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musty smell and mold in house

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My mother is 80yrs old, diabetic and having all sorts of health problems for which numerous doctors and specialist can't seem to figure out. She does have mold issues in her half of the two bedroom duplex and I recently had it inspected. The home has musty odor. The inspection report below states that the mold level in her house is elevated. The home is on a concrete slab with wooden floors and carpeting. He said the moisture level is high and recommended that the HVAC system be reconfigured (new furnace and duct work run through the attic) rather than existing floor area. He said to make sure the air conditioning coil is not leaking will improve the air quality immensely.

I got several bids which are approximately $6900 & $5800 and getting ready to obtain 3rd bid from Sears. We have never had the attic inspected since the discovery of mold (which I plan to have done soon). Also, the mold inspector did not inspect the attic which only has access from other half of the duplex, where relative resides. He only took samples from MBR and living room which cost $475. My mother is on limited budget, but refusing to leave her home since it is paid for. There are foundation issues as well since the duplex sits in the middle of two houses which are on elevated grounds (it almost gets flooded during raining season).

Provided there is no mold issues in the attic (maybe??), would you recommend reconfiguration of the HVAC system as suggested below? Would the carpeting need to be changed also? Wouldn't doing both make it safer for her to re-occupy the home? cause one construction (roofer) suggested that she not reside in the home. She does have new roof after the hail damage in Illinoi on 4/28. I would really appreciate your feedback in this matter due to my mother's failing health issues.

Thank you,




A mold inspection was performed at.  The purpose was to identify if a significant mold issue was present in the home. The home had areas of visible mold growth that had been cleaned before the inspection. Limited visible mold growth was found along the windows.

An inspection of the HVAC system revealed a few items that may be affecting the

indoor air quality of the home. Air from the HVAC system is directed below the home

and no ductwork is present. There is a drain that leads from the HVAC system but it

could not be identified if the drain works correctly. Dirt and debris was present in the

floor vents. Elevated moisture levels were found near the HVAC system which would indicate a leak is possible.

Air samples were taken from the master bedroom and the living room. An air sample

was taken from the outside for comparison. The presence of Aspergillus/Penicillium in

the indoor sample and its absence in the outdoor sample is an indication that a mold

reservoir is may be present in the home. Elevated levels of Aspergillus/Penicillium can

cause allergy symptoms. This mold type is typically associated with homes that have

had a moisture issue where mold can grow.


The most concerning issues are the absence of ductwork for the floor vents and the

presence of moisture around the HVAC system. There may be a leak in the drain pan

of the air-conditioning coil that allows moisture to drain into the space below the house.

If moisture has entered the space below the home, there may be an environment

suitable for mold growth. Because no ductwork is present, any mold growth under the

home will be pushed up through of the vents inside the home. The additional moisture

will add to the relative humidity of the home which will create an environment suitable

for mold growth throughout the home.

It is recommended that duct work be installed in the attic and the HVAC system be

reconfigured. During this process the air-conditioning coil can be inspected for leaks

and perhaps the source of moisture below the home can be identified.

asked in Heating and AC by krylin20 (120 points)
edited by darekrudy
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1 Answer

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Hi Kavita,
It’s difficult for me to give you a definite answer but based on the report provided reconfiguration of your heating system might be the only option. Many homes (my house as well) with air distributing ducts / channels embedded into a concrete slab experience the same problems.
You can check my article here - http://checkthishouse.com/3258/musty-smell-from-heating-system-air-ducts-forced-air-heat.html and the questions & answers posted underneath.
Mold in attic (if there is a problem) can be treated / eliminated. Too bad the attic was not evaluated prior to the new roof installation because that could save you a lot of money (in case of a severe contamination) - read this article: http://checkthishouse.com/4081/mold-in-house-attic-how-to-kill-mold-how-to-clean-mold.html
Moist carpeting / carpeting installed over a concrete slab could be a breeding ground for mold. Unfortunately I have no idea if this is the case in this property. Removing it and installing other types of flooring (hardwood, Pergo, vinyl, ceramic) would improve air quality (or at least temporarily) but the moisture source should be eliminated anyway because any material except for ceramic (or natural stone) will be eventually affected.
As for your mother living in that house, I don’t really know what to suggest. Mold and allergies can cause variety of illnesses (sometimes death) and often the only way to determine what’s responsible is to change the environment, at least for some time (I have no idea for how long). Maybe you should move your mother to a different location for a few weeks, a couple of months, and monitor her health during that time. 
After eliminating moisture and mold problems, reconfiguring HVAC system, she could move back into that townhouse… It’s an expensive project but there might be no better option, selling a property with the current real estate market and moving to another location could be even more pricey.
answered by darekrudy (21,730 points)