Who do I call about bathroom mushrooms?
March 10, 2008 7:51 AM   Subscribe

2 part question: 1) We found a mushroom in the bathroom this morning. I crawled into the crawlspace and pulled down the insulation and the subflooring (?) is all wet. I know I need to call someone but is it a plumber, a handyman or a hazmat team? Everything I have read (including this) just say "call a professional". 2) Is this something which I should file a homeowners insurance claim on (AllState)? My wife thinks that doing that will just make our rates go up and eventually cause us to get blacklisted by the insurance company. I think that I have insurance for just such an occasion. And yes, I am totally freaked out and disgusted by this and worried that it explains why my son and I both wake up with headaches and congestion every morning.
posted by GrumpyMonkey to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Start with a plumber and leave the insurance out of it until you know what you are dealing with. Good luck!
posted by 45moore45 at 8:02 AM on March 10, 2008

You can indeed get dropped by your insurance company for water damage claims; here's a relevant article. A number of sources recommend filing claims only for serious damage. It's also possible that you might not even be covered, if the damage was caused by a slow leak that existed for a long period of time.
posted by magicbus at 8:19 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

You don't get a mushroom growing unless you've had a lot of moisture consistently for a long time. You may well have a lot of rot going on in the wooden joists and studs around and under that bathroom, and all the rotted wood needs to be removed and replaced.

You need to call a carpenter-type handyman, to rip out the wet flooring, and possibly floor joists, studs, etc. The handiman can uninstall plumbing as needed, but you'll need a plumber later to put things back together.

I would inquire about this with your insurance agent but I doubt if it is covered, since this is not due to a hazard you're insured against (typically sudden calamities like fire, wind, flood, earthquake, semis that crash into your house, etc.). It's sort of a flood, but not a sudden flood, and it's due to some form of neglectful maintenance (sorry), like improper caulking. If it's due to a broken pipe in the wall, you might have a shot.
posted by beagle at 8:19 AM on March 10, 2008

Just a note: the repairs involved may render your bathroom unusable for an extended period. You should address this with the contractor(s) up front, especially if it's your only bathroom.
posted by aramaic at 8:27 AM on March 10, 2008

I would inquire about this with your insurance agent but I doubt if it is covered

Um, I wouldn't even inquire about it with my insurance agent. The CLUE database mentioned in magicbus' link also includes simple inquiries:

Your Insurance Inquiries Can Count Against You

Aug. 14, 2003 -- Leaky roof? Stolen bike? Broken gutter? You may want to think twice before even calling your insurance company. Many home insurers count inquiry calls -- calls in which homeowners simply ask informally whether their policy will cover certain damages and are told that it won't -- as unpaid losses.

Most insurance companies file loss information, paid or unpaid, into a centralized database called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, better known as Clue. Even if a policyholder just makes a phone call and doesn't report any damage, there's still a possibility the call will get logged into the Clue report as an unpaid loss. The information stays on the record for five years, and can mar homeowners' chances of getting a standard policy next time they apply for insurance.

posted by mediareport at 8:39 AM on March 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

(I am an insurance agent, not your insurance agent etc etc)

Have the leak checked before you call your insurance company. Even if you don't file a claim, when you change insurance companies (if you have to get insurance through another company because yours suddenly pulls out of the state, for example) you will have to answer whether you have had ANY water damage, whether a claim was paid out or not. Companies are tightening their binding guidelines like crazy and at the least will raise the rates and worst case could flat out deny your application. Also, if you did go through your insurance company for payment of damages, you may likely lose control over which company to use or other decisions regarding repairs.

It may be covered, depending on the type of policy you have (HO-3, HO-8, DP etc) but a company is going to find any way they can to deny the claim, but it will still ding you later as just having some sort of damage.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:48 AM on March 10, 2008

On preview-what mediareport said.
posted by hollygoheavy at 8:50 AM on March 10, 2008

Thanks hollygoheavy, I'll stand corrected. I'm used to dealing with an independent insurance agent who I think would give me the straight scoop on what my chances are without reporting me up the line. But with the OP having AllState, that's probably not the case.
posted by beagle at 9:24 AM on March 10, 2008

Plumber first, because it is primarily important to diagnosis where the water is coming from and stop the leak. You might also check the roofing and flashing if this is happening in the crawlspace. There is a possibility that it is not the plumbing at all. Or, it may be that there is a problem with the tile or shower wall that is allowing water from the shower to seep into the space behind the wall. Diagnosis first. And get the water stopped.

Next, once the leak is stopped, determine how much damage and what kind. If there is a substantial amount of mold (mushrooms sounds alarming, frankly), you will want to get the people who will deal with that. Which means the demo team that deals with mold.

Next, you call a carpenter and bring the plumber back to put it all together again.

So sorry that you are dealing with this. If there is a way to use another bathroom or move your sleeping quarters away from the bathroom for the duration, I would do it. Especially for the health of your son. The inconvenience and expense of dealing with mold damage is a pain in the short term, but the damage to the pulmonary system from mold lasts longer and is an even greater hassle and expense, not to mention painful and frustrating.
posted by jeanmari at 9:55 AM on March 10, 2008

I'll add one bit - if there's mold in the drywall, it'll have to be ripped out. It penetrates the drywall and, even when bleached or nuked with fungicide, is still a hazard (especially to people with asthma).
posted by zippy at 11:28 PM on March 10, 2008

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