Not all home projects are fun projects. 

Since moving into the home a year ago, I’ve had 3 major projects creep up – each forcing me to stop everything to deal with the issue. First the boiler, then the ceiling leaks, and now…. mold. 

There was a sewage problem in the late Spring. The only bathroom on the first floor clogged up and the plumbers needed to come out and get waste removed from the drains at the front of the property. Well, shortly after they left, a black smudge appeared next to the toilet… and it grew, and grew, and spread to the other side of the wall – the newly renovated laundry room. I called an environmental specialist I originally brought out when I bought the house and within a week… half of my downstairs was walled off into a contaminated zone. 

Were the incidents related? The sewage backing up and the mold? No one would know until they started to rip things away. For a new owner, it can be pretty alarming to see how very little holds you up every day. From doing work elsewhere in the house, I knew what they would find: drywall over plaster and lath, maybe rocks, and the other side of the brick. I braced myself for what would be the biggest surgery this home has seen since I bought it. 

The guys appeared at 8 am and it sounded like a dentist’s office most of the first day. Lots and lots of drilling. 

This is what the mold looked like next to the toilet. 

This is what the mold looked like on the other side of the wall behind the washer and dryer. 

And this goes on for 2 days. Drilling, hacking, throwing things away.

The workers and their boss were very good at communicating about what was going on. After day 1, it was very clear things were far worse than they imagined. There was water coming from somewhere – keeping the walls, floors, and ceiling moist. The drywall and everything behind it was soaked. And the problem wasn’t new. It was so old, there were roots and moss growing through my wall. It had even caused an issue on the outside of the building – tiny weeds and moss were growing in the same spot on the outside of the house. Their job was to remove as much of the moist and mold-grown materials as possible so that they could paint an anti-microbial paint over it. From there, we would hire new contractors to come in and repair any leaks and the construction. This was the result at the end of Day 1:

On Day 2, we got our answer. The source of the problem was a split in a cast iron pipe. We could only imagine it was coming from one of the bathrooms above, so everyone limited their bathroom use to one bathroom on the 3rd floor on the other side of the house. 

The walled-off hazmat area I lovingly referred to as ‘Area 51’ ran loud fans for 3 nights, trying to get the moist areas as dry as possible and prepped for painting. In the meantime, I braced for a plumber to come in and replace the pipe. From the photos, everything else looked pretty good, but while the walls were torn apart, it was still worth taking another look to see if there were any other issues. Thank heavens there were not. After the mold was remediated, they painted anti-microbial paint and finished their work.

Shortly after, our plumbers came in and replaced the pipe. These guys know their stuff. They told me that cast iron pipes were seemed together a century ago, and after a while, the seem deteriorates. So, this is something that I’ll just have to be on the watch for over time. 

The wall still has a gaping hole between the rooms and the bathroom isn’t back on line, but this situation presents an opportunity to update the bathroom a little bit. Mine as well while it’s torn apart.