Mold in New Home Sends Owners Packing

August 20, 2007
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Contractor Jim Corrion points out mold on one of the many floor joists in the basement of the Mills’ home - mold that had been present from almost day one


NEW HUDSON, Mich. - Cheryl and Barry Mills didn’t have too much time to enjoy their new home. They didn’t have time to welcome their grandchildren to the new two-story home on a small pond in this rural community 40 miles west of Detroit. That’s because black mold took over their home even before they moved in during the fall of 2001.

The Mills’ home was one of several in the new subdivision that was built one at a time by the local builder. At the time it was just right for them.

“We lived nearby, and we knew we wanted a walkout ranch,” she said. “We looked for months before we stumbled on to this development. We were not looking to spend that much on a house, but when we saw it, we wanted it. Also my son and his family are only three miles away.”

But the elation over the new home didn’t last long. Somehow, during the construction process the home’s floor joists had been exposed to moisture. What looked like splotches of dirt were actually the beginning of stachybotrys (black mold).

“I was already feeling sick when we moved in, but I thought it was dust,” Cheryl said. “Barry was beginning to feel pain in his joints, and I began experiencing short term memory loss. Yet the builder told me it was mud.

“On the day before we moved in, the builder had people power washing the floor joists. I thought that was unusual.”

The Mills were concerned that the problem was much more than mud, but Cheryl said the builder told her that if she wanted to have the IAQ of the house tested, she would have to pay for the testing.

Faced with a growing concern for her family’s health, Cheryl began studying about mold and poor IAQ. She learned about a similar problem that another Detroit-area family had with black mold, a family who was featured in The NEWS (“Family Retreats From Mold-Infested Home,” June 18, 2004).

Cheryl Mills (above) talks about the health problems that she and husband Barry have suffered since right after they moved into their moldy Michigan home (below).

She had the home tested by three different companies who said they could remediate the mold problem. During the testing, fiber optic cameras were placed behind the drywall to see if any of the lumber in the wall supports was moldy. It was.

Two of the companies said they could only guarantee their work for one year. The mold might come back. Faced with health concerns and the uncertain future of their home, the Mills walked away from their home in August 2004, less than three years after they moved in. They left all of their furnishings and belongings.

The Mills took the builder to court and won a judgment against the company in 2006, but the builder has appealed and Cheryl doesn’t expect any resolution for another year. Meanwhile the award, with interest, has risen to $900,000.

Even if the appeal is upheld, the home will have to be torn down to its foundation and rebuilt, which the Mills will have to pay out of their settlement. “I thought we would have extra money after the judgment but when it is all over, we’ll probably break even,” Cheryl said.

A CONTRACTOR'S IMPRESSION

Jim Corrion, owner of C&C Heating & Air Conditioning, Roseville, Mich., joined The NEWS during a tour of the Mills’ home in late June. Corrion’s company specializes in residential and light commercial service and replacement. C&C is also a member of the Clean Indoor Air Alliance (CIA²), an organization of HVAC contractors owned by Clockwork Home Services Inc. The organization’s Website address is www.betterairnow.com.

CIA² gives information to homeowners on IAQ issues, including the dangers of high humidity levels, which can lead to mold growth. Here is a sampling: “Humidity cannot only hurt your home, it can be hazardous to you and your family. Mold and fungus thrive off of moisture. The American Lung Association states that mold and fungus can trigger allergic reactions, and in general, these harmful particles can pose danger to people with respiratory problems.”

Corrion knows the importance of a healthy indoor environment and he was surprised by what he saw at the Mills’ home. “There was mold on just about every floor joist,” he said.

Normally, if someone like Cheryl Mills would have called Corrion about her problem, he would have referred her to a mold remediation expert. But he still would have come out to look at the problem.

“In some cases, I might even recommend the placement of an air monitor, like the one made by AirAdvice,” Corrion said. “That way the homeowner can get an accurate record of what is going on inside the home.”

Mold remediation should be left to the experts, according to Corrion, because of the very problems the Mills family are facing - litigation that robs people of time and money - two things that few HVAC contractors could afford to lose.

For a video tour of the Mills’ home, hosted by NEWS’ Business Editor John R. Hall and Jim Corrion, go to The NEWS home page and click on the Video Spotlight at the upper right.

Publication date: 08/20/2007

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