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How to Look

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A blog with answers
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Joe Lstiburek

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We want you to be an informed homebuyer, and each blog post is a question that we have answered for our friends and customers over the years. Hope they help you make a good choice for your next home.

    Here’s our Top 10 Places To Look for what’s causing that moldy smell:

  1. 1)Under sinks - Sinks can leak at the collar under the drain, the slip joints around the P-trap, the water supply fittings, or at the shut-off valve. A continuous small leak may not have any visible signs on the surface of the pipes. But, if you move away the stored bottles and boxes directly under the sink, you might discover a wet mess.

  2. 2)Base of toilets - When the wax seal at the base of a toilet begins leaking, it wets the plywood or OSB wood flooring surrounding it. But, if there is a non-porous floor covering like sheet vinyl, the wetness will not be visible. Feel around where the toilet contacts the floor and also look for any softness in the floor around the toilet that would indicate some wood rot.

  3. 3)Bathtubs and showers - The tub or shower does not have to leak in order for you to have moisture problem. Kids splashing water over the side of the tub or repeatedly showering with the shower curtain or door not completely closed can allow moisture to accumulate in the flooring.

  4. 4)Water heater - All water heaters leak eventually, and many manufacturers even tell you that in one of the warnings listed on the side of the tank. But the water heater in a mobile home is unique because it is usually in a sealed compartment that requires removal of multiple screws and several trim pieces in order to examine it. So it gets forgotten until it stops heating or starts leaking. But the leakage can cause a lot of damage and mold before it shows itself through the adjoining walls. We recommend checking your water heater every six months or so, even if there is no musty smell in your home.

  5. 5)Water-using appliances, like the dishwasher and washing machine - Look for leakage under the door and at hose fittings. Also, peek under the home, looking for any bulges in the plastic belly wrap material that would indicate water pooling on it from a leak above.

  6. 6)Air conditioning duct leaks or registers that are closed off - When you close off the air conditioning supply vent (register) into a room, it creates back-pressure than can cause air leakage at the duct connection and condensate can form behind the vent which causes mold around it.

  7. 7)Air conditioning temperature split too high - If the air conditioning system is cooling the air more than about 24º F below the temperature of the air in your home, condensate can form around the duct and just inside it, also leading to mold.

  8. 8)Indoor unit of an air conditioner - Most HVAC systems for mobile homes are self-contained “package units.” Everything is in one big box outside. But if you have what is called a “split system,” with an indoor air handler in a closet or compartment in your home, then leakage of the condensate water that is created by the system’s dehumidification of your home may be the problem. Check under the indoor unit and, if possible, examine the evaporator coils for a wet gunk buildup on the surface of the fins that would breed mold and spread the smell around the house.

  9. 9)Roof leak - A roof leak over your living area causes a stain in the ceiling after just a few days. But if the leak is near the edge of the roof, it may run down the wall cavity. Examine your roof on a ladder from the edge, looking for any signs of missing or damaged shingles, corrosion spots on metal roofs, and damage at the weatherproofing “boots” that seal around the plumbing vent pipes that stick up through the roof.

  10. 10) Trim at windows and doors - Unfortunately, some mobile home manufacturers do a sloppy job of installing the flashing and trim around windows and doors, which can be an extra-big problem when you have vinyl siding. When installed correctly, the channels drain rain water away from the wall. But incorrectly installed or damaged trim funnels water behind the siding. Look for staining or wetness around the bottom corners of windows and doors.

    If your search turns up visible areas of mold, congratulations! You have identified the location of the problem. But sometimes the mold is concealed inside a wall or under flooring, and you have to find a moist area, then investigate further. This may possibly involve removing an area of wallboard or flooring.

    Home inspectors use high-tech tools, like an infrared camera and electronic moisture meter, to evaluate suspected wet areas. But fingers are also exquisitely sensitive to wetness. “Your fingertips are a great moisture-sensing tool. And the best part is that you recalibrate them every time you wash your hands,” according to Joe Lstiburek, a nationally known professional engineer that does extensive research in construction methods and materials for Building Science Corporation. So, if the area looks suspicious, touch it to feel for wetness. Because any moisture in a material evaporates continuously until it is dry, and the evaporation cools the area where it is located, a moist spot will also be slightly cooler than its surroundings.

    To learn more about mold, and how to eliminate it in your mobile home, read our blog post “How can I do to prevent dampness and mold in my mobile home?”

    If there is muddy ground or water puddling under your mobile home, it may be a factor in your mold problem. See our blog post “How do I remove water under my mobile home?”


   Here’s links to more of our blog posts with useful information about buying and owning a mobile home:

  1. Does it make sense to buy an older mobile home and remodel it?

  2. Where do I find the vehicle identification number (VIN) on a mobile home?

  3. How do I find out how old a mobile home is and who manufactured it?

  4. What is the life expectancy of a mobile home?

  5. What are the most common problems with older mobile homes?

  6. What is the right price for a used mobile home?

  7. What does the HUD tag look like and where do I find it on a mobile home?

While we hope you find this series of articles about home inspection helpful, they should not be considered an alternative to an actual home inspection by a local inspector. Also, construction standards vary in different parts of the country and it is possible that important issues related to your area may not be covered here.
© McGarry and Madsen Inspection

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More blog posts about mobile homes:

  1. How can I make my mobile home look more like a house?

  2. How can I tell the difference between a manufactured home and a modular home?

  3. Why are there two VIN numbers on some mobile home titles?

  4. Can I install a mobile home myself?

  5. How can I know if my mobile home meets HUD Code?

  6. What are the warning signs of a dangerous deck?

  7. How much does it cost to move a mobile home?

  8. How do I remove cigarette odor in a house?

  9. What is a Park Model mobile home?

  10. Do I need stairs at all exit doors from a mobile home?

  11. What is an air conditioner for a mobile home called?

  12. What’s the difference between a trailer, a mobile home, a manufactured home, and a modular home?

  13. What’s the difference between a manufactured and a mobile home?

  14. Does an addition to a mobile home have to comply with with HUD Code?

  15. What can I do to prevent dampness and mold in my mobile home?

  16. Where are Wind Zone 2 and Wind Zone 3 for mobile homes located?

  17. How can I tell if a mobile home is well constructed?

  18. Can you move a mobile home that is 20 years old in Florida?

  19. What is a pit set mobile home?

  20. Do you have any tips for buying a used mobile home?

  21. Why is the floor tile cracked in my mobile home?

  22. Why is it important that a mobile home stay level throughout its lifetime?

  23. How much venting is required for mobile home skirting?

  24. What do I need to know about building an addition to a mobile home?

  25. What is the average lifespan of a wood deck?

  26. What is a D-sticker mobile home?

  27. What is the life expectancy of a modular home?

  28. How do I upgrade my old (pre-1976) mobile home to meet HUD standards?

  29. When was the first double-wide mobile home manufactured?

  30. How energy efficient is a mobile home?

  31. Can I tell the year of a manufactured/mobile home from the HUD tag (red tag)?

  32. What are the HUD requirements for selling a remodeled or renovated mobile home?

  33. How many mobile/manufactured home manufacturers are licensed to sell their homes in Florida?

  34. Can a mobile/manufactured home get termites?

  35. What are the limitations on homesites where a mobile/manufactured home can be located?

  36. What does a home inspector look for when examining a mobile home crawl space?

  37. How do I look for mold in my mobile home?

  38. What is the difference between the electric service to a mobile home and a site built home?

  39. How can I make my mobile home more energy efficient?

  40. What are the ventilation requirements for bathrooms and kitchens in mobile homes?

  41. How much is a used mobile home worth?

  42. What would cause half of a double-wide mobile home to lose electric power?

  43. What are the common problems to look for when buying a mobile home that is older than 40 years?

  44. How many manufactured/mobile homes are there in the United States?

  45. Can I convert a shipping container into a HUD-Code manufactured/mobile home?

  46. Where do I find the water heater in a mobile home?

  47. How do HUD-code mobile/manufactured home standards compare to the IRC building code for site-built homes?

  48. What are the right words for the parts of a mobile/manufactured home?

  49. What is the right humidity level in a mobile home?

  50. Can you do a mobile home inspection with no electric power or water?

  51. What is an “RP” sticker for a mobile home?

  52. What is a manufactured home?

  53. What is the building code for mobile/manufactured homes in Florida?