There is a large obvious hole in my ceiling, a few smaller sneaky ones in my roof, and probably a few figurative ones in my head. Today’s post is an inside peak at home repair when one of the home’s residents has Multiple Chemical Sensitivity. It’s rained a bit (understatement) here in Florida over the past 6 months and in keeping with the fun themes of home-ownership, this lead to some leaks. The initial ceiling water stains first appeared about a year and a half ago. Soon afterwards, I developed vision problems and my daughter’s food and inhaled allergies worsened dramatically. So we had water stains and health problems in EI patients – time for a fun mold scare!
Step 1. We hired a mold inspector (a certified one, with good reviews) to find out if we were looking at a house full of mold that would require a big, dramatic, urgent solution. None of those adjectives work very well for MCS patients, who typically have to plan home repairs and improvements in a meticulous and long range mode. What I learned…Typically mold inspectors will do a thorough visual inspection, check the moisture content of the walls, and do some air sampling – both indoor and outdoors for comparison. In Florida, they have legally and wisely separated the inspectors from the treaters now, so you should be able to get truly impartial analysis and recommendation. Fortunately we were negative on the mold so we were able to avoid urgent and instead stay on our usual Big Problem, Slow Solution track. Step 2. Next we had to cut open the wall with the worst of the water damage just so we could assess where the leak was because there was not an obvious hole in the roof and the slope meant it could be coming from anywhere above. It took a lot of hose running on our roof but our nice friend/contractor finally determined there must be multiple small leaks around the very poorly installed A/C unit. What I learned…Note how rain water running off the uppermost roof line will then pool and collect on the 2x4s running across the slope of the next roof line? That’s a bad idea.
Step 3. We hired an A/C company (different than the one who did the idiotic initial installation) and called the roofing company who put on the roof and they both came out and glared at the situation. Together they came up with a plan to move the A/C unit to a different flat part of the roof and install it with a proper hurricane stand. Then the roofer could do a simple patch job on the small holes left. All of this work could be done outside my air space and with my home’s fresh air intake shut down, so there were no material concerns. It took a few weeks from initial estimate to completion of job, but they coordinated between the companies and it was fairly painless, except for the bill, but that’s just par for the home ownership course. What I learned…Family run businesses are great.
Step 4. Here’s where it gets tricky. I still have a hole in my ceiling. Before we opened it up, we were afraid it would be a larger job – one that involved removing a whole drywall panel and then killing mold inside. Here is my letter to our contractor friend about potential materials, written when that was a likely scenario.
Drywall; We have not tried this product before but it looks really promising.
CertainTeed AirRenew M2Tech gypsum board
Joint Compound; The big difference here is that we like to use a product that is mixed on site – we know this is more work but it is necessary. We have used this product before and it used to take a while to get but now it looks like we may be able to just buy it online which might be easier/quicker. We have used this joint compound to create wall texture in the past.
Murco M-100 All Purpose Joint Compound
Cornerbead; I don’t have a brand preference but I would prefer metal to vinyl.
Drywall Primer; We’ve been using AFM products since I first got sick. They are a go to company for chemically sensitive people.
AFM SafeCoat New Wallboard Primecoat HPV
Killing Mold; Yep, I’ve got opinions here too. I’d like to use these products inside the walls if we need to.
Food grade Hydrogen Peroxide as antimicrobial
SafeChoice Super Clean from AFM as surface cleaner
SafeChoice X-158 from AFM as surface sealer
Fortunately, the nice contractor guy only had to remove a small (18 in square) section to confirm there was no mold problem – Yay! So instead of getting new drywall, we will just put the cut out square back into place, no need for new drywall. This should be small job and one that can be done while I am out of town for 3 days, seeing my EI physician Dr Grace Ziem. Since I won’t be in the house for the repair work, we can be a bit relaxed about the materials. For example, the Murco joint compound is great but really complicated to use, especially for such a small area. Instead we will use a small amount of Spray Texture joint compound, making sure it is water based and that it has a couple of days to outgass before I am back in the air space. And the paint job will just have to wait until the next time we re-paint the whole house interior because no matter the VOC content, MCS patients cannot live in a house while it is being painted. Now that? That I had learned before.
The ceiling repair will not be done for a few more weeks and so I haven’t learned anything yet on that part of the job. I am sure I will. You see, I am counting on all these lessons to fill the holes in my head from all the stupid decisions I made before I knew to tackle these big problems with slow solutions.