Rebuilding the House
For updates on our current situation and status, see the blog's rebuild category.
Executive Summary: In 2006 my wife and I bought a house. A few months later we discovered a major mold problem, and were forced to move out for the time being. We are currently in the middle of a massive remodel. The labor, for the most part, is free, but we still need funds for materials, thus this page. After working on the project nearly two years, Joshua lost his job twice in seven months (once was a layoff, the other was "we don't think you fit the job"). You can help by donating (even small amounts help!) and by spreading the word.
In February of 2006, my wife Crystal and I found a house for sale in Fairbanks, Alaska. The house was large enough for our growing family, had room to lodge and entertain guests, and was priced within our financial comfort zone. We inspected it, did the standard due-diligence, asked for certain repairs, and when those repairs were done, went ahead and made the purchase.
After being in the house for a few months, we began to notice that we were congested more than usual. Crystal, who has more sensitive lungs due to being born 3.5 months early, had some severe "deep lung" coughs, and even contracted pneumonia during her pregnancy with our second child, Jonathan. After Jonathan, was born, we noticed he was constantly congested. Since Crystal had pneumonia during the pregnancy, we simply thought he had a cold at birth, and it would subside in a few days. When it didn't, we started looking for other causes. We had realized there was a mold issue shortly after moving into the house. Some people could smell it when they walked in. We did not, however, realize exactly how bad it was until a couple of events transpired.
The first was a "simple" bathroom repair that was an textbook case of an ugly one-thing-led-to-another project. One afternoon I went to re-caulk the tub in our upstairs bathroom. As I was pulling caulk off the plastic wall around the tub, I pulled it back and looked behind it. What I saw was disconcerting to say the least: everything was black. Not a nice, clean, shiny, this-is-the-way-it's-supposed-to-look black, but a black that was dry rotted plywood. So, the next weekend my father and I spent a few hours tearing out the bath tub. Behind the plastic was was sheet rock with mold on it, as well as dry rotted plywood eight inches above the tub all the way around. Behind the sheet rock and plywood were two-by-fours with black patches on them, especially around the nail holes where moisture had leaked through.
The second event that caused us to realize just how bad it was happened that Thanksgiving (2006). My parents are only about 20 minutes away, but my wife and kids and I had some fun and went and stayed at their house for five days just to spend time with them. During that five days, Jonathan cleared up almost completely. If we had been there a few more days, he would have probably been completely clear. After coming back home, the congestion returned.
There are several reasons for the wide-spread mold in this house. In the case of the bathroom, it was because the caulking was not done well, and water began leaking into the areas behind the plastic wall. A second reason has to do with the dryer. Before we moved into this house--for at least 13 years as far as we can tell--the dryer was vented to the inside. Hundreds, if not thousands, of gallons of water have literally been pumped into the air of this house and allowed to soak the walls and carpets. A third reason has to do with the forced-air furnace (unusual for this area of the country): moisture, and mold spores, were pushed to every part of the house, exacerbating the problem. A fourth possible reason is the flood this (and many other houses) went through in the 60's. We have no way of knowing what repairs were done at that time, or if the walls were sufficiently dried before being closed back up. A fifth reason was the wood paneling which covered much of the wall space in this home: once moisture was trapped behind the wood paneling, the unpainted sheet rock served as a perfect breeding place for mold. A six reason was simple laziness: sheetrock behind the bathroom counter and kitchen counters was not painted. With no sealing, mold grew wild.
As a side note, we were told later (after we discovered the problem) that others had smelled mold in the house, but had not mentioned it. Not sure why it never came up as apparently it was bad enough to detect, but we never seemed to catch on.
At that point, we knew we needed to move out, and did so in January of 2007. The remodel began shortly after that, with our progress being tracked at the URL mentioned above, so I will not repeat all the updates here, and you can see photos of the mold we found.
Some of the highlights
- No sheetrock left...it's all been pulled out.
- We have a new Buderus boiler in, along with a two unit heaters. These kept the house between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit over the winter.
- All of the old wiring has been pulled out, and replaced.
- All the old plumbing (water supply) has been removed due to a freeze-up last winter, and the new plumbing (Pex) has been run, but not yet crimped down at the ends.
- New front picture window.
- New spray-foam insulation.
- A few walls moved to reinforce a beam, and to take better advantage of available space.
So, now we are to the point where it's time to start putting things back together. So far, we've paid for everything ourselves and using gifts, and 99% of the labor has been donated, for which we are very thankful. We're to the place where we need material to put the house back together (HRV, baseboards, sheetrock, doors, paint, moulding, etc), and that, of course, isn't free. That is why we are asking for donations.
The cost point we are looking at right now is $50,000 to $60,000. Yes, that seems like a lot, but we know God can provide, and we know that lots of people giving small gifts will get us to our goal. You can help by donating, and by spreading the word. We can make it!
Thank you for your time and your prayers.
Joshua, for Crystal, Elizabeth, and Jonathan