Basements and mold and carpet
July 23, 2006 10:45 AM   Subscribe

Basements, mildew, and mold, oh my...

I live in a reverse duplex, with the bedrooms in the basement. The storms that ripped through the NYC region Friday left me with a flooded basement, which has since receded, but left the carpets very wet. My landlord came by and used a wet vac to get water up, but it's still damp, and starting to smell like mildew.

From what I've read, this is no good, and the carpet needs to be replaced. My landlord keeps trying to skimp around it, and is having a carpet cleaner come out tomorrow. Is there any chance that this will work, or should I tell him not to bother (which then opens the other can of worms, but I'll work with that later...)?
posted by adampsyche to Home & Garden (4 answers total)
Best answer: The outcome you can expect depends on a couple of things, some of which you can't know, and the landlord may not, unless you can pull up some carpet to inspect:

1) Is the basement floor covered in some kind of underlayment? If so, and it is a chipboard or particle board composite, or plywood, it could be wet, and very slow to dry. Thus, it is good place for mold and mildew to continue to thrive.

2) Is the carpet backed with a foam pad? If so, the pad could be soaked, or even trapping water beneath itself, preventing any carpet cleaning machine or vacuum from lifting the water. Again, a good place for mold and mildew to continue to thrive for a long time.

3) Is the source of the water that soaked your floors really stopped? Leaky basements often have "seepage" for days or weeks after a flooding event, if the subsoils surrounding them are saturated. In finished basements, it can be hard to find small leaks that seep, as they can be behind drywall, or down in the corners of the outside basement wall, or where it meets the floor. Again, if there is constantly water or dampness present, mold and mildew will thrive.

Carpet cleaning can typically only remove dirt and smells from the carpet itself; problems in pad below the actual carpet, or flooring layers below that, will have to be addressed by removing the carpet, and drying or replacing material as required.
posted by paulsc at 11:14 AM on July 23, 2006

Our basement flooded a month ago. It was half concrete floor and half hardwood floor (an apartment in the 'finished' portion). We used a wet vac and thought we were ok. Within 2 weeks the hardwood floors were buckling up... the 'under-flooring' of plywood was soaked through.

We had to replace the entire floor. Upon removal, mold was readily apparent - which is a health hazard.

Many people have told us that we might have saved the floor if we had immediately started using a dehumidifier in the affected space.
posted by matty at 12:31 PM on July 23, 2006

The same thing happened to me (I live in a basement apartment in Northern Virginia). My landlord's HOA initially didn't want to replace the carpet, but after pulling it up and finding a small continent of mold on the foam pad, they snapped to.

Don't screw around with mold. Like matty says, it's a health hazard, and it can make any allergies you have 10x worse. Here, at least, the problem is taken pretty seriously, and can be grounds for refusing to pay rent.

If he absolutely won't replace the carpet, move. Seriously.
posted by timetoevolve at 12:51 PM on July 23, 2006

They always try the "cleaning the carpet" approach first, and it seems to never work. You'll get mold growing on all your cloth covered furniture and linens, and have to throw them out unless you can get the whole thing, all the way down to where there's no moisture anymore, completely dry. If it's already started to mold, you need to treat or remove the spores, because the slightest amount of re-introduced moisture will start them growing again. It's bad, bad, news that's a bitch to properly fix, which is why your landlord hopes you'll be pacified by the carpet cleaning approach. A dehumidifier isn't a had idea from here on out.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 4:29 PM on July 23, 2006

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