It's a damp climate here in Norfolk. The basement smells of mildew, even after we open a few windows for ventilation. How do I know it's not the beginning of a serious black mold problem? What would it cost to bring in a professional to dry it out and put in a sealant?
Ellis F. ~ Norfolk, Virginia
Hi Ellis, I'm familiar with the climate in Norfolk, Virginia, I was stationed there briefly many years ago. I can still smell that ocean breeze. Black mold usually can be seen starting on wood framing, insulation, or drywall. It starts as a few black or greenish black marks, and if you catch it at that point it is usually fairly easy to get rid off. The drywall and insulation can be removed and the wood framing can be scrubbed with bleach.
I would start with placing a dehumidifier down there. I'm not sure that a sealant is going to do anything unless you are seeing visible moisture coming in from the walls or floor. Even then I'm not sure that a sealant would help, you would be better off trying to correct the problem. It could be a clogged exterior drain tile or a problem with your exterior grade.
If you're not seeing any moisture, but the basement just feels humid, like basements sometimes do, then I would try to figure out a way to circulate the air down there. Perhaps have a meeting with a local HVAC contractor and have them take a look at your existing system and offer some suggestions for some inexpensive modifications that might help the situation. If you are not seeing any signs of moisture intrusion and it's just the general atmosphere of the basement, I believe that's the route I would try first.
If you want to set your mind at ease concerning the mildew or black mold issue, I would have a remediation contractor come out and do an inspection. They may find some that is in behind other materials and isn't visible to the naked eye yet. For a licensed mold remediation contractor to come out and do an inspection and maybe a couple of air samples is probably going to run about $300-$500. The price could vary a little bit depending on the rates in the Norfolk, Virginia area. If they find mold and have to remove it, the price is going to go up. As I mentioned though, I don't think I would worry about sealant at this point in time unless they happen to see something while doing their inspection that might require doing some sealing.