Asked on Jan 22, 2014

Help! My wall is rotting and I don't know what to do

Kalina Navratil
by Kalina Navratil
hi, my renters in my house were taking down walls in the master bedroom so they could put in new insulation and drywall (they found mold behind the wallpaper so it needed to be done). These are the pictures they have sent. One is of a bunch of planks being nailed in instead on a stud. I'm not sure why it's like that. It's a really old house. Another one is just another view of that but the third is of an outside wall and the wood seems to be rotting. I have no idea what needs to be done
  26 answers
  • Jennifer G Jennifer G on Jan 22, 2014
    Oh my… looks like a bigger issue than just some mildew. I'd hire a professional mold cleaning crew. There appears to be a leak with extensive water damage. Since it looks like it is seeping up from the bottom, it may be a foundation issue. Call in the professionals! Mold can cause SERIOUS health issues and your tenants are not qualified to handle this :(
  • Katie Pepin Katie Pepin on Jan 22, 2014
    So sorry for this nightmare you find yourself in. First, you need to instruct your renters to wear masks during demo. Depending on the mold spores present you really don't want to inhale and have respiratory problems to boot. There is one of two things.... water infiltration.... or pests, ie, termites.... This looks more like water damage, over a long period of time, and, will have to be replaced. The batten boarding was used in older homes and is a pain in the hind end. You may find yourself having to toe in boards to (16 on center) to give yourself something to nail sheetrock to. I your water is coming from the roof or the floor. Looks like the floor. Buddy, I feel so bad for you. The game in older homes is making it right when you do the work. You need to remove the damaged areas for sure. DIY, kinda Depends on how handy you are and what tools you own. I suggest that if you have absolutely no concept of how to do this it very well may be a good idea to get professional help. Afterall you are dealing with and outside wall. If you are mildly handy, You can do this.
    • Sherrie Sherrie on Jan 22, 2014
      @Katie Pepin she is right about the masks! If you have ever been sick from mold you know not to touch anything without a mask on!
  • If this is an exterior wall have the tenant go out and see if the ground is sloping toward instead of away from the house. The ground should always slope away from the house! The siding may be touching the ground and the wood will absorb just like a flower does in a vase. You will need to repair any foundation/water issues and then the rotted wood needs to be replaced. You may want to check your homeowner's insurance and find out if this could be covered. This is not a beginner DIY project! Replacing the sill (the bottom board touching the foundation) and the supports are a critical point for the house's foundation. checking the roof too for any signs of water damage or rot may not be a bad idea. Also I noticed that there seems to be no vapor barrier (plastic underneath the drywall. Vapor barriers are crucial to keep moisture and wood rot. this could also be the problem and if it is, then you need to check all exterior walls. Now if this is not an exterior wall, then there are some roofing issues which could be causing some seepage into the house (ie where the roof joints meet). This damage has been ongoing situation for a while. From the pictures, it does not look like black mold which is a good thing because black mold is very dangerous. However, dealing with mold needs to be addressed and your tenants need to wear masks and tape off this room and vents before tearing apart anything else. dust, spores, and other debris will float around in the duct works forever if you do not take precautions. So to start: have them go outside and see if the siding is touching the ground, okay?
  • Jeanette S Jeanette S on Jan 23, 2014
    OH MY! The first thing you have to do is get a mold expert out there and if they advise it, get your renters OUT OF THERE! You cannot afford to take the risk they are in...problems in health can come back and bite you really could lose all that you have. At this point, you are just becoming aware of the be as generous with them as you can...but get them out. Then get more than one opinion on how to fix this. Be sure and get references. Friends and family do not need to be exposed to this danger. Good luck...keep us posted!
  • Barb Orthmann Barb Orthmann on Jan 23, 2014
    Dude, you need a contractor to deal with what ever is causing the water damage- you may need curtain drains installed around the house, or as someone else mentioned- foundation work. You also need a mold remediator. Cant mess with mold. sorry.
  • I would assume that there is brick on the outside of the house, or stone? Both of these wall systems leak a lot of water and if not properly installed will result in exactly what you are seeing. There are other types of siding also that can cause this type of damage, but brick, stone or even stucco are the leading sidings that can cause this type of damage. Another reason for this damage is ice damming causing water to leak down towards the bottom of the wall. In any case, you need to get to the root of the moisture and stop it. As far as mold removal, simply cut it out, sand the remaining wood clean. Paint with an anti-microbial paint make repairs and move on. If you suffer from any breathing difficulties, have a professional do this work for you. When insulation part starts, be sure its done correctly. Air gaps, or incorrectly installed insulation can result in new mold issues within the wall cavity due to air movement that you will not feel or see until its too late to do anything about it.
  • Wanda.ll Wanda.ll on Jan 24, 2014
    Looks like this was a door/window at one time. That is why there are wood strip on the side it was a framed area for some reason. Like the other you've got a leak somewhere. That needs taken care of before you go any father. You will also need to get rid of everything that is rotten .
  • Wanda.ll Wanda.ll on Jan 24, 2014
    Oh yes the planks were the way they did it way back. They put cheese cloth nailed on walls then applies wallpaper with paste on top of that before we had sheetrock. Also up north they plastered over the wood sometimes too.
  • Kathi B Kathi B on Jan 24, 2014
    It looks like the house is balloon framed. The horizontal planking is what gives the house support. Don't remove it unless you have to and then replace it.
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Jan 24, 2014
    Wanda is right..that is how old homes were built..its called Board and Batten. You will have to get someone that knows what they are doing to replace the wall with the mold. It will have to be replaced with modern framing. You have water damage from some where..look on the roof and see if you have any damage where the water can be coming down through the walls. Good luck.
  • Kim Dagenais Kim Dagenais on Jan 24, 2014
    I agree with many people here. Mold can cause serious health issues. I am always on the lookout for it in my home, as I have asthma and don't need it to be any worse than it is already. Anyway you need to hire a professional to take care of the mold issue, and then replace the wood, drywall, and fix the outside problem that is causing the moisture/mold. The tenant/tenants should relocate while the mold problem is being fixed. Plus if your tenants end up becoming sick from the mold, aren't you liable? You might end up having to pay for their medical bills, and the cost for them to relocate while the issue is being taken care of. I don't want to scare you, but just to prepare you for a worse case scenario. I hope many of the members here have answered some of your questions.
  • Angi Simon Angi Simon on Jan 24, 2014
    In 1995, my son (now 34 years) and I lived in an apartment in Olympia, WA. We couldn't use the closets because they had black mold. We now both have multiple sclerosis. Go figure. Take great care and have licensed, bonded professionals tackle the problem. If they were my tenants, I would refund their deposit and help them find another abode.
  • Fenya Kashergen Fenya Kashergen on Jan 24, 2014
    all good advice. Sorry about the mold. You will feel good knowing it has been done right.
  • Patricia Miller-Darrow Patricia Miller-Darrow on Jan 24, 2014
    doTerra sells an Essential Oil called Purify Oil that kills every mold known to man, and On Guard Oil that kills germs like staff and MRSA. Over 188 major hospitals in the USA use them to keep down mold and germs, They are potent, safe and easy to use. So while you mask up , clean up you need to spray everything down with that! At least they wouldn't have to vacate.
  • Angelia Johnson Angelia Johnson on Jan 24, 2014
    You can get mold tests at a home improvement store that will tell you if it is just surface mold or something else. If surface mold you can kill it with bleach. Ge a contractor who knows what he is doing. use a service like Angie's list because you can see their references.
  • Graceful Angels Graceful Angels on Jan 25, 2014
    What you have is not a mould problem but a rising damp problem. The reason the mould is there is that there is moisture. Hence the rotting and the lovely water stain marks. Now what you need to do is find out where the moisture is getting in. If a brick house, check the soil level outside has not changed over the years. Many people forget to pull soil away from the footings of the brick. If it is a wooden exterior check under the house for any sign of moisture or water. Often over time moisture builds up and has no where else to go but up! You need to check drainage under the house (if water is pooling there) or find out if there are any blocked areas where the air is not flowing freely around the underside of the property. The other thing is if the house is on a cement slab then you really need to get a contractor in to check the concrete is not being destroyed by moisture as well. No matter what it is, you are going to have to make sure the studs in the wall, (the ones which hold the walls up) are not rotted too. If so, fix the moisture problem then replace all the rotted studs. My experience with this is recent, as we had a very similar problem. Good luck!
  • Joy Derouen Joy Derouen on Jan 26, 2014
    You do have a mold problem. Get a pro to deal with it. As far as the wall behind the sheetrock which is more than likely plaster most old homes were made this way. You can change it but you will have a tough time finding the same thickness of wood. You can remove it and reuse them if you can take care if the mold. Be very careful when removing. Down here in Louisiana it was used to give the house strength for a storm or hurricane. Good Luck with your fix.
  • Kalina Navratil Kalina Navratil on Jan 31, 2014
    thanks everyone for your help!
  • Gail lichtsinn Gail lichtsinn on Mar 14, 2014
    They used that wood for lathe many years ago before it was standard and plastered over it..If you cant call someone for mold spray it with vinegar..Mold cant survive in acid..Then go to the home improvement store and ask for the chemical that kills mold and spores..
  • Lee Cunningham Green Lee Cunningham Green on Feb 22, 2015
    Mold is a scary thing, but usually those old plank walls are pretty amazing, very dry very hard wood, I would treat the wood with mold killer first to be sure, and if you have to remove any of it be sure to sure up those spaces while creating a replacement wall. You may need to speak with a contractor because this is a load bearing wall. Get rid of any wet material, drywall etc. It can be repaired. It is scary but fixable.
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Feb 22, 2015
    Oh my that is Ship lath walls..awesome! does not look like they were nailing them in..but tearing wall paper down from it. Ship Lath is the way they did walls back in the day. I have seen places that they have left at least one wall with the lath uncovered..beautiful. You can stain and seal.. Get a professional for the mold. It can not just bring down your house but the residence really sick.
  • Terra Gazelle Terra Gazelle on Feb 22, 2015
    Some times horse hair was added to the plaster to make the wall stronger. Any brown, gray and black hair in the plaster..its horse hair.
  • Kalina Navratil Kalina Navratil on Apr 06, 2015
    thanks. it ended up not being mold at all. thank goodness! some of the boards near the bottom had rotted from moisture of the soil behind the wall. we replaced some boards and dug down a big in the back to make sure it wasn't against the new boards and try to prevent it from happening further
  • Mogie Mogie on Aug 19, 2023

    Mold isn't something to take lightly. Have someone who deals with mold look at this first and get an estimate. This expense should be a tax write off since this occured in a rental.

  • Redcatcec Redcatcec on Aug 19, 2023

    Bring in the mold professionals, they will know how to deal with this problem. Even though this is a rental, the landlord need needs to be responsible, be sure to document your measures to support your claim and potential damage. Keep accurate records of who and when you communicated to.

  • You have a mold issue. First you need to find the source of the moisture causing it and get that fixed. The mold should be treated by a professional.