Is there a Way to Prevent Phantom Water Damage

By January 22, 2019Blog
Severe water damage on a cinderblock wall in a neglected basement. Its covered in dirt, cracks, mold and mildew.

Phantom water damage happens without your conscious knowledge. It’s taking place in your attic,
under the house in the crawl space, within a wall somewhere in the house. How can this happen? Is
there any way to prevent it from happening?

Evenings in my house after the kids go to bed, I was able to settle in and watch a couple of the television shows. A good western or some cop show, something to provide a little drama and disconnect while I relaxed before bed.

A few times during the programing change there were brief moments of silence my ear would catch a
strange noise; something that sounded like a faucet dripping. I’d get up from of my chair, walk to the
nearby restroom and kitchen to turnoff a faucet I thought I heard dripping. Flipping on the light I
wouldn’t see the faucet dripping in either room. It baffled my mind but I’d want to set back in my chair
and finish watching my shows, so I’d let it go. The noise was kind of funny though. Some evenings I
would hear it quite plainly and others I couldn’t hear it at all. But I just couldn’t nail it down. I even
talked myself into believing it was the large clock on the wall ticking.

I don’t know why I didn’t pay greater attention to it, but for some reason it didn’t seem pressing and I
just let it go. After all I didn’t see anything dripping, no harm…no foul.

After a short while maybe two to three months, I can’t really remember, we would come home from a
visit or errand-run and when we first walked into the house my wife said she could smell something
funny. I couldn’t smell anything and when I asked her to describe the odor, she couldn’t place her finger on it and I just played it off as something being in her head and I really wasn’t interested in pursuing any investigation because I wasn’t sure what to do…I didn’t smell anything.

Not long after the tip-off from my wife, I’d come home from work and began to smell something funny. I admitted to my wife I could now smell it but then once again we couldn’t tell where in the house it was coming from. Not long after that the smell turned to a musty odor. That’s when it finally caught my attention and I knew I had a problem. Now I just had to locate it.

For the next few evenings after dinner I’d make a walk through the house looking for the problem. I
looked under every sink even the ones not near the living room. I when down to my partial basement
and looked and around the last night I crawled into the crawlspace and looked it all over. I’m glad to
report everything was dry as a bone.

I have a friend in the water restoration business and I thought I’d call him and ask if he couldn’t come
over to reinvestigate. The following Saturday he came over bright and early and asked for my ladder and the attic access. Attic, I thought…crap the only place I didn’t look in. When he opened the access door to the attic the whole house immediately filled with a strong aroma of mold. As we climbed into the attic, sure enough not far from where I sit in the living room was ground zero. My roof had developed a small leak and as the snow melted it was dripping through this very tiny hold in the roof.

Funny thing about attics, they usually are extremely dry. Because of that, being dry, when water is
introduced to the substrates they absorb it quickly and as I found out very quickly. Mold loves three
things. It loves “dark, stagnant, damp areas,” everything my attic provided, so, the mold….it grew
exponentially. Not only did the mold grow in the attic, the water found its way down the adjacent wall
void and a wall provides the exact same environment as the attic. Guess what we weren’t done yet. That wall void went into a nearby closet of a very seldom visited third bedroom. Wow, once we opened the door to the closet, oh man, it was evident the closet and many of the clothes stored there were ruined.

Now, I’m really scared. Can I even live in this house? Should I, my wife and kids pack up and move to a hotel. The mold looked black to me and I saw those television shows Dateline or 20/20 or some such
station that this stuff can kill you.

Luckily, my friend calmed us down and we made a plan to get this taken care pronto. I called my
homeowners insurance 24-hour claims number and got claim submitted. They gave me a claim-number to give to my friend’s company and he called his office and turned in the job and we were off and running.

It turns out that whatever television show I had been watching un-necessarily hyped up the dangers of
“Black-mold.” It’s not black mold we really have to watch out for, it’s kind of a blueish/greenish color
mold called aspergillus ssp. This mold can actually cause lung problems to the point of killing you and it’s far more prevalent than the black mold. But it’s not casual contact you have to worry about its on-going contact; it’s living with the mold on a continual basis. If we had continued to live in that house with that mold and ignored all the signs…I and my entire family could have been comprised.

If you live in the Greater Kansas City Area and think you may have a problem…call Frist Call Restoration KC at 816-804-0154. They’re experts in water mitigation and mold remediation. They work with all property insurance companies in our region and they will respond promptly.

BY DON M. MCNULTY, MBT, MTC, OSHA APPROVED TRAINER ©COPYRIGHT 2018