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Crawl space debris removal:
Tebris in the crawl area makes inspection and repair work difficult, may be dangerous itself, or may invite infestation by rodents, wood destroying insects, or mold contamination. For these reasons an important step in crawl space dry-out or mold removal is debris removal.
How & Why to Clean Out the crawl space: get rid of unsafe debris, junk, insulation
Remove Debris & Other Hazardous Materials Such as Asbestos in Poor Condition
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Debris not only prevents crawl space access, it can become a mold reservoir, a home for rodents, or it may contain dangerous components like asbestos or rusty nails.
Not only are these nails, splinters, and possibly rodents that may be in the debris a hazard to workers entering the area, these materials also invite termites, carpenter ants, or mice, rats or other pests which in turn damage the building.
Old cardboard boxes and stored junk invite mold growth and rodents.
Do not bring mold-suspect boxes of stored items out of the crawl space (or basement) back into the living area of the building.
Take them outside for inspection and if appropriate, cleaning and salvage.
Check for loose, wet, moldy insulation
Is there wet or falling or rodent-infested fiberglass insulation in the crawl area? If so there is a high risk of mold or rodent contaminants that could present a fungal, bacterial, or viral airborne hazard. We recommend completely removing all fiberglass insulation from crawl spaces.
Fiberglass is an effective and cost-effective building insulation product that performs very well in many applications. And from the factory you can expect fiberglass building insulation products to be nice and clean.
But we do not recommend this material for use in crawl spaces or other tight, limited-access under-building areas nor for use against foundation walls.
If the floors above a crawl area or the rim joist or perimeter of the building need to be insulated we prefer to use spray foam or solid foam insulation in such areas because they resist moisture uptake. Here is a photo of a crawl space that was insulated with spray foam insulation.
CRAWL SPACE REINSPECTION: Inspect the crawl space periodically to make sure your crawlspace dryout measures have been effective. How often do you need to inspect the area? It depends ... on site conditions and building history. At least once a year you should look for any new leaks such as a leaky plumbing drain or an outside water entry problem. If you have been having trouble keeping water out of the crawl area, you should check more often until your confidence is restored.
Watch out: for steps 1-7 above, in some conditions, dust containment, negative air, and more protective gear or help from professionals may be needed.
Also see our other crawl space dryout and safety discussions beginning at CRAWL SPACE GROUND COVERS where we describe crawl space venting, crawl space poly over dirt, and crawl space heat, to illustrate current best-practices in keeping a crawl space dry.
This article series describes the steps needed to get into, inspect, clean, and then dry out a building crawl space. We give a step by step crawl space entry, inspection, cleanout, dryout and keep dry guide explains how to get into or inspect a crawl space even if there is no ready access, how to assess crawl space conditions, how to stop water that is entering the crawl area, how to dry out the space, how to clean up and if necessary disinfect or sanitize the crawl space, and how to keep out crawl space water and moisture in the future.
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 Harriet Burge, Harvard School of Public Health, and EM Laboratory, a private mold and environmental testing lab - email to D.F. August, 2004. Dr. Burge is an educator, writer, and consultant in the field of indoor air quality and mold contamination.
 Product literature and MSDS sheets for the biocides and fungicidal sealants listed in this article.
 US Centers for Disease Control, CDC: www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/hanta/hps/ describes the risks associated with hantavirus.
 International Residential Code, IRC Section R408, Under Floor Space, http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/irc/2012/icod_irc_2012_4_sec008.htm, retrieved 3/2/2013
See IRC Section M1305.1.4 [PDF] Section M1305.1.4 for access requirements where mechanical equipment is located under floors.
 International Residential Code, IRC Section R406, Foundation Waterproofing and Dampproofing, http://publicecodes.cyberregs.com/icod/irc/2012/icod_irc_2012_4_sec006.htm, retrieved 3/2/2013
Thanks to reader C. Brown for suggesting the need for detail about rapid dryout procedures for a wet crawl space
Fiberglass: Indoor Air Quality Investigations: Health Concerns About Airborne Fiberglass: Fiberglass in Indoor Air from HVAC ducts, and Building Insulation
Humidity: What indoor humidity should we maintain in order to avoid a mold problem?
Stuff that is not mold but is often mistaken for it - things you may not want to test. Also, not all "black mold" is toxic - here are examples of harmless black mold.
Mold-Resistant Building Practices, advice from an expert on how to prevent mold after a building flood and how to prevent mold growth in buildings by selection of building materials and by anti-mold construction details.
"Weather-Resistive Barriers [copy on file as /interiors/Weather_Resistant_Barriers_DOE.pdf ] - ", how to select and install housewrap and other types of weather resistive barriers, U.S. DOE
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Asbestos: How to find and recognize asbestos in buildings - visual inspection methods, list of common asbestos-containing materials
Asbestos products and their history and use in various building materials such as asphalt and vinyl flooring includes discussion which draws on ASBESTOS, ITS INDUSTRIAL APPLICATIONS, ROSATO 1959, D.V. Rosato, engineering consultant, Newton, MA, Reinhold Publishing, 1959 Library of Congress Catalog Card No.: 59-12535 (out of print).
Asbestos Identification and Testing References
Asbestos Identification, Walter C.McCrone, McCrone Research Institute, Chicago, IL.1987 ISBN 0-904962-11-3. Dr. McCrone literally "wrote the book" on asbestos identification procedures which formed
the basis for current work by asbestos identification laboratories.
Stanton, .F., et al., National Bureau of Standards Special Publication 506: 143-151
Pott, F., Staub-Reinhalf Luft 38, 486-490 (1978) cited by McCrone
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The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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