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When mold appears, move quickly

By Alan J. Heavens
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Q. We have moisture in the crawlspace under our house. The exterminator has been telling us this for about three years, and each year, the report gets worse. My husband has faith in the builder of the house, who lives in the neighborhood. Three years ago, the builder told us that the exterminator was wrong, so we ignored the warning. Now, there is mold growing, and there are other issues.

We were told that the grading of soil needs to be corrected and that we need a French drain for our outside shower against the house. My husband is taking too long to get started hiring someone to do the job. He does not feel that there is any urgency. I want it fixed now. Of course, he is thinking about the expense, but I am thinking about the long-term damage. What do you think is the prudent thing to do?

First, if the builder lives in the neighborhood, he probably built more than just two houses, so it may be worthwhile to ask your neighbors whether they are having similar problems. My other question is about the qualifications of an exterminator to make these determinations. I think you need a second opinion from a contractor qualified to deal with these issues, then present the report to the builder.

I don’t think your husband should wait when he receives evidence that there is a problem. When money is involved, we tend to procrastinate, but if the problem is getting worse, not taking care of it will likely result in more extensive damage and a greater expense. And knowing how home insurance companies react to the word “mold,” I suggest nipping the situation in the bud when the expert recommends it.

Q. I recently painted the inside of a freezer that had some scratches and stains. I scrubbed it down with a cotton cloth, wiped with mineral spirits, and applied appliance epoxy paint. In hindsight, I realize that I neglected to abrade the inside prior to painting. I was hoping you might know whether the paint will adhere, and if not, what I can do to correct my mistake.

I’ve never heard of anyone painting the inside of a refrigerator. I assume that doing so would require paint that was food-safe and nontoxic, and I don’t think what you used meets either of those requirements. I’m publishing your question to see whether any reader knows the answer to this question.

Q. Short of removing the paneling, how can I cover paneled walls?

You can cover them with drywall or fabric, of course, but you may be asking about painting them. If you just paint them without the proper prep work, you’ll still know they are painted, no matter how many coats you use.

As usual, I turn to the Paint Quality Institute in Spring House, Pa., for advice:

Wash the surface using detergent and warm water; rinse thoroughly. Lightly sand the surface with fine-grit (No. 220) garnet paper, to dull any gloss, and to provide maximum adhesion of the primer and paint; wear eye protection and a dust mask. Wipe down the surface with damp rags. Priming is necessary for adequate adhesion and uniformity of sheen and hiding.

Use a stain-blocking latex primer that is recommended for interior use. Maximum adhesion and stain blocking are available with alcohol-based or alkyd stain-blocking primer. Wear eye protection and an appropriate respirator, and provide ample ventilation. Do not leave a primer unpainted. For best dirt resistance, durability and ease of cleaning, use a top-of-the-line interior latex wall paint in an eggshell or satin finish, depending on the desired appearance. A satin finish will provide better dirt and stain resistance.

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