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Mold Prevention After a Water Leak (Part 2)

2 Materials
2 Days

Would you know what to do if your basement sprang a leak?

Mold prevention – and remediation – after any kind of leak or flood is hugely important because of health implications. We learned a hard lesson last year after the pipe connected to our outdoor faucet burst and caused water damage in my newly built craft room. In that post (part 1), we showed you how we installed a frost proof faucet to repair it and
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Remove Items from Area
The clock was ticking. The first step was to remove the dresser and area rug that were directly below the leak. It was hard to say whether this was dirt or mold, but the area rug looked like there was a few spots on the back with potential mold growth. A wet dry/vac is handy for removing water.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
We temporarily moved the area rug into the next room to get it out of the way, but then carried it outside to clean it. Use a cleaning solution to scrub mold away and rinse it thoroughly. Then use a wet/dry vac to remove the water once again. You can lay down plastic outside and let the area rug dry in the sun if weather permits. When the carpet is dry, use a HEPA vacuum to remove any mold spores that might be left behind.

Hubs surmised that the source of water was right above where we removed the area rug. He opened up a cabinet door and reached into a hole in the top of the cabinet to discover the water had come from the pipe leading to our outdoor faucet. The day before, Hubs had the water running for quite a while to fill the pond. There was no telling how extensive the water damage was behind the walls until he cut them open.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Hubs removed the cabinet to gain access to the wall behind it. As he was doing that, I was dumping contents from drawers wherever there was an empty surface. Pretty soon my craft room looked like a bomb had hit it.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Paint on the surface was peeling so we were in a race with the clock to cut the walls open and dry things out ASAP.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Pull the Baseboards
Everything had to come out of the cabinets and drawers so pieces could be relocated and baseboards could be removed from the walls.

Some of my stuff went into plastic bins. But we only had a few bins, so most things ended up on top of and under my pattern table.

Hubs started pulling the baseboard closest to the leak.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Once the drywall in the ‘target zone’ was taken care of, Hubs continued removing baseboard elsewhere. He continued around the corner cutting the bottom perimeter of drywall to expose the framing and insulation. At first, his cuts were crude: he was in a hurry to determine just how far the water had flowed into the wall cavities.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
As you’ll see later, once everything was cleared out Hubs cut the drywall much higher (and neater). That’s when we realized that we’d have to move the pattern table too! It was a daunting task to move everything twice, but pulling baseboard in the ‘target zone’ had to be done quickly because the faster we got the area stripped, the faster we could hopefully prevent (or remediate) mold.

Get the Dehumidifier and Fans Going ASAP
We got a dehumidifier going right away to start the process of bringing down the moisture level in the room. Dampness in the air can supply enough moisture for mold to grow and multiply so you need to bring the relative humidity (RH) below a certain percentage (ideally RH would be between 30 – 50 percent). If it isn’t humid outside, you can also open up windows.

As a general rule (flood or not), keep a humidity gauge in the home to check humidity and run a humidifier (especially in the summer) – whether or not your basement is finished. Anywhere there’s water, there could be potential mold. Water could be seeping into your basement through foundation cracks, for instance, so be vigilant about this and repair issues once you are aware of them.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
To aid with bringing the humidity down further, we borrowed fans and got them blowing along with the dehumidifier.

Over the course of the next 24 hours, be sure to empty the dehumidifier often to ensure it doesn’t stop working because it’s full!
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Cut Away Drywall and Insulation – Dispose
Hubs thought that the water was pretty much contained to my office area (left side of the room pictured below). Using a utility knife, he cut about 2 feet of drywall away at the very bottom of the walls all around the perimeter of the room to assess further.

Hubs also opened up a large vertical portion of the wall directly underneath the water valve as that was the path the water would have taken. When you cut out a section of drywall, make sure that you cut out a width that spans at least two studs behind the drywall. This is so you can reattach new material to the studs when it’s time to replace the drywall again – after drying out the room.

He continued opening up the drywall at floor level. He didn’t want to take any chances, so he cut a drywall perimeter around the entire room so any trapped moisture could dissipate.

We concentrated two of the fans on the wall where the leak occurred:
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
As you cut away drywall, inspect the back where it’s most in contact with the water. If you do see mold growing on the back then you may have to take the room completely down to studs (or until you no longer find mold growth). Mold can’t be cleaned from porous materials like drywall. Once you’ve removed wet or moldy drywall from your home, dispose of it outside.

The same goes for insulation. Insulation acts as a wick and holds the moisture so don’t even try to save it. It takes too long to dry out so remove it and throw it away. We stuffed the insulation into green garbage bags which were sealed and taken outside right away.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Hubs was satisfied that the water didn’t reach the far corner of the laundry room, but he still cut a narrow piece just to check. He got a third fan going in that section.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Tag Team
Many hands make light work. With Hubs busy with damage control, I was busy carrying out the overflow from my studio and dropping it into Hubs’ mancave to give him room to work. This definitely isn’t the beautiful reveal shot you may remember of the mancave!
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Everywhere was absolute chaos. Things piled up in my sewing room too once the area rug was moved! Whatever we couldn’t move to the far reaches of the basement (which wasn’t far at all) had to remain in every nook and cranny that was available.

Over the course of a few weeks, we let the area fully dry before installing new materials to replace the old. Wall cavities should not be sealed up again until it’s completely dry inside or you’ll only defeat the purpose of trying to prevent mold growth.

When we were ready to rebuild, it was tight quarters! Below you can see not only the things that were removed from the studio, but Hubs brought in a wet/dry vac to control drywall dust, a ladder, tools and drywall kit (which you can see in the bin in the foreground).
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
The damage from the leak could have been worse had we not invested in a special underlay beneath our beautiful hardwood floors. The underlay we used was DMX 1-Step; it has an air-gap dimple design (shown below) that allows damp concrete to breathe and provides room for moisture to evaporate. The design acts as a mold-barrier (remember no moisture on permeable materials = no mold)! Because of DMX, we didn’t have to remove a single plank of flooring and could rest assured that we wouldn’t have mold growth.
mold prevention after a water leak part 2
Head to our blog for more info on what to keep and what to dump. You'll also find links to more info on mold remediation, the signs of mold growth and how to kill it.

Putting it all Back Together
We purchased new drywall to start our repairs but before doing anything, we fixed the source of the leak and installed a new frost-proof faucet ( which you can read about here). Don't forget to remove the hose from your outdoor faucet as part of your Fall prep work for winter. A frost-proof faucet is only foolproof as long as you don’t forget to remove the hose!

Doing this ourselves cost much less than our insurance deductible and who knows how quick someone would even come to our house to remove the drywall and start the process of drying out? We can also rest assured that our premium won't go up because of a claim!

In the last of this 3-part series on water leak repair, we’ll be showing you how we put everything back together again with new insulation, vapour barrier, drywall, mud, tape, primer and finally paint.

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Suggested materials:

  • Drywall knife  (Big box store)
  • Dehumidfier  (Big box store)
Birdz of a Feather

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


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Join the conversation

  • Marc Erick
    on Oct 7, 2018

    Thank you so much for sharing these tips!! I just had a terrible disaster during our last trudential (sp?) Storm. Your post is very helpful! 🖒😊🖒 Gotta get to work!

  • Birdz of a Feather
    on Oct 8, 2018

    Oh my, it looks like you've got mold remediation ahead of you; best of luck!

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