How can we safely clean up mold? Our 1820 home was closed up for 15 mos, and developed a white mold problem.


How can we safely clean up mold? Our 1820 home was closed up for 15 mos, and developed a white mold problem.

Asked by Judith Allee

Our historic 1820 home (reputedly a stagecoach stop & on Underground Railroad) is charming but was quite a project BEFORE we suddenly shut it up for 16 months due to a health crisis. Kept heat on at 55, but developed white mold. House is not worth much more than the land, but we hope to sell it to someone who values history & wants to fix it up, feeling responsible to pass the torch. I fear someone will tear it down to rebuild. The furniture has a sheen of mold seen at the right angle. Bedcovers are moldy. House smells musty--not bad, though, considering. Built into a hillside with massive stone foundation, house has dirt/gravel basement floor. A few rooms on ground level have subfloor boards directly on dirt. Got an estimate for $8-10,000 to "decontaminate"--if contents of the house were already removed. Not an option, but precautions needed even for someone remove the contents. Suggestions? I need to act but am overwhelmed.

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Harold Remlinger, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB's picture


This unfortunately is not a project which should be taken on by yourself.

I would greatly recommend you interview a few mold remediation companiesto first find out the cost to have the mold tested.

Also remove and discard any fabrics which appear to have mold especially items over foam such as seat cushsion and mattresses. You will find that the cost of cleaning them will far exceed purchasing new and will be hard to fully remove the smell.

By what you had discrebed, mold will be a continuous issue unless your first take care of the exposed soils open to the interior of the home.

  • The basement should have a vapor barrier installed over a granular fill (sand or pea stone) and a concrete floor installed.
  • This will elliminate and moisture from entering the inside of the home and help elliminate the musty smell.
  • As for floor areas over exposed soil, these floors should be documented and carefully removed. A vapor barrier should be installed over the open soil and the floor reinstalled per the location documented prior to its removal.

I would also recommend that a whole house dehumidification system is installed to remove any unwanted moisture still present in the finish wall material and wood framing. Also try and close up and gaps and holes within the exterior walls where moisture and air infiltration can occur.

If your home was insured, you should contact your insurance agent, since most policies include mold remediation.