry out the carpet before tacking it all back down myself. I’m sure there’s a reason folks don’t do this but, I feel handy and would not hesitate. YMMV.
posted by jbenben at 6:53 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I had a tremendous roof leak this year in my home when I had solar panels removed so the roof could be replaced, and then had a torrential storm the next day. Water saturated my top-floor ceiling (row home, flat roof) and cascaded down inside the party walls, flowing along joists it encountered as it fell, causing terrible leaks on every floor and to every ceiling in my home. The contractor accepted responsibility and paid for a commercial remediation company without any push-back, largely due to my forceful insistence and threats to sue. They knew they were responsible.

I didn't have carpet leaks, fortunately, but roof beams and ceiling insulation were soaked, necessitating removal of the ceiling and a hellacious number of fans and dehumidifiers running 24/7 for a week pointed up at the inside of the roof and additional leak sites downstream along the joists, where water found its way down the floors of the house. They monitored progress with humidity laser meters, which they pointed at various spots around the house and recorded humidity percentages. Typically, the ceiling joists were in the 25 - 35% range, and the fanning and dehumidifying continued until the % was less than 10. Only then did they consider stopping the fans and re-installing ceiling wallboard and painting.

The remediation company told me that it takes about 2 weeks to have a serious mold problem, but with something removable like carpet and padding, I would just remove it. The floor below, and possibly the molding (especially if it's some sort of engineered {particleboard} molding) will be wet and warped. The floors might recover and settle back into a semblance of flat and stable (unless the aforementioned particleboard- this will need to be removed and replaced because it swells).

We had another leak a decade ago in our basement, where a neighbor's waste pipe broke and water poured through the party wall (again, row house) and flooded our basement. We pulled up the carpet immediately. Floor was concrete, fortunately. We didn't remove the bottom foot of plasterboard walls because insurance wouldn't pay and it didn't look deformed or weird- we would have had to sue our neighbor because it was not our pipe at fault - FYI the weird exclusionary coverage by homeowner's insurance. A few years ago we re-did the basement and yes, there was black mold up to shin level on the back side of the plasterboard, and we'd never seen it because we didn't look. No insurance so no fans or dehumidifiers. We learned a lot in the interim.

I think this is something your landlord is responsible for correcting, and I would not move forward with paying for remediation without talking to the owner. Water saturated carpet and padding is rank and needs to be removed, especially with a child in the home.

You might want to talk to your renter's insurance agent, if you have it. It's possible your insurer would pay to remove and replace it and bill the landlord, which might be a way around him. If your landlord refuses, I would pursue legal advice.

Water damage is expensive. The solar contractor directly paid me more than $11,000 for an estimate I submitted to replace all the ceilings, trim, and to paint the entire house interior. It is impossible to match walls painted a few years ago with walls painted today, so entire rooms were repainted. I have no idea what they paid the remediation company and the crews they sent to try to temporarily patch the roof before I could get it replaced. Additionally, I found the remediation company (ServPro in my case) to be a reputable ally. The contractor did not question any of their figures and paid up promptly.
posted by citygirl at 7:06 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would be more concerned that this is an indicator that more leaks are waiting to happen, due to the overall condition of the building/how well, or not, it is maintained. For example, does your building use PVC pipes? These are known to spring leaks after so and so many years... ask me how I know.

It may help to rent a blower and pull up a corner of the carpet and let it blow under there for a few days, after checking for the source of the leak... if it is indeed under there... and seeing what can be done about it. The blower should dry out the carpet, though your whole house will smell like wet carpet for a few days and you will get tired of the constant whooshing roar. You have my sympathies; leaks are a drag.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 7:16 PM on November 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I worked in the trades for many years, when oil dropped to 13 bucks a barrel and Houston tanked in the early and mid 80s I was lucky enough to get a job as a maintenance carpenter in the apartment complex I lived in. Absolutely any time any carpet was soaked -- esp to the level yours was -- the carpet was pulled back, all the carpet padding thrown into the dumpster, the carpets then had all the water sucked out of them that we could get out using the industrial strength carpet cleaning set-up that the complex owned, and then fans and dehumidifiers -- at least three days -- and only after the carpet is dry put down new padding and stretch the carpet back out and secure it to those strips with nails on them. It's an ordeal, but it's the only way (that I know of) to save the carpet and not end up with a total nightmare of mold and rot.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:55 AM on November 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

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