Author Topic: Air filters and mold spores  (Read 1217 times)

Offline bluefoxicy

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Air filters and mold spores
« on: November 27, 2012, 07:49:42 AM »
I'm thinking there's mold spores--the mold, I killed, and is constricted to the basement (which I dehumidified to 45%).  In the apartment, I know there's mold; a year ago I started itching like hell, and later found out that mold was leaving my apartment and entering the one below.  The new house has a problem where water pools at the rear foundation, and some mold started to grow; I killed it with Moldex and dehumidified and am working on fixing the grade of the rear yard and the downspout, but obviously mold spores when it dries.

Anyway, after I enter the basement, I start to itch.  Rashes appear all over my body.  A good shower and fresh clothes allieviates 90% of the reaction; a single small anti-histamine dose blocks 100% of the reaction for 4-6 days.

So I read this EPA report and have a few thoughts:

Electrostatic purifiers seem interesting, but in practice no good ones exist and even middle-quality ones are expensive.  The basement is 680 square feet and so I'd need a very high end HEPA filter or electrostatic purifier to clear it out.  I'm probably better off buying a higher-end canister vacuum cleaner with a sealed HEPA and vacuuming out all the joists.  I actually have a lower end one.

I'm going to put a filter in my furnace (haven't figured out the correct size yet, only been in the house a week).  The EPA says MERV 7-13 is roughly equivalent to HEPA in residential use, so I'll aim for MERV 10-13.  MERV 12-13 is readily available for a wide range of filter sizes.

This thing looks interesting, dunno if I want/need it though.  Ironically, it's cheaper to buy a $30 filter for this every 10-12 months than to replace a $20 filter in the furnace every 60 days, but that's about a 4-5 year ROI, aside from the dedicated unit purportedly being much more effective.  The EPA reports that the MERV 13 filters I want to use are top-tier for my use case because there's simply no nuclear material micro-particulate or silicon dust to filter, which is what HEPA filters are for, so really the "upgrade" may be excessive.

How in the heck do I get rid of this crap?  All these filters and fancy doogadgets can't possibly help.  The primary issue, I think, is going to be getting the water away from the foundation of my house.

Online Joe Sr.

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Re: Air filters and mold spores
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2012, 08:58:35 AM »
If you break out in a rash and require showering and anti-histamines every time you enter the basement, that's a pretty severe problem.  If you're simply planning to vacuum dry mold spores, you'll probably make the problem worse as you will be getting them airborne.

There are companies that specialize in remediating these conditions. Anything with visible mold (dry wall, etc) needs to be torn out.  I imagine that the basement would be emptied, sealed, power-washed with bleach or something and then dried.

Is this one of the "bargain" properties you've been looking at recently?
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Offline bluefoxicy

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Re: Air filters and mold spores
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2012, 10:35:24 AM »
If you break out in a rash and require showering and anti-histamines every time you enter the basement, that's a pretty severe problem.

Last year when this started--in the apartment I've been living in until last week--I started breaking out in a rash one day so bad I couldn't sleep.  It itched and I had bumps and inflammation and redness EVERYWHERE (like 95% of my skin surface), I thought it was fleas or chiggers or hoards of invisible mosquitoes or something.  The problem has declined sharply since I moved out.  I may have suddenly developed a sensitivity after living in that apartment for several years.

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If you're simply planning to vacuum dry mold spores, you'll probably make the problem worse as you will be getting them airborne.

Valid point.  Vacuuming the dust and cobwebs out of the joists is probably a good idea in any case, though scattering dust into the air isn't a great prospect.  Mold or not, dust contains things like dust mite bodies/feces, insect feces, human feces, human skin, dandruff, mold spores--even if your house doesn't have visible mold--and God knows what else.

The point of a filtered vacuum cleaner is a "Sealed HEPA" is "sealed" because 100% of the air necessarily passes through the filter, rather than bypassing a loosely fitted filter.  Still has to be MERV 7 or higher (MERV 5 passes mold fragments and spores) and even then, it's like 50%-70% filtration per pass--half that crap goes into the air.

On the other hand, I could just vent all that crap to the outside, and by now I think you can agree that's a good idea (and under a $1000 add-on).

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Is this one of the "bargain" properties you've been looking at recently?

Yeah it's a lower cost property, it's in pretty good shape--the construction and remodeling jobs are surprisingly well-done.  Very basic--painted firewall (cement walls on 2 sides), carpet, laminate tile--but the floors and roof are constructed properly (subfloor is even plywood) and there are no structural issues.


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Anything with visible mold (dry wall, etc) needs to be torn out.  I imagine that the basement would be emptied, sealed, power-washed with bleach or something and then dried.

The only live mold present (found via inspection I paid $350 for) is on a small stretch of concrete wall right at the foundation, due to water inlet in that immediate area.  Anything else present is spore.  Nothing is growing on wood or in drywall.  Hence the dehumidification of the basement and the need for a MERV 13  filter in the furnace ASAP--to prevent mold growth and to contain the mold spores.

Correcting the downspout outside eliminates 90% of the problem; correcting the grade by itself eliminates around 75% of the problem (most water would run away); sealing the foundation (paint with sealer) corrects much of the problem, but the sealer will fail if the other measures aren't taken.  With the problem corrected, I still need to remove the mold and spore.

None of the subfloor (visible from the basement) or joists show growing mold.  The drywall is all new, carpet is new, the entire upstairs is safe and clean and mold-free.  I'll be taking up the floor, building up the subfloor, and laying tile and hardwood flooring, so I'll get a pretty good look at that and have easy opportunity to replace anything there.  Taking up the carpet in the upstairs and doing the same, with the front room being the most fun--it's half above the porch, so the joists slope down by design; I'll sister new joists so I have a fully level floor, add insulation above the porch (there's NEVER insulation in the floor), then lay brand new subfloor in that entire room, then unfinished hardwood, then polyurethane finish.  Yes I planned this.



(That power unit is WAY oversized for the house--they all are--but that's the smallest I'll get because I can't get a smaller true cyclonic unit.  Bagged units QUICKLY lose power because particulate lines the inside of the bag and clogs the pores, impeding vacuum flow.  This is true of all vacuum cleaners--HEPA filters clog, bagged canister vacs clog, a cyclonic system keeps its power even when full.  Bagged units also occasionally experience bags bursting and, without a dedicated bypass design, this will immediately destroy the unit; most decent units have a dedicated bypass, some cheap ones cool the motor with filtered vacuum air and thus when a bag  bursts they're permanently destroyed.)

Offline weazletoe

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Re: Air filters and mold spores
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2012, 01:22:52 PM »
Dude, if your problem is mold in the basement, I don't care how fancy of a filter you buy, it ain't gonna help you a bit. Unless your duct is totally jacked up, there are no returns in the basement. Fix the water problem, dry the basement, and paint over it with some Kilz.
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Offline dimik

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Re: Air filters and mold spores
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2012, 10:06:47 PM »
Oh dude I know EXACTLY how you feel. I had the same thing happen to me for YEARS since our family was forced to live in a damp and moldy basement in upstate NY. It would happen as soon as I got even a little bit warm and the only thing that helped was the cold. It would be so bad that I'd just pretty much jump naked into the snow and lie there until it goes away. Always a choice between that horror and being cold... :(
My advice would be to move before it escalates into leaving subcutaneous scars. Find some mold free place and live there. This problem disappeared once we moved to a different house, but you can still see traces of this crap appear on my arms and hands when it gets hot...
Real sorry for you, man.
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