Cookie Cutter Home Shoppers Beware
There was a mass exodus from residents of the Solera Homes development in Jess Ranch upon discovering that their new homes were contaminated with mold due to water intrusion. The mold crisis is forcing some residents to leave their homes for up to three weeks as a sub-contractor for the developer, Pulte Homes, first cleans the mold and then another sub-contractor is brought in to re-install home furnishings, insulation and sections of walls and ceilings. When mold begins to proliferate in walls and building materials, it generally can contaminate everything inside a home such as carpeting and furnishings. This is an overall health hazard for the occupants.
This problem may sound like an isolated case but this problem is happening everywhere, it’s just that it is generally covered up. Many contractors cut corners by using slipshod tactics such as sloppy labor and substandard materials all in the name of profits. That was not necessarily the situation in this case. Most residents seem to be taking the news in stride and applaud Pulte Homes for stepping up to the plate and addressing the problem. But an expert in the field said that Pulte’s efforts may be more show than providing an actual solution to the problem.
Michael Erl has been replacing contaminated cabinets in the kitchen of a Solera home. The home is one of several in the development with mold. Scott Day is a certified mold technician and investigator. He was contacted by Pulte to inspect mold removal operations at one home earlier this year. He was not impressed with the operation. “There is a very clear cut way to do this and a wrong way to do it and it is not difficult to do it properly,” Day said. “The house that I witnessed it was done improperly. I was able to walk in and out of the house unescorted, containment was falling down and the negative air machines (which ensure air flows in one direction out of the house) were not running.” In a home that was cleaned and having new fixtures installed the same conditions were apparent on Monday.
Workers moved in and out unescorted–there was no negative air machines and the rest of the house was separated from the contaminated area by a thin plastic sheet taped to the ceiling. “Unless it is done properly it almost shouldn’t be done at all,” Day said. “What you are doing is spreading those mold spores around. High concentrations of mold in the air can basically be hazardous.
Many residents who moved in only months ago are now having to spend three weeks or more at a hotel. Their room and board is being paid by Pulte. “No one is really happy with it, but at least Pulte is doing the right thing,” Ralph Davis said. He has lived in a new house in the area for two months. His home was tested for mold last week and he is waiting for the results to come back.
Pulte Homes Handles Remediation (again!)
Solera residents state they are being offered up to $125 a day for hotel and $50 a day for food. Some are taking advantage of the offer to take trips to Las Vegas or other destinations. Other residents are choosing to be put up for a few weeks at local hotels. “This past spring, Pulte Homes began checking for the possible presence of mold in (10 to 12 homes per week in) homes it constructed at its Solera at Apple Valley subdivision. Mold was found on walls behind items such as cabinets and mirrors in some homes,” according to an e-mail statement from Mark Marymee, spokesman for Pulte Homes. “Remediation typically starts with containment of the mold areas, so that when cabinets and mirrors are removed from the walls the mold stays in place. The remediation company then removes and disposes of any mold. It also disposes of old drywall and insulation and replaces it with new materials. The remediation process typically takes between eight to 10 days to complete.” Solera Homes are not the only ones affected by mold.
Joe Crotinger, a local remediation expert, said he has worked with numerous contractors this year eliminating mold from similar multiple developments. “We had about 100-inches of rain this year. That is 10 times more than the normal amount of rain,” said Crotinger, “I have seen a lot more mold than normal because we had so much more rain than normal.”
Josephine Hernandez has lived in her Solera home for two months. She recently received a letter asking her to schedule a time to have her house tested. She said she is glad that Pulte is testing the homes and fixing the problem. “I’m really happy about that,” she said. “If they do find mold and do have to send me to a hotel, oh well, I’m on vacation again.” Several residents who did have their homes tested said mold was discovered in bathrooms, bedrooms and kitchen areas. While they wait to have it cleaned they also wait to have furniture delivered and items like carpeting installed.
“The company believes that last fall and winter’s above average rainfall in Southern California caused higher-than-normal relative humidity, which affected the typical ‘drying time’ it takes to ensure that insulation behind walls dries adequately,” according to Marymee’s e-mail.
Ralph Davis had a more incisive rationalization of the situation: “Somebody goofed.” Despite the opinions, many contractors slap up shoddy homes throughout the United States that are passed on to eager home buyers. Many ignorant people are becoming needlessly ill as a result of cover-ups, ignorance, and negligence with little or no recourse.
There is also a huge misconception that many mold remediation and environmental experts mislead customers with. Unfortunately, they are not medical doctors and do not know the health effects of fungal exposure. They often give out false hope partly due lack of education. Mycotoxin-producing fungi in high concentrations, with time, will make anyone ill. The only reason that they say otherwise is that there has been a failure to perform the appropriate objective evaluations on patients may account for the commonly held belief that indoor mold exposure poses more significant health risks to people with immune deficiencies and children. Therefore, it is a mistake for anyone to state that children and immuno-compromised people are at risk for toxigenic mold, because anyone is at basically risk. Unfortunately, most people are ill informed on this issue.