Real Answers to Real Questions
1) What is column wrap?
Column wrap is where we extend the barrier up the support columns/piers 8 to 10 inches and seal it off at the top –essentially “wrapping” the support column/pier.  It helps to prevent the exposed soil around a column which, overtime,can act as a “leaky faucet” by releasing moisture into the air where exposed.  It is almost impossible to get a good seal around a support column without wrapping.  It also helps to lock in the barrier and keep it in place.  Barriers canget moved around a bit when service technicians (i.e.: HVAC, bug) travel in and out to perform their services.

2) Will putting plastic sheet over ground, around columns and wall be sufficient to lower moisture level to
prevent or at least significantly slow down mold growth?
A vapor barrier should be considered a first line of defense in that it is there to stop ground moisture from releasing into the air and elevating moisture levels but, a barrier alone will not eliminate the humid air that enters through the foundation vents etc. in the warmer months. To be clear, 100% coverage as it pertains to a vapor barrier is referring to the crawlspace ground only, with the exception of the columns.  It does not include extension of poly sheeting up the foundation walls or sealing of any kind to the walls.  If extension up or sealing to the walls is part of the scope, it will be specifically mentioned as a separate line item.  If this is desired, please mention it before the project begins and we will add it to the formal scope of work.  Please note there is an additional charge. As a side note, MSG does not recommend sealing of any kind to the foundation wall or installation of sheet foam insulating material to a foundation wall unless certain steps have been taken to address interior foundation perimeter drainage.  Once poly or sheet foam is installed on a foundation wall, you have just blocked visual access to the interior wall and what is going on outside of the home as it pertains to drainage problems.  If drainage systems on the outside fail, you may not know about them until it is too late and you have a “water-bed” underneath your home.

3) Is there mold growth above the insulation line?
In your crawlspace, growth appears to stop at the insulation however, when the insulation was pulled back is some areas, the growth does actually touch the insulation at the bottom and what is touching does pull away with the insulation.  It is minor, but we need to give you all information so that you can make an informed decision. Please keep in mind that we only pulled the insulation back in select areas so we can only speak to those areas. Given what we saw and based on our experience in these matters, growth appears to not extend significantly behind the insulation.

4) Do I understand correctly that there is no warranty unless we elect to install a commercial dehumidifier?
For us to be able to back a warranty with confidence, a dehumidifier is required along with our recommended scope of remediation.

5) Does the conventional restoration and remediation process include covering crawl space vents?
We do not seal the crawlspace vents unless we install a dehumidifier.  Sealing of the vents (and other necessary areas) is included in the price of a dehumidifier install.*It should be noted that the HVAC air handler in this crawlspace is gas.  If the foundation vents, etc. are sealed, it may require an air intake for combustion per NC Code.  A licensed HVAC contractor should be consulted for this portion. This will be an additional cost to be paid to the HVAC contractor per their individual estimate.  MSG is not responsible for this portion and is reliant on the information provided by client and/or the contractors in the required trades.  If desired, MSG can assist in arranging an inspection of the current system if customer has no preferred HVAC service option. 

6) What does it cost to install a dehumidifier in the crawl space?
MSG typically uses only commercial grade dehumidifiers with 5 year, a full replacement manufacturer warranty.  We have begun offering refurbished models.  These units are designed to be energy efficient.  Our typical dehumidifier install includes the following: 1 dehumidifier (sized appropriately for the space); hard-piping of the dehumidifier condensate line to the exterior of the home to an appropriate location away from the homes foundation; sealing of all foundation vents with rigid foam and expanding foam to seal the edges; weather stripping of the door; sealing of any other area necessary.  Cost for install is drive by a number of factors including the size of dehumidifier required for that unique space and the option chosen.  Dehu installation typically ranges from $1,250 and $2,250.00.  Please note: We engage a licensed electrician for any electrical work. All crawlspaces and homes are different and because of that, electrical costs vary. We typically do not know beforehand exactly what the electrical costs are.
Fees can range from $350 to $550, depending on the level of difficulty. This is between you and the electrician. We do not mark up the electrical.

7) A question because I’m curious: We thought that taping the sheets of vapor barrier and running it up the walls was the
gold standard. Is the taping not included because of cost or another reason?
It is one approach for sure but it is not necessarily the best way to address a moisture/mold problem unless you just want tospend excessive money on a nice looking space. In many cases, the crawlspace environment can be controlled simply by limiting the communication of exterior (outside) and interior (crawlspace) air via sealing only certain aspects of the structure such as; foundation vents, penetrations and access doors. Once these areas are sealed, the install of a commercial grade dehumidifier to control the environment is key. Simply running the barrier up the wall will have no effect on the crawlspace environment and in some cases, will actually worsen problems. Please keep in mind that building codes require a considerable amount of prep work to make a space ready to accept the extension of vapor barrier up a wall and/or “sealing” a crawlspace…and these can get pricey. If done properly, it’s not as simple as just running the barrier up the walls. It’s quite involved. MSG does not recommend sealing of any kind to the foundation wall or installation of sheet foam insulating material to a foundation wall unless certain steps have been taken to address interior foundation perimeter drainage.  Once poly or sheet foam is installed on a foundation wall, you have just blocked visual access to the interior wall and what is going on outside of the home as it pertains to drainage problems.  If drainage systems on the outside fail, you may not know about them until it is too late and you have a “water-bed” underneath your home. With re. to Phase II, I have a contractor who has worked frequently in our home and I may utilize to replace the cabinet in question if we choose to do that. Therefore, I want to explore the option that I have him do the deconstruction work cited and then allow you to come in after the fact to continue the investigation. Is this feasible? We can most certainly work with an outside contractor however, the further investigation warrants that certain precautions be taken due to the unknowns and potential to open up something that may be questionable.  That’s why I mentioned that the process be treated as an active remediation.  If you do want to use your contractor for the demo, I would like to suggest that we at least set up a containment in the area and utilize an air scrubber prior to your contractor working on the demo. I think we need to expand the investigation to the 1st floor pantry and wall which is immediately underneath the area in question and shares a common wall. I would like to see moisture metering and exploration behind the wall with the camera. Not a problem! We can add that to the scope of work. I don’t see you proposing any air testing? What role if any does that play here in and around the potentially affected areas? Generally, air testing is not our go to means of finding a problem.  Visual confirmation is the best way of finding and addressing an issue.  Air testing can be a bit misleading in that often, positive results are found no matter where we are testing.  This is the case especially around bathrooms.  For instance, your shower curtain would produce an elevated count even though we have already pinpointed that issue or…maybe there is a small amount growing in some sealant around the shower or a sink, which would also produce misleading results.  We can air test if you desire but you may be spending unnecessary funds on it.   An air test is $475.00.  This includes one base test (outdoors) and one test of the suspected area.  Additional tests are $85.00 each. What does a thorough scope of work mean?  Does the warranty refer to the most extensive options listed on your quote or does it refer to what ever option we select?  In your particular crawlspace, a thorough scope requires the following line items: 1, 2 (both thorough and minimal in the recommended areas), 3, 4 and dehumidifier. A note on line item 2.  In the report, I broke this section up into two distinct areas.  The reason for this is that there is different pricing for the two approaches necessary.  940 sqft of the crawlspace needs the thorough approach because the growth is heaviest there.  The remaining 1000 sqft can be remediated below the insulation line because the growth isn’t as heavy.  Both approaches have their own price point so they were divided into two different line items.  This is as much for our crews benefit as it is for our customers because it helps the scope of work to be very clear. We cannot provide a warranty on a scope of work devised by our customers.

8) Same question for the Crawlspace Monitoring program? If we perform a remediation project in your crawlspace, you are automatically enrolled, regardless of scope. Is the warranty transferable if we were to sell the house during the warranty period?
Yes, the warranty is transferable although we will need the new owner’s information in order to continue the service. 

9) Along with the wood surfaces of the crawl space, will the pipes, wires, ducts, etc. be wiped down? Yes…with a couple of disclaimers here and there.  A crawlspace is a very dangerous place to work in and the safety of my crews is paramount.  Some of what I am about to say is stated in the fine print of reports and proposals.  I will reiterate some of it here.

Plumbing will be wiped where necessary.  Any breaches that may occur in the plumbing due to faulty or inadequate connections/installation are not the responsibility of MSG. Wires require a considerable level of caution.  Many times, we are up against open junction boxes and unprotected wires that just hang down into the crawlspace.  We do not know who installed the wires, when they were installed or how they were installed.  We know nothing about their condition.  I do not want my crews messing with electrical components that may or may not cause them bodily harm.  Please understand that the remediation process is a wet process and there is no way for us to know if a line has a nick etc.  I do not encourage my crews to actively seek out and wipe down wires. Ductwork is wiped down.  In your particular crawlspace, you have the old style grey flex duct.  The plastic material on the exterior of the duct is notorious for becoming brittle when old.  If the duct begins to tear apart during the remediation process, we will stop immediately and cease to wipe down your ductwork and we are not responsible for ductwork that tears due to age (or other), falls off of the register boot or trunk line due to poor installation etc.  This is another one of those areas where the disclaimers have to be in place.  

Many times, through no fault of our own, we are the recipient of faulty work that falls apart if we touch it.  Since we are the ones in the crawlspace, we get the luxury of having to do a repair for free that had nothing to do with us.

10)  Can you tell us if the new R-19 insulation will be formaldehyde free?
Yes, the insulation is formaldehyde free.

11) Please address the permit issues (Durham City/County) as they might relate to the proposed work. Here is a link to the NC closed crawlspace code:
Some of our clients don’t have to pull a permit for this type of work.  If you do, we must inform you of the additional steps and time that are required if a permit is desired.  We are aware of what the code is and abide by it where applicable.  We also use a licensed electrician for electrical components and require licensed HVAC contractors where necessary.  The trades pull their own permits.

Some other common questions…

Water control of the foundation perimeter should be considered a first step to getting the crawlspace into a manageable position for the foreseeable future. By this, do you mean repairing/improving the existing French drain around the house?

Well, there are a couple of ways you can go about this.  You could approach it from outside the foundation wall or from inside the crawlspace.  Both ways are quite labor intensive. Outside:  This will require excavating all applicable perimeter foundation walls down to and in front of the footers.  Installing perforated, silt protected, pvc pipe, drainage stone and coating the foundation wall along with a dimple membrane.  Drainage will be extended to daylight.  With this option, you will lose any flora around the house.  Some of this will have to be hand dug (under the deck and possibly around the HVAC units).  It will require a second visit to work out the details. Inside: This includes a drainage system that feeds into a sump basin(s) located at the lowest point in the crawlspace.  The lowest point in the crawlspace has yet to be determined as there appeared to not be a distinct point.  This system will allow for any water that enters the crawlspace to be collected, moved and expelled quickly.  4” perforated, silt protected piping will be utilized and installed below and in front of the footers.  Drainage stone will then fill the trench.  “Weep” holes (if applicable) will be drilled in the block so that any water trapped in the block can exit to the drainage system.  Sump(s) will be hard-piped to the exterior of the home away from the foundation.  GFCI power outlet(s) will be installed. Outside is rather destructive of the exterior of the home and based off of the second inspection of the exterior, may or may not be an option. Inside will be, for all intents and purposes, invisible. It is expected that we will run in to a considerable bit of water as we dig.  This will greatly complicate the process as we will have to extract water while we dig.  Also keep in mind that we will be excavating wet mud that will have to be dealt with in some form or fashion. 

A home near ours burned down and we heard the cause was a dehumidifier in the crawlspace. I don’t know anymore details other than that. So that’s a (unrealistic?) concern I have about this approach. Are there alternatives to using a dehumidifier? I would like to know what kind of dehumidifier was being used.  
We use only commercial dehumidifiers, not residential grade. DO know that there was a recall on residential grade dehumidifiers a few years ago because of this very reason.  We have not had any trouble with the commercial dehumidifiers and consider that the best way to deal with moisture in a crawlspace.  We have seen (and experienced) the return of growth in all other options such as a conditioned or fan controlled crawlspaces. Encapsulate coatings have failed us as well.  

When I was researching solutions, one of the approaches discussed was encapsulation with an added benefit that encapsulation eliminates pests getting to the crawlspace. We have a problem with mice getting into the HVAC unit and duct work.  Is pest control an over-promise of encapsulation? Comments?
Pests will get in regardless, if they want to.  They have a way of doing that despite your best efforts.  I would recommend sealing the ductwork connections with a duct mastic (it’s like a paste that dries hard and seals).  Maybe ask your HVAC contractor what he can do to eliminate them at the unit.  I have seen dead mice in many sealed; crawlspaces over the years. If I understand correctly, if we wanted you to poly sheet the foundation, you are recommending an interior French drain. This is correct for this reason:  Once you cover the foundation walls, you can no longer see if anything has gone south with your drainage.  A problem only becomes noticeable once you have a water bed in your crawlspace.  I would be especially hesitant given the existing water issues observed in your particular crawlspace.  Many crawlspaces don’t necessarily need to be sealed…and it’s expensive.  We do what we like to call an air restricted; crawlspace because we’ve found over the years that’s where the major problems lie.  When you rely on hot humid air to enter a crawlspace for ventilation, the crawlspace air (during the warmer months) will always be cooler than the exterior.  Once the two air masses collide in the crawlspace, you get elevated humidity in the form of condensation.  This elevates moisture levels everywhere in the crawl.  If you already have moisture issues via active water penetration from outside, which you do, the problem is then magnified exponentially.

How do I reset a GFCI outlet?
 All you have to do is simply press the reset button on the GFCI to reset it.  That’s it.

On this style of outlet, the RED button is always the reset.  If the outlet isn’t working, simply press the red button until it clicks; into place and the outlet should reactivate and operate normally.

If you have doubts about the GFCI working properly, you can depress the test button and the reset button will pop out .This deactivates the outlet.  When you depress the reset button again and it clicks into place, the outlet should reactivate and continue working normally.  This little test confirms that the outlet is functioning as intended. Hope this helps.